‘The Death of the Superman’ (again) by Wunderman Thompson’s Tarek Haddad

By Tarek Haddad, MD, Wunderman Thompson Beirut with a little help from his friends…



2019 was the year of; the rerun, the rehash, the remake, the adaptation or, the year of familiarity, albeit; enhanced with increasingly outstanding novel production values, in an ever-fickle world.

The sheer number of life changing events that are happening on a global scale is hard to keep track of despite being constantly present in our lives across the spectrum of channels, voices and varying points of view.  These affect us, arguably, in line with our proximity – in some cases, physically and emotionally and, certainly directly and indirectly irrelevant of our awareness of it or what our value/ belief structure is comprised of – a debate within itself.

Time and time again humanity has been made to look at itself through different lenses and admire its true vulnerability, short-sightedness and stubbornness; Chernobyl, Berlin Wall, World Wars, Civil Wars, 9/11, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, MeToo… naming but a few and not counting the prolifera of pandemics experienced over the past century.  All have shaped/ reshaped, for better or for worse, all of us in some shape or form.  They will continue to happen and continue to shape us, whether we like it or not, whilst occurring in ever increasing rapid succession.  Mirroring (in some ways) the rate and speed we are growing/ developing, experiencing economic booms/ crashes, disasters and achievements.

Nothing we haven’t seen before but; clearly with (sorry) better virality. Perhaps Hollywood is right?  Afterall it is, as all creativity, a product of its environment – the mirror maker.

COVID-19 is the latest form of kryptonite. It’s the latest game changer. Not only has it raised untold awareness of our vulnerabilities.  It has brought us to a physical stand still.

Tarek Haddad, MD, Wunderman Thompson Beirut

One thing we do know and have to appreciate is; we’re all in the same boat.  The effect of COVID-19 goes beyond the unfortunate virus contraction, everything and everyone is being directly affected both emotionally and physically… to say the very least.  Protective measures are being taken and put in place within an air of uncertainty and survival.

People are self-isolating to prevent the spread and ‘get through’ while businesses appear to be acting like lemmings with predictable meaningless actions – who honestly cares that you changed your logo?

So, what to do? Truth is; everyone is trying to figure it out. Hiding under the bedsheets hoping it’s going to blow over isn’t going to cut it.  All is being reevaluated, all is being questioned.  All plans, ideas, north stars, 2020 goals, bucket lists, strategies and plans are being; at best, reevaluated and, at worse, on hold.

Simply as; no one really knows what’s going on and no one really knows what to do.

Things are different, for better or for worse; we simply don’t know.

They will stay different, how exactly; we simply don’t know.

What’s next? We simply don’t know.  All we do know is; things are different.  Different on a magnificent scale.  A scale that includes everyone and everything.  We have had to reevaluate and look at things that matter now.

This has been a long time coming; nothing new.  We’ve even been advocating change, demanding change and fighting for change.  Our values, habits, behavior, consumerism and information demands have shaped the world around us and in-turn; it has shaped us.

Problem is; we weren’t ready for this amount of change.  Our Superman façade has been stripped away.  Our values, habits, behavior, consumerism and information demands have been stripped down and exposed for, what we have been realizing for a while now and clinging onto, with false hope; superficial ideals and promises.

So, who’s the bad guy?  Who’s to blame?  Who stripped away the veneer of security and has given us all moral fatigue making every decision, seemingly between life and death?  We need an enemy to defeat and fight back.

There’s no point in waiting for Superman; there is no ‘bad guy’ to attack and, eventually, beat into submission for disrupting our way of life.  The system is, for want of a better expression, crashing and in need of a reboot.

Are we all to blame? Am I the bad guy?  Well yes and no. We are questioning and reevaluating with every decision we make.  Every one of which seemingly carrying more gravitas as if a decision between life and death.  Decisions that, previously, were considered mundane and cumbersome, irrelevant of importance, but let’s be honest; far less immediate and exciting then the culture of immediacy we’ve demanded through, dare we say; addiction for the new, the exciting, the novel, the desire to be entertained, the desire to be distracted and not having to over-think.

That is not the case today.  Our values, habits, behavior, consumerism and information demands have all changed and will continue to do so.  People are harder than ever to reach, let alone please and build or rebuild trust, despite, quite frankly; extremely susceptible to change.

Businesses, through their brands, need to show what they’re made of. Are they the faceless profitable organizations naysayers accuse them to be? Or are they ready to go up in arms and support the community in its hour of need?

Business, brands and people that adapt and change to show value and support will perpetuate.  Change through; understanding, support, experience and value – a truer connection.  A connection that doesn’t need to be over thought, nor complex but it has to be; immediate and increasingly humane in nature.  One that is true to the business and brand character that drives value (in turn revenue) and avoids ‘tactical benevolence’.  Who would have thought that the F1 has come to the rescue of medics in this time of dire need?  In the UK UCL has been supported by the F1 and in particular Mercedes by creating a new type of ventilator – usually the medics are coming to the help of the F1 when unfortunate accidents occur, now it’s a complete role reversal.

First mover advantage is key with speed trumping perfection.  If you need to be right before you move – you will never win during times like these – perfection being the enemy of the good.

More than ever businesses and brands have to move faster than ever before and restructure themselves around communities and audiences in an, ‘always-on’ state.

If we aren’t the bad guys than we shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes but excited about the change, readjustments and deeper understanding we all will achieve – we can’t be afraid of the consequences of error.  People are currently extremely susceptible to change and are realizing they need greater security, assurances and value during such times.

The greatest error is not to move.

The greatest error is to ignore the opportunity and value that a complete role change can bring with it.

Don’t be the bad guy.