WeWork’s CMO Roger Solé on reinventing the way the world works after Covid-19

The Drum 29 Sep 2020 07:00
Operational turnaround: WeWork’s ‘new’ CMO on post-pandemic opportunity

How do you sell workspace when nobody can go to the office? This has been the dilemma that WeWork's new CMO Roger Solé has faced since taking over the role from ad man Maurice Levy in April. Yet, as Solé explains, this tumultuous period has given WeWork some time to reflect on what the future of work will look like in a post-pandemic world.

It’s now been one whole year since WeWork’s month from hell.

Amid concerns from the investment community over the real estate giant's financials, September 2019 saw it postpone its planned IPO and say goodbye to co-founder and chief exec Adam Neumann. Soon after, its principal backer SoftBank injected $1.5bn as part of an emergency bailout, before thousands lost their jobs.

It was clear at this point that WeWork needed to take a long hard look in the mirror.

“Back in September, there was all this noise about WeWork that was not really related to the experience of our members or our core service. It was really about the IPO,” says Roger Solé, WeWork's recently appointed chief marketing officer.

Cue Solé, best known as the CMO that turned around the telecom brand Sprint and helped it navigate a merger with T-Mobile. "There are a lot of parallels. Sprint was a subscription business, that sold different plans to enterprises and consumers," Solé explains. "We were exactly the same business model if you think about it, even if its a totally different sector."

"Beyond the noise, we then had Covid-19 on top of it. And there was a lot of discussion on the future of work. Are offices even relevant? Is WeWork even something that makes sense as a business?"

But how do you sell space when people are still hesitant to return to the office? Recognising the accelerated demand for flexibility, Solé feels the post-pandemic return to the office could create new opportunities and intends to position WeWork in the ground between working from home and returning to the traditional office environment.

"Our biggest business opportunity is with our biggest competitor... the traditional office space. We can actually help them reduce costs and more importantly, offer a more flexible scheme. So our competition isn't really a competition, its a transformation."

Beyond this, WeWork has joined the list of brands turning to subscriptions to drive growth. Earlier this month, high street favourite Pret a Manger announced it was to offer customers up to five coffees a day if they sign up to its monthly subscription service.

WeWork has also trialled an 'On Demand' option, which will afford non-members the option to book workspace or conference rooms on an hourly or daily basis.

"If you need office space (beyond being healthy and flexible for your needs) it should provide with you with tools for working together so you can be innovative, collaborative and productive," Solé concludes on the future of WeWork. "This is what we're set towards in 2035."

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WeWorkSolRoger SolMaurice LevySoftBank
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