There’s no return to yesterday. It’s about moving forward. Don’t reopen. Reimagine.

—Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York

In his daily coronavirus check-ins, Governor Cuomo reminds us that returning to normal is not a realistic goal. He balances that sobering message with a truly inspiring notion. This pause in our lives is an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve learned, and reimagine what we want the next normal to be.

For businesses and individuals, we have a genuine opportunity to change things for the better.

But how do we reimagine a brand authentically?

For perspective, it’s helpful to start by getting a sense of how people are feeling right now. Maslow would tell us that the existential threat of coronavirus would trigger a refocusing on the safety needs. You remember Maslow’s iconic hierarchy of needs:

People naturally prioritize safety in crises

We see many brands reacting to this shift in the focus of their campaign messaging. Carvana, the leading e-commerce platform for buying and selling used cars, now claims to offer “the safer way to buy a car.” Service now follows CDC-recommended sanitizing and social distancing guidelines, while providing Touchless Delivery to customers. Clifford Sosin, an investor in the company, states Carvana “has always been the most trustworthy company in the used car industry”. The company’s messaging focus on safety acts as a proof-point of a trustworthy brand.

Changes: some temporary, some permanent

If and when circumstances change and the concern for safety eases, Carvana can resume focusing its messaging on other proof-points of trustworthiness. Brands like Domino’s Pizza, which is now touting zero contact delivery and carryout, will almost certainly continue to operate in this new way. But it won’t need to prioritize safety in its messaging as much.

For these brands, prioritizing safety in messaging is an easy decision to make, as the reasons for doing so are credible to their audiences. But countless brands won’t have a legitimate reason to focus their messaging on safety.

This is where the reimagining comes in.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, reimagine a new normal
Consider this as you think about what you want your organization to be in the next normal. Maslow never intended for his model to be presented as a pyramid. He also didn’t intend to suggest each level is a set of needs that must be met sequentially on a one-way journey to self-actualization.

According to Todd Bridgman, Stephen Cummings and John Ballard, who attempted to trace the origins of the pyramid in management textbooks,

Maslow believed that people have partially satisfied needs and partially unsatisfied needs at the same time. That a lower level need may be only partially met before a higher-level need emerges, and that the order in which needs emerge is not fixed.

Reimagine how your brand can meet human needs.

The implication for organizations is that they can reimagine who they want to be in the context of an entire range of human needs. As an exercise, virtually meet with your colleagues and ask yourselves, what human needs are we helping people meet now? Once you’ve answered that question, move on to explore.

What human needs could we be helping people meet?

It won’t be easy to answer this question at first. But keep pushing as you’ll likely land on at least one new human need your brand can help people meet. This is a springboard to reimagine a new and better version of your brand.

I will suggest you conduct this exercise after reading Transcend: The New Science of Self Actualization. In it, author Scott Barry Kaufman addresses the misleading pyramid presentation of needs. He replaces it with a sailboat metaphor that, in short, organizes deficiency needs as the hull, and growth needs as the sail. This new perspective on Maslow’s work makes it a valuable tool to help you reimagine how your organization could meet people’s needs.

If you would like to further explore how brands are reimagining their impact, you may enjoy this blog about leading through kindness, or this blog about 3 powerful reframes for leaders during crisis.