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28 May 2020

Surviving and thriving: a GWS masterclass from Cathy Feliciano-Chon
BY Megan Whitby

Feliciano-Chon said:

Feliciano-Chon said: "Resilience is a mindset – a practice honed by failure"

Being open to failure will help businesses survive in the Coronavirus landscape, according to Cathy Feliciano-Chon, founder of Hong Kong-based brand comms agency, CatchOn– a Finn Partners Company.

Speaking in a recent GWS Masterclass, Feliciano-Chon said that in order to be truly resilient, businesses have to be brave enough to take risks they know may lead to failure. She said successful brands will learn from these and become stronger.

Making mistakes is par for the course for any business – ultimately mistakes lay the foundations for long-term success and resilience. She quoted Disney’s Bob Iger: “If you want innovation, you need to grant permission to fail.”

“Resilience is a mindset – a practice honed by failure. This is not a time for perfection – we’re all tolerating imperfections in this crisis.

“Ingenuity is a willingness to work in less than ideal conditions within constraints. It means you’re willing to experience failures and not be self-conscious. It celebrates not getting it right and a certain scrappiness.”

Feliciano-Chon’s 30-year career has involved consulting with global luxury, hospitality and retail brands and during the webinar she shared insight into lessons to be learned from resilient brands to help businesses adapt and thrive in the face of the Coronavirus crisis.

“This pandemic has laid bare our vulnerabilities,” she said, “and it has shown that being resilient is far more important than any other qualities we associate with great brands today, even more so than relevance and innovation.”

Feliciano-Chon outlined qualities that are crucial for brands to be resilient, including agility and adaptability, community and ingenuity. She said combining these with digitisation is vital.

Deeper into digital

Businesses have got to act fast in the face of adversity in order to show operational resilience, and she believes the key to this is digitisation and data analytics.

“Have urgency and purpose,” she said, “don’t dwell, instead, act.”

The crisis has accelerated the shift to digital, said Feliciano-Chon, and brands that didn’t have an omnichannel strategy prior to the pandemic have little chance of surviving unless they develop one fast.

We’re moving into an age of telemedicine and digital wellness, she said, urging companies to review how they incorporate technology into their business to help them plan, run more efficiently and succeed.

Alternative revenue streams

Feliciano-Chon championed the qualities of agility and adaptability and underlined that they help businesses thrive. The key is being fast and flexible enough to look at alternative revenue streams.

“Resilient brands are able to adapt in the midst of adversity and some of them thrive off it. This is a period of immense creativity and there are many ways to take advantage of this time.”

She believes businesses must be flexible and look at their operation, break it down, think creatively about how to repackage their offering and make it marketable for a particular sector, in order to remain relevant and successful.

Feliciano-Chon also placed a large emphasis on the importance of ingenuity and being creative while working within constraints.

“The global crisis has laid bare the practices that need to be thought, rethought or taken away completely. Now is the time for businesses to be creative and rethink their operations.

“Yes there are restrictions we’re going to have to work around, but we’ll emerge from this with different business models.”

A new mission for wellness

In a recent interview with GWI’s Beth McGroarty Feliciano-Chon said: “This is a pivotal time for the wellness movement, which is being called to a greater mission. We need to work hard to pull the polarised worlds of big medicine and big pharma and the prevention and wellness worlds much more closely together.

“We simply can’t be working in two different swim-lanes now. That means working with public health institutions for real change and actually deserving a seat at the table, as opposed to just observing healthcare’s failures.”

“This crisis has validated and exposed what wellness is really about: demanding that we pause, reflect, reset; that we be proactive about our health – and that of our family and community – in ways we never have before.

She concluded by quoting AA Milnes’ Winnie the Pooh: “Always remember you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

Top 10 takeaways

  • Develop resilience, agility, creativity, ingenuity and adaptability


  • Don’t be afraid of failure


  • Take well-calculated risks and learn from them


  • Tolerate imperfections in striving for your goals


  • Focus on community


  • Be fast and flexible - don’t dwell – act


  • Look for alternative revenue streams


  • Have urgency and purpose


  • Communicate clearly with customers


  • Be innovative while working within constraints




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