No one saw it coming, which can be said for any crisis. It’s in times like these that a brand’s true self is exposed. A brand’s core values come to light instantly; as a reflex. For the brands that have a solid foundation in how they treat their customers and employees, it is easier (not easy). For the brands that are posers, retrofitting their values stance is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to come across as believable.
I choose to call out the brand’s that are showing their positive selves and having a direct impact on us as customers, employees and human beings. How these brands react during this unprecedented time, gives us hope in the humanity of conducting commerce.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen brands and businesses step up in a variety of ways, but each effort aligns with a set of core values that guide a huge segment of our country. I’ve been impressed with how brands have leaned into faith, community and family as this crisis has unfolded.
From marketing messaging and philanthropic actions to business operations and product innovation, the good brands have redistributed their resources to promote unity when we’re socially distanced.
Here are nine brands that are doing a phenomenal job:
KFC: The brand is part of YUM Brands, whose CEO, David Gibbs, funneled his salary for the rest of the year into employee bonuses and a fund for COVID-19 relief. At a more local level, KFC donated $400,000 to Blessings in a Backpack, which provides meals to children when they’re away from school, to help the nonprofit with increased demand from school closures. With 1,092 program locations across 45 states, Blessings in a Backpack has direct impact in cities across the country, with seventy-eight percent of kids saying the program makes them feel cared for by their community. In addition, KFC corporate has delivered 1 million pieces of chicken to its franchises to give away as a part of local food drives, especially for first responders.
Perdue Chicken: As the fourth largest producer of chicken in the United States, Perdue Chicken, employees of plants in Milford, Delaware and Perry, Georgia have recently been exposed to the virus, and the company has implemented appropriate protocol. To show appreciation for the people continuing to power the plants, company Chairman, Jim Perdue, shared two videos on social media, which became T.V. ads. Shot as a selfie, the videos included a heartfelt message from him thanking “the people who feed America” during challenging times. The spots from the company founded by the outwardly religious, Arthur Perdue, were titled “We Thank You” and “A Time Like This,” with the latter headline evoking a message of faith.
Ford Motor Company: On their journey to become the “world’s most-trusted company,” Ford has made some great moves in response to COVID-19. Putting competition aside, Ford and GE Healthcare joined forces with 3M to assist in the production of health equipment including respirators for those who are having trouble breathing due to the coronavirus. Being sensitive to the fallout from the pandemic, Ford is also shifting its focus away from selling to new customers and towards relieving stress of current customers. The company stopped running ads promoting its Escape and Explorer models and replaced them with informational spots about a car payment relief program that gives customers respite from their monthly expenses. Both moves are consistent with the company’s response to global and national events in the past. During the world wars, the company led manufacturing efforts and built tanks and planes. In response to natural disasters, Ford has offered relief in the form of similar programs that it’s extending to customers now.
Nike: From nearly every angle, Nike is attacking COVID-19 through community. Headquartered in Oregon, one of the states hit first and hardest by the virus, Nike is showering organizations in the area with donations. They’ve committed millions in funding to Oregon Food Bank, the Oregon Community Recovery Fund and Oregon Health & Science University. The brand also switched up its advertising angle. The brand that equips customers with apparel and other products to get active outside encourages viewers in a new ad campaign to play inside not just for themselves, but for the world. Social posts tapped into customer attitudes of fame and recognition for being the best in their field. One graphic in particular read: “If you’ve ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance.” Influential sports figures including Pete Alonso, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan echoed the statement through their social platforms, infiltrating a conglomerate of communities with the message. In another notable community-oriented deed, Nike is giving free access to premium training programs through its Nike Training Club app.
Mattel: Mattel has an impressive catalog of content from its suite of brands which includes Barbie, American Girl, Fisher-Price, and Thomas & Friends. Through cross-collaboration, the toy manufacturer organized the Mattel Playroom, an online resource chock full of free activities and entertainment for kids. The playroom enriches the lives of children and parents, providing a welcome distraction during a time of uncertainty. Companies like Mattel are translating their missions for the current situation. “Our mission to inspire, entertain and develop children through play is more important than ever,” Richard Dickson, President and COO, Mattel said.
Spectrum: Imagine that you’ve been ordered to work from home and that your children can no longer attend school, but all of you still have tasks to complete and you don’t have reliable internet. That’s the reality for many people across the country right now. Spectrum has decided to offer families with students in K-12 free internet services for two months. This is a huge sign of goodwill that empowers families during this difficult time. The company is enabling parents to provide for their children and students to continue their education outside of the physical classroom.
Scholastic: The publishing company presented an opportunity for families to get back to the centuries-old tradition of story time in a modernized format via social media. Its #OperationStoryTime campaign enlisted the help of authors and celebrities who shared videos of themselves reading books with the intent that children would listen in. It’s great to see a company utilizing its resources and networks to build points of connection back into the family unit where it may have been lost in the shuffle of our previously hurried lives.
Einstein Bros. Bagels: This food chain is taking a micro and macro approach to supporting people who are struggling to access food or balance new stressors during mealtimes. On the macro level, Einstein Bros. Bagels is helping families streamline meal prep with takeout Family Meals designed to feed several people and to make meals a chance to gather and enjoy positive conversation. Locally, however, the company is supporting food banks, fire stations, police departments, and schools by donating 13 bagels for every Baker’s Dozen Box that guests purchase.
Little Caesars: The company is donating 1 million pizzas to hospitals and first responders across the country in addition to the Pie it Forward initiative where customers can donate pizza. The 1 million pizza donation is made possible by Little Caesars, its independent franchisees and their locally owned stores, and Ilitch Charities. The company’s marketing department is pivoting too, putting a new spin on their product’s features. New spots highlight its pizzas’ from a health angle, showing that they’re cooked at 475 degrees and aren’t touched by a human hand from the time they come out of the oven to when they land on your kitchen table.
After reviewing the selfless responses brands have had to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s refreshing to see marketing used outside of the process of selling a product. Brands play an important role in bringing people together through values they share with their customers. Thanks to those brands that are living their values.
A lot of brands have stepped up in response to the pandemic. Who did I miss?