In Response to COVID-19

Posted by Kate Grigg
Digital Strategy Director

The massive disruption of COVID-19 is forcing many brands to adapt and re-think everything they do. Digital Strategy Director Kate Grigg shares how brands are pivoting during the crisis.

In a short few months, the world has transformed. The massive disruption of COVID-19 is forcing many brands to pivot and re-think everything they do. Marketers must now consider what they can authentically offer, and what people actually need, so they can adapt their products and services accordingly.

Much applause and respect goes to brands that have brought tangible solutions to the COVID-19 situation in real-time, like LVMH’s hand sanitiser, Tesla’s ventilators, Zara’s masks and hospital gowns, and Apple’s self-check app. These examples are all remarkable and driven in part by social responsibility and/or publicity uptake.

But what about brands with products already stockpiled in the warehouse, with closed retail spaces or services now unattainable in lock-down conditions? We take a look at who moved fast, changed with customers’ needs and delivered a fresh solution, leading the charge for re-invention.

Health & Fitness

Health and fitness has seen some clear first-movers adjusting to the new restrictions. In the UK, Joe Wicks’ live morning P.E. classes are amassing over one million daily views on YouTube, as home schooling parents look for positive activities for their kids. Closer to home, Les Mills’ free-to-air workouts on TVNZ (linear and on-demand) promote health and well-being, taking classes from the gym into the lounge via broadcast TV.

In the apps space, Nike is now offering its premium Nike Training workout app for free, a clever way to get audiences engaging with the brand when they have globally shut down retail stores. As more fitness classes and yoga studios follow suit, and a new change in consumer behaviour develops, sweating alongside strangers in a gym could become a pastime you tell your grandkids about.

Arts & Entertainment

Musicians, comedians and live events have certainty taken a hard hit. Rising from the lock-down and restrictions has been a growing phenomenon of ‘at home’ live music. Live streaming via TikTok, IGTV, Instagram Live and numerous ‘listening lounge’ apps like Sofar have brought live music to us, directly through our phones.

China, first to be hit by the pandemic and experience closures of cultural sites, saw Absolut Vodka launch Absolut Nights DJ Club Nights on TikTok to huge success. Meanwhile, global musicians like Coldplay, Kesha and Miley Cyrus are streaming performances live for free. Locally, our own Kiwi talent has embraced this change: Anika Moa launched her new album with a live in lounge concert for kids, Marlon Williams joined the line-up for the first Instagram Live Festival, and Taika Waiti has been talking live with fans about his upcoming movie release.

Food & Beverage

With the exception of supermarkets, the food and beverage industry face an ominous future with unknown timings for the lock-down, significant changes to consumer behaviour, and uncertainty around restrictions once the lock-down is lifted.

But these businesses must keep selling, so online and home delivery will likely become an extension of the kitchen. Pre-lock-down, we saw a number of restaurants adapt their offering quickly, like Paris Butter Restaurant offering at-home French Meal Kits and My Food Bag developing a new product for Kitchen Essentials: the Staples, a box delivering to the customer need for a back-up of basic necessities and a smart solution for those wanting to avoid supermarket panic.

Personal Services

As many non-essential personal consultations cease over lock-down, brands and services look to connect with customers online. Make-up brand Mecca has being offering “Virtual Services”, a personalised beauty consultation accessed via FaceTime. Hair salons have also transferred business online, creating ‘home colour kits’ which clients can use to treat their own hair until restrictions are lifted. Doctors have also shifted to online consultations, so new apps have launched, such as Healthcare app Kry, offering a secure tool for remote consultations during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Experiential Retail & Museums

Experiences where customers could once touch and view products up-close have gone virtual. Automotive brands are maximising the influx of time for consumer research by showcasing virtual showrooms. Museums are facing unprecedented difficulties and uncertainty, with the majority now closed. While these indefinite closures are presenting challenges, they have acted rapidly and creatively to keep their audiences engaged remotely with virtual tours, such as those offered at places like the MET, National History Museum and San Diego Zoo.

Looking Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the market and customer behaviour. Brands must adapt and change the way they do business to ensure success in this uncertain time.

Three tips for staying ahead: 

  • A brand’s digital store front has never been more important. COVID-19 has transformed the way consumers behave: they are more digitally savvy than ever, with heightened expectations for digital experiences. Brands must adapt and deliver to these customer demands.
  • Brands should prepare themselves by recognising the limitations in their data, e-commerce and technology, and solving them to deliver better quality customer engagement.
  • China and Italy are weeks ahead in adapting their products and service offerings based on permanent changes in consumer behaviour. What can your brand learn from the developments in these markets?