In Part I, we discussed CEOs’ mistakes when relying on the SWOT Analysis as their primary strategic tool. Part II of the series will cover why the PESTEL is critical to strengthening your SWOT Analysis and how Hallmark synchronized their business with viewers.

Disruption happens when you least expect it. For Hallmark, they experienced disruption in 2019 when they were the top destination for Christmas movies. Many CEOs might have started with a SWOT Analysis to deep dive into the issue. Yet, that would have been a mistake. Growth often masks something many companies miss – context and why they’re growing.

Hallmark didn’t run away from the disruption. Instead, they leaned in hard to understand it. They found that context mattered greatly because not understanding it could damage their business long-term, impacting their leadership and growth.

Context and PESTEL


Interrelated. Photo Credit: Canva

Context is defined as the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.[1] Why does it matter? The reality is tomorrow may already be here today. To see our customers, markets, and industry through tomorrow’s glasses, we do it through stories because the future is not a KPI.

To capture those stories, we use the PESTEL, which stands for Political, Economic, Social, Environmental, and Legislative, to uncover the new disruptions and behaviors.

PESTEL Outcomes

When the PESTEL is used in conjunction with the SWOT Analysis, you can:

  1. Uncover the new types of behaviors customers and prospects are embracing that could disrupt your business model mid and long-term and point to new streams of revenue.
  2. Identify the economic issues that are challenging markets and your industry that could require reimagining your business model.
  3. Recognize new disruptions and gaps in the market and industry. Understand which gaps could lead to the new development of internal capabilities and revenue opportunities.
  4. Highlight the environmental, political, and legislative issues that could require new internal processes and proactively determine how to address legal challenges.
  5. Provide more opportunities to consider when involved in a growth stall and methods to prioritize opportunities to pursue expansion into new markets.
  6. Proactively get ahead of disruptions, so you’re able to give yourself the time and the ability to lean into new opportunities.
Markets, Customers, Industry, Hallmark, Hallmark Movies, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Drama

Markets, Customers, and Industries. Photo Credit: Canva

When my clients have completed the PESTEL, they’ve deepened their insights about their customers, the markets, and their industry, and they have a greater appreciation of the context they’re operating in. Followed with the SWOT Analysis, it revealed some significant aha moments for clients. The outcomes highlighted critical issues about their business, customers, process gaps, or new opportunities to pursue that needed immediate attention, making decision-making actionable.

CEOs who want to ahead of disruption focus on the customer and plan for the long-term. They aren’t making the mistake of settling for a SWOT Analysis as their primary strategic analysis tool. Instead, they’re continuously evaluating their business context during excellent and disruptive times and adjusting as needed to turn disruption into an advantage.

Hallmark in 2021

Hallmark today is stronger than ever because they leaned into disruption and embraced it. The result is ratings were up 2% for their 2020 Christmas programming. Lucas understands that the context is changing due to customer demographics, new competitors entering the market, and the industry is embracing streaming to attract cable cutters. To succeed, she’s ensuring diversity shows up in the storylines and how she programs for different age groups.

Scripts include the Abuela, or grandmother, a vital member of the Latinx family. African-American men are reflected in a positive light in storylines. Cultural nuances of African-American life in New Orleans or Harlem, NY, are showcased in the script. Hanukkah is in the movie title, and same-sex couples are major characters in the movies. Hallmark is looking to reflect the country’s viewers in their stories.

On a programming front, Hallmark has built a diverse platform of offerings. The next generation of Hallmark actors is introduced on the Hallmark Channel. Established Hallmark actors are migrated to the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel with their own detective series. Family favorite programs legacy viewers may have grown up with from the 1950s-1990s are on Hallmark Drama, and the extensive library of Hallmark movies are available on demand through their streaming channel.

What makes this strategy so smart is they can continue to grow their viewership by onboarding the next generation of viewers and retaining existing viewers as they mature through the different platforms.

Embracing disruption in 2019 has allowed Hallmark to catch up and proactively shape its future. It’s also making their movies less predictable, which will make it more interesting to watch and more profitable, something every company should strive to do.

Use the PESTEL to provide context to your SWOT Analysis.

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Modern CEO's Guide to Heading Off Disruption If you want to discover more about how to turn disruption to your advantage, download “Your Customer Has Changed. Have You? The Modern CEO’s Guide to Heading off Disruption.”

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Carla A. Fleming is a Business Advisor and Mentor. Operating at the intersection of disruption, leadership, and growth, she works with CEOs who want to find new revenue streams, cut costs, and scale their business for the future. She does this through the gateway of business advisor and mentoring programs. If you’re ready to pivot, let’s talk.