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Why Would Anyone Want to Go Back to “Normal”?

May 12, 2020


Why Would Anyone Want to Go Back to “Normal”?

For the last eight weeks, every media outlet, every business blog, every conversation has been about the virus, what we can do right now, when lockdowns will lift, what the future will look like, and when we’ll get there.

Finally, we have good news. Now, lockdown restrictions are starting to ease in places like Spain and Italy, which have been hard-hit. Even here at home, we’re seeing plans take shape.

And with the lifting of lockdowns comes the lifting of the fear and anxiety that’s been propelling us forward. We can start looking forward again.

I’m excited to move on. But something I’m hearing a lot of is how it’s such a relief that we’ll be able to get back to “normal.”

That bothers me. At first, I didn’t know why, precisely. But the more I think about it, the more I see the issue: Why do we want to go back to “normal”? And, even if we wanted to, could we get there?

“Normal” Is Easy and Comforting

 At first glance, the idea of going back to “normal” seems nice. I want to see friends and family. To enjoy something simple like hugging everyone I meet (I am a hugger), getting out for a run or grabbing a coffee and not worrying about the virus or social distancing rules.

 And there are plenty of people who want to get back to their “normal” routines: kids going to school and playing with their friends, workers getting back to the “daily grind,” restaurateurs and coffee shop owners and hairdressers who want to open their businesses and serve their customers.

 For so many of us, “normal” is comforting. It’s routine, it’s easy. After such a far-reaching crisis, it only makes sense we’re clinging to this comforting idea of getting back to exactly what we were doing before.

 But … if we say we want to get back to “normal,” we’re missing the bigger picture.

We Have a Unique Opportunity to Change—for the Better

 One thing the crisis did was put a lot into perspective, I think for a lot of us. We’ve seen so much solidarity between neighbours, kindness emerging from communities, a kind of togetherness that seemed almost lost just a few months ago. We’ve seen resourcefulness, passion, courage, determination—so many, many positive things that seemed almost absent in our world before.

 Think about it. In 2019, would you have ever dreamed of signing off on an email with “stay safe”? More to the point, would you actually have felt concern for the person you were writing to?

 Now, it’s almost impossible to imagine not asking your colleagues, your vendors, your customers how they’re doing. And moreover, we’re finding we care a lot more than we did before. I genuinely want updates from my colleagues and co-workers; I want to check in with my people and make sure they’re okay. And I see that sentiment cropping up more and more.

 The business landscape has been totally upended. And while there’s been bad news for many, there’s also been so many inspiring stories. We’ve heard about manufacturers stepping up to the plate to make PPE, about people rallying to support small, local businesses, and those same businesses giving back to their communities.

 What we have to recognize right now is that we are standing on top of a unique opportunity. The world hasn’t seen an event quite like this for decades—maybe even a century.

 This is a once-in-a-generation moment, and we need to reach out and grab it. Looking around me, I can see so many good things coming out of this. I don’t want those things to slip away, all in the name of getting back to “normal.”

 There’s an opportunity here to take these changes, to look at this revised landscape and make something new. We are the architects of the future; let’s dream beyond “normal.” Let’s aim for “better.”

“Normal” Wasn’t Working

 There’s a lingering question: Who exactly wants to get back to “normal”? Almost no matter where you look, “normal” wasn’t working. Martin Weigel pointed out that “normal” has had very real economic consequences, most of them negative, for the majority of people in our society.

 That’s a wake-up call for employers, I think. And I think there’s a wake-up call for brands here too: “Normal” modes of marketing weren’t connecting with customers before. In the aftermath of this crisis, what customers need and want from us has been radically changed.

 We can’t just go back to “normal” and pretend everything is fine. And why should we, when normal wasn’t really working anyway?

I think the easiest way to see this is to look at how people have been relating to small businesses. There’s a sense of community, a sense of ownership and pride. People want to help their favourite local retailer or restaurant. They have a personal connection. Maybe they know an owner or a friend works there or maybe they’ve been going there since they were kids. These people have relationships, real emotional connection with these businesses, and that spurs them to continue to support them, to go back time and again.

 That’s what we need in this post-pandemic world of ours. We need deep, rich, emotionalconnections with our customers. And many of us have already started the processes we need for this, including doing a little bit of soul-searching as organizations.

 Going back to “normal” won’t let us grab these opportunities or build these deeper, real relationships with people. How could it possibly? Consumers have changed; even before, they were changing. Even before, we weren’t connecting with them the way we can right now.

 We have an opportunity to get back to basics, to strip our brands down to the bare essentials. And in that process, we can uncover the real purpose of our brands—why we’re here and, moreover, why our customers want us here.

Moving Forward with Confidence

 It’s understandable that we’re talking about going back to “normal,” but right now, we should be excited to reimagine our worlds. We’ve seen a lot of change in the last two months, so we might not feel ready for more. But this is different. If we move forward with confidence, purpose, and even faith, there’s a chance to leave behind what wasn’t working for so many of us and create something so much more satisfying and rewarding.

 And, as always, we should start with the why!


Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing

Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.

Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.

And it all starts with why!

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