4 Brands That Nailed Their Crisis Communications During the Pandemic

4 Brands That Nailed Their Crisis Communications During the Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic has so clearly demonstrated, every organization—no matter its size or industry—is vulnerable to the ever-looming threat of a crisis. The way your company responds to that crisis can either make or break your organization over the long run.

Although there are many crises that can strike, marketing your business during a global pandemic can be especially tricky. It is a fine balance to promote the value of your brand’s products and services, while also being sensitive to the situation at hand. Businesses that have a crisis communications plan in place will be better equipped to control their brand messaging and minimize the risk of damage to their reputation and bottom line.

Throughout 2020, the business world experienced significant disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remarkably, some brands emerged from this crisis even stronger by successfully leveraging crisis communications as a key part of their marketing strategies.

Below are four examples of brands that nailed their marketing campaigns during the pandemic:

1. West Elm’s Free Video Conference Backgrounds

In the midst of the pandemic outbreak, global design and lifestyle company West Elm launched free video conference backgrounds for consumers looking to spice up their video calls. With the widespread prevalence of virtual meetings and remote work over the past year, many people were challenged to conduct business from their dining room tables, bedrooms or makeshift home offices. Realizing this consumer need for professional and attractive video backgrounds, West Elm created a collection of real-life images that feature the company’s modern furniture and home décor.

Why It Was Successful:

West Elm took a step back to consider the challenges real people faced in the wake of the pandemic. It then provided a free and simple solution that was relevant to the company in order to help people stay connected. This indirect form of brand messaging has positively resonated with consumers and enhanced West Elm’s brand reputation.

2. Jack Daniel’s User-Generated Content Campaign

When the news of the pandemic hit home, Tennessee whiskey distillery Jack Daniel’s kicked off a user-generated content campaign using the simple caption, “With Love, Jack.” The campaign featured a collection of heartfelt home videos submitted by real people while stay-at-home orders were in place.

In addition to this YouTube video, Jack Daniel’s released another video on social media that provided a behind-the-scenes look at the distillery’s efforts to change over its whiskey production to hand sanitizer for frontline workers to help supplement supply shortages during the initial COVID-19 outbreak.

Why It Was Successful:

A user-generated content campaign is a simple and powerful way to connect with your audience. It tells them you’re listening to what they’re saying—and that you care. Marketing a non-essential product during a global pandemic is certainly not the way to go and can ultimately hurt a brand’s reputation.

Instead, marketing efforts should focus on fostering relationships with your target audience in a way that humanizes your brand and build connections. Jack Daniel’s campaign accomplished both of these challenges. The company even went above and beyond to help the community by using its own products and resources to produce an essential solution in high demand.

3. Carboline’s Free Coatings Educational Webinar Series

In a short period of time, the global COVID-19 pandemic completely transformed how businesses operate, the way schools taught and how people navigated through everyday life. Capitalizing on the extra time many people gained as a result of widespread stay-at-home orders, Carboline leveraged its industry-leading expertise in performance coatings, linings and fireproofing to offer continued educational opportunities for its customers and employees. The company created an online platform for its Corrosion School through a series of free coatings webinars that covered topics ranging from generic coatings types and steel surface preparation, to weathering finishes and common coating issues .

Why It Was Successful:

Pivoting in a time of great uncertainty and change, Carboline found a new way to reach and stay connected with its customers and employees. By providing free educational resources, the company successfully addressed the needs of its audience in a way that was convenient and added value. This was demonstrated by the fact that Carboline’s first webinar series reached the maximum capacity of 500 participants soon after its launch.

4. Guinness’ St. Patrick’s Day Video Marketing Campaign

St. Patrick’s Day is undoubtedly the biggest event of the year for Guinness, Ireland’s beloved iconic craft beer. When its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were cancelled across the globe in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the brewery released a heartfelt YouTube video and various social media promotions focused not on promoting its product, but instead on communicating the importance of celebrating safely and sticking together in spirit. In addition, the video included a monetary commitment by the company to give back to its community.

Why It Was Successful:

When the entire world is hit with a wave of shock and fear, people need to know they’re not alone. Through its video marketing campaign, Guinness found a way to genuinely reassure its customers that the situation would eventually pass and, when it did, their favorite craft beer would still be there. Instead of leveraging marketing that leans into people’s fears or completely ignores the situation, Guinness utilized brand messaging that boosted morale and demonstrated solidarity.


Editor’s Note: The West Elm, Jack Daniel’s and Guinness examples were originally published in CoFoundersTown.com.

Download our FREE Crisis Communications Guide to gain the tools and best practices you need to respond to any crisis.

Ready to Develop a Crisis Communications Plan For Your Organization?

About The Author

As content manager at Roopco, Katie leverages the art of storytelling to create an engaging, on-brand content strategy for our diverse range of B2B, professional services, corporate and non-profit clients. She has a decade of experience in content writing and editing, content marketing, PR, brand strategy and project management.