How to ride a tsunami

Every economic and financial crisis we've experienced appears to be a tsunami, unpredictable, out of our control, something we could never have prepared for. Or could we have?

Research from McKinsey, WARC and REBT suggests that building brand resilience is the only concept promising some answers. So what makes a resilient brand and what can we learn?


1. They think and act positively

In psychology, being more resilient comes from thinking and acting positively. 

Brands that create value think beyond a crisis. Instead of resorting to cuts, they invest in creativity and innovation to transform, ready to make the most of the turnaround that’s inevitably going to arrive. Research proves that resilience in countercyclical sectors is achieved through innovation and growth, even when it means incurring costs.

  • How could we actively plan for the next turnaround instead of attempting to passively withstand the crisis of the moment? 
  • How could we repurpose our communications and marketing plans to create meaningful value where our customers need it?


2. They create flexibility 

This is the ability to evaluate a situation and successfully adjust, by virtue of malleable not rigid principles. 

Often the frameworks originally designed to streamline activities now act as straight-jackets that impede us to adapt to changing circumstances. They are considered as dogmas. They include principles and best practices in marketing planning and budgeting, constrained by yearly cycles and rigid plans based on historical data and internal assumptions. They don’t allow a buffer to be responsive.  

  • How could we review our marketing frameworks and principles so they can be adjusted to a new environment?
  • How could we make them less complex, less rigid? 
  • How could we start implementing new, dynamic and “open source” models to plan for our marketing budget that account for a changing environment all year long?


3. They create adaptability

Being adaptable means being able to change aspects of ourselves to adapt to a new environment. 

Resilient brands are able to change to thrive in a new environment where often changes are seismic shifts in technology, consumer preferences and society. Businesses need to go back to their strengths and purposes, in a brave new world.

  • How could we review our key marketing strategy elements - value proposition, brand purpose, customer relationships, brand touchpoints, content and ways of working - to adapt to a new environment?


4. They solve problems

Ability to solve problems is a fundamental skill to be resilient.

Teams are often lost in marketing plans and toolkits, forgetting they are ultimately in the business of solving problems for their customers, instead of adopting the mindset of constant improvement often reserved for their product development teams.

  • What problems could we solve today? 
  • What questions do we need to ask in this situation?  
  • What problems could happen tomorrow? 
  • What scenarios could we face and how could our marketing help solve them?


5. They have emotional awareness

Emotional awareness is the ability to recognise and make sense not just our own emotions, but also those of others.

Successful brands and businesses look at their clients and customers as humans, not just buyers and consumers. They will be weathering the crisis in a much better way than those who don’t. They will have built empathetic, authentic relationships, not just transactional ones. They will have built better listening and dialogue capabilities through their touchpoints.

  • What are the human, emotional needs of our customers? 
  • How can we help them beyond their functional needs? 
  • How could we use our touchpoints to understand, listen and actively serve our customers better?


6. They have a community

Social support is the perception and actuality that one is cared for, has assistance available from other people, and most popularly, that one is part of a supportive social network.

For brands, this translates into a loyal and supportive community of customers who are engaged, whether through simple sense of belonging or actually contributing to co-create products and ideas.

  • How could we strengthen our customer community? 
  • How could we build goodwill with them now for the future? 
  • How can we develop relationships that help us all withstand even the toughest crisis?


7. They put sustainability at the core

Being sustainable, means to be able to have and maintain resources to endure changes. 

For businesses, it means to be able to have resources and manage them so the business can adapt to environmental and societal changes for the long run. Some organisations misinterpret it as CSR activity but in reality, it includes more fundamental aspects of a business, from the type of relationships with customers to the whole business model (Warby Parker, Patagonia are established models).

  • How could we put sustainability at the core of our business?
  • How can our marketing leverage and maintain resources for enduring changes? 
  • How could we we make our relationship with our customers more meanignful in the long term?


Never stop paddling 

These are questions businesses need to ask themselves everyday not just in a crisis. 

“Change is the only constant”, my meditation teacher used to say. Whilst we cannot predict the next tsunami, we can prepare for it by planning dynamically for what comes next without waiting to be “sucked over”.

Survival mode


"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change" - Charles Darwin

How to ride a tsunami


Every economic and financial crisis we've experienced appears to be a tsunami, unpredictable, out of our control, something we could never have prepared for. Or could we have?

From crisis to catalyst


The origin of the word 'crisis' is 'decisive point'. At the moment we are staring into the abyss, but could we learn from what we see?