Latest News | 25 March 2020

COVID-19 – time for resilience and hope

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Last weekend, as I drove down the M1 back to the east midlands, the evening sky was full of contradiction, it didn’t seem to know what to do.

In one direction, peeking out of clouds, a shot of blue and sun, as if dawn was rising.


Yet, opposite, lay a massive blanket of foreboding, a heavy cloud promising dusk and darkness. Variations of half-complete rainbows danced in between the two.

The sky seemed to reflect the current mood.

The Covid-19 pandemic is already the greatest peacetime test to our way of life. It’s astonishing to think this truly global experience – no country is immune – has emerged in less than 3 months and has now come to totally dominate our lives.

It feels both so real and yet, surreal.

Covid-19 taps into emotions – maybe the fear of plague is hardwired deep in our DNA – yet, at the same time the numbers of infections and deaths remain thankfully a relatively small proportion of the world population. For context, the virus started in China where the 3,000 deaths to date account for a minuscule proportion of the country’s population of 1,400,000,000.

Like me, you will have been engaged in conversations that run the gamut, from ‘it’s no worse than the flu’ to ‘the sky is falling’.

Each day, political leaders break ranks on their advice and actions required, trapped between science, politics and an understandable fear of under or over-reacting.

The media plays the role of Janus; on the one hand ensuring we get information that sometimes has to be literally dragged out of governments, and yet, feeding a hunger for clickbait and sales by headlining worst case scenarios and shock horror statements, all accompanied by pictures of empty supermarket shelves.

So, is your shelf half full or half empty?


Businesses, which only days ago saw this as a challenge to be navigated, are quickly having to find a way simply to survive.

Only four weeks ago, in this very article, I wrote about our hopes for the up-and-coming world property show, MIPIM, which was about to be held in Cannes. We were bringing out a strong public-private delegation ready to showcase our investment opportunities as we entered a new decade.

The MIPIM event was of course cancelled. The threat of 25,000 delegates flying in from all over the world only to be crammed into small networking spaces could have been a veritable viral petri dish.

Here at Marketing Derby, over the past two weeks, as the scale of the threat became realised and accepted, we have cancelled numerous events and had to change our method of working.

The wider business world is facing down the barrel, as stock markets and confidence collapse.

As I write this, news ranges from the virtual shutdown of Virgin Atlantic to Carphone Warehouse announcing they are closing over 500 stores. For certain sectors, most especially culture, leisure and tourism – not to mention the already battered British High Street – Covid-19’s timing could not have been worse.

Each hour my email In Box is filled with more companies’ take on the virus and incredibly sad announcements of the closure of many cultural and leisure outlets.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, I wonder if I can remember or even imagine a time of normality?

Hearing that someone was mugged in London for toilet roll (I kid you not) kind of encourages a sense of nihilism.

Nelson Mandela illustation

Nelson Mandela illustation

Yet, surely, now is the time to find the resilience we so admire in great leaders – the Nelson Mandela’s of the world if you like – leaders who dealt in the currency of hope.

It may not feel much like it today, but our world will not end.

Yes, as with all downturns and recessions, we will lose many businesses and jobs but in truth most will survive – some may even thrive – however, all will certainly change.

As much as we might wish, we will never be able to reset the clock back to 1st January 2020 when Coronavirus was virtually unheard of.

On a macro-level, I suspect that the post-war era of globalisation will be somewhat reversed. The thin veneer of global supply chains has been tested to, and beyond, destruction. Expect to see reviews of these in the future with accelerated onshoring.

On a more local level, I suspect company working practices will continue to shift towards the tech-driven homeworking talked of in many conferences over the years. Will the traditional commercial property model soon face a challenge similar to that of retail?

The geo-political impact may be a strange beast that morphs and mixes angst and issues such as climate change, economic nationalism, work-life balance and maybe even our capitalist model, all impacting the easy-flowing international mobility we have all gotten so used to.

The crisis has seen some positive glimmers as, once the shock is over, a certain amount of acceptance beds in.

I’ve never seen the food bank box so full at my local supermarket. People are rediscovering community and working together for the common good. Our Marketing Derby Bondholders are using technology to keep in touch to provide help, advice and support to each other.

The words of Nelson Mandela set the challenge; “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it”.


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