As we come to the end of the calendar year, it’s time to take a deep breath and exhale. It’s been another difficult year to figure out how to grow in a world where consumer demand is unpredictable to say the least.
Inflation, interest rates, labor shortages, energy and the lingering impact of the pandemic are compounded by unpredictable government and economic policy, war, heightened geopolitical tensions and a bear market, not to mention the material signs of the climate crisis, including floods, droughts and wildfires. . The list could be longer, and it already seems time for another deep breath.
Some call it a polycrisis. If the feeling of loss of control in a “regular” crisis was insufficient, the polycrisis defines the exaggerated impact that interrelated uncertainties can have when they are aggravated. This is sure to make even the hardiest of us doubt whether we are taking the right course with our brands.
With so much uncertainty, I spent time with my teams and agencies discussing how best to prepare ourselves to start the new year refreshed and with new perspectives on how to win and thrive.
Bring your team together to ask “what if?” as well as “why?” and imagine the actions they would take in different scenarios.
First of all, don’t panic but rather engage your brain. Our brains are wired to assume that things will be predictable all the time – this “normalcy bias” means that we generally disbelieve or minimize danger signs. Normalcy bias is accepted as one of the preventable causes of death in aviation accidents – passengers who have thought about what might happen and planned their actions are more likely to survive than those who stand firm almost in a disbelief at the seriousness of their situation.
It might sound like a grim analogy to the situation we’re facing, but I find it empowering to spark conversations about the worst-case scenario, so my marketing teams are better prepared and less troubled by the nitty-gritty things that have become routine. in recent years: inconsistent product offerings, disrupted consumer behavior and, in the extreme, shutdowns of entire swaths of the economy.
keep your eyes open
Good behavior begins with regular analysis of the external environment. Unlike at the start of the pandemic, when our inboxes were bombarded with well-meaning but unhelpful consumer sentiment data, there is a plethora of interesting secondary information examining the evolution of consumer behavior, future intent in all macroeconomic categories and scenarios. Although the evolution of the current situation differs considerably, due to the pent-up demand of Covid and the acceleration of digital life, there are strong analogies with previous events that we can learn from – notably the post -2008, which combined the failure of the banks, the war and the swine flu.
It is worth noting that, despite the noise, the underlying megatrends shaping the culture seem intact – the shift from hierarchy to networks; the aforementioned digital life; the desire for social equality, health and well-being. Recognizing the normalcy bias, it is less important to seek to ensure that things can be more stable than they appear and more interesting to explore how trends are deviated, even if only temporarily, and what different counter-trends are being launched.
A new understanding of how macroeconomics and culture influence perceptions of your category and behaviors is important. This will allow you to decode the true drivers of your consumer and your category, and be clear about what you should be measuring frequently to cut signals from noise. This allows for efficient tracking of important elements and the creation of hypotheses.
Those who maintain a competitive edge are those who will have the confidence to take thoughtful action, as opposed to those who panic, react or, worst of all, procrastinate.
Assumptions are the foundation of scenario planning. Bring your team together to ask “what if?” as well as “why?” and imagine the actions they would take in different scenarios.
Tracking critical factors acts as an objective red flag, so you can act quickly and appropriately on whatever comes your way – metaphorically jumping out of your seat with the right actions when needed.
The easiest way to operationalize these behaviors is to keep pace with existing brand performance conversations – taking the time to consider how the external situation is changing, that action plans are solid, and whether the action criteria have been met or not. It keeps activity aligned with the external environment and establishes a continuous healthy amber alert state.
Being ready to act promotes a sense of control. This is important because this topic is inherent in the recognition that the current environment can impact the well-being of your team. The next two years will likely require resilience, just like the last few years. While it may be an illusion, the feeling of taking control of as many variables as possible can help make the job feel empowering rather than a bunch of stress. Consider how, as a leader, you continue the journey to enable people to thrive in these uncertain times.
Above all, make contingency plans and act with clarity and confidence. Those who maintain a competitive edge are those who will have the confidence to take thoughtful action, as opposed to those who panic, react or, worst of all, procrastinate.