12 Jun 10 local and national brands winning with compassion during COVID-19
The U.S. (and countries around the globe) came to what felt like a screeching halt in March as the novel coronavirus took up unwelcomed residence in communities big and small. As workers packed up and headed home—some for good, some for temporary layoffs/furloughs and others to work remotely—the need to find something positive in the world increased like never before.
And that desire to do good extended into the brands consumers know and love.
Why humans seek out positivity
What do you do when you’ve had a rough day?
Eat ice cream, pray/meditate, binge a couple episodes of your favorite show, work out, or maybe all of the above? Those things may help you escape reality for a little while, but when tough days keep on coming, our human nature needs something more. And with everything that is going on around us—with so little in our control—it is only natural to try to find something positive to cling to.
- We have a psychological need for human connection. According to a 2018 Forbes article, “adults require connection (physical or emotional) with other humans to release certain hormones. Human touch is so important that when we are young, our brains don’t develop correctly without it. Regular connection to others allows us to maintain a sense of well-being that allows for self-care.” In other words, we need each other. Unfortunately, social and physical distancing measures across the country have pushed physical connections—like hugs—out of the picture for those outside your immediate household, making the desire to connect emotionally that much stronger.
- While it’s not in our nature, we feel better when we look for the good in others. When humans interact with someone new (or see a new ad), chances are, the bad qualities—things that are annoying or worrisome—stand out more than the good, and there’s a reason for that. It’s called the “negativity bias,” which happens when you feel surrounded by bad things. In turn, you feel less safe and comfortable, and more apt to see the negative around you. This TEDx talk by psychologist Rick Hanson explains it well, and offers insight into how changing your mindset to focus on the good is vital to your mental health. So, in a time when (physical) human connection is limited and 2020 seems to be bringing more and more challenges than we ever imagined, consumers are looking for the good everywhere—especially from brands they know, love and rely on.
Brands doing good during the pandemic gained loyalty in the process.
The novel coronavirus left no industry, organization or individual untouched—everyone was impacted through loss of work, environmental and safety changes, anxiety and mental health challenges, etc. From volunteering at food banks to changing production lines to produce much-needed health and safety equipment for treating and reducing the spread of COVID-19, here are a few brands doing good—who were applauded by consumers—during the pandemic.
- Ford Motor Company: With automobile production halted to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Ford partnered with 3M and GE Healthcare to manufacture Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs), expand production of ventilators and assemble more than 100,000 plastic face shields a week. Ford also replaced ads promoting their Escape and Explorer models with ads for their car payment relief program for Ford Credit customers. The program aims to help the millions of Americans who suddenly found themselves out of work and struggling to pay bills.
- Verizon Wireless/Verizon Media: As children were sent home to virtual learning, adults to remote working and everyone to a smaller social circle, the need to connect through phone, video and the internet became even more crucial. As data charges could have easily added up quickly, Verizon gave its customers 15 GB of free data to use between March 25 and April 30 and another 15 GB to use between May 1 and 30 to help them stay connected to school, work, family and friends without the worry of extra expenses. In addition, Verizon Media donated $10 million in ad space and resources for mental health awareness, as mental health hotlines saw a significant increase in use since the start of the pandemic (the Health 202 text line had a nearly 1,000% increase in April 2020 compared to April 2019).
- ZaRonis: This Oshkosh pizza place temporarily closed its doors when Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order was issued on Wednesday, March 25, but that didn’t stop them from serving up delicious food—and delivering toilet paper. Owner Jon Demmel took to Facebook daily to post videos educating followers not only on how to continue to support ZaRonis and other small businesses, but to remind community members to help others, and most importantly, be kind to one another. While we are all going through the same pandemic, our experiences are not the same. ZaRonis also offered grocery boxes to help people—especially seniors and immunocompromised individuals—stay home.
- 3M: In March, 3M ramped up its production of N95 respirator masks—to the tune of 100 million a month—with 90% designated for healthcare workers and other essential workers. In addition, 3M donated $20 million to a variety of COVID-19 relief funds designated for frontline healthcare workers, vulnerable populations and medical research initiatives.
- Planet Perk: Owner Ken Osmond didn’t sit idle when he closed the three Planet Perk Coffee House locations during Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order. He found a way to help others by organizing an effort to help individuals and families in need of food from the Oshkosh Community Pantry get groceries without compromising their health by venturing out.
- Verve, a Credit Union: As people across the U.S. suddenly found themselves out of work—more than 500,000 Wisconsinites filed for unemployment since mid-March—Verve, a Credit Union, wanted to help ease the financial burden for families and individuals in Wisconsin and Chicago. Through its Let’s All Do This program, Verve offers a variety of financial relief options, including skipping loan payments, six months of 0% interest on transferred credit card balances, 90 payment-free days on transferred loans, interest-only payments for personal and mortgage loans, paycheck replacement loans for individuals and helping businesses get funding through the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program Loan. They also pledged $50,000 in matched donations to local coronavirus relief funds.
- Kroger: The largest supermarket chain in the U.S., Kroger Co., donated more than $8 million to its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, which funds grants for local food banks. The company is also temporarily waiving check-cashing fees for government-issued checks. In addition to supporting the community, Kroger took care of its own employees through health and safety measures, as well as through one-time bonuses in March (and again in May and June), as well as a $2 an hour premium above standard base pay for hours worked between March 29 and April 18.
- Spectrum: As internet usage surged with orders to stay home, Spectrum stepped up its game, opening up Wi-Fi hotspots for public use, offering Spectrum Internet Assist to low-income households and 60 days of free access to internet and Wi-Fi for PreK to 12, college student and educator households who don’t currently have internet or Wi-Fi service. Spectrum is also keeping the internet on for residential and small business customers who can’t pay their bills right now, as well as waiving late fees.
- Cottonelle® toilet paper: Marking its largest single donation in the brand’s history, Cottonelle donated $1 million to United Way Worldwide COVID-19 relief efforts. In addition, they donated one million rolls of toilet paper and $1 for every use of the hashtag #ShareASquare (up to $100,000).
- Distilleries making hand sanitizer: With the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration of a pandemic in March, followed by local and national government-issued safer at home orders, people began stockpiling supplies, especially hand sanitizer and sanitizing sprays. That led to a shortage, both on the store shelves and at hospitals and clinics around the globe. Distillery groups stepped up to encourage craft brewers—like Du Nord Craft Spirits in Minneapolis (a black-owned business that was damaged in riots also recently opened its tasting room for use as a food donation center)—to start making sanitizer. Here’s a list of distilleries who have switched gears to help fight COVID-19.
Be human, do good—it’s what consumers want
Even before the pandemic began, a whopping 63% of consumers said they preferred to buy from brands that shared their values. As we begin to test out our new norm of life during a pandemic, now more than ever consumers are looking for brands that share their values. So, if you haven’t already, take some time to really outline what matters to your brand, tap into your customers to find out what really matters to them, determine what it is that you stand for and stick to it! Now go, do good—and be the good.
Kayde Kempen is a senior account manager at Writing by Design. She has 8+ years of marketing communications experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Kayde has written hundreds of blog posts and e-blasts, both for Writing by Design and its clients, is the lead content writer for Writing by Design’s website/SEO clients, and assists with press releases, concept writing, script writing and more. Prior to joining the Writing by Design team in 2016, she was an associate marketing manager at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh where she worked for five years and led nearly 90 website redesign projects, wrote for the University’s alumni magazine and news website, and wrote and managed a variety of print and digital marketing projects.