Let’s start with a little experiment: Close your eyes (but not until you’ve finished this paragraph) and imagine a serious personal and/or professional crisis. Then, in your mind‘s eye, create an image of who or what you would most like to be in the midst of this difficult crisis.
Did you picture yourself as the Rock of Gibraltar? If so, then you have a lot in common with the 1,000 top managers from the GAS region, a majority of whom “saw” this metaphor in a survey conducted as part of a psychological study. It’s an alluring image. A merciless outside world with a raging storm and threatening masses of water – and you stand in the midst of the chaos like a strong, unshakable rock on which the waves break without harming the stone. The rock stands for strength, peace and permanence, the waves bounce off it. Bounce – as in Latin “resilire”.
Resilience is about more than just being a rock
So your subconscious conjured up an image of resilience? A time-worn concept that was repopularised in the age of corona, having originally been introduced into psychology in the 1950s. It is understood to mean, first of all, the ability to mentally and emotionally cope with a crisis or return to pre-crisis status quickly and without lasting impairment. But is that enough? Is it enough to keep your position unchanged, to bounce back and to be the same after the crisis as you were before it? For me, this idea triggers the feeling of having lost valuable time, time which could have been much better spent on something other than becoming an unshakable rock. For me, resilience is about far much more than just being resistant. Being resistant is passive whereas resilience also has an active component. After all, resilience involves being able to draw on available resources in order to turn crisis management into an opportunity to develop. Anyone who wants to demonstrate their resilience therefore needs resources on the one hand and a coping strategy on the other – and for those who do not yet have the latter, the current crisis offers an invaluable opportunity to develop it for the future.
YNWA – You’ll Never Walk Alone
As symbolized by the strongest brands, the best resilience strategies adopt not only the most robust but also the most agile approaches to external stress factors. Corporate brands that manage the balancing act between strength and flexibility have a clear advantage, especially in times of crisis. Let me give you an example from the world of sports. The 1945 showtune You’ll Never Walk Alone, whose lyrics are about looking to the future with confidence, was played in numerous football stadiums in the 1960s to get the fans in the mood. When one day at Anfield Road, home of Liverpool FC, the stadium’s sound system failed, the fans provided their own rousing rendition of the song. From that day on, Liverpool’s fans have sung the song before the start of every match. The song went on to become the club’s world-famous anthem after the Hillsborough disaster (a mass panic at a game in Sheffield) in 1989, where 96 Liverpool fans died. Since then, the song has been referenced on the Liverpool FC emblem as You’ll Never Walk Alone. YNWA became a distinctive brand born out of a severe crisis. Since then, YNWA and the company behind Liverpool FC have stood for the eternal value of solidarity around the globe. It is probably no coincidence that the club is renowned for its exceptionally loyal fans.
In recent months, Liverpool’s captain, Jordan Henderson, has shown how this resource can be mobilised to meet new challenges by spearheading a fund-raising campaign among English football stars to provide financial aid for people whose lives have been shaken by the corona crisis. The fact that a cover version of the 75-year-old song climbed to the top of the British charts in April 2020, and that Liverpool FC became English champions for the first time in 30 years (in the corona crisis, of all years), rounds off the picture of a robust yet agile brand that is likely to remain well positioned to face the crises pf the future.
Sustainable pressure to act
What I have sketched out as an example from the world of popular sports can naturally be applied to all sectors. In this context, I find the Havas Meaningful Brands study from 2019 interesting. According to this study, 75 percent of the surveyed consumers say that they expect brands to be actively involved in solving social and environmental problems and to stand up for what they believe in. Brand activism thus stands for the robustness aspect of resilience, while being involved in solving problems is an expression of agile adaptation to special situations. The corona crisis is undoubtedly a special situation that appeals to brand values such as security and staying power. The impending climate crisis is the next challenge, which will shake the real estate industry to its foundations as it is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The pressure to act on the part of stakeholders is constantly increasing and real estate companies that fail to communicate their problem-solving acumen through their strategies and brands are unlikely to survive this crisis unscathed. After all, the climate crisis is not one that will we will simply bounce back from.
I firmly believe that anyone who is serious about sustainability, even late-comers, anyone who reacts to the challenges ahead with flexible models and knows how to communicate all this authentically, will develop the necessary resilience to come out on the winning side. Here at the Real Estate Brand Institute, this is among the issues we evaluate in our ongoing pan-European studies and we will be providing you with the relevant facts and figures in the very near future.
With resilient & branded regards
Your Harald Steiner
PS: A personal digression
Have you ever heard of Viktor Frankl, the esteemed Viennese psychiatrist who went down in history as the founder of logotherapy and existential analysis? Frankl was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto at the age of 36. He spent three and a half years in concentration camps where his father, mother, brother and wife all died – and despite all his suffering, he came to what he called an “astonishing realisation”: Some people choose to surrender to forces beyond their control, some grow from them. I choose to grow. Frankl processed his experiences in the book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, published in 1946 and sold millions of copies. His guiding philosophy: “Those who have a ‘why’, can bear almost any ‘how’”. Following this motto, Frankl spent the rest of his 92-year life, which was honored with 29 honorary doctorates, exploring how the fulfilment of meaning is possible even in the face of severe blows of fate and how it enables people to heal mentally in times of crisis. In addition to the question of meaning, the focus of his logotherapy is on resilience. For those who would like to understand the fundamentals of this concept on a deeply human level, I recommend reading Viktor Frankl’s books.