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Why managing the economic fallout from coronavirus is 'a marathon, not a sprint'

Image by Maksym Kaharlytsky via Unsplash

As the coronavirus pandemic continues around the world, the situation is prompting leaders from every sector to take increasingly drastic action, and focus on finding solutions to the economic, social and human losses we are all facing.

China has now begun its slow road to recovery, begging the question of what leaders can learn, and how they can apply those lessons on their home turf.

Speaking at The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival, global president of McCann Worldgroup, Chris Macdonald, heeded that leaders should watch the situation in China carefully in order to safeguard for the future.

“We're all hanging on to China to be the benchmark, the light… the speed at which it is starting back, the push to get the economy going again and the push to get consumer confidence back, I think is an inspiration for all of us. I'm not sure it's a learning.”

“China has only reopened, really, in the last week or so. So let's see what happens with them in a month, two months, and three months. But what I will say, is the speed with which [the industry there] has started to get back that optimism and energy has been pretty, pretty exciting.”

To remember, “how we manage this is a marathon not a sprint, I think is really critical," he added.

Macdonald emphasised, however, that he has already seen positive changes to the way we live and work that will be vital to maintain, as the longevity of the pandemic remains uncertain.

He said: “I think what's been fascinating for us is that it's massively increased connectivity.

"…. It’s kind of ironic that the level of actual connectivity is higher, even though it's not physical in presence. The fact that we are living in a world where we are talking to more people on a much more regular basis has been kind of liberating, and is an opportunity to keep asking the right questions.”

Macdonald is of the view that brands will play an increasingly crucial role in assisting coronavirus relief efforts, and that consumers have consistently high expectations for brands to behave appropriately.

In a recent McCann study, he said “brands were much more trusted than governments and even the church. So, we know that brands, when they operate at their best, are much more trusted by consumers than a lot of other institutions.”

“We've seen in the last weeks how certain brands really have stepped up to behave in the right way. Our job is to help those brands play a meaningful role in people's lives, by ensuring that we filter and think long and hard about the way that they have meaning.

It has never been more important to help brands think through the kind of communication they put out into the world, especially now, by making sure that it feels fitting and feels like it has a purpose.”

Macdonald praised leadership efforts by brands such as McDonald’s and Aldi in Germany, who came together by transplanting McDonald’s staff to Aldi stores in order to keep employees in work and deliver essential food to shoppers. He also predicted that we would see more endeavours like this going forward.

He said: “When it's a global economic downturn, companies do come together - they come together to work out how to help each other’s mutual survival.

A great example is the number of companies now converting factories to making ventilators and respirators. I think that is just a signal of when you see humanity at its best, and corporations are their best.”

You can watch the full interview here and view more content from The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival here.

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