Brand Flakes - Lessons from a Cereal Box

Uncategorized Jul 09, 2020

The bleakest of times may not yet be upon us. A 2 percent contraction in the UK economy in the first quarter of 2020, could be dwarfed by the office of Budget Responsibility’s [OBR] prediction that by June, the UK economy could shrink by a record 35 percent. Already suffering industries will likely face more strain before relief raises its head. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak highlighted we face a ‘significant recession this year’, with the accommodation and food, transport and storage and education industries already suffering the largest declines in growth of 9.5 percent, 4.9 percent and 4 percent respectively. Resilience is fundamental to survive any storm, it will be a vital tool for UK organisations, big and small, to not just survive but return to prosperity, in the aftermath of COVID-induced economic ‘quarantine’.


But what is resilience? Resilience is the self-righting, transcending capacity within all youth, adults, communities and organisations to spring back, rebound and successfully adapt in the face of trauma, adversity or everyday stress. The long term impact from COVID-19 will reach far beyond the immediate health crisis. It is easy to become disillusioned and demotivated with media negativity puncturing both our professional and personal lives. The impact of COVID-19 reaches beyond economic and professional survival, it directly affects our personal lives. Macro-resilience is rooted in individual resilience, now is the time to invest in our personal and professional selves, to overcome the complex challenges ahead.


Resilience runs strong through the veins of AirBnB founders, Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia. In the past month, they have taken unorthodox action to retain their brand’s reputation, pivoting to allow guests to be released from bookings and compensating hosts in excess of $250 million. In a time when society could likely lean towards the perceived safety of hotels’ institutionalised hygiene procedures and away from ‘home-made’ hygiene on AirBnB, the founders of AirBnB broke ranks away from their customary policy. In doing so, they have maintained and potentially improved their brand image, ultimately maximising their ability to bounce back and survive after the COVID-crisis calms. Chesky, Blecharczyk and Gebbia are no strangers to adaption and survival. As the 2008 financial crisis loomed the infantile, at one point literal air beds in the founders’ spare room, had racked up around $20,000 of credit card debt.


The ever-resilient threesome needed to evolve and fast. They did exactly that, selling promotional boxes of cereal on the presidential election candidates ‘Obama O’s’ and ‘Cap’n McCain’s’, they generated enough money to pay off the credit card debt and crawl to a venture capital pitch at Y Combinator in November, the same month as the election. When Gebbia told Paul Graham the director of the VC firm how they’d survived off cereal, financially and as a food source, he replied: “Wow. You guys are like cockroaches. You just won’t die.” This resilient outlook of the founders of AirBnB allowed them to swallow their pride and adopt unconventional means to stay afloat.


Their approach is as important and applicable in April 2020. AirBnB in an era of lockdown resourcefulness, began offering online experiences to enjoy indoors, such as Secrets of Magic (£15) and Family Baking Experience (£17). The company that revolutionised the way we travel in the modern era is a perfect example of how you will reap dividends if you embed resilience through versatility across your organisation. This doctrine is best understood when the leaders have prevailed in their own struggles of trauma, adversity and everyday stress and know how to formulate a successful rebound strategy with their end goal in mind.


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