Adapting to Change: Understanding Individual and Brand Emotional State






As a society we have all experienced a great deal of change in recent months. From dealing with personal and family health matters, to shifting to working from home, losing jobs, home schooling, being in isolation, and getting used to a very different way of life. There’s no denying that new “norms” have been forced upon us and at an incredible pace. Understanding change and the emotional curve associated with change will help you to understand your clients, employees, colleagues and other stakeholders better, and their situation. This will allow you to support them more effectively, as we outline in more detail below.

Change is often hard especially when unexpected, and each individual’s response is varied, personal and happens at a different rate. There has been extensive research done into dealing with change, and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross helped articulate the series of emotions and associated stages in her model below.

The model is broken down into 3 distinct phases and indicates the levels of motivation / performance experienced in each:

  • Survival – how we respond to the new change. Often through denial, anger, or resistance.
  • Recovery – how we bounce back, how we plan. Starting to accept the new norm, searching for answers, and thinking of new ideas.
  • Growth – how we grow resilience, how we shape our future state. Accepting the change and trusting the new state with enthusiasm and commitment.


How is this relevant to me?

We are all humans experiencing differing emotions relating to change and by using this model as a basis, it can help us create structure to support and continue to progress in these unprecedented times. This is a new world for all of us but for some individuals and companies this may be the first time they have experienced anything that has had such a large impact on not only business, but also on day to day life.

Think about how you can use the experience of your strategic partners and employees to share learnings and inspirational stories from some of the difficult times they’ve encountered. For example, senior members of staff and leaders showing vulnerability and humanity where they might not normally, can bring strength and unity within a team. As time progresses and we begin to re-emerge out the other side, it will be the brands and people and their actions towards others throughout this time of uncertainty and change, that will be remembered.


Understanding Change in the Current Climate

As brands, businesses, marketers and individuals, we need to be mindful that there are people behind every organisation, and how we interact and engage with them must be respectful of where they are in their change state.

For employees, is hearing about the company’s new “2025 vision” motivational at this time? Or do they need more guidance and support on how to balance working from home with home schooling. Employee pulse surveys can help with this, but also regular forums and check-ins to hear concerns and frustrations are key.

Not only do we differ individually, but where we are in the world may also inform where we are on the change curve. Some regions are starting to look at recovery, whereas others are in the earlier stages of responding to change.

For customers, where are they positioned on the curve regionally, and respective of their sector? If their industry has been decimated or largely impacted, do they really want or need to hear about your product updates? Or do they actually need a reassuring arm that can give them best practice for how to manage the situation (e.g. balancing cashflow or engaging remote employees).

Thinking outside the box and offering clients various forms of support or guidance may provide them invaluable tips on how to manage their situation during this time. In addition, taking the time to organise remote companywide initiatives that include family members, will again reinforce your organisational value.


Responding and Adapting

As individuals and organisations plan for the recovery phase, it can be expected that performance and motivation may be at its lowest. We are being asked to continue to complete tasks where the value may no longer be clear or tangible.

This is an unfamiliar landscape where no one is an expert, and everybody is looking to each other for answers, confidence and support. Where there is a lot of uncertainty, think, where can you create certainty?

When Entrepreneur and former Chief Business Officer for Google X, Mohammed “Mo” Gawdat, was recently asked to comment on the difficulty of dealing with the unknown timelines, he suggested turning this on its head – “we don’t know for sure when isolation will end but we do know that we have more time in this situation. So, what are the goals and achievements we can reach in that undefined timeframe.”

By giving ownership to individuals and creating teams that wouldn’t normally work together, you can create momentum towards new goals, taking a unique situation and making it positive. We often say we need time to slow down or momentarily freeze so we can get on top of things that fall to the bottom of our to-do lists. Now that we’ve had some version of a pause, a shift in focus, we must utilise this to our advantage and redirect some of our efforts to new and rejuvenated initiatives. This period has allowed FIRST to provide clients with greater support and information in various areas including venue sourcing, contracting, how to incorporate and enhance events with digital/virtual, and People & Culture team iniatives, including a focus on Learning & Development. It’s also been a chance to spark new creativity amongst the teams encouraged and driven by our new Creative Council, and launch multiple internal initiatives to hone our skillsets, nurture our people and develop stronger partner relationships.


Emerging out the ‘Other Side’

As you enter the final stage, a true understanding of the word ‘strategy’ is key to ensuring you can continue to grow and build resilience. It is not simply having a plan, it is the ability to guide, move and lead your business, clients and employees.

You should shout about the achievements that your company/team/individuals have had during this time. What have you learned that you otherwise wouldn’t have if this pandemic had not happened? How can this knowledge and experience be built on for future strategies?

As businesses and marketers operating in this climate, a personalised and considered approach has never been more relevant. It’s imperative to keep communicating and adapting with the curve as change happens, and most importantly taking the time to ask, listen and learn.

When the ‘norm’ or some form it begins to return, it will be the brands and people that genuinely listened, cared and helped customers, partners and individuals through this time of change that will be remembered.


For more information or to discuss the insights shared within this post, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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