How brands are reacting to the Coronavirus

Thursday, March 12, 2020
For the last few weeks the news cycle has been dominated by the Coronavirus, with every outlet reporting the latest updates of the disease. Typically, brands are usually the first to react and engage with newsworthy topics, known as ‘reactive marketing’. Here are a few examples of how some brands have managed to cleverly use reactive marketing without receiving backlash from the public.

 Lush recently printed posters to promote an initiative inviting the public into stores to wash their hands for free, this simple prompt to the public addresses the topic without seeming exploitive. The cosmetic company has been able to drive brand messaging in an understated way, by not directly promoting their products this removes any negative connotations and has resulted in Lush receiving coverage from TheGuardian and The Independent just to name a few. Not many companies would have been able to do the same and this works particularly well due to the existing arrangement of Lush stores, essentially Lush has just reminded people of a commodity they already have. Lush’s chief executive said that this was an opportunity to highlight the role of basic hygiene.

 

A key issue surrounding the Coronavirus has been the panic buying of hygiene products, in particular, hand wash, sanitiser and face-masks, resulting in a price increase of many products exploiting the demand. Some sanitiser products are currently re-selling for over £1500 on eBay. In February alone, it's estimated that hand sanitiser sales were up 255%, according to research company Kantar. Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy have spoken out against the exploitive prices and have limited consumers purchases to just two products per person to tackle the astronomical re-sale of these products. Similarly to Lush, this is a subtle way for the brands to join in the topical conversation, gain media coverage, without being perceived to profit from this global crisis and in fact provide a helpful solution, once again reinforcing a caring brand message.

 

Interestingly, BritishRed Cross have taken to TikTok creating videos and dances using popular TikTok themes to show users how to wash their hands correctly, even enlisting the help of former Love Island contestant and influencer Dr Alex George. Many young people consider accessing the news ‘a chore’ due to publishers' choice of platform, on average GenZ spend 73 hours a week on their phone and not one news app breaks into the top 25 most popular. With 60% of TikTok users falling into the GenZ category (aged 21 and younger) this is a clever way to engage with an audience who otherwise may not receive this critical information.

 

Countless brands have avoided reactive marketing completely due to the severity of the virus. For any brands considering any form of PR, advertising or marketing, they would have to ensure they are relevant to the conversation, remain topical and on brand and not push their products in the process. George Bradt, senior contributor on leadership strategy for Forbes, said: “Don’t weigh in on others’ crises. But do be aware of what’s going on, how it’s impacting your customers, collaborators and community and be ready to iterate into crisis-management mode if it hits you.”

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