Coronavirus is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. In the span of a few weeks, it has rendered borders, nationality and class barriers meaningless. It has effectively shut down some of the world’s largest economies. It has exposed the weakness of elected leaders, governments and healthcare systems. It is pushing many businesses into bankruptcy. It is rendering millions unemployed. With the promise of more pain to come.
We’re in unchartered territory. At a fundamental level, the world has changed. Business has changed. Society has changed. People’s values and needs have changed. Many businesses will need to reinvent and reimagine themselves from the ground up in order to stay relevant. Many will die.
Marketing budgets will be the first to be cut as clients refocus. Yet amid the destruction, a crisis like this presents an opportunity for both clients and agencies. For creative renewal. For new ideas, new business models, new systems, new ways of thinking and working, new products and services that provide real value—subjects which I have written about in the past.
How we get through this will be a test of our imagination, values, resilience and agility. Coronavirus may still be the mother of all invention.
- It forces a fresh perspective.
It exposes the vulnerabilities that existed all along in our lives and business. It illuminates possibilities we may have never considered before and offers potential areas to improve and innovate.
- It makes us imagine the worst-case scenario.
And prioritise the actions we need to take now and in the future to mitigate it. Calm, timely, useful and relevant messaging can help temper our worst impulses.
- It demands we embrace constraints.
Time is a factor. As is the scenario we are hoping to achieve or avoid. These constraints help shape and focus the problem. They provide a clear challenge to overcome.
- It pushes us to learn from the past.
To examine lessons learned from similar problems. The context may have been different. However, they form a basis on which to improve on. Creativity after all is about remixing old ideas in new ways.
- It gives leaders license to break the rules.
Under ordinary circumstances, we operate within a fixed operating system. In an unprecedented crisis like this one, leaders have permission to break convention and take extraordinary measures.
As a service industry, dependent on the health of our clients, coronavirus calls for a doubling down on creativity. This is not about a 30 second commercial or a creative stunt designed solely to win awards. This is about creative solutions to real world problems.
We have to be strategic in everything we do. Our clients are being challenged on multiple levels-- not just about their advertising, but also about their core values, how they treat their employees and contract workers as well as how they are contributing to the cause.
As business leaders, we have an obligation. To look ahead, to anticipate and meet new customer needs. To invest in the right actions and communications. And in so doing sustain the prosperity of our people, clients and enterprises.
Here’s hoping we rise to the challenge.