Communicating Through the Coronavirus: How Top Brands are Responding to COVID-19

By Katie Parr

No industry is immune to the effects of COVID-19 and while there’s no right way to communicate with your employees or consumers in these uncertain times, brands need to proceed cautiously. 

Knowing this, many marketers have avoided addressing the novel Coronavirus for fear of appearing tone-deaf and igniting another type of crisis. However, is that really the appropriate course of action? As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, the Coronavirus has presented an opportunity for brands to engage by stimulating online socializing, charitable giving and more. 

In this blog, we explore how some of the world’s largest brands have responded to the current pandemic.

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West Elm

A bit of an unexpected player in this space, West Elm took a helpful approach by acknowledging that their product offering could really help enhance people’s experience on Zoom (which has experienced an increase in both personal and professional use), so they offered customized virtual backgrounds for their video conference calls. Now, people can showcase a beautiful West Elm environment, rather than the pile of dirty laundry behind them. They’ve been very transparent in communicating about the issue, immediately putting up a statement to acknowledge the issue while tapping into the insight that people are now working from their homes. Because West Elm is all about enriching your home, they’re showcasing examples of how people have used West Elm products to enhance their work from home environments and they’re aggregating those and celebrating them. 

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Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines is consistently a great example of a strong social media brand. They have a really good grasp of what their audiences want, so it comes as no surprise that they were extremely timely in acknowledging the issue and showing that they really understand what matters most to their consumer right now—cleanliness. They’ve built an excellent platform to launch their new standard of clean—Delta Clean—and have consistently and accurately communicated with their audience in a timely manner.

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Nike

Nike kept it simple, just like their slogan. An exceptionally timely response, Nike aims to empower people and encourages them that yes, they should stay home, but they can still be active. This message is powering, uplifting and completely on-brand in a troubling and uncertain time.

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Target

Target has done a fantastic job of switching gears straight away. They started by acknowledging the issue, then got not only creative—but human. They show an understanding of their customers by acknowledging that these days we’re not happy all the time, we’re worried about a lot of different things, so asking people to share what made them smile is a kind and compassionate message for their audience. Something they’re doing really well (that other brands could consider adopting) is actually asking the audience what the audience would like to see by leveraging the quiz, poll and questions features on Instagram Stories. This way, they can get insights from their audience directly, so when they do speak on social, they know they’re saying what the audience wants to hear.

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UNICEF

UNICEF has done a wonderful job of centering in on the audience that matters most to them—children. They’ve taken a human approach to their communication by really looking into what parents need to equip their kids with the right information about Coronavirus. They’ve distributed a guide for children about understanding the Coronavirus and have been repurposing relevant content that’s being shared by people across the world. Social media is a two-way street, not a place to speak at people. So, it’s critical for brands to have a human perspective and showcase that they understand their audience’s situation on a personal level.

In a rapidly changing marketing communications landscape, it’s critically important for companies to maintain connections and stay relevant with their audiences, who are also adapting to their new realities. A lot can be learned from the compassionate, helpful and timely communication exemplified by the brands above. Through transparency and responsibility you too can build positive sentiment and trust in your brand. 

If there is anything we can do to help you and your organization during this time, please feel free to get in touch

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