Hope Is Not A Strategy

Right now everyone on this planet is hoping.

Hoping that their businesses won’t fail. That people they know and themselves can remain healthy. That the COVID-19 virus gets stopped in its tracks before we have a societal meltdown. That they don’t run out of money.

Fingers are crossed the world over. Toes too.

You can hope all you want, but that isn’t going to put money in your bank account. Hope isn’t going to stop this virus. Hope isn’t going to make people do the right thing.

Action is what we need to get through this.

Uncertainty and Fear

Like a deer in the headlights, most people are stuck with their feet glued to the ground. There is an overall feeling of helplessness because things that we used to control, are out of our control. Nobody knows what to do next, so nothing is happening.

Control is an illusion anyway. Newsflash. You never had it.

You can’t control things like the government, or COVID-19, or businesses all around you shutting down. The only thing you can control is your reaction to these circumstances.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was right. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Black Swan Event

At one point in the world, black swans were thought to not exist. Only white ones. A black swan was unthinkable.

A “Black Swan Event” is a metaphor for something that occurs that is so incredibly rare and unpredictable, that the event is beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology. In his 2007 book, “The Black Swan” author Naseem Nicolas Taleb cites examples of Black Swan Events to include the rise of the internet and personal computers, World War I, and 9/11. This is an incredible book and if you haven’t read it I suggest getting it to help you understand the impact of what’s happening today.

The COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic is certainly a Black Swan Event.

What was life like before 9/11, and then after? That’s where we are now with this.

Your business and personal life have been disrupted and changed. Plenty of business owners are making tough decisions right now simply to stay in existence. Leaders in organizations, government, businesses, associations, and communities are trying to navigate choices they never thought they would ever have to make. Everything is moving to lock-down mode.

To flatten the curve of the virus pandemic, people are getting squashed.

But some are still hoping things will change. That’s the purpose of this article.

To get you past hope, and into some moving and thinking with some action.

Hope is that deer in the headlights about to get run over. Action is that deer bounding away safely.

Remember This Is An Event

We have to find our way through this.

As a people, we made our way through 9/11. We sifted through the ashes of that tragedy as a nation and rebounded. After the great recession of 2008, we had years of fantastic growth and prosperity. Events end.

How are you going to get through this? I’ve been asking myself that. What has been helping the most is taking action.

Action Is:

  • Gathering information. What information do you need to know? Who is the most credible source for that information? Don’t assume and don’t rely on social media. One of the biggest problems we have is people are trusting and believing in the wrong information, and then disseminating that back out as the truth. Base your decisions on real facts, not on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Listening to the important people around you. They are just as scared as you. How can you help them immediately? A small gesture accompanied by a calm voice may be just the thing they need. Can you do something for someone today that will make a difference?
  • Asking for help. The problem with silence is that our minds fill up with the worst-case scenarios. I have asked a few people to help me with some things this past week that I would never have asked any other time. Every single person said yes. What a relief. We are all in this together.
  • Doing something today that pushes you a little further down the road. There is no waiting. Action creates more action. Even small steps are moving forward.
  • Communication. People need to see and hear from you. Your customers. Your staff. Your loved ones. Lead with empathy.

A Time for Reinvention?

Life as we know it just changed.

We probably won’t see the ramifications of these events for some time now, but it will happen. With self-quarantining and isolation, this suggests that there are sure to be opportunities for many companies. Can you imagine the spike in pregnancies that will occur or the incredible shift in the food delivery service that is taking place?

Are you thinking about your market segment or community with your marketing right now? Probably not.

Back in 1963, there was an executive that was faced with a daunting task. He needed to concoct a strategy to defeat another rival brand that outsold his six to one in the market. He couldn’t focus on the attributes of the product and didn’t want to touch lowering the price, so he targeted building a sense of community instead.

That guy was Alan Pottasch, and he invented the “Pepsi Generation”. His creative idea established the brand with a younger audience and drove record sales for the company. In 1984, the slogan was tweaked to “The Choice of a New Generation” and Pepsi began aligning music with its brand.

The reinvention lesson here is that Pottasch focused on the community and spent effort in building a tribe.

Right now is the perfect time to promote a sense of belonging and community.

People Naturally Want To:

  • Feel loved
  • Belong
  • Protect their self-interests
  • Find meaning
  • Be respected

If you are thinking about taking action as a way through this coronavirus mess, can you create something that builds a brand community? What can you do right now to serve that tribe? Can you embrace the conflicts that are all around us and use that to power your idea?

Currently, people are grasping for a sense of stability and safety. Everything is upside down. What can you do to make a difference?

Now Is A Time for Heroes

Storytelling is all about heroes.

Your customers want to be the hero of their own story. We need heroes now more than ever.

They want that Instagrammable moment. In your market and community, what can you do right now to help your customers become a hero?

Right now, they are that deer in the headlight. Frozen. Unable to move as the uncertainty has paralyzed them.

You are going to have to help them realize their potential by suggesting they take action before they get run over. In this story, you are the guide that helps the hero to victory.

Consider This:

  • Schools are closed. One day, they will be open again. How are they celebrating and unifying? What ideas do you have?
  • What businesses and services have exploded in your area with business and new growth? Delivery and cleaning services. Medical care. They need professional branding.
  • Other businesses need to remain relevant. Don’t sell ink on cotton, sell that solution. Discover how you can help by asking questions. You have to show up and be present. Potential customers are not going to come to you. They are stuck in the road and illuminated by a set of high-beams, remember? You are going to need to hold their hand and help them through this.
  • Plenty of events, concerts, sports, tradeshows, and other gatherings have been canceled. Sooner or later those businesses and organizations need to have an outreach with their fan base or communities. Can you help them with that fulfillment? What if you created a “Coronavirus Care Package” for them to help them keep in touch with their customers?
  • There are going to be unexpected things that happen. For example, the water in the canals in Venice Italy has suddenly turned crystal clear. Why? There’s no traffic. Who knew that it wasn’t murky brown all the time? Things are going to appear.
  • Ask “What can I do for you?”
  • Ask “What do you need right now from me or my company?”
  • Ask “How can we make this better somehow?”

Marketing is not about your “why” it is about your customer’s “why”. How can you help them become the hero they need to be in this trying time?

Your role right now is in support. How can you help people get through this crisis? There are no easy answers. For some, just a discussion is all they need. Others might need a helping hand with something simple. A few may have some real problems that you can help with creatively.

The bottom line is that you can’t sit there and hope this will get better on its own. It won’t. Situations will only improve by taking action.

Start now.


“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.” – John F. Kennedy

“Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have only trusted to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“Our real problem, then, is not our strength today; it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower