19 Mar 2020

The Brands that are stepping up in the Coronavirus crisis

Instead of merely sending out a Covid-19 email to their databases, there have been some exemplary responses from a small number of brands to the coronavirus crisis. And it is sure to be those brands that are stepping up to the plate, responding quickly with much-needed help, empathy and awareness of their employees and customers’ needs, that will be the ones to thrive and survive once we finally come out of the other end of this time of intense anxiety and widespread unease.

In a time of crisis, true leadership emerges. Which is exactly what we are seeing from the following brands, from tech and luxury labels through to pioneering hotel and restaurant chains.


Hotel hospitals

Best Western GB moved quickly to announce plans to turn its hotels – suffering industry from critically low occupancy rates – into emergency NHS hospitals to help fight the coronavirus. The company, Britain’s largest independent hotel group, made the offer of temporary hospital bed space to the NHS and has shown the courage and willing to take such ‘unprecedented’ steps to help.

Rob Paterson, chief executive officer of Best Western Great Britain, said:

“We are in unprecedented territory so we would be willing to take unprecedented steps to support the national effort.

“If the NHS wants additional bed space, and we can partner with other companies to provide the right medical equipment and supplies, and we can do it safely, then we would be willing to start having those conversations immediately.”


Morrison’s ‘Feed the Nation’

Morrisons has gone one step beyond its supermarket competitors, changing its core purpose in response to coronavirus. The new strapline ‘Feed the Nation’ sums up Morrison’s new approach perfectly. Swiftly introducing new ways of delivering food to its customers, with simple-to-order food parcels, more delivery slots and 100 extra stores to pick up shopping, the supermarket’s chief executive, David Potts, said on a press call:

“Familiar brands provide reassurance to consumers and in the end they are looking for their stock to be on the shelves. The company has paid a lot of attention to its core purpose.

“It isn’t what they do or how they do it, it’s why a company exists and we currently believe the biggest contribution we can make in the country is playing our full part in feeding the nation.”


Fair play coffee

Cafes and restaurants are really up against it in the coronavirus scare, which only serves to increase staff and management anxiety alike. Mental health amongst employees is something that every forward-thinking brand should be prioritising, and Starbucks is leading the way in this regard. In the US, the coffee chain moved quickly to announce that it has extended its mental health benefits, partnering with Lyra Health, Starbucks is offering staff personalised and confidential mental health care.

Starbucks’ US staff can now get up to 20 free in-person or video therapy sessions per year, either for themselves or for their family members. With the chain providing access to a US-wide network of mental health therapists, counsellors and coaches. A move that can only be applauded.

In the UK, high street coffee favourite Pret a Manger led the way by announcing free hot drinks for all NHS staff, along with an increase of their NHS discount to 50%. In a tweet posted to the chain’s feed, they said:

“Dear NHS workers, your hot drinks are on the house from today, and we’ll take 50% off everything else.

“Thank you for everything you are doing.”

Domino’s Pizza and McDonald’s quickly followed suit, offering free food and discounts. At a time when the nation is feeling particularly grateful for the hardworking staff of the National Health Service, this was a widely lauded offering.


Tech for good

The tech sector has responded quickly, with a fierce determination to help its millions of employees worldwide survive Covid-19, with the big guns doing all they can to reassure and support during the crisis. Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter will all continue to pay hourly workers their regular rate, no matter if these employees are at the workplace or at home throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Microsoft led the field here, offering clear support for all staffers – including support service workers such as cooks, drivers and others – stating on its blog:

“We recognize the hardship that lost work can mean for hourly employees. As a result, we’ve decided that Microsoft will continue to pay all our vendor hourly service providers their regular pay during this period of reduced service needs. This is independent of whether their full services are needed.”


Beauty and luxury brands to beat Covid-19

The luxury and beauty brand sectors are doing their bit in helping out customers, staff and sufferers with some truly outstanding coronavirus efforts worthy of mention. Versace and Armani have already donated around 1.5 million euros to Italian hospitals, the European country at the centre of the crisis. And Dolce & Gabbana has pledged to give money to the Humanitas University in Italy to fund essential research into treatment by Professor Alberto Mantovani.

Perhaps most notably, LVMH, the luxury conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and Moet & Chandon, is now mass producing hand sanitiser free for French health authorities in response to the national shortage of this essential throughout France.

“LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands… to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic gels from Monday,” LVMH said in a statement. “LVMH will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary, in connection with the French health authorities.”


The take-out here? Forward-thinking brands stepping up will be remembered when this is all over. A wise brand owner should consider this.