How Global Brands Are Responding To The COVID-19 Crisis

By Megan DeGruttola - April 8, 2020
11 mins read time
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These are truly trying and uncertain times for us all.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, also known as coronavirus, brands around the world have been forced to hit the pause button on their original marketing plans and quickly adjust their messaging, operations and daily interactions with customers in an effort to keep people safe and healthy.

It seems that no industry or region has been untouched by the major upheaval COVID-19 has caused throughout the global economy. Still, from struggle comes strength — and many brands are stepping up to face these tough times with generosity, creativity and the support so many people need.

Here’s how brands across industries are helping people — in big and small ways — get through this challenging time:

Restaurants & Delivery Apps

As one of the hardest hit industries during this crisis, restaurants (and their employees) around the world are suffering.

In an effort to help small restaurants stay afloat, a group of industry professionals have created the Dining Bond Initiative, a global charge to “get funds into the hands of restaurants NOW, even if they are temporarily closed” due to COVID-19.

Acting like a savings bond, people can purchase these Dining Bonds to their favorite local restaurants today, then redeem that bond for face value once the restaurant reopens in the future.

The James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit that supports chefs and leaders in the restaurant industry, is hosting industry support webinars to “help provide resources for the hospitality industry and to better stay connected throughout difficult times.”

Beyond expanding their emergency leave benefits and offering a 10 percent increase in hourly pay for restaurant employees who work through April 12, 2020, Chipotle is beefing up its delivery capabilities and helping its customers combat self quarantine isolation by hosting live zoom lunches.

A number of large fast food brands — like Chipotle, KFC, Popeyes and Taco Bell — have donated to nonprofits such as No Kid Hungry and Blessings in a Backpack to help ensure that kids don’t go without food because of school closures.

Striking a tone of real mutual appreciation, Taco Bell has released a creative new commercial announcing that they’re keeping drive-thru service open with sticker-sealed bags during COVID-19. The user-generated videos throughout the 15-second ad show the genuine appreciation of customers who are looking for safety and a bit of normalcy in these troubling times. As their ad says, “let our drive-thru help you get through.”

Also looking to directly engage customers during quarantine, Popeyes is giving the first 1,000 customers who tweet a photo of their Popeyes fried chicken with the hashtag #ThatPasswordFromPopeyes a free Netflix login for the month — making ‘Fried Chicken N Chill’ the new ‘Netflix and Chill.’

Statewide lockdowns, shelter-in-place directives and social distancing guidelines have also caused restaurants to switch to take-out or delivery-only models. And a number of restaurants who have resisted using food delivery apps in the past are now finding themselves turning to them during this crisis.

Most major food delivery apps — from DoorDash and Postmates to Grubhub and Uber Eats — are now offering “no-contact” or “leave at the door” delivery options to help enforce social distancing measures between customers and delivery people.

In addition, many delivery apps are running their own campaigns or creating their own funds to help support local businesses as well as healthcare workers.

Uber Eats has committed 300,000+ free meals to healthcare workers and first responders in the US and Canada. They’ve also waived delivery fees for over 100,000 independent restaurants.

Postmates started a #OrderLocal campaign, encouraging customers to tag their favorite neighborhood restaurants with the hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. In response, Postmates is donating to World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that is providing support to those impacted by COVID-19.

Grubhub has temporarily suspended the collection of up to $100 million in commission payments from coronavirus-impacted independent restaurants nationwide.

DoorDash has expanded its $0 delivery fee program and is allowing independent restaurants in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and Australia to sign up for free with DoorDash and Caviar and pay zero commissions through the end of April. It’s also committed to earmarking “up to $20 million in merchant marketing programs to generate more revenue for restaurants that are already on DoorDash.”

Media, Sports & Entertainment

Understanding that the timely and accurate dissemination of fact-checked information is never more important than during a public health outbreak, many major publishers have made the decision to remove their paywalls for COVID-19-related news.

The Atlantic, Bloomberg News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and more have made coronavirus coverage freely available to all readers.

The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, recently told Adweek, “This is a public health emergency. If we have information that’s important for people to read, I’m not sure how ethical it would be to keep that from them if they didn’t give me their credit card.”

Realizing that people might also be looking for an escape from daily barrage of coronavirus news, reading subscription service, Scribd, opened up access to its digital library of audiobooks, eBooks and magazines free for 30-days with no credit card or commitment required.

Moving from the power of the written word to the power of song, Universal Music Group (UMG) is using the ‘Healing Power of Music’ to respond to coronavirus.

Beyond extending assistance and further benefits to their employees, artists and songwriters, UMG is supporting MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund and Help Musicians UK as well as recruiting their artists to give their “time, energy and resources to help all those affected by the pandemic.”

Check out UMG’s Stackla-powered Healing Power of Music webpage to see some of the many performances and initiatives by UMG artists like Elton John, Rhianna, James Bay, Shania Twain and more.

The Football Association (FA) is also doing their part to encourage people to shelter-in-place with their #FootballsStayingHome campaign. The campaign page features tips to help fans stay safe, healthy and active while at home. And for extra inspiration, they’re showcasing Stackla-powered UGC of Football’s Staying Home content.

Although the 2020 Summer Olympics have been officially postponed until 2021, that hasn’t stopped the International Olympics Committee from contributing to the #StayAtHome movement. To reflect this important PSA, they have added Stackla-powered UGC to their homepage showing how athletes around the world are staying strong, staying active and, most importantly, staying home.

Fitness, Health & Wellness Brands

Since social distancing is being encouraged worldwide, fitness, health and wellness brands are finding new and clever ways to move interactions that are typically in-person to at-home experiences that still feel social.

With many gyms and exercise studios struggling to stay afloat, companies like ClassPass, a fitness subscription app, have stepped in to offer live-streaming workout classes with 100 percent of the proceeds going to their local fitness partners who have been forced to shutter their physical locations.

Many independent studios, like Rumble Boxing, have also launched their own live-streaming classes. As Rumble says, “While we’re social distancing, we’ll also be social fitnessing.”

Diet and exercise apps, like MyFitnessPal, are also getting in on the at-home fitness game by regularly sharing blogs featuring a wide variety of fast at-home workouts as well as healthy recipes people can make to help reduce stress and anxiety while staying fit.

Big Box Retailers, Pharmacies & CPG Brands

Deemed essential businesses during lockdowns, and perhaps the companies best positioned to aid global communities throughout this crisis, big box retailers and pharmacies are doing their part to help end this pandemic.

CVS, Target, Walgreens and Walmart have all offered their store parking lots as drive-up COVID-19 testing locations. Walgreens plans to open 15 drive-thru testing locations for the coronavirus across Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas later this week. CVS Pharmacy has already opened multiple drive-thru testing sites at its minute clinics across various states in the US.

Additionally, Walmart has committed $25 million to support organizations on the front lines of the pandemic response, and Target announced it is investing over $300 million in added wages, new paid leave, bonus payouts and relief fund contributions.

Offering new safe shopping options, companies like Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sam’s Club and Target are now providing drive-up or curbside pickup options so customers — especially those most at risk — don’t have to chance in-store shopping.

Leading CPG and pharmaceutical brand, Johnson & Johnson has partnered with Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a potential COVID-19 vaccine, which they’re now saying could be in human clinical trials by September 2020. They’ve also committed $50 million to support frontline health workers.

For their part, Unilever has created the United for America initiative, a wide-ranging set of measures providing support to Americans people during the coronavirus pandemic. As their press release states:

The company’s actions in the US are part of Unilever’s global effort to help protect the lives and livelihoods of the communities it supports, including its consumers, its customers and suppliers, and workforce, with worldwide contributions of more than €100 million (approximately $108 million USD) to continue helping people affected around the world.

These efforts include the donations of food, soap, personal hygiene and home cleaning products, as well as well as 200,000 masks to local hospitals in New Jersey, which is the location of their US headquarters.

Family-owned grooming and personal care brand, Pacific Shaving Company, have donated 100 percent of their online sales to the CDC Foundation to help fund much needed medical supplies and emergency services and relief to vulnerable communities.

Although Nordstrom stores are currently closed, the popular department store is taking this opportunity to create over 100,000 masks for medical professionals and support COVID-19 relief efforts while also offering sitewide discounts.

With everyone holed up in their homes, Nordstrom has shifted their email campaigns to promote things like at-home wear, home goods and fitness items customers could be using to make their days more comfy and productive. For example, this email with the subject line “A day at home done right” highlights all the items one needs to relax while sheltering-in-place.

Fashion & Home Goods Retailers

With manufacturing partners and facilities at the ready, large fashion brands are in a unique position to assist in the creation, donation and distribution of both essential and non-essential items frontline health professionals need.

Crocs, who offers the “most comfortable shoes and clogs for nurses”, has committed to donating 10,000 pairs of Crocs a day to healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.

Global clothing brand, Gap, Inc., is now working with their factory partners to manufacture masks, scrubs and gowns for healthcare professionals in California hospitals. Additionally, they’re lending their facilities to emergency responders and donating $1 million to nonprofit organizations supporting underserved families during the crisis.


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Because We’re In This Together.

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And Gap isn’t the only one. Burberry, Gucci, Prada, LVMH, Ralph Lauren, Wrangler and more are now all using their manufacturing facilities to make much needed masks and gowns for healthcare workers.

Nike has donated over $17 million to global COVID-19 response efforts to “help local organizations meet immediate needs, such as food assistance and medical care, in key cities and communities around the world where our employees live and work.”


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Now more than ever, we are one team.⠀ #playinside #playfortheworld

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Thinking outside the box, West Elm found a clever way to promote their furniture and home goods by creating dream home virtual video conference backgrounds. Now, people can swap out their basic Golden Gate Bridge Zoom backgrounds for these picture perfect, West Elm-designed kitchen and living room backgrounds.

Travel & Hospitality Brands

With global travel effectively at a stand still, COVID-19’s impact on the travel and hospitality industry has been significant.

Popular booking and recommendations site, Tripadvisor, is doing its part to help support local and small hospitality companies during these tough times. They are making it easy for customers to purchase gift cards for the 5 million hospitality brands on their site. And, in donating $1 million to support vulnerable communities around the world, Tripadvisor is also supporting local restaurants and their hourly workers.

Although they’ve been hit hard, hotels are also chipping in in any way they can.

The Four Seasons New York has opened its doors to Manhattan nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals, offering them free stays as they fight on the front lines of this pandemic.

Claridge’s Hotel in London is inviting NHS workers at St. Mary’s Hospital to stay at the property for free — complimentary breakfast and dinner included.

A couple of Leading Hotels of the World luxury properties in Italy, Le Sirenuse and Hotel Santa Caterina, are supporting the “Together for a COVID-19 Vaccine” fundraiser with online vouchers worth €5,000 for future stays.

Airbnb recently committed $250 million to help their hosts that have been impacted by COVID-19-related cancellations. They’re also partnering with hosts to provide places to stay for frontline health workers who need to socially distance from their families while working to keep us all healthy.

To keep their local communities informed with accurate information as this pandemic evolves, the City of Adelaide took a page out of Stackla’s book and created their own Coronavirus Real-Time Information. Pulling together all the important social news feeds for people in Adelaide and South Australia, residents and essential visitors can now stay informed on all the latest COVID-19 news from state and federal government departments of health, local media and the City of Adelaide’s own accounts.


B2C brands aren’t the only ones being impacted by COVID-19.

With students all over the world forced to stay off campus and attend classes from the safety of their homes, it can make learning an isolating experience. To stay connected with students — and keep them connected with each other — universities are turning to social media.

Wake Forest University, in North Carolina has started a #WakeFromHome campaign, using their homepage to reach out to students, encouraging them to share what they’re doing to help people in these uncertain times. Their homepage reads:

“Whether on the front lines of the fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing a few smiles to tough times or joining the cause in whatever way physical distancing allows, Wake Foresters are doing what they can, where they can.”

How is your brand responding to the coronavirus pandemic?

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