How Do Legacy Brands Pivot in a Digital Age?

Allan Gungormez Assistant VP, Enterprise Digital Strategy, Transamerica
Allan Gungormez
Assistant VP, Enterprise Digital Strategy,

Allan Gungormez, Assistant VP, Enterprise Digital Strategy, Transamerica: It’s never too late for an old dog to learn new tricks. Older brands that have shied away from digital for one reason or another can still get into the game and get caught up quickly as long as they have the right mindset: a willingness to “fail forward,” or rather accept the fact that mistakes are going to happen along the way and an understanding that digital isn’t free.

It’s crucial for an organization to educate its entire workforce on why digital is important to the business. This needs to come from the top so that employees feel that senior management already has bought into the plan and that they need to also.

PR can play a crucial role in moving the digital needle. Hold classes that get people up to speed on digital tactics and offer some type of reward for participating. Reinforce senior management’s commitment to digital by having an executive from the C-suite be a co-instructor.

Many companies look inward to see if they have any hand-raisers or people who they can shift over into a digital position. In some cases, this tactic is fine. However, it’s important to realize that if your company had really great digital folks you probably would have a solid digital presence. A company has to be able to recognize the need to invest in talent and bring in employees with digital prowess.

Carve out an area in your office where you can start to create an environment that is more suitable for these types of individuals. Have fewer cubicle farms and more collaborative areas.

Katie Keating Social Content & Engagement Strategist, IBM Corp.
Katie Keating
Social Content & Engagement Strategist,
IBM Corp.

Katie Keating, Social Content & Engagement Strategist, IBM Corp.: The first place to start is to know your values as a company and as a brand: What makes you different? It’s not about what products you sell or services you deliver. It’s about customer loyalty or innovation or client experience or design (or all of those). Those values transcend physical or digital barriers.

At IBM, it’s what’s enabled the company to reinvent itself multiple times and tackle some of the world’s biggest problems, like landing on the Moon, transforming education, or curing cancer. The products and services we develop may change, but the problems and the willingness to solve them persist. How do we transform day-to-day? Here are three examples:

Give access and meaning to your brand. Use digital platforms to reveal to the world a behind-the-scenes look at innovation. Show the process. For IBM, we’ve found Instagram to be a great place for this work. We source content from teams around the world to showcase the breadth and depth of what IBM is working on. For instance, we recently worked with our global research labs to feature one photo from each of our labs around the world over the course of a week. It was well received internally and externally--giving a peek into IBM locations that few people get to see.

Teach your audiences something simple but useful. Sharing knowledge builds trust. You’d be surprised what you can teach someone in a 6-second Vine.

Engage employees. We always say that our brand is primarily experienced by the world at large through our employees, so it’s important to us that they’re engaged digitally and feel empowered to share their knowledge and experiences. IBM introduced its Social Computing Guidelines 10 years ago (, which gave employees freedom to represent themselves on the social web, and guidance on how best to do that. Whether through corporate guidelines or other enablement, ensuring that employees are educated and feel encouraged to participate is a huge way to scale your digital efforts.

Peggy Gardner Public Relations Director, Segment Marketing, UPS
Peggy Gardner
Public Relations Director, Segment Marketing,

Peggy Gardner, Public Relations Director, Segment Marketing, UPS: Meaningfully connecting with customers is more important than ever. Consumers want more control over their experiences and they want genuine dialogue.

UPS is embracing this philosophy. Powerful solutions such as UPS My Choice gives consumers control over their deliveries from their mobile phones, yet the friendly UPS driver remains an important customer touchpoint.

Our drivers often know the names of customers’ family members, birthdays and anniversaries. Social tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, also help maintain the dialogue when there isn’t opportunity for face-to-face interaction. We use technology to join people together to solve problems that arise from changing schedules and new opportunities.

Maintaining brand relevance is an ongoing process that requires constant attention. The challenge—and opportunity—for legacy companies is to remain true to the spirit that made the organization successful while transforming how the business operates. Customers want to connect with brands that really know who they are.

CONTACT: Peggy Gardner,; Allan Gungormez,; Katie Keating, @ThingsSheSaid

This article originally appeared in the May 4, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.