Pivoting for Good - and for Good Business.
Whether it has been out of necessity, or better yet out of purpose, many brands have seen their traditional business models disrupted by COVID-19 in a monumental way. Brands are the result of people making decisions and taking action, and how those people have responded will likely impact how their communities respond to their brands now and in the future. Over the course of these past 7 weeks of physical distancing, it has become clear there have been many instances of empathy / humanity but also some of complete insensitivity and profiteering. Given we could all use some good news, we'll focus on highlighting the positive side of brand marketing during a global health crisis.
Craft Breweries & Distilleries
Perhaps it's in their DNA as small local businesses, but craft breweries and distilleries immediately rose to the occasion to support their communities. Modifications to their distillation or brewing machinery allowed these businesses to produce hand sanitizer or disinfectant with little disruption to their production facilities.
Notably, small batch distiller Dillon's made the move and within days had shipped hand sanitizer and disinfectant to service professionals, police, healthcare workers in the Niagara region within days. Another golden horseshoe favourite, Collective Arts Brewing is doubling down on its commitment to supporting artists and creative fields with its MORE. charitable initiative. Supporting the geographic and ideologic communities that supported the ascension of these brands has made their giving back most meaningful.
Of course, these businesses can't keep the lights on by only giving money away. Both have introduced direct to consumer shipping through their online stores with next day delivery. This bypasses the LCBO's current 2+ weeks delay on home deliveries. D2C delivery may be in response to COVID-19, but rest assured it's not going anywhere.
Considering physical distancing in Canada means staying a hockey stick length away from one another, it seems only natural that hockey equipment company Bauer was among the first brands to recognize not a lot of hockey was going to be played anytime soon, and quickly pivoted its production facilities to making single-use protective shields for frontline medical workers - with plans openly available for download. The shift from producing visors and shields for hockey helmets to protective shields for medical workers was not calculated corporate move, but recognition that the company could support a societal need and an ensuing swift response. For its efforts, its immediate action has earned Bauer consistent call outs from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Many people have a pair (or two) of these Brazilian summer footwear staples and with Brazil being significantly impacted by COVID-19, the iconic brand stepped up in a big way to support relief efforts in the South American country. Havaianas have repurposed local factories to make PPE, hand sanitizer, and test kits, while also donating 100,000 kits of essential goods (shoes, hygiene products, food) to vulnerable populations. The brand even donated a sound system to a local radio station to ensure messaging about the appropriate preventative measures can be clearly heard. Not bad for a company that makes flip flops. By understanding the specific needs of the communities the brand serves, Havaianas was able to respond with swift and substantial action in a way that made a difference to the lives of people that have made this brand what it is.
Vancouver-based shoe company Vessi put the power in the hands (or feet) of the people with their response to COVID-19. By empowering shoppers with a pay-what-you-can model, Vessi donates PPE according to the level of discount selected by the customer on each purchase. The greater the donation of face masks for frontline medical workers, the less the savings for the individual. Judging by the current (lack of) inventory, this is a phenomenal example of a social enterprise. Putting the power in people's hands has resulted in the brand selling its product and also in donating a significant amount of vital PPE.
The popular Canadian band Arkells aren't a brand in the sense of the others on this list, but they've pivoted from their traditional offering and have been a consistent source of hope, education, and positivity with their flatten the curve music class (#FTCmusicclass) daily on Instagram live. These sessions often feature famous special guests, occasionally provide direct support to charitable initiatives like local food banks and ultimately serve to bring disparate communities together around music. Live Nation's Live From Home has turned the promoter of live events and concert venues to a promoter of live streams, including Arkells and many other artists. It's a necessary pivot, but the hub helps to connect artists and their fans when physical distancing prevents doing so for in-person performances.