In tough times such as those we are currently experiencing, organisations need to be resilient. In terms of character, resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties – in colloquial terms it is the ability to ‘bounce back’. Another definition of resilience is in terms of design: the ability to avoid damage without suffering failure.
For organisations, the second definition is more appropriate, because organisations want to build resilience so that when there’s a challenge, failure is avoided and damage is limited as far as possible. This doesn’t discount psychological resilience: you want tenacious people on your side during challenging times.
One way to design resilience in an organisation is to build the organisational brand. A classic benefit of a strong brand is that it builds a reserve of trust that helps organisations to overcome challenges – it’s a bit like buying forgiveness in advance.
A resilient brand requires a supportive corporate culture that engenders resilience though, because technologically-driven connectivity reduces the effectiveness of brand equity – the time that the brand buys you is reduced.
As Seth Godin puts it in This is Marketing, gone are the days of simply shouting loudly to drown out the failures. A million fingers tapping gently (or not so gently) at their device keyboards will drown out your shouting. And the tendency to tap is driven by consumer cynicism resulting from shameless marketers who have used shallow tactics to chase a quick buck.
Not that consumer cynicism is new. Way back in the 1970s, Robert Pirsig had a go at marketers using style to hide shoddy workmanship in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s the style that gets you: technological ugliness syruped over with romantic phoniness in an effort to produce beauty and profit by people who, though stylish, don’t know where to start because no one has ever told them there’s such a thing as quality in the world and it’s real, not style.
What is new is that connectivity has put the power to challenge shallow imagery disguising a shoddy product or service in the consumer’s hands.
A resilient brand requires a purposeful, values-driven culture that won’t over-promise (i.e. one that is resilient about its integrity), as well as teams that not only deliver on the brand promise but do so in a way that creates a pleasant, rewarding experience. Driving the ability to collectively make sense of challenges and drive growth is a must, because just bouncing back won’t be progressive – fixing the challenge needs more than just ‘bouncing back’, you want to ‘bounce ahead’.
You want a culture that has designed-in resilience: preparedness, resourceful creativity and habitual counter-intuitive behaviour which means that when challenges come, they are addressed and more often than not converted into opportunities.
A resilient, tenacious culture will build a resilient brand. Get those tapping fingers to play a tune in praise of your organisation’s ability to purposefully deliver on its authentic promises and you won’t have to shout, except in celebration.
Back to Seth Godin: ‘If you want to make change, begin by making culture. Begin by organizing a tightly knit group. Begin by getting people in sync. Culture beats strategy – so much that culture is strategy.’