Curated articles; observed patterns ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Week 13 of UK lockdown (and shops are reopening)
World: 7,823,289 confirmed cases; 431,541 confirmed deaths (WHO, Monday 15/6)
You can get this by email.
Please like and share it if you think other people may find it helpful.
Stepping away from The Reader
Apologies for skipping last week. Other obligations had to take priority.
My personal became more political than expected, and that required a lot of time and energy.
After I had to skip a week, I realised it’s time to shift my focus to more urgent, if more personal, matters.
As you’ll find in the newsletter this week, this crisis is far from over. While there are always opportunities in a crisis, the scale of it and the long, friction-filled and challenging road ahead, are only starting to unfold (as anticipated).
Before the pandemic started, I was leading a small but fast-growing creative business focused on branding and other forms of strategic marketing. Towards the end of February, the business pipeline was already at 50% of 2019’s annual revenue. Don’t get me wrong — I wasn’t on the verge of riches, but I paid my bills, created impactful work for happy clients and worked together with a small collection of exceptionally talented and lovely freelancers.
That pipeline was either frozen or wiped out within two weeks of lockdown. That’s not a unique story for small business owners.
Realising I was still in a better position than most, I looked for different ways to make myself useful.
This newsletter was only one way, but in my ambition to make some sense of the noise in this avalanche of information, it demanded a lot from me. Somehow I still made it to #10.
As the UK moves towards reopening, and as I burn through my savings at an alarming rate, I have to shift my focus to secure new work and ensure the survival of my company. As I also believe strategic thinking is a form of resilience, it will mean helping other companies survive and then thrive — so they can keep their commitments to the livelihoods of their teams, even as government help runs dry.
At the end of this edition, I included some of my favourite resources for the Pandemic Reader. I’m grateful for your attention and the many kind comments I received. It helped me through the difficult moments of lockdown.
A little tip before we move into this week’s patterns and links: many paywalled/limited articles can be read by pasting the link into an incognito tab.
The death toll
The numbers are high, too high to fathom, but comparing them to death tolls of other disasters as well as flu seasons is eye-opening. Keep in mind that the comparisons with a ‘bad flu season’ are despite the lockdown. Many people seem to ignore it as they rush into reopening and questioning whether the lockdown was even worth it. It was.
Rates across many countries and locations are still surging. It’s far from over. Here’s why a US second wave is very likely, but people are tired of it. It’s absurd, but the pandemic, for some people, is no longer news. The fact the white house has gone quite quiet on it isn’t helping.
And to think that earlier lockdown could have halved the numbers.
We’ve been with the virus for about six months, and we’re still learning about it. Here’s the evolving profile.
For some people who have been nicknamed ‘Long Haulers’ recovery is a long path of complications.
Meanwhile, the sense of urgency is weakening for many others. Some had to make tough decisions as they headed out to protests — that will likely have an impact, as this Twitter thread explains, despite outdoor infection rates being much lower.
With that in mind, the NYT asked over 500 epidemiologists what they think about going back to some everyday habits. Guess what? It’s not what has been reflected by the photos of London’s stores on Monday.
Especially if you have vulnerable loved ones, reopening won’t be the same for you.
Oh, and that drug Trump said he was taking? The FDA has given up on it, as expected.
On a global level, it’s even further from over
Quite a few of the countries that have suffered the most, share a particular type of leader at the top.
Brazil, as many saw coming, is one of those and is still on the path to be the worst hit in the world. Feeling threatened, its president is turning to the military. Here’s a photographic zoom-in on how its river communities are battling the virus.
The rest of South America is surging too.
Many Middle East countries are heading towards a second wave.
Mostly, it looks like countries couldn’t afford lockdown anymore and they are reopening despite worrying data. India, Mexico, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, among others. It’s a cruel calculation to make and often pretty clear not all lives are valued equally everywhere.
Meanwhile, in Indonesia, where family planning is highly reliant on government services, they are bracing for a baby boom.
Black Lives Matter
Perhaps the second week of protests gave some reasons to be hopeful. I’m not sure many people thought, especially once some looting started, that BLM will go mainstream like that across political camps. There’s also pretty broad agreement the police has more deep-rooted issues.
It almost made the pandemic old news. People seem to understand, many for the first time, the problem is there even when it doesn’t go viral: ‘There is no video to show that a black boy born today in Washington, D.C., Missouri, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi or a number of other states has a shorter life expectancy than a boy born in Bangladesh or India.’ And that’s not the only horrifying stat in that piece.
Still, he would claim he’s done more for African Americans than Lincoln did. Historians and fact-checkers disagree.
The mayor of Washington renamed the plaza to BLM as if to spite Trump. Sometimes it’s the little things.
Meanwhile, there’s no doubt violence towards journalists has reached new heights, as tracked by Neiman lab. Zooming in — Laurie Penny reports from the heart of the protests with details of police brutality towards peaceful protestors, her piece also provides broader context.
Somehow, at some point, a large part of the discussion shifted from living people to hunks of stone. It’s emotionally loaded, but the historical monument/statue debate can have sensible solutions as this Economist editorial suggests.
Institutional racism is the more complicated issue here. Some even say that the term racism, with its implication of individual moral failings, distracts from the key issues of anti-blackness.
The REALLY bad economy news start coming
A short-lived surge in the stock market, to some degree fuelled by the optimism of reopening, went back down following a wave of news about surges, second waves and grim financial outlooks.
OECD painted a grim picture of a slow recovery for some of the richest countries, expecting the worst slump in 100 years.
The UK economy shrunk by 20.4% in April.
The FT’s analysis asking whether we’re heading into a depression doesn’t seem that far-fetched in the last week.
When I look at some of the changes coming to our daily lives, even if only partly adopted, all I see is increased market friction. The missing 10% The Economists predicted will hit some sectors much harder.
We’re calling it a recession, even though it’s looking like in many cases it’ll be a depression. Either way — big challenges ahead. Here’s some stuff to help businesses prepare.
A generous amount of strategic analysis and advice content from the usually highly paywalled WARC has been made available for free or for registration. (I hope WARC start thinking of some additional types of subscription as the number of agencies that can afford them is about to shrink, and amount of self-employed people interested will grow.)
One highlight is Les Binet’s strategic view. Navigating COVID-19: Survival, adaptation and recovery.
Some inspiring thoughts from Rory Sutherland speaking at Ogilvy’s Nudgestock festival/conference of behavioural economics.
Martin Sorrel chooses to focus on how it will all accelerate digital.
On a higher and more progressive level, which stood out for me, Bain’s James Allen outlines the way organisations could start appreciating their essential people more.
Samuel Scott adds to the ‘Marketing will not change forever’ side of the debate.
My takeaway? There will be opportunities out there, and obviously many rules will stay the same, but for many, it’s going to be an uphill struggle against unprecedented amounts of resistance and friction in a tough as coffin-nails market. And that requires a lot of smart, creative, strategic thinking.
There was a lot of brand noise on BLM, most of it is quite a niche interest but here’s a huge deck collecting over 100 examples. In many cases, it would be better if brands just STFU. And yet, some show real commitment in interesting ways.
Google docs became a surprise ad-hoc media collaboration platform for political resistance.
A majority in the US’ supreme court ruled that LGBTQ+ people cannot be fired for their identities.
I don’t want to go into the JK thing, but this astute and touching rebuttal from Mermaids filled me with hope.
Pioneering multimedia artist (and the woman who have influenced me most after my mum), Laurie Anderson, has a new radio show. Her opening monologue about the situation in the US was inspiring and touching in her usual unique way.
In the US, UK and Spain, kids now spend more time watching TikTok than YouTube. Perhaps I should move there instead of writing on LinkedIn/Medium. Where’s the silver lining in that? That there’s still such surprising media disruption in this saturated world so who knows what the future may hold?
If you’re looking for email newsletters to help you stay on top of things, the best of the bunch are the daily Covid updates from FT, NYT and WP — mostly open outside their paywalls. If you want to go deeper and across disciplines — check out The Syllabus’ dedicated mailer or if you’re more political, follow the impact on global democracy with OpenDemocracy. Axios newsletters give a top view and are a recent discovery.
As pointed at the beginning, there won’t be more issues for a while. I’ll keep posting things I come across and possibly publish more focused pieces, so follow me on social media and subscribe to the email updates.
Liking and sharing are still appreciated.
Keep safe, be kind.