What Are Brands Doing to Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

What Are Brands Doing to Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Written by: Stephanie Bariatti, SMB Media Marketing Consultant 



          First and foremost, I just want to say that I hope everyone out there is staying safe and healthy.  This is a stressful time for all of us in so many different ways, but I am choosing (aka trying my dang best) to remain patient, optimistic and hopeful for better days ahead.


            A lot has changed since I wrote last week. The situation with COVID-19 has drastically escalated.  I knew things would change greatly by the day, but wow.  With every breaking news story, I keep thinking, “This can’t be real.”  But we all know this is not just some bad dream.           


            Last week, I wrote about how it seemed that a lot of brands were staying away from any mention of coronavirus.  Not many brands were willing to stick their necks out for fear of taking a misstep in regard to the virus.  However, the tide has changed.  This issue is affecting EVERY THING and most brands are feeling compelled to take a stand.    


            Consumers do not want to see the hard-sell from companies at this time.  It is refreshing to see that so many businesses are responding in a more humanitarian way, trying to help and offer some kind of assistance.  I have seen this from small and large businesses alike.  This kind of sensitivity is important in the face of this crisis.  Showing empathy is more valuable than staying silent and people will remember this when they are in a position to spend again.     


            Here is a look at what some of the big brands are doing:


·     Amazon

Trying to remain the be-all and end-all for everybody, Amazon is struggling to meet demand, but determined to rise to the challenge.  On Monday, the company announced plans to hire 100,000 more part-time and full-time US hourly employees to staff warehouses and run delivery routes. It followed that announcement with plans on Tuesday to prioritize shipments into its warehouses of medical supplies and household staples.  Amazon is also trying to do right by their employees by recommending that all who work in a role that can be done from home do so.  It said that it also offered flexible scheduling options for employees staying home, as well as paid time off for those diagnosed with the coronavirus. Additionally, the company said it was establishing the Amazon Relief Fund — with a $25 million initial contribution to help support its delivery partners and their drivers, among other employees who are struggling financially amid the outbreak.  “Going forward, this fund will support our employees and contractors around the world who face financial hardships from other qualifying events, such as a natural disaster, a federally declared emergency or an unforeseen personal hardship,” Amazon added.  It also launched a $5 million grant for small businesses: The Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund would provide cash to Seattle-area companies — with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 million in annual revenues — that are experiencing economic challenges related to COVID-19.


·     Facebook

First off, Facebook told employees this week that that it was giving everyone a $1,000 bonus to help offset some of the economic uncertainties.  Employees that get high marks in performance reviews may also be able to get their annual bonuses early, according to The Information.  Also, with small businesses facing particular risks as consumers stay home, Facebook is now offering up to $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for 30,000 eligible small businesses.  That money can be used to help pay employees, as well as other overhead expenses like rent or utilizes, as access to credit lines has tightened because financial institutions are also bracing for a possible recession.  The company says it will start accepting applications for the program "in the coming weeks." 


·     Walmart

The retail giant yesterday announced a $25 million commitment to go toward organizations on the “front lines” in fighting the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.  $10 million will go toward food banks, school meal programs and providing access to food for underserved populations; $10 million will be geared toward local efforts in the U.S. and internationally and the final $5 million will be earmarked for global efforts in preventing, identifying and managing the outbreak. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said that the retailer is reserving space in its parking lots for coronavirus testing, adding that the company will aid in coronavirus preventative measures as needed.  Additionally, Walmart has implemented emergency leave procedures to prevent sick associates from coming into work, including waiving its attendance policy and ensuring quarantined employees will receive up to two weeks pay.


·     Target

Every Wednesday starting March 18, seniors and other guests with underlying health issues will have a dedicated shopping time for one hour when the stores first open.  A statement on their website says, “Target is making the first hour we are open on Wednesdays available to the most vulnerable guests, including the elderly, at this time.  We are asking other guests to plan their shopping trips around this timeframe.”  They are also placing a limit on items to combat hoarding.  Many other supermarkets are following similar measures.  


·     Disney

Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort have begun donating surplus food to help the local communities during their temporary closures.  On Tuesday, Walt Disney World Resort cast members joined the Distribution Services team that oversees collection and delivery of donations to help the community and share surplus food inventory like fresh salads, greens and expertly cooked hot items with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.  At Disneyland Resort, food donations began over the weekend. While closely following safety guidelines, excess inventory of dairy, fruit, vegetables, packaged goods and banquet meals were shared with Second Harvest Food Bank to be quickly moved out to pantries and food distribution sites throughout Orange County.


            Naturally, these major companies have a lot more to offer.  But, I have seen many smaller companies and local businesses offering similar aid.  Dedicated shopping times for the vulnerable, surplus food donations, discounts from online retailers, online services waving fees and employee assistance are just some of the things businesses are doing to help ease the burden during this pandemic.  Unfortunately, a lot of the small businesses will be the ones to suffer the most in the long run, as they may not have the financial cushion to fall back on.  Hopefully, though, we will be able to bounce back and return to some semblance of normal life faster than we expect. 


Stephanie Bariatti works as a Consultant and Project Manager for SMB Media Consulting.  She has had extensive experience with many facets of advertising and media, having worked for and with creative agencies, production companies and research departments.  She lives in New York with her wonderful husband, three lovable little boys and a snuggly Golden Retriever.