06 Apr 2020

The urgent need for positive contagion

Bluemarlin’s Business as Unusual series offers insight and direction on how brands can emerge stronger, more engaging and absolutely essential in the New Normal.

As marketeers and brand thinkers, it’s surely impossible not to contemplate the very nature of the word “virus” and the obvious parallel between the scary sort we are witnessing and the marketing sort (aka “viral”) which still has a mythical place in our imaginations (largely owing to its magical ability to get you the kind of “reach” and “cut through” even a billion dollar marketing budget couldn’t muster).

Both, of course, are defined by staggeringly rapid, exponential growth that feels unfathomable and limitless.  The former infiltrating physical boundaries with ease, the latter permeating every corner of the digital landscape.  In both cases of course, the contagion is entirely reliant on human contact, as the carrier “passes it on” until it finds a point of saturation.

And in light of that parallel, I was struck this week by the overwhelming, all pervading, virus of negativity that is more claustrophobic than any aspect of the “lockdown”.  Every minute of every day, on every news channel. Every conversation, direct or laterally references the ‘C word’ and where it all might end.

Just Imagine 

Just like the smart, comical or outrageous “viral”, imagination is the key word here. You see, when fear and anxiety kicks in, it’s the imaginative part of our brain that transforms the words we hear into an internal slide-show of doom. “I can picture an apocalypse,” says my mother.

She’s right, she can. She always can. I tell her she’s an uncurable pessimist. She tells me she’s a “realist”.  (The stock answer of the “glass half empty” tribe.)

I get the seriousness and the understand how the consequences for the world and its economies are potentially terrifying.  This is not about flippancy. But apart from sticking to the rules of social distancing and hygiene, there’s only so much I can do about “the virus”. The rest I have to leave to the experts.

As the British illusionist Derren Brown says in his brilliant book Happy,“the only things in life you can control are your thoughts and your actions”.  The former drives the latter and it does it through imagination. This is surely the basis on which we must resist much more vigorously that virus of negativity, replacing it with something more positive, more like your favourite “viral”.  The positive mental picture that in brand, business and personal development terms we call “a vision”. We’ve got to start a new “slide show”.  This week, like so many other businesses, bluemarlin has started to imagine a different kind of future, taking the opportunity offered by Covid 19 to picture something infinitely more positive than just “business as usual”.

To understand the contagion of negativity and how to overthrow it, it’s worth thinking about the power of three. A genius of a mentor once told me that negativity is three times more virulent than positivity. Bad news travels 3 times faster than good.  Say something negative to your partner and you need to say or do three positive and loving things to neutralise it.

And without getting too spiritual on you, trinities run through almost every ancient teaching and religion.  Often symbolised as the triangle, it’s all about two opposite elements, mediated by a third.  “Mind, body, spirit”?  ‘Karma’ is all about negative or positive energy being returned three-fold.

 Our trinities 

The power of three turns up (as if by chance) a lot in our strategic work at bluemarlin. Our Discovery phase is based on what we call the Three Worlds, our foundation for a big brand idea is always based on the trinity of Human Truth, Category Truth and Brand Truth. Hone those to perfection and a brilliant brand idea will, with a little help from us, reveal itself. Similarly, when we construct a 360 Brand World, it’s always based on three interdependent pillars. Two opposing elements, mediated by a third.

Give this a go

So as a brand owner or marketeer, why not try this. For every constraint or serious challenge you currently face (the negatives) identify three of the most positive people you can call upon (in your internal team or in your agency network) who might help you. (You’ll intuitively know who they are). Ask them to identify three opportunities that might arise from, or counter, each challenge and three ways they’d make it happen. They might of course need help themselves, so ask them to each do the same, asking for a positive idea and action from their own positive threesome. Before long you’ll have started your own “positive pyramid scheme” of imaginative brand building, virus destroying energy.

At bluemarlin, we accelerate business and imagine, yes imagine, more prosperous futures for our clients. It’s not about dreaming or avoiding the challenges of reality, but about applying our minds and then acting on a vision.  Systematically and positively.

Business As Unusual Series