top of page

How Are Brands Responding to COVID-19

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

With the current COVID-19 pandemic happening all around the world, all eyes are on governments, institutions, and brands. How they respond would determine how the situation would improve or escalate over the next few months, and how the public will forever see them, as it leaves an impression for a long long time.

After being bombarded with headlines from around the world focusing on nothing but this virus the last couple of months, I have learnt that brands can and have taken either one of these four responses, with several exercising more than one of these as part of their crisis management strategy.

1. Brands that Adjust

When I say adjustments, I’m referring to the minor changes that brands are making whether it’s to their logos, brand names, or messaging, so as to show their support in banding together to fight this virus. Take these brands for instance, which encouraged social distancing by altering their logos so as to introduce spaces (distance) between their elements. 

Images: Audi, Volkswagen

However small the change, such moves sometimes speak volumes about what a brand believes in and stands for, or, in the extreme opposite case, could also result in a brand backlash - like McDonald's. 

Image: McDonald's

This is not the first time that McDonald’s has gotten a backlash from changing its logo. Many criticised the brand both then and now for “all talk no action”. McDonald's has since announced the measures it is taking to ensure it adheres to social distancing guidelines and strict hygiene standards all around the world. I guess it is important to note that whatever the change, it must come from the heart of the brand, and not seen as some flaky, superficial move to simply appear relevant. Humanity is known for our stubborn inertia and resistance to change, and if that adjustment is not substantiated by follow-up actions or real change, then perhaps no matter how minuscule or seemingly relevant the adjustment, it may need to be carefully reconsidered; especially if it could potentially jeopardise a brand’s image.

2. Brands that Adapt

While some brands have made minor adjustments, others have made major adaptations to their business models and have drastically altered the way they operate. We don’t even have to say it, yet you already know that now is the golden hour for e-commerce businesses to thrive and to shine. As such, many have made the painstaking changes to quickly shift their businesses online, so as to mitigate the loss of sales revenue. From retail to entertainment, and even to our very own neighbourhood F&B hawkers. Brick and mortar gyms such as Planet Fitness, as well as athletic wear companies like Nike and Under Armour, are now offering online classes with the help of their home-based ambassadors and instructors.

Image from Pexels (Karl Solano)

London based LW Theatres and San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) are offering shows either for free or "pay as you wish", while NBCUniversal has decided to release new movies online and make them rentable. International music festival organiser Tomorrowland, as well as our very own Zouk Singapore have also been organising live clubbing experiences via live stream with both resident and guest DJs.

I mean who would have expected that my uncle selling mixed vegetable rice from his small physical stall of 30 years, would have to rely on online food ordering and delivery apps like GrabFood, Food Panda and Deliveroo. Well, I guess when the survival instinct kicks in, it’s every man for himself, and adaptation for every business.

3. Brands that Exploit

While it may be understandable for brands to resort to doing what it takes in the name of self-preservation, it definitely isn't acceptable if it is at the expense of others. Some, unable to cope with the weight of the crunch, have taken to what the media terms as “behaving badly”. These include brands who prior to government intervention, saw and took the opportunity to hike up the prices of essentials such as sanitisers and masks, as well as countless more who are applying a mix of both furloughing workers, as well as laying off staff. No doubt for many of them, it probably didn't seem like there was any other option - but such actions are still frowned upon. I'm just stating a fact that this is merely one of the many responses that brands have taken and could take. So think about it before you do. Such actions have consequences not just on those affected, but on your brand itself as well. Now, moving on... 

4. Brands that Empathize

Lastly, given the current situation and its consequent lockdown in many parts of the world, many brands have been joining in and lending their voices to governments and international organizations, asking people to “stay home”. While it could be seen as simply hopping onto the bandwagon and repurposing this trending slogan as part of each brand’s agile marketing strategy, what really impresses me, are the brands who stand to lose from taking such a stand.

It’s bad enough that the economy is affecting everybody (albeit some in a good way) but it’s brave that some brands are taking it one step further. For instance, streaming services like Netflix and Zoom, or food delivery services like the above mentioned have got nothing to lose by asking people to “stay home”; but what about car brands like Nissan, Jeep and Volvo, or even those in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors like

Images: Volvo Singapore's Facebook, Jeep's COVID-19 tweet,

Nissan's mention in the Daily Mail


Going one step further, some brands like Razer, and even luxury ones like Prada and LVMH, have taken the courtesy to convert part of their manufacturing processes to support the production of masks.

Image: Razer headphones from Pexels (Pixabay)

Wouldn't that mean an opportunity cost of not being able to produce as many of their own products? Well yes, but considering the current economic landscape and spending behaviour, it definitely makes more economic sense from a branding and marketing point of view to invest in what would best reflect a brand's values, especially in a crucial time like this where it would be understandable for brands to cut back and survive instead. 

Faced with the unique set of challenges that COVID presents to brands today, they have to do more than just be adaptable. Easier said than done when profits are affected and anxious shareholders are breathing down their necks. Still, just as each individual is called upon to exercise social responsibility this season, brands too have to be socially responsible and remember to stay human, customer-focused and sensitive to the times – even if for a moment, it means making decisions and standing for things that will not do them any good. In the long run however, these are the brands whom people will remember for their heart.

Nobel prize winner Wangari Maathai said that, in the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called upon to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. For brands everywhere, and in every industry, that time is now.

26 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page