Pandemics are a great time to reassess

I wrote an article, blog, script (whatever you want to call it), the other month about how absolutely nobody cares about you. It was somewhat well received, just over 5 500 reads, and I’ve had a few people ask me to write something about what I have been up to – none work related – to keep busy. So, here it goes.

Firstly, I would like to clarify that this is my first, and hopefully last, global killer virus pandemic that I have lived through. I am 27 (at the time of writing this – incase you read this is 10 years time and wonder what I’m talking about), so I was also not in WW1 or WW2, nor was really impacted by H1N1, Spanish Flu, Black Plague….. well, any global disaster – viral or war – to be honest. So I am not speaking from experience, I am just speaking from what I think would be a good way of handling things when speaking to your customers, potential customers, and even your staff.

I am going to keep it short, as I’m sure a lot of us are a bit tired of reading about COVID-19.

This is a terrible time for everyone, unless you sell hand sani and face-masks of course, but there are also a few upsides to being on lockdown. I mean, it’s only regarded an upside if you decide it’s an upside – or you can mope around all day and watch shitty reality TV on Netflix until 2am in the morning and repeat for 10 weeks (we hope this ends soon), and the issue is you will leave lockdown feeling like you have achieved nothing because you’ll see Tony who did a half marathon and 30 minute core workouts every single day, got his yoga instructor certificate, and got verified on Tik Tok. But, if your upside is watching Love Island on repeat and chowing pizza for 10 weeks – by all means, indulge my friend.

All that said, this is an awesome opportunity to reassess. From a personal perspective, that’s what I have been doing over the past 10 or so weeks, and it has been hard. There have been weeks where I have been down and demotivated and achieved none of my personal goals, and there have been weeks where I achieved all of my personal goals. To make reading this slightly more digestible, I’m going to write the areas in my life that have reassessed in a list format – purely because a paragraph about myself might just make me vomit, and I also don’t want to share too much about my personal life with a bitcoin scammer who could be reading this.

  1. Personal goals
    • This was always going to be hard, because I have never been good at sticking to personal goals – even when a raging pandemic wasn’t around – but I was determined to try. After reassessing how I perceive goals, I learnt that I needed to re-look how I set goals completely and instead of setting out 10 goals for a set amount of time, I decided to set goals per week and then carry them over and add more goals the following week. So for example, week 1 was to be more aware of other people and their emotions and what they might be going through, and week 2 was the same as week 1 but then I added that I wanted to be be more mentally active before 8am – ie read a book, read a poem, or learn something. I also decided that it doesn’t matter if I don’t reach a certain goal or if I slip up, it literally does not matter.
  2. Sense of achievement
    • This sort of follows from my last sentence in the point above. I always had this ideation that I needed to achieve my goals outright, in order to have them achieved. This lead to me either giving up on them or forgetting them when I didn’t achieve them within a few weeks. I reassessed this, and I decided that even if I try, and fail or slightly achieve something, I have achieved my goal. For example if it is to lose weight and eat healthy, if I have a week of indulgence, I shouldn’t just give up on my goal, it was a break and the goal needs to carry on. If I lose 5kgs instead of 10kgs, this isn’t a fail as I have still achieved something.
  3. Friendships
    • I think this is something that a lot of people have realised during this pandemic. I reassessed, and realised what friendships are worth maintaining and what “friendships” are not. The ones that check-in, talk to you every day, once a week, or even just once a month, are worth keeping and holding onto. I have always had friends that have different opinions to me, and I love that because it means we can go from joking around to having very deep conversations in a matter of moments. I think it would be incredibly boring and not very stimulating if we all shared the same opinions.
  4. Social Media
    • Social Media has become even more addictive, because people are at home and can scroll the whole day. I recently downloaded Tik Tok and discovered a whole new world of subcultures – as Vogue wrote about from a fashion POV. I had just been understanding Twitter subcultures, which was a mine field on it’s own! But, all that said, social media has always been a place that I share personal photos on, but I decided to start following creative accounts and I created an account that is a creative outlet for myself. I logged out my personal page for a while, and mainly just scrolled through content that I really got a positive vibe from and whenever I put my phone down, I was happy. I solely follow accounts that focus on creative and food – so that is all I see, in my feed, in my search, and even in adverts. One might say I beat the algorithm, HA.
  5. Local Brands
    • Support Local. This has been a movement on it’s own for a while, and the pandemic has spearheaded it, and I can’t wait to see what local brands do in the future. Tshepo Jeans, MaXhosa, Bathu Shoes, and others, are making huge strides locally and internationally. Merchants on Long have always been the pedestal for brands to leapfrog and have always supported brands that are local, with an undying passion for African brands. If you want to get more involved in supporting local, start with them, as they have hundreds of designs and designers. This movement goes further than fashion, retail stores (I hope) are going to start stacking their shelves with more local products opposed to imported products, and I will be buying them. I have set my goal – long term – to have my cupboards 70% locally made clothing, which I am happy to say that my jean collection is already at 80%.
  6. Community
    • I have become far more aware of my community and my country, by engaging in conversations online and in real life. Conversations around BLM, LGBTQ+, GBV, and Supporting Local – these are real life issues, that aren’t just a hashtag. You need to understand why these movements are fundamental to society, and not just post a black square and feel you have changed the world. I am a straight white dude from Cape Town who enjoys oat milk with his cafe lattes, I will never understand what it is like to be part of the LGBTQ+ community or what it is like to be black – or both. However, I can educate myself on why these movements are so important, and how I can support my friends, family, and businesses, that are part of those communities. I have had deep conversations around all these topics during lockdown, and I am proud to say that all my friends and family are on the same page with these topics. We don’t give two shits who you love, what you look like, who you praise, what you eat, or how you speak – what we do care about is if you are kind, that’s it.
  7. Education
    • This has been really important to me as I am currently studying, but I am also aware that there are thousands of people and children who have had their studies interrupted. I decided to reassess my understanding of learning – of course getting high school and tertiary education is highly important, that’s why I am studying part time – and so I have been delving into the world of Webinars, live IG/IGTV, Zooms, and free courses online. The amount of industry leaders and thought leaders that have shared knowledge, for free, during this pandemic is incredible. The true beauty is that you can watch these learnings and conversations from wherever you are in the world – you don’t need to physically be at a festival or an event – because it has all been streamed. I have learnt heaps, and it has been incredible.
  8. Mental and Physical Health
    • This is also an important one that I reassessed, because ever since leaving school I have struggled with physical health, probably because I am lazy shit and prefer to sleep in, but partly because I was always involved in team sports. However, I decided that physical fitness doesn’t mean running a half marathon like Tony, but it could mean going for a 10 minute walk, doing a 20 minute stretch, or finding a quick HIIT workout on YouTube and doing it before dinner. Being healthy is what you make of it, we live in a world where billionaires, models, and a false perception of success and happiness is rammed down our throats 24.7 – but to be honest, absolutely nobody cares. I love the ocean but I used to avoid the beach because I didn’t like how I looked – I would literally avoid doing something I loved because I thought people were laughing at me – but when I eventually did go to the beach and realised that literally nobody cared, it was freeing and now I go as much as possible. This is similar to a lot of people, who don’t do what they love because they are worried about what some random dude might or might not think about them. Some people avoid painting, even though they love it, because they are worried that their bulldog might think their still life pot plant is crap. Others might avoid running because they can’t run without coughing up a lung after 200m, yet nobody is even noticing that (for all you know they might think you’ve just finished a 21km). I have decided to just do what makes ME happy – do do do – because why not?

From a marketing perspective, it’s time to sit back and look at all your marketing plans, channels, methods, strategies, and possibly do an audit – and see where you can improve, what can get dropped, and what is actually working well. Reassess how you speak to your customers, how often you engage with them, what drives them, what makes them interested in your brand and it’s marketing.

People like it when others care – funny that.

What is probably costing your company a lot at the moment, is the cost of previous business and marketing strategies, failed campaigns that are still running, a brand strategy that is so ingrained – but actually isn’t working, a product that is making a huge loss (but a few others aren’t so you keep it), distribution channels that are old but it’s too much of an effort to update them, and more. Companies that grow fast and are successful for a while, often fall into the trap of not being able to pivot and suddenly their strategies are outdated and they are restricting movement and further success of the business. Yes, the business might still be very successful, but it could be even more, and now is a great time to change those strategies and re-look at them. If this virus doesn’t kill your business, at least allow it to make it stronger. If you have time, reassess everything. Internal communications also plays a huge part in how business operates, make sure that the people working for you feel safe and secure during this period, and they will come back stronger, ready to put in all the effort. Why? Because people like it when others care – funny that.

Don’t let this virus kill your business, allow you to make it f***ing stronger.

We have moved into a space where nobody wants a product shoved in their face anymore – we want high quality engagement, we want brands to make us feel more than just a piggy bank, and we want to feel that the brand is human and actually cares about us. Brands that are communicating with their audience about how they relate to them during this period, and brands that are constantly keeping their customers updated with facts, stories, engaging posts, and competitions to keep people interested – will be the ones that come out of this on top. You need to keep top of mind, even if it means talking about a virus when you normally talk about pet food. Pivot, adjust, change, make the conversation happen, and just show people that you care.

I think to sum this up nicely – just fucking care about other people. Social distance, wear a mask, not for YOU but to protect people FROM you, and just be a good oke.

Cheers,

M

PS: Here is a dog looking boujee to make you smile

murray robertson pug

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