Brands Helping and Inspiring during COVID-19

Back in March, just as many of us on the East Coast were beginning to socially distance for “a few weeks,” we wrote about how companies will need to show up for consumers and communities and looked into actions they were taking in response to the escalating pandemic. Now, just over a month later, as employees are settling into a WFH rhythm, creative and media plans have been adjusted, and strategic planning is in full effect, we’re beginning to see some real and unexpected heroes emerge.

To make it through this crisis, brands need to look both inward and outward. They need to ask themselves some tough questions about how to most effectively use their limited dollars and shrinking budgets, and support their employees, communities and consumers, all while making an impact.

Like any strategy, there is no a one-size-fits-all – deciding the best course of action depends on a number of factors: a company’s relevance in this moment and the culture;  the business and resources available; potential actions for getting through and beyond COVID-19; and how they want to be remembered in the aftermath.

Here, we highlight examples of brands that have had these conversations and made some  strategic decisions in response. Regardless of how these brands are showing up – whether it’s with supplies, funding, or inspiring messages – they are sending some strong signals that they are in it with us for the long haul.

Repurposing services and helping with supplies and support.

As many retailers shut their doors across the globe, some immediately put their resources and infrastructure to work, helping those on the frontlines and vulnerable communities facing hardship.

  • The fashion industry has really stepped up. In particular, LVMH Group, owner of luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy, was one of the first was one of the first to repurpose its factories and produce supplies, including hand sanitizer and now most recently face masks and apparel for health care workers. The firm has also made significant monetary donations to fighting the spread of the virus.
  • Hilton & AmEx are giving 1 million healthcare workers hotel rooms during the crisis.
  • Nike is partnering with Oregon Health department to manufacture protective face shields for healthcare workers.
  • Car manufacturers like Ford, GM and Tesla are finding ways to produce ventilators to address the shortage and help meet the demand. Ford also launched an ad campaign to get the word out that they are offering assistance to customers and communities.
  • In addition to significant donations and helping the CDC and WHO spread important messages on their platforms, tech companies like Google, Facebook and TikTok are offering ad credits to help small and medium businesses stay afloat or get back on their feet.

Creatively spreading important messages.

Other brands and organizations have turned towards disseminating CDC, WHO or other social messages to the public.

  • McDonald’s has been reminding the world of the importance of handwashing for years. But recently, the fast food giant used 20 seconds to show how to properly wash one’s hands. With no words, just solid handwashing technique, there’s something almost meditative about it. It’s truly ‘unskippable.’
  • Similarly, Visa quickly pivoted from focusing on the now postponed Summer Olympics to showcasing the importance of sanitation during this time. They called on some of their sponsored athletes and developed a series of videos of the athletes in their own homes while social distancing, washing their hands, sanitizing their gear, and showing that “they are just like us.”
  • There have been other important messages coming from local governments, smaller brands, and agencies. One of my favorites from the past few days is from the Ohio government using Ping-Pong balls to represent how the virus spreads when distancing vs. not. It’s a pretty powerful visualization and tactic.
  • Multicultural organizations and groups are mobilizing and developing campaigns, such as #hateisavirus and Racism is Contagious, to combat bias, discrimination and hate crimes towards Asian Americans. The latter is a project that brings allies together with the goal of identifying areas with “flare ups” similar to maps showing the spread of coronavirus for two key reasons: 1) so law enforcement can be directed there and act more quickly and 2) the people and stories of those targeted and impacted can be told and humanized.

Calls for connection, unity and resilience.

Helping out and spreading important PSAs are vital, but there’s also a need for some heart and reminders of our common humanity, resilience, and that tomorrow will be better. Below are just a few messages and ads from brands that took this on and really stood out to us.

  • Guinness’s St. Paddy’s day ad called for unity, celebration, and gratitude, reminding us that we’re all going through this together and that we will march again.
  • NHL brings together players to pay tribute to the game and fans, with “Better Days” playing in the background, and a message to fans: “We miss hockey. We miss you. We will be back.”
  • Nike’s Play for the World spot shows people playing on “world’s team” by playing from home.
  • Jeep strikes a balance between a social distancing message, a promise for the future, and a little bit of humor by reusing footage from its hilarious and brilliant Superbowl ad with Bill Murray. Every day really is starting to feel like Groundhog Day.
  • Apple’s powerful reminder that creativity lives on.
  • Facebook’s tearjerker acknowledges the difficulty and heartache of this moment and the importance of asking for or offering to help because “we’re never lost if we can find each other.”

Times are tough right now. People are scared, struggling and adapting as best they can with the information they have. Brands are feeling this pressure too, but the examples above demonstrate the importance of businesses staying focused on their purpose and values, and the future. This added dose of collective leadership reassures us all that we’re not alone, we’re a community, and we will get through this together.