Three Nearly Century-Old Companies Reinventing Themselves for the Digital Era

Incumbent companies transform core competencies built over decades of innovation.

By Shazia Manus, Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, AdvantEdge Analytics

We are living in one of the most extraordinary times in the history of mankind. During our lifetime, we will see the transformation of the human race. The power of exponential technology, quantum computing and machines that learn is so mind blowing that most people don’t even want to think about what’s to come.

Others are energized by the possibilities.

I tend to fall into the latter category. In fact, it’s part of what has kept me so engaged in the credit union industry. The movement is full of dreamers who let their imaginations run while also working really hard to activate that imagination. Credit union people bring dreams to life. They don’t back down in the face of tough challenges, and they certainly don’t shy away from competition. This is a really good thing, given how much competition the average credit union faces today.


man at whiteboard

The tenacity it takes to beat disruptive competitors at their own game isn’t unique to credit union leaders. In fact, incumbents in several legacy industries have proven you don’t have to be a startup to evoke disruptive innovation from within. Just take a look at these three companies, each transforming itself for the digital era while closing in on its 100th year in business.

Hasbro, Inc.

The most valuable toy company in the world, 95-year-old Hasbro has focused a lot of its strategic transformation efforts on the customer journey. CEO Brian Goldner recently told Forbes: “Any moves we make in the future, it’s with an eye to where the consumer and audience is going to be in three to five years, not three to five weeks.”

Hasbro has become incredibly adept at rethinking its own products for a modern era. Take My Little Pony and Transformers, for instance. Each brand has been strategically nurtured while also being delivered to customers in new – albeit perhaps riskier – ways, such as TV and movies. Using learnings from the enterprise of putting toys on TV, the company is now finding ways to transform TV into toys. It recently purchased Entertainment One, maker of cartoon shows Peppa Pig and PJ Masks.

Pitney Bowes

The 98-year-old Pitney Bowes also began its transformation efforts by focusing on something it knew really well – shipping. The company leveraged everything it had learned about postage and mailing to help a booming number of e-commerce firms more efficiently send packages, communicate with customers and make payments.

Going a step farther, leadership began exploring partnerships with digital native companies. Utilizing its own rich stores of proprietary location data, Pitney Bowes now sells address and other geographic intelligence to Twitter and Zillow.

The company is also exploring entirely new revenue streams by expanding relationships with existing customers. Mobilizing the competencies it has developed around leasing mailing equipment, Pitney Bowes has begun financing all kinds of equipment from dental chairs to medical equipment.

CUNA Mutual Group

At the risk of tooting our own horn, I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out the accelerated innovation 80-year-old CUNA Mutual Group has put into motion. AdvantEdge Analytics was actually borne of the company’s multi-million-dollar investment in the future of data and digital technologies. Thanks to the visionary identification of data analytics as essential to the transformation of the credit union industry, AdvantEdge Analytics is now helping more than 30 credit unions across the nation turn their data into insights through analytics at scale. Those insights are enabling credit unions to deepen relationships with their members and draw even more consumers to the movement.

These are just three of what are surely hundreds of stories about legacy companies that refuse to throw in the towel or to let digital-native firms sweep their customers off their feet. Credit unions will do the same.

In a 2017 CUNA GAC keynote address, Kat Cole, group president of Focus Brands and COO of Cinnabon, made a statement that so resonated with me: “The fruits are in the roots.” She explains it this way: “We focus on our purpose, and this keeps us differentiated and on course. It helps the franchise partners stay focused and pushes them to succeed by having the clear sense of purpose and not letting it get convoluted.”

Legacy companies like credit unions would be well served by applying this lens toward their innovation and transformation efforts. By exploiting what they know and do best, while also exploring new ways to deliver those competencies, credit unions will find entirely new ways of doing well while doing good.