Brand Agility: Our Favorite Corporate Coronavirus Responses

Written by Caleb Knight

Recently, we shared with you some of our favorite responses and initiatives from small businesses in response to COVID-19. Now, we’re looking at responses from some of the bigger corporate brands.

Household names and big companies all over the globe are looking to play their part in the global battle against coronavirus. This kind of support comes in many shapes and sizes. It’s about doing what you can, no matter what that contribution may be. For some, it may be sewing masks, while for others, it’s giving up CEO salaries for the greater good.

These major brands have showcased agility as they look to lend a helping hand to all for a common goal: beating coronavirus. In what feels like a continual churn of negative news, these brands have answered the call and inspired many by being a light in their industries. 

Publix

Publix, a Southeast grocery heavyweight, has been there to serve their community when they need it most. Publix updated their hours to open an hour later (8 AM) and close an hour earlier (8 PM). By making these changes, they protect their customers with increased sanitation protocol and giving their employees additional rest. As our team frequents Publix locations in the area, it is safe to say that we’ve been impressed with their diligent efforts to continuously have a team member sanitizing carts, baskets, checkout areas, and more. This kind of effort goes a long way in the trust of customers and displays leadership for wanting to keep everyone safe.

Publix followed up by announcing they’d open for their elderly customers at their normal 7 AM time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Given the hyperfocus on the elderly community with this virus, this extra hour to get groceries and pharmacy needs alleviates fears for large crowds and virus exposure. These might sound like small changes, but the intentionality of selflessly helping this group goes a long way in showing individuals that we are all in this together.

More recently, Publix is taking extra protective measures such as installing plexiglass barriers and providing contactless payment methods. However, Publix is going above and beyond by offering 2-month rent relief to businesses forced to close due to coronavirus that operate in Publix-owned shopping centers. Once a small business itself, Publix recognizes the challenges of this time and is doing all it can to help everyone get through this.

Moe’s Southwest Grill

We’re sure you can hear it in your head now, that friendly voice when you walk in the door “Welcome to Moe’s!” But if you’re quarantining, you don’t get to experience that same warm welcome. What if instead of a friendly verbal welcome, you had the opportunity to bring that friendliness to your digital presence? That’s exactly what Moe’s has done in this challenging time.

Moe’s has left the sanitary focus to the experts and rather than trigger a fearful response in customers with additional cleaning protocols, Moe’s has gone a different route. Moe’s is sticking to its roots by offering their staples (yes, that includes queso) in bulk in their new “Moe’s Market” as well as their take-home taco kits.  Integrated right into their online menu, customers are able to bulk buy Moe’s products you know and love as an alternative to groceries. You can even have it delivered for free. These kinds of agile changes are tough to pull off, but Moe’s is a great example of a brand strategy pivot. By doing this, they are not only providing a valuable service to the community at this time, but they are also doing such a promotion at a potential cost to their profit margin in a difficult time. While restaurants all over face occupancy limitations, hour cuts, and more, Moe’s is focusing their efforts on the customer, not their brand. 

When you buy a product, you are buying their story. Throughout the food and beverage industry, we have seen businesses move with great agility to think of the bigger picture helping the community rather than their brand. In the short term, yes, these businesses are struggling, but once this virus has passed, the ones who acted with agility in these times can stand out once more.

Comcast

CEOs and heads of companies–especially in a time like this–are placed under a microscope. Not only for determining how the company responds to such adversity, but also for their salary. As business operations have been paused or impacted in seemingly every industry, layoffs, pay cuts, and furloughs seem all too common; often for those who live paycheck to paycheck. Rather than continue with their normal salaries, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and other leaders are donating 100% of their salaries to charities supporting COVID-19 relief efforts. On top of that, they have committed $500 million for their employees to offer continued paychecks and benefits for those who have had business operations impacted. Not only are they helping their team members and giving internally, they are outwardly giving to their customers too.

As companies and schools alike flock to the Internet to stay connected by working remotely, there is, of course, going to be a greater demand on the bandwidth of internet providers. High-speed internet has turned from a luxury to nearly a necessity as individuals hunker down for the coronavirus. Amidst this pressure, Comcast has responded by making some invaluable changes:

  1. Free Xfinity wifi hotspots across the country
  2. Pausing data plan limitations
  3. No disconnections or late fees
  4. Complimentary internet access for new customers (especially low-income)
  5. Educational content for at-home students

While these might seem like no brainers, Comcast is stepping up to offer superior customer service. This agile response looks to match the current needs of its customers. By sacrificing a profit now for the sake of customer wellbeing, it could prove to be beneficial in the long run.

Disney/Disney+

What happens when more people are stuck inside? They watch more TV. In an effort to promote individuals to stay indoors, Disney has released their highly anticipated movie, Frozen II, onto their streaming platform Disney+ months in advance. Meanwhile, their latest Disney Pixar project, Onward, skipped from theaters to already be available at home. While only two movies for now, these are notable family-friendly releases to help give relief to parents who may be attempting to work and have restless children not at school.

New streaming content from a variety of services will be a space to watch as isolation remains a focus for public health. Once again, we see companies meet their customers’ needs in once unimaginable ways. 

Zoom

As a business owner, would you be prepared to face a 1,900% increase in product usage over three months time? That’s a very difficult question, but it’s exactly what Zoom, the popular video conferencing tool, has faced at this time. 

Before going any further, it is clear that Zoom has had some security issues exposed by being thrusted into the spotlight. While you never want the FBI writing warnings about you, it’s better that you take these issues head-on. That’s exactly what Zoom has done.

In an open letter, Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan, admitted that given the original intention of Zoom being for enterprise customers, “we did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home.” Yuan apologizes for not meeting their own and communal standards of privacy and security. Not only does Yuan address what they’re going to be doing over the next 90 days, but he also discusses what they’ve already done including:

  • “Zoombombing,” a new word born from the increased traffic, describes the incidences of unwanted online harassment from outsiders in thought-to-be private calls. Zoom shared a blog on how to cut down these risks. 
  • Free resources like webinars and platform training for all users.
  • Increased customer support. 
  • Updated codes and privacy policies.
  • More customizable options for education users.

All of this they’ve already completed, so what does the future look like? Just that. Yuan states that Zoom is freezing all-new feature builds to focus review and fixing all issues of trust, safety, and privacy with the platform. No CEO wants to have to pen a letter like this, but as a whole, Zoom and Yuan show a great deal of integrity and leadership in helping to navigate these difficult times. Before this letter and exposed security risks, Zoom was already proactively increasing call limits for free, providing educational platforms, and offering mental health training and telemedicine throughout China.  

Especially in the midst of a strain on their bandwidth and a massive influx in demand, Zoom has been a key pillar for everything from college classes to businesses continuing to operate in this virtual environment. They have remained agile to meet such a massive demand in such a short period of time more so than any brand out there.

Dyson

As this Inc. article puts it, the world needs “really smart people solving really big problems.” That is on full display with the swift, ingenious work of Dyson, the famous vacuum and hand dryer company. In ten short days, Dyson designed a new battery-powered ventilator designed to treat the clinical needs of COVID-19 specifically and is able to be manufactured “quickly, efficiently, and at volume.” Dyson CEO, James Dyson, announced in an email that they’ll be building 10,000 of these for the United Kingdom and another 5,000 for donation. 

While it would be easy to say that Dyson could focus an advertising campaign around the fact that people are staying at home and therefore need to vacuum more, instead, they’re focused on meeting the global need with swift innovation. 

Think Agile

There are countless other examples of companies stepping up to better serve their customers in their time of need. While the age-old saying of “the customer is always right” doesn’t say anything about social distancing or pandemics, the agility of brands to put their customers and community first and serve their needs has become crucial. Again, social distancing may be temporary, but the dividends of these brands being there for their people in the bigger picture go a long way. 

While you may not be able to design a ventilator in ten days or offer a $500 million fund for employees, we hope this serves as a valuable lesson that in a time like this, we can all do something. Now more than ever, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this fight together.

Caleb Knight

Caleb focuses on providing clients with exceptional results through strategy, content, and data.