Friday, March 6, 2020


By Stacey Kumagai – Media Monster Communications, Inc./ 

In 1950 when the Magic-8 ball was invented by Albert C. Carter and Abe Bookman, no one thought to ask, “Will we have Coronavirus in 2020?”  The bigger question is, if anyone had asked this question - would the Magic-8 ball have said, “It is certain” when the Magic-8 ball was flipped over? 

Last week, I picked up the phone and called Constellation Brands, the corporate umbrella over Corona beer to provide support to the team through their gatekeeper to merely to cheer them on.  While I have no idea how many phone calls they have received out of people being naïve or panicked, I simply offered support.  Here is an innocent brand being themselves and whammo,  blindsided overnight by an unexpected tidal wave, suddenly a brand's identity has to look at public perception and make a choice.  While the uneducated public decided to be ‘reactive’ on social media out of fear, what did the beer brand do?  As I watched TV advertising continue, trusting in their long loyal following to 'know the difference and the truth' - it was a relationship we did not need to see play out on Jerry Springer, because wise consumers knew there need not be a paternity test.  They were not related. 

While one could say, "Come on people, you're better than that, educate yourself" - this encouragement for the public to wake-up can't/won't be realized until they scramble like animals knocking people over in box stores over water and toilet paper. Once their 'survival of the fittest' acts give them their creature comforts that had common courtesy/manners/kindness fly out the window as fast as Lysol flew off the shelves, maybe once feeling secure, they'll realize their souls temporarily left their human bodies.  They could then see a side of themselves that didn't resemble or truly represent the 'better' human that is authentically who they are, they just had a momentary panic-lapse of judgment.

I have seen corporate statements acknowledging Covid-19 who have addressed who they are, where they stand and how they are reaching out to the public and their customers.  Companies like Jet Blue, decided to bring forth what they are pro-actively doing to address public concerns, safety and reassure they are working with authorities, and they also provided resources of how to contact the Center for Disease Control. 

Those who work in the hospitality industry are regrouping with the travel industry feeling the pain; others in personal care and beauty industries are seeing their business fluctuate between those needing to escape vs. others who just feel like it is another place for germs to fester. 

Some financial institutions are reassuring their customers they are in the trenches with them as the stock market freefall makes investors nauseated watching what happens after the bell has been rung.
And then there are the companies who are creating faux pas trying to inject more ‘fear’ into the world; while other retailers are price gouging 50% higher prices for items that the public is buying for comfort - but not raising it for the reasons of supply vs. demand.  Shame on you --- you know who you are!  

Or do they just feel that this is not personal, it is business and it is merely going to the Temperpedic mattresses?!   (apologies to The Godfather and You've Got Mail respectively).

While some brands are sitting around watching the advertising landscape like a popcorn-munching MEME; others are acting status quo business-as-usual because it hasn’t hit them yet – the bigger topic here at hand people, is HOW ARE WE CRAFTING OUR FUTURE?  WHAT CAN WE DO TODAY TO CREATE POSITIVE COMMUNITY RIPPLES with how we address Covid-19 and how it affects most industries like a domino effect?  

What you DO or DON’T DO during this time is up to you, but how the consumer market will ‘remember’ your actions is what we need to talk about most. 

In my 35-year career in marketing, advertising, promotions, public and media relations integrated within my passionate phoenix-rising internal neuroscience communications speaker/coaching soul has championed the underdogs, the indie folks, the entrepreneur, the start-up, and even the huge corporate biggie resurrecting a reinvention with the cognizant journeying mindset through acquisition and merger, and the voiceless-sometimes-invisible ping-pong balls caught in the in-between.

I have seen too much. The first thing that get cut is PR, Marketing or Advertising.  
The last thing a fear-driven C-Suite normally does is rally the troops to honor internal perspective based on their own external experience navigating said landscape. 
But people… this is when you have an opportunity to remember whether you are B2B or B2C with a product or a service, you’re here to serve PEOPLE no matter what industry you are in.

Yes, we’re in this horrible non-personal A.I. wave right now that is making it more challenging and difficult as a landscape to navigate, as people are screaming for human connection at a time when people are paranoid to have it.  It’s a weird tightrope act right now.

However, at the end of the day it is about HUMAN CONNECTION, even if most humans are avoiding all human contact right now. 

We have to look at connection from our present-day place to properly create our future and what that means for our connection tomorrow. 

As everyone holds their breath with ALL BRANDS --- you have to wonder if someone will keep going, or pull back.  Will they do P.C. behavior or disruptive behavior?   Will they faux pas trying to play off what is happening, go silent, or will they instead stay true to themselves?   

THIS is what we wait for … watch and SEE. 

My question is, “Shouldn’t you be reassuring your customers you’re going to stay in this WITH THEM?” 

When Radio Shack, Blockbuster, Borders Books & Music, Tower Records, and Sears died, for many consumers it was like a human death. Reliable brands somehow provided a “comfort zone” of “everything is going to be okay” vibration to the psyche, the soul and heart.  It’s like cozy socks on your tootsies on a cold winter’s day. 

As Covid-19 hits the consumer and business market where it hurts, many brands are now looking at whether or not they will be the Pier 1 store closing; the next swoop of Macy’s store closures and so forth.

Whether you are a brand that was with us when we were toddlers through adult life milestones or a new kid on the block that has become a consumer cherished fast favorite – no one is immune to the ripple effect of what is happening economically. 

So what can we as people cling to as our sterilized Linus blanket, while championing a familiar product or service when the rest of the world of uncertainty was in the making? 

While everyone likes to be in the fanfare ticket-tape parade of glory riding the wave of what IS already going well, I prefer to help something or someone rise from the ashes or emerge from being invisible to becoming visible for the sake of REAL COMMUNITY.  

That grit, that fighting the good fight…. it’s like oxygen to my being coursing through my veins, that makes me scream “Oh Yeah!” like Kool-Aid running through a wall.

So when I witness the power of a brand who still keeps going no matter what it is facing because THEY KNOW the real deal, they did nothing wrong to invite the experience of the drop in sales other than the mass humans ‘reacting’ causing it out of ignorance and fear, I say “Keep reinventing.”
Advice?  Don’t be so quick to sit and watch your brand go down the drain. Your organic followers will stay like royal loyals.  The fair-weathered friends function just like they do on social media - they'll like you, until you like them then unlike you just so they've got you hooked.  

Yeah, I said it. 

Rather than throw in the towel or shrink yourself – do what you can to reassure your consumer community.  

Why is this important?  Quite frankly, for who we are becoming, the more isolated from community and society we need a way to CONNECT.  Whether you support a product or not personally or professionally with your own consumption, the truth is that this behavior is already embedded within us.   

I will leave a soapbox blog on how the brick-n-mortar small business is dying for another day and another blog - but 'shout out' to Mom-n-Pops.... stay determined and play your Gloria Gaynor "I Will Survive" 45.... vinyl is back, not just #retro. 

Yet, even our most known brands sometimes walk on eggshells at a time like this – and pray that their team doesn’t mess things up, and that the strategy continues to not ruffle feathers in the misunderstood way of the continuous feed for Internet Trolls – twisting words and pure intention, making the situation worse. 

When we are all put to the test to rise from challenges, the Universe sometimes has a master plan that is bigger than all of us for reasons we sometimes cannot see yet, or realize or actualize in a whirlwind of change.  

Maybe we’re asked if our ‘best’ was good enough and we’re challenged with what could we do better for the sake of health, safety, well-being, security and so forth. 

How will we be more careful, mindful, pay attention and stop doing things like Homer Simpson once said dissing the lack of effort investment with how typical workers show up? 

Where will the change come from next, and what will become the ‘new normal?’ 

Spiritually, I get this…. And the physical reality of cause/effect, change, chaos, action, reaction is in itself its own orchestration of creating, reinventing, transforming and asking us all to rise beyond our idea of the actual said rising up. 

I applaud the determination, persistence, perseverance, tenacity and courage it takes to KEEP GOING ANYWAY.  But that takes guts to have faith in your community, even when others have failed you out of their own fear. 

Community.  This is one word encompassing thousands. 
For some, it means belonging.
For others, it means including.
For many, it means helping.
For several, it is defining.
For the masses, it means healing.

So ask yourself as a citizen of your community what your community means to you.

Ask yourself if the company you work for or represent or have created has a definition of what community means.

As we go day-to-present day, seeing what Covid-19, the economy, and what the presidential election will do ----- suddenly a renewed definition that surpasses UNITING will come into play.

This word had resonance greater than the sum of the above aforementioned definitions in a way that turns it on its head - that is IF YOU CHOOSE TO SEE IT.

When you think of the word uniting, you may believe it also includes all of the community perception definitions listed above.  It does… and yet it is much more than that. 

If you think you know the definition of the word, think again… because YOUR PLACE within this word is about to transform itself into something beyond what you previously know.

Let’s stop for a moment to examine what is happening in our world and what has been happening this entire time since the day you were born… Change.

Sometimes we see it.  Sometimes we take it for granted. Sometimes we feel it in spurts.

However… today’s shifts seem somewhat monumental or larger in a way that you have not seen before.  The word CHANGE has significance in a way where action is being challenged in a very confrontational way…. And we are indeed seeing ripples.  

Some ripples are bad. Some ripples are good.  The balance in having both is we get to see the opportunities for more change to enter in order to facilitate real growth.

Dare I sing the Facts of Life theme song now?   Millennials, Google it. The song lays out the
reality of companies who decide to put a Band-Aid on it; go cry in the corner with a Kleenex; or Rollerblade their way out in escape.  For those in advertising, I'm winking at you because you know these sentences I just wrote are also a wake-up call for how brands get integrated into our psyche to identify them as the item, when they are merely brands for a bandage, a tissue and an inline skate.

Yet isn't it interesting how the human brain can be stretched like Silly Putty or molded like Play-Doh into the psychological teeter-totter convenience package that processed food is sold in.

In other words, if we are going through challenges, it is a chance to get fed up enough to find a SOLUTION to make things better. 

I’ll let you digest that for a minute, in whatever context it has entered your psyche, your soul, your being, you sense of belonging, your urgency for acting instead of merely reacting. 

Take a deep breath Lovely Souls and ask yourself what community means to you.

People are ‘questioning it’ and re-examining the meaning of this word in how they ‘once knew it’ – and no one is immune from the changes or challenges in this ‘we’re all in this together’ context, yet it is clear how many focus upon the differences. 

At a time when we celebrate differences, it is also a time to see what we have in common, and that is perhaps the most important thing of all. 

So let me ask you….

·       What significant changes have YOU seen in how you perceive what your community is and what is has become?

·       How has it impacted you and your vision of what it means?

·       Where do you see the most change happening?

·       Who is staying or falling away in your own community based on the changes happening not just around you but WITHIN YOU?

·       When did you notice that your perception of community shifted? 

·       What is your place in it now in what you contribute? 

·       How are you able to create your own shift and ripple by how you show up? 

·       Has this changed you and your reaction vs. action mode? 

·       What are YOU going to do with what YOU have, WHERE YOU CAN? 

Think about these questions.  Marinate in their juicy goodness, it's more than a two-for-one-BOGO, but a ripple if you allow it to permeate your perception of what you connect to when you are NOT operating from fear mode. 

For it is in the answers you will find your place within your community and the changes you create with every action or reaction you have in creating the change that happens with said realization. 

Take time to examine your habits personally and professionally – and ask if your actions are contributing or taking away from community.  

Are you creating something tangible in what you do for the bigger picture? 

As commerce struggles on its own life raft of survival to maintain, keep calm and carry onward – and we are watching shifting, contorting, retreating, panicking, reacting…. Let’s be MINDFUL of the ACTIONS we do choose to take moving forward.

Take a deep cleansing, purified air breath, people.  It may be a scary time, but we’re technically all in this together.  Let’s use this time to commune and unite NOT divide.  It’s important. 

Thus, I’ve said it.  This time and these events are challenging ALL OF US FOR PURPOSE AND REASON.  

True colors show up eventually. Truth comes forth.  What will yours be?
How will you navigate it? 
What will you champion?
Who will you show up as during a time like this.

For those of you still working through your pool of disbelief and grief simultaneously…. Here’s my blog from last month:
For those of you needing to find your community to connect at a time to talk with people when everyone is isolating, don’t give up. Do what you can. Seek and ye shall find.

I’m here, Lovely Souls… doing what I can with what I have with where I am.  Whether you are still ping-ponging your thoughts, feelings and trying to come up for air in this year post 2019 next-level ascension processing or paving the way for your new-world-as-you-know-it tomorrow…. Just know I am with you.  

Maybe you’ll bring your own community together as you clink Coronas as you do and finding others to do the same as you map out your plan to create your own community, and champion those who are continuing to fight the good fight. 

Sending much needed light, love, blessings, support and wake-up calls for education, action and transformative change.

Stacey Kumagai