Graphic by: Kate Strassman

You are asking the wrong question: It is the HOW, Not the WHEN

Everyone everywhere is talking about when to open the country. Leave that question to the doctors and policy makers.

You — as a business leader — should ask HOW you should open back up.

For the past month, we’ve been tracking the momentum of COVID-19. We’ve seen an interesting shift in the momentum for two key topics: Opening up America and the COVID-19 Panic.

Since March, we’ve seen the conversation around “panic for COVID-19” rise 3.5X — from 18 to 62 as COVID-19 became a pandemic. But since the beginning of April, the data shows we’ve reached peak panic and are now seeing a plateau and even slight drop. Governors like Andrew Cuomo in NY, Gavin Newsom in CA, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot in Chicago have worked with the medical and science community to take control and assuage our concerns. People have adjusted and are ready to prepare for the future.

Our MFactor data shows that since March, momentum for “Reopening America” has risen 4.5X — from 8 to 37. Analyzing what’s behind the momentum, we see a divide and tension in conversation: some talking about when it will happen, and others talking about how.

As a business leader, you have little control over WHEN we’ll open back up, so the question you should focus on is HOW we open.

Shutting down wasn’t easy but it was clear and necessary. We went from learning what social distancing meant to complete closures in 1 week, and it smacked us down hard. Starting back up is rife with nuance and complications. The real kicker? The future is going to come really fast — like a punch in your face fast. You need a plan. Now.

We’ve identified 5 new areas you need to think through that might not have been on your radar 45 days ago:

  1. Adjusting to new norms and expectations
  2. Working through uncertainty and fear
  3. The new relevancy of the sharing economy
  4. Distinguishing “invincibility” and “optimism”
  5. Understanding who we trust

Understanding what needs to change and why is the first step toward identifying HOW to open up.

1: Adjusting to new norms and expectations.

Overnight, everything we’ve always known and depended on has changed. We are collectively experiencing a milestone moment that will forever impact our perspective and actions.

  • Greeting each other (“I’m a hugger” is no longer an option)
  • Zero tolerance for the common cold and allergies in public
  • Conducting in person business meetings — no more tight conference rooms and possibly no more travel
  • “Camera on” required for conference calls
  • Experiencing sports and entertainment — what’s the new formula for crowds?
  • Balancing work/life and working from home — maybe that conundrum is finally addressed but the boundaries are more blurred.

Most aspects of your life and rituals will be considerably different. Every old rule will have a new twist. HOW will yours change?

2: Working through uncertainty and fear

The economy collapsed overnight, and we are uncertain what comes next. But think about it — life is always uncertain. Now exponentially so. This is a wakeup call — don’t treat this moment as a pause and wait until things become more clear. Take action now on the parts of your business that you can control so you are prepared when the country opens back up. This isn’t a lesson for a moment in time, this is a lesson for life: always be thinking ahead.

3: The new relevancy of the sharing economy

COVID-19 came along right when the sharing economy was booming. Now we wonder — is sharing dead? Hardly! It will just take a new iteration. With heightened demand for control, consumer preference for these options to traditional taxis and hotels will increase. Providers like Lyft and Airbnb will have to implement new operating standards. Appreciate / respect for gig economy workers will also be a factor in driving demand for the person-to-person control they provide.

4: Distinguishing “invincibility” and “optimism”

We’ve been living with a sense of invincibility — a growing economy, low unemployment, booming technology sector. Now we feel scared, lost and out of control. It turns out we had confused optimism with invincibility. While you may no longer feel invincible, regaining an optimistic perspective will help you plan ahead and thrive again.

5: Understanding who we’ll trust

In this crisis, trust in the federal government and big institutions is sinking fast. There’s a return to basics — to trusting those closest. We are more inclined to trust those nearby — shopping / supporting local businesses and turning to our local governments, local press and local doctors above national figures for advice and information.

The Future of Consumer Facing Industries and how they will react to these new norms and expectations: Time to move to the future state

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been working with clients to help them identify how they should plan for the future — using research to understand consumer opinions, attitudes, concerns and expectations to identify what it will take to drive revenue, thrive and lead in the reset.

Disruptions like COVID-19 force creative solutions, giving companies permission to experiment with new ideas, reinvent what they are, and re-chart paths that weren’t working. New needs are emerging that consumers need solutions for. We already see behaviors and attitudes changing in counter-intuitive ways. Time to take action.

What will the future look like?

  • Sharing Economy: Consumers want more control over their health and safety. Home- and ride-sharing companies that offer insight into sanitization standards and stronger user protections will beat the more mass-used entities, like hotels and taxis.
  • Brick and Mortar: Brands have always prioritized protecting their products. In the future, they’ll need to shift their focus towards protecting their consumers and employees. New try on standards, human sanitizers, limiting crowds / chaos and elevating the in person experience.
  • Grocery: The increased precautions grocery stores have already started implementing are here to stay: removing self-serve salad bars, bulk buying bins, limiting capacity and enforcing one way food aisles. And consumers already have new found respect for the team members and delivery people — who went from fighting to make a fair living wage to being heroes serving us on the frontlines. It now seems unfathomable that major retailers like Walmart ever denied them benefits in the past.
  • Experiential: In recent years, retail, travel, sports and entertainment have shifted towards prioritizing in-person experiences, which won’t work in a post-COVID world. Instead, we anticipate new social norms, crowd control and an evolution into elevated online experiences.
  • Social Media: TikTok has become the “soul” of quarantine, providing a fun escape / release from feeling confined. Moving forward, social platforms will need to lean into the authenticity of TikTok — versus the staged photos of Instagram or boring “news driven” Facebook (a total overcorrection in the wrong way). TikTok won the quarantine.

The one thing that’s been consistent throughout the global pandemic is that TikTok has consistently maintained an MFactor of 100.

This is an incredible moment of opportunity to address all of those issues that you have always wanted to and move to the future state.


What is MFactor?

The MFactor is our proprietary algorithm that quantifies Cultural Momentum. The MFactor is a single score that is based on the Newtonian definition of Mass times Velocity. The MFactor can be tracked over time to compare anything you google:

  • People of interest (any political candidates/politicians, celebrities, artists, etc.)
  • Political issues / movements / trends
  • Brand/Product (e.g. across any industry or subcategory)

Our data has consistently been ahead of trends. Why?

We go beyond traditional methods (social media analytics, polling, etc.) by using data science algorithms to compute new metrics that reflect polarization and how “sticky” the issue is — how much people want to talk about and debate it and how emotionally invested they are in their position (velocity) — which is how things work in the real world.




Momentum Maker, Author of Maximum Momentum, Founder & CEO of Decode_M

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Mike Berland

Mike Berland

Momentum Maker, Author of Maximum Momentum, Founder & CEO of Decode_M

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