LVMH Hand Sanitiser, NHS Hotel Beds And Netflix’s House Party…How Brands Are Responding To Covid-19…

This week we were scheduled to host a dinner on the future of brand purpose. There has been a profound cultural shift in attitudes towards brands in recent times, as increased pressure to take action on escalating climate change and SJW’s continued fight for justice and equality disrupts the status quo. Our report and accompanying dinner on the topic were set to explore the role brands could play in having a positive social and environmental impact on the world.

However, the rapid unfolding of the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has posed this question on a global scale, and many brands are seeking to ease the trauma and chaos of the situation as quickly as humanly possible.

Is Covid-19 Creating A More Altruistic Economy?

What it means to be a consumer this week is very different from last week. As schools close, jobs are lost and social lives move online, the fabric of society is changing at an exponential rate. Anxious and fearful, supermarkets have been ransacked, as many stockpile the most basic of supplies, fighting over the last toilet roll and buying up more eggs than an Olympic bodybuilder. In this time of crisis, it is likely we will see people shift from buying luxuries to necessities as the more basic commodities — food, shelter and sanitation — become of utmost importance.

As such, we are already witnessing a shift in brand behaviour, as many close stores, move online and switch their production lines to creating emergency products to stop the spread of the virus. In a Campaign article exploring the role of brands during this crisis, Sophie Lewis suggests brands should be shifting focus, from asking “How much money can I make?” to “What can I do to help?”. Further, over the weekend, Vogue published an article asking if Covid-19 will be the impetus to finally create a more altruistic economy. What is certain is this pandemic is forcing us to reconsider the responsibility of brands and the power they hold in creating positive impact for the greater good, becoming a voice of hope in the darkness, and turning isolation into community.

What Are Brands Doing To Help?

As governments and institutions plot how to fill the deficit in necessities, many brands and business have taken the plunge and reacted to the global pandemic at lightning speed…

The Hand-San Clan

Quick off the mark was luxury goods brand, LVMH who, last weekend, announced all production facilities of its Perfumes and Cosmetics ‘maisons’ would be used to manufacture hydroalcoholic gel. The gel produced will be distributed, free of change, to French health authorities.

Alcohol producers were quick to follow suit, with Brewdog in the UK and ABInBev in Brazil both turning their distilleries from producing beer to hand sanitiser. However, both have received backlash for their efforts. Brewdog’s ‘Punk Santiser’ has been criticised for its garish branding, while many consumers are sceptical of ABInBev using their hand sanitiser as advertising space.

Helping Our Heroes

In the UK, a number of brands have spoken publicly about their commitment to supporting our national treasure, the National Health Service. With nurses and doctors working around the clock to provide care, brands like Premier Inn and Pret-A-Manger are doing their bit to support their efforts.

Best Western Great Britain, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Travelodge and Whitbread’s Premier Inn chain are just some of the hoteliers who are currently exploring the logistics of closing their hotels to the public, instead offering emergency bed space to the NHS staff and patients who need it most.

Though restaurant businesses have been decimated by the outbreak, Pret-A-Manger have pledged to offer free hot drinks and 50% of all other purchases to NHS staff, Domino’s are providing free pizzas to all ‘NHS heroes’, and while Nando’s, Greggs and McDonalds have all been forced to shut their doors to the public, they have continued to offer discounts to the doctors and nurses working all hours to defeat Covid-19.

A Host Of Other Good-Will Initiatives

Of course, it is not just those on the frontline impacted by the spread of Covid-19. Workers all across the industry spectrum have been affected, with many people losing sustainable portions of their income, and many more losing their jobs entirely. As such, we have been heartened by those businesses that have opted to close their stores to protect their staff, while also preserving full salaries to protect their families. In the hardest of times, this is the epitome of ‘kinder capitalism’.

One of the first to announce this move was purpose-driven Patagonia, whose CEO Rose Marcario wrote in an open letter to the business on Friday 13th March, “It’s everyone’s responsibility to help stop the spread of this virus.” Other companies that have followed suit and decided to retain their employees on full pay include Apple, Warby Parker and Urban Outfitters.

In addition, over the past week there have been a number of brand initiatives launched to help people across all sectors — from entertainment to underwear — all aimed at fighting the spread of Covid-19. Time Out has rebranded to ‘Time In’, Dazed & Confused magazine launched ‘Alone Together’ and Netflix launched ‘Netflix Party’ — all of which encourage people to practice social distancing and self-isolation.

And finally, a few clothing brands have announced they will be switching their production lines to creating protective face masks. High fashion brand Rosie Assoulin say they are currently waiting for government to create gowns, while French Lingerie brand Chantelle announced on Instagram they are currently working with health authorities to prototype and produce surgical masks.

The HX (Human Experience) Learning

We are living in uncertain times — and we will encounter many more challenges along the way. But during this time of crisis, brands and businesses with access to resources and with a voice that can be heard out in the world have the potential to become beacons of hope for many.

While we have witnessed incredible agility and selflessness from a number of brands over the past week, there is still much more work to be done as millions of us try to adapt to our new normal.

Shifting perspective to thinking about what your specific brand can offer the world at this time of crisis feels imperative. As we’ve seen with the actions of many of the brands aforementioned, working out what specific role you can play — whether it’s free food, beds for patients, switching your production line to create life-saving supplies or even using your marketing expertise to educate people on the importance of hand cleaning, social distancing and isolation — every consumer goods brand has the power (and ultimately the responsibility) to help the world through this.

If there has ever been a time for brands to think about how to create social impact and positive change, the time is now!

Clemmie Prendergast is a consultant at Brand Genetics, an insight and innovation agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. With a background in anthropology, she has a wealth of experience in behavioural science and psychology and has worked in strategy, insight and behaviour change.

Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics

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