A “brand” is the very essence of a business – its raison d’être – and the coronavirus outbreak is the biggest test to the ethical grounding of a brand we’ve seen for many years.

With an unclear view of what the future holds, many brands are emerging with productive and proactive measures to help lessen the negative impact. 

Presented with an opportunity to do something positive in a time of crisis, these five brands are just a few that show us how brand purpose is being put to the test, and what it takes to remain true to your word.

More information on what consumers expect of brands during the outbreak is available in our hub.

Finance: Citi Group

The action
Donating to COVID-19 relief efforts.

Citi bank has pledged $15 million to various coronavirus relief organizations. One-third will go to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, another to No Kid Hungry and the final third is reserved for country-specific aid in severely impacted areas.

In addition to its philanthropic efforts, Citi is also lessening the financial burden facing many of its customers. 

By waiving fees and penalties, introducing hardship programs and offering small business support, the company is helping both individuals and institutions minimize the financial disruption caused by the outbreak by managing their monetary needs.


The purpose
Making a positive impact on communities.

As we witnessed in its recent campaign addressing the gender pay gap, Citi is a brand that’s not afraid of championing social good.

Michael Corbat, CEO, explains, “making a positive impact in our communities is embedded in our mission. In the midst of this unprecedented global crisis, we will continue to identify additional opportunities to support those impacted in the communities we serve.”

Citi’s response was well thought out, supporting both long-term and short-term recovery efforts. 

It achieved this by first looking at its own processes to identify ways it could lessen the impact for its customers, then looking at the needs of the wider, global population to offer relief funding.

Fashion: H&M 

The action
Producing PPE for medical staff.

The Swedish fashion store joined the list of non-essential clothing retailers to repurpose its supply chain to support the production of personal protective equipment for medical staff on the front line. 

Head of Sustainability at H&M, Anna Gedda, explains the company’s stance at this time stating, “we see this as a first step in our efforts to support in any way we can. We’re all in this together and have to approach this as collectively as possible.”


The purpose
Investing in people, communities and ideas.

H&M are very transparent about their mission: 

“To drive long-lasting positive change and improve living conditions by investing in people, communities and innovative ideas.”

While at the center of fast fashion retail, their mission extends beyond this, aiming to improve the lives of their customers, but also the society they live in.

The retailer’s CEO, Helena Helmersson, is believed to have personally contacted the EU to understand the regions most in need of their services, and how they could offer help. 

The H&M Foundation also gave $500,000 to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, joining other giants like TikTok and Google who have also offered donations.

H&M spotted a chance to fulfill its mission for social good, and so far, has been delivering on this promise.

Tech: Facebook 

The action
Supporting small businesses.

Facebook’s initiatives to help governments, emergency response organizations, small businesses, its employees and its users is certainly helping to place it in public favor once more.

Aside from measures to restrict PEE sales scams taking place on its feed, as well as bonus initiatives to help its workforce financially, Facebook has donated large sums to support the small business economy.

This $100 million program will provide cash or ad credits to 30,000 businesses. 

Facebook also announced that it would make its Workplace enterprise communications software free for 12 months for any governments or emergency response organizations that need them.


The purpose
Bringing people together.

Facebook’s purpose is centered on people – specifically, connecting people to “bring the world closer together”.

Small businesses are a large part of Facebook’s community and its efforts to provide a crutch to them when they need it most demonstrates a genuine concern.

Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, told CNBC, “we heard directly from them that they were in need, very nervous, and not able to pay a lot of their employees, and worried their doors would shut. We’re trying to help businesses pay their employees but also shift their businesses online.”

When presented with an opportunity to exercise goodwill by helping affected businesses, Facebook seized it.

Medical: Dyson

The action
Designing and building ventilators.

Dyson, a British technology company famous for its household vacuums, has designed a ventilator and is ready to make 15,000 of them to help meet imminent demand.

The NHS needs to increase its number of ventilators from 8,175 to 30,000. Dyson is set to supply 10,000 of these.

“This new device can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume,” Dyson writes. “The race is now on to get it into production.”

Dyson’s ventilator, named CoVent, was developed by the company in only 10 days, because the imminent threat of a shortage of the machines could lead to increased fatalities.


The purpose
Innovation, creativity, functionality and reliability.

Dyson is a company that doesn’t believe in the word, ‘brand’. In fact, it’s banned from their business vocabulary. 

And while they may also renounce the term brand purpose, there’s no denying that Dyson has a strong identity and its decision to support the UK’s NHS in its time of need certainly supports this. 

Whilst philanthropy isn’t the company’s core mission, its core values are centred on innovation, creativity, functionality and reliability. 

Certainly the latter two elements are integral to machines required to support human life, whilst values of innovation and creativity helped the brand to draw up the designs in an astonishing 10 days.

Food and drink: Brewdog 

The action
Making hand sanitizer.

For the fastest-growing food and drinks company in the UK, turning its hand to making hand sanitizer made sense. 

After seeing a national shortage, Brewdog adapted its distillery in Aberdeen into a hand sanitizer factory. As explained on their website, their team ‘worked over the weekend to bottle and package the Punk Sanitizer to get it to those in need”. 

Based in Scotland, the company sought to support local communities and front line workers, and agreed distribution to key workers and charities across the country from next week.

Since this initiative began, Brewdog has packed and donated 50,000 units to the NHS and local charities.


The purpose
Business for good, taking a stand, transparency.

Even in more certain times, Brewdog is a company with a strong ethical grounding. 

Having gone from a humble startup to award-winning international beer brand in a remarkably short time, ‘giving back’ has always been important to its founders. 

Through their Unicorn Fund, they give away 20% of their annual profits. 10% is shared equally between their teams and 10% is donated to charities chosen by their staff and community.

With its strong sense of and doing the right thing, Brewdog’s transition into a supporting role for some of the most valued members of the community right now – frontline workers – was a natural one.

It’s crucial to focus on the human impact

When it comes to branding, terms like ‘purpose’, ‘values’, ‘ethics’ and ‘mission’ are difficult to distinguish – because they should all work in tandem. 

Even in more secure times, every business is expected to have a unique and meaningful set of beliefs that focuses on more than just its products and services.

By channeling their response to the outbreak through the ethics they hold themselves to, these brands are helping mitigate the impact of coronavirus for the customers they serve and the wider community.

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