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Branding, Insight

Beautiful Thinking: brands responding to COVID-19

The global response to COVID-19 has largely been one of moving solidarity and human kindness.

While communities pull together to help their vulnerable and most at risk, many brands have also responded, acting quickly and generously in the face of these hugely uncertain times we’ve found ourselves navigating. From hospitals to hospitality, brands from around the world are doing some amazing things and putting their brand actions and supply chains where their hearts are…

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Dear NHS Workers

On the 26th of March, from London to Inverness, the nation clapped for our carers, filling the night sky with the poignant sound of gratitude for the people risking their lives battling COVID-19. In the UK, nearly all of us have a heart-felt connection to the NHS, through personal experience or a family member or friend, but which brands are putting their purpose to the test and *really* giving something back to help our hard-pressed NHS workers?

Fresh food store Prêt moved quickly to turn all outlets to takeaway only, and support NHS workers with free hot drinks and 50% off all other products before having to close. While fashion brands from Kering and Prada to H&M and Zara turned their production lines to making surgical masks and medical overalls for hospitals. And Formula 1 mobilised its various teams’ workforces to engineer and produce much needed life-saving ventilators.

Department store chain, John Lewis, responded by donating items such as pillows, phone chargers, eye masks and hand cream – anything to make NHS worker breaks more comfortable. And other retailers such as Allbirds and Scamp & Dude gifted workers with free pairs of shoes and sweatshirts respectively.

Nursem, one of our favourite indie brands, has always had the NHS at heart, promising to donate a month’s supply of hand-cream to a nurse or midwife for every product bought, but are now further pledging to get an extra 10,000 products into the hands who need it most.

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Beauty Acting Beautifully

From beauty giants to alcohol producers, businesses have halted production as usual to create hydro-alcoholic gel sanitisers during a time of wide-scale global shortages. It was a logical step as purified water, ethanol and glycerine – the three main ingredients required – are available in both cosmetics and alcohol manufacture, making these industries ripe for the change.

LVMH was one of the first to turn their hand to hand-sanitiser by making use of their Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy fragrance and cosmetics facilities, delivering their goods to 39 hospitals in Paris. While world-leading beauty company Coty helps to battle the epidemic in the United States, producing sanitiser for medical and emergency service staff as well as to Coty employees working at plants and distribution centres.

Here in the UK, Scottish beer company Brewdog has given the NHS, local communities and charities, over 50,000 units of the much-needed product so far. And Avon is dedicating 600,000 units for the NHS and domestic abuse service users and staff over April, as well as donating £150k to national domestic abuse charity Refuge in order to keep the services working against violence towards women and girls open during these unprecedented times.

On a much smaller scale, our friends, indie perfumer 4160 Tuesdays, who’ve sadly had to shutter due to safety, first converted its ingredients over to create hand sanitisers for its two local A&E departments.

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Feeding The Nation

There’s been news of empty supermarket shelves, panic about toilet roll shortages and turmoil at endless grocery queues – both online and in store. For the most vulnerable of society, this is especially worrying.

With the closure of the UK’s schools, Heinz has committed to providing 12 million free breakfasts to the children who need them most. This equates to one meal a day for 8 weeks for the children who would usually benefit from their breakfast club programmes.

Many supermarkets, including Tesco, Lidl and Sainsbury’s have introduced shopping hours for the elderly, some such as Waitrose are prioritising online shopping and others, like Morrisons, are focussed on helping foodbanks.

Some restaurants are reimagining themselves as mini grocery stores to alleviate the pressure on supermarkets and protect hospitality workers. Leon has turned its fast-food outlets into a delivery service, providing restaurant-quality meals straight to people’s homes. And much-loved East End bar and eatery, Mare Street Market, turned itself into an actual food-market.

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Help For Workers

There’s no doubt that the hospitality and service industries have been hit hard by the lockdown, leaving many waiting and bar staff currently out of work.

To help assist, Miller Lite has set up a virtual tip jar to raise money for bartenders, pledging its own donation of $1million. Sites such as Ko-Fi are also a great way to fund creatives who may be facing unemployment or uncertainty; London-based dance teacher, Cassius, is giving access to a month’s worth of booty-shaking dance-classes to do at home for the price of ‘a bag of groceries’ via the platform.

And British beauty and wellness brand owner, The Hut Group, is on a recruitment crusade to fill more than 500 jobs, particularly looking to hire those affected by the current situation. Apply within.

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Getting Schooled

The shift to being at home has also meant dramatic changes for those currently in education. With schools’ doors now firmly shut, lessons have moved online, with some organisations launching fully interactive, virtual schools.

Brixton Finishing School, the organisation that offers a free 10-week learning experience for under-represented 18-25-year-olds through lessons and real-world advertising experiences, has brought its initiative forward to 29th June. Offering interactive learning with video classrooms, masterclasses and workshops, a shared timetable and independent project work.

And with parents now feeling the strain from both working at home and home-schooling, on-line learning platforms are fast-becoming a vital resource. We’re particularly loving free drawing lessons for kids from World Book Day illustrator Rob Biddulph, P.E. with Joe Wicks (great for adults too!), and Scholastic day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking and growing.