By Alishia Chitolie

A reigning theme of COVID-19 has been Community. From the weekly neighbourhood claps for the NHS, to colourful rainbow pictures in windows, there’s been a spirit of optimism and togetherness throughout. As a powerful emotion to harness, clever brands were quick to play their part in this, looking for ways to unite people and help to keep this spirit alive during lockdown.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many brands pivoted business models to create hand sanitisers – one of those, was an independent British beauty brand, Pai Skincare. Founder Sarah, swiftly pulled all her resource into making hand sanitisers (a first for the team) which were then distributed for free to local hospitals, nurseries and shelters in her community. As the UK went into lockdown, Sarah told the story of creating and distributing ‘Action Spirit’ via Instagram videos, sharing the photos and messages of thanks from people on the frontline. It’s this personal storytelling and authenticity that makes the brand’s story all the more meaningful.

Once ‘Action Spirit’ became a social enterprise, with a ‘buy-one-we’ll-donate-one-for-free’ mechanic, it became not just about giving to the community but repaying the goodwill shown by an independent business, and supporting them too.

Later, Brixton Brewery, rose to the challenge as the nation grappled with shortages of baking supplies. With flour and yeast missing from shop shelves, Brixton Brewery saw an opportunity to connect with its neighbours and do a good deed, by supplying budding-bakers with yeast from its surplus supplies. The initiative not only spread cheer to its community but raised money for the Norwood and Brixton Food Bank, providing a worthwhile and rewarding give back opportunity for locals. Brixton Brewery was founded based on a love for its locale, so a simple gesture like this reminded its audience that the brand is true to its values, building love in the community – and beyond.

Finally, Marks & Spencer, long associated with its charity partner Great Ormond Street took its donations to the next level in an open-letter, listing several initiatives to aid hospitals, staff and patients up and down the country. Not only did Marks & Spencer donate thousands of t-shirts for the NHS Nightingale frontline team’s uniform, but it also sourced, packed and delivered clothing care packs for discharged patients to help provide them “with comfort and dignity”. Many brands have looked to celebrate key workers or reunite us with a sense of normality, but few have considered those suffering from COVID-19 themselves, so this stood out as a poignant gesture.

At Stir, we like to remind clients of Maya Angelou’s quote; “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. When people are at their most vulnerable, a kind or thoughtful gesture goes a long way in helping them feel good again. This is not just true of Marks and Spencer, but all the examples shown here.

The media has rewarded brands efforts with column inches, sharing feel-good stories and championing charity efforts amidst the grim COVID-19 coverage worldwide. But more than just coverage, it’s offered brands a platform to show their true colours in times of adversity; a chance to put real action behind its beliefs and principles, which will prove much more valuable in capturing the attention of consumers, and building brand loyalty and trust. Feelings that are sure to be remembered, as we come out the other side of COVID-19.