The world may have been turned upside down by coronavirus, but business has continued to move forward. As always, it is businesses that have found ways to adapt that have both cemented their existing markets and expanded their reach, exposing their brand to huge numbers of the population who would not have otherwise come across them. It’s also not too late to position your brand in this crisis; in any case, it looks to be that we may be required to adjust to the new normal or some time. In this post, we’re highlighting the best responses to the pandemic, so that you can draw inspiration for your own business and brand – as well as some pointers for how not to go about things, which might be just as important.
How have brands joined the conversation?
Offers & Discounts
The quickest, and possibly the easiest, route to positive PR has been for brands to offer discounts on their services to NHS staff and essential workers – those jobs which can not be done from home and are necessary to keep this country’s society going. There is widespread agreement that these workers deserve our thanks, and brands like McDonald’s and Pret A Manger (before their closures were forced) capitalised on this, offering free drinks and discounts.
There are other brands and sectors which have been able to get involved in this way. Some hospitality venues who have been worst hit by the legal and social ramifications of the virus have managed to open their doors to NHS staff – particularly tose situated close to hospitals, such as Gary Neville’s hotels in Manchester. In allowing NHS staff to stay free of charge, the brand has increased it’s value and managed to get ahead of crowded competition.
It is highly likely that their generosity will be rewarded by consumer choices when lockdown is lifted.
Some businesses have been able to change their services or the way they deliver these services. The best example of these has been supermarkets – who have introduced specified shopping hours for more vulnerable customers – and the food sector, where restaurants first introduced delivery services, and subsequently those delivery services have become contactless.
Small businesses, too, have been able to adapt their services. There are small shops which have introduced priority hours, like some larger chains, but there are some businesses which have undergone more radical changes.
Many small businesses have looked for opportunities to turn their expertise into consultancies; barbers, dentists and chefs have all been able to use social media to give advice and tips for people to cut their hair, look after their teeth and make better food whilst in lockdown. They have understood that by making a name for themselves now, and by exposing what might otherwise be a trade secret, they are likely to build a fanbase and secure more business after this crisis.
Perhaps, however, the best example of adaptation comes from Jay Flynn, who took the forced closure of his pub and realised that his customers still wanted to interact with each other – and so he started the Virtual Pub Quiz. In little over a month, his Facebook page now has more than 200,000 subscribers, and some of these new users will be local to him, and he will be able to send them direct messaging about the re-opening of his pub when that happens.
Joining the Fight
Some companies have managed to go a step further, and adapted their expertise to lend support to the fight against coronavirus. Clothing companies such as Nike and Zara have begun producing PPE, which there is much furore around a national shortage. BrewDog have been using their breweries to manufacture hand sanitiser, and Mercedes-Benz have turned their production lines to ventilators, harnessing their scientific equipment and knowledge to help save lives.
Of course, these are multinational organisations, but the principles here can apply to businesses of any size. Rethinking your skillset and imagining any way in which your company could contribute is both the right thing to do for now, and is also likely to be rewarded with positive PR and by consumer choices when normality resumes.
What Not To Do
Just as some brands have got it very right with their response to the pandemic, a couple of huge corporations have got it wrong. Virgin Atlantic asked their employees to take 8 weeks of unpaid leave, and Wetherspoons advised their employees to find other jobs. In both of these cases, profit was prioritised over people, and wealth over health. This led to huge backlash, and many Wetherspoons locations were defaced in the week following that announcement. There has been huge appetite for a boycott online when normality resumes, but we are of course yet to see whether that comes to fruition.
Brands have gone about responding to COVID-19 in a huge variety of ways, and those that have been able to adapt their services, offer discounts to key workers or even join the fight, and find the positivities in this crisis, are the ones that are making the most in the present and will be best placed to return in the future, with their positive actions now introducing them to more consumers than ever before.