With the implementation of each new alert level being instituted as the economy reopens, comes the myriad of snowballing consequences, uncertainty and furious debate. Just as we seem to begin wrapping our heads around what can and can’t be done, what the experts are predicting and generally just trying to figure out what we even think and feel about it all, everything shifts again.
As human beings, each of us have lived through various trials and circumstances and have become acquainted with the fact that change is inevitable, right? Change stretches us – we grow, we learn and narratives such as, ‘comfort zones are overrated’ and ‘challenges should be embraced’ or ‘it’ builds character’ become inspired tattoos and flood social media as motivational quotes in beautiful fonts. But what is meaningful change all about? It builds resilience, right? Yes and no.
How to build a truly resilient brand
True resilience is earned through trying times, slowly, and gradually over time. It doesn’t happen overnight and in reality a grieving process is the precursor and right-of passage to resilience.
So, where do brands fit into all of this? Grief is a common denominator and it is a response to all loss, not just death. During the last few months people, businesses and brands have experienced great loss. We are grieving our very real loss of life as we knew it, things we thought we would always have access to, freedom, jobs, people.
Life as we know it has changed and so have our consumers behaviours, needs and entire interactions with our brands, there has been immense loss for both. Everything has changed and we need to process that. There are very real stages of the grieving process and the stages of grief are universal and experienced by all after loss. These stages can overlap and do not always go in order. Understanding our consumers and the new roles our brands may have to play during this time, and into the future, is essential. As brands, how can we endure, adapt and not just cope, but thrive.
Just as during the grieving process we question our identity, our purpose, confusion prevails and we may feel hopeless about the future, this too is true for brands trying to adjust during unprecedented times. There is a “grieving” process we need to embark on, to understand, to work through and to share with others as we emerge more resilient and agile.
Successful, resilient brands have a strong brand personality, human attributes that make them relatable and encompass the essence of what they stand for. They convey an emotion or perception that is attached to you, your company and its products and services. It makes sense then that we consider the grieving process from a brand’s perspective and how we can become increasingly resilient as we navigate through the coming months.
The 6 stages of the human grief process
There are 6 stages in the human grief process that can be paralleled with the current brand experiences taking place amidst COVID-19. How do we make sense of the process and move from denying to accepting and brand storytelling that creates new meaning.
Stage 1: Shock & Denial – Avoidance, confusion, numbness, fear, blame
Stage 2: Anger – Frustration, Anxiety, Irritation, Shame
Stage 3: Depression & Detachment – Overwhelmed, helplessness, loss of energy
Stage 4: Dialogue & Bargaining – Reaching out, desire to tell story, struggle to find meaning
Stage 5: Acceptance – Exploring options, finding a new plan
Stage 6: Return to meaning – Empowerment, security, self-esteem, new meaning & purpose
From a brand perspective, never before have we experienced such loss, separation, restriction. We’ve seen the invisible role they played, the people behind them, the families they supported, their essence, the way they made us feel, the way they were a part of our lives, our routines, our traditions, family gatherings, catch-ups with friends, and then they weren’t.
Navigating the phases from a brand perspective
Stage 1: Fight or flight – resistance or denial or retreating
Stage 2: Frustration – irritation and blame
Stage 3: Debilitation – overwhelmed unsure or what to do
Stage 4: Normalisation / balance – Rediscovering & identifying new opportunities
Stage 5: Return to growth – Redefining and creating new solutions
Stage 6: New Meaning & purpose – Adjusted, hopeful and agile
Consider the current position of your brand in the present phase of the pandemic and lockdown regulations. Then, within that, consider your consumers and their changing circumstance, perceptions, mindset and behaviours linked to the present “level / stage”.
In each of the above stages various areas of critical response are required from brands to transition toward agility and successful repositioning in the changing market. We can begin mapping out a strategy for returning to growth, meaning and purpose.
Do a critical assessment
Take each of your clients or your own business and do a critical assessment based on the following. Analyse the following from the above-mentioned perspectives/stages.
• The industry, category, business, brand, market
• The current consumer, potential newcomers, future consumers & emerging markets
• What is their current experience?
• How are they affected in the various phases?
• How have needs changed?
• How has behaviour changed?
• Are there any gaps?
• What is a potential opportunity to add meaningful value, to make a difference.
Part of us wants to go back to “normal” while another part of us wants nothing to go back to the way it was before. Businesses, brands and individuals have struggled through some debilitating changes which have for some completely finished them and others opened up new opportunities they would never have anticipated.
The bottom line is creating and building or rebuilding brands with purpose, that consumers can truly relate to and connect with despite the circumstances.
A strong core purpose + meaningful narrative = sustainable & resilient brands
“The beauty of creativity is its agility, bravery & uninhibited relent towards shaping new ways of thinking, solutions and behaviours that improve businesses and lives alike. Creativity sees the possibility amidst chaos.”
By Lara-Anne Derbyshire