Innovative Brand Responses Amid Covid-19 31st March 2020


By Lindsay Tarkian

In these incredibly challenging times, we are inspired by how some businesses are responding with highly innovative solutions across Hospitality, Food & Beverage and Retail. Here are some of our current favourites. Many of these innovations involve changing methods of distribution while building on core skills. The ideal solutions both provide a lifeline for these businesses but also much-needed service to consumers. If you run similar companies, these ideas might help on your journey back to normality.

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Hotel giants Best Western, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Travelodge and Whitbread’s Premier Inn chain, are discussing a partnership with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK to close and convert their hotels in hospitals. The Ayre Gran Hotel Colón, a 365-room boutique hotel in Madrid, is operating as a facility to isolate doctors and nurses for the nearby hospital and Accorhotels, Europe’s largest hotel company, opened a number of their hotels in France to medical staff and people in need of isolation. In the USA, the Army will lease hotels in heavily affected urban areas and transform the spaces into temporary hospital facilities. The Guardian announced that hotel group IHG would offer 300 hotel rooms in London to the homeless during the imposed isolation period.

In France, Airbnb is expanding its Open Homes programme in association with the Government, connecting medical staff and caregivers with free places to stay offered by Hosts.


Alexander Hotels is offering a Click & Collect service to sell fresh local meat and fish, toiletries including loo rolls and family ready meals straight to the public rolling out across the group’s properties outside of London. The hotels are setting up an online portal for customers to order goods and arrange for a (contact-free) collection time. Alexander Hotel’s Marketing Team said: “We’ve a choice of household essentials, fresh local meat and fish, and delicious frozen family ready meals – all sourced through our network of restaurant-quality suppliers who we are proud to be supporting during this time with continued demand, thanks to our online grocery.”



Many restaurants have expanded services for pick up and delivery, but many more are adapting by turning to sell groceries as well as producing craft products. Fast-casual chain Leon is transforming all 57 UK sites to sell grocery products and takeaway meals. Popular New York City eateries Butcher’s Daughter and Hill Country both changed their offerings to offer daily takeaway menus (and adult beverages), specials and offers announced via Instagram with ‘no-touch’ drop-off and pick up.


Some restaurants are converting into retailers and offering fresh produce and pantry items, including eggs, meats and vegetables. 24 The Oval, A favoured local restaurant serving modern British cuisine in South London is now producing and retailing freshly made pasta, bread, yogurt and other restaurant-quality items, even brewing their own craft beer. Brat Restaurant in Shoreditch has also smartly transitioned into a market shop selling farm-fresh produce and locally sourced items.



Several alcohol producers and distilleries are following LVMH’s lead to make antibacterial hand sanitisers including Silent Pool and Brewdogs distillers in the UK, Brooklyn’s Kings County Distillery.



Restaurant chains, takeaways and food delivery services, are operating contact-free pick-up and delivery services in the wake of the corona crisis to keep everyone healthy. Restaurants like Pizza Hut and delivery operators from GrubHub to JustEat implemented seamless consumer touchpoints for food-services with all orders placed and paid online, drop-off and pick-up information sent via texts and WhatsApp and delivery/collection being completely touch-free.


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Inventors James Dyson and Elon Musk design and build entirely new ventilators, partnering with domestic healthcare providers in the UK and US. James Dyson announced on CNN that he “has received an order from the UK government for 10,000 ventilators to support efforts by the country’s National Health Service to treat coronavirus patients.” CNN also reported that “in the United States, Ford announced that it’s working with 3M and GE Healthcare to produce medical equipment including respirators and protective gear.”

Global retail brands, Ralph Lauren and Zara offer to make hospital scrubs and masks, Apple plans to donate 10M masks and Crocs to donate 10,000 pairs of shoes per day for healthcare workers. In Italy, luxury labels Prada, Versace and Giorgio Armani have donated money and intensive care units to healthcare facilities across the country.

The Verge announced that Twitch, the online streaming platform for gamers, is hosting abenefit called Stream Aid 2020 that “will feature a host of celebrity guests, a lot of music, and a little bit of gaming to raise as much money as possible for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization.”


Supporting small businesses, Alibaba‘s Ant Financial Services Group (formerly known as Alipay) said in Retail Week that it would lend ¥20bn (£2.1bn) to Chinese companies as they seek to ride out the disruption. Preferential terms are being made available in Hubei, the region in which Wuhan lies. JD said in a blog: “Many farmers had lost their sales channels and risked their seasonable produce becoming unsellable. At the same time, with the epidemic, demand for high, fresh quality produce bought online is at an all-time high.



With quarantines fueling the at-home experiences and online purchasing, many retail brands are exploring what they can learn from brands already operating in the digital space.

With millions of Chinese confined to their homes since late January, the outbreak has given an unexpected boost to China’s live-streaming industry, already the largest in the world. Technode reports that as the country is experiencing a shift in the country’s digital economy with grocery brands, healthcare and a range of other retailers embrace live-streaming as consumer activities move from offline to online.

Amazon has been quick to respond to the trends, delaying shipments of non-essential items and dedicating additional space in its distribution centres for everyday essentials. Similarly, Amazon customers in the US have increasingly shifted to purchasing groceries and everyday essentials on Amazon and pulled back on shopping for soft lines. According to Retail Week, the slump in demand is “by far the greatest challenge we face”. A spokesperson for Peel Hunt, a UK Investment Bank specialising in retail said “ it will be particularly hard for fashion retailers, just because you’ve got a website, doesn’t mean people are going to shop. If people’s mindset is toilet roll and rice, flogging them swimwear isn’t going to happen.”

Julie Carlyle, Partner and Head of UK Retail at Ernst & Young, said “those who don’t already have online operations will not be able to set them up from scratch. Instead, there will be more partnerships between retailers and channels such as marketplaces.”


We’ve gathered these insights in the hope of inspiring you amidst this difficult time. We are seeing brands pivot, transform and innovate to cater to consumers as well as our societal needs. Our trends and insight capabilities allow us to paint a better picture of what is happening and where the potential for brands lie. If you want to find out more about what this means for your brand, don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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