Brands With Interesting Responses to COVID-19

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. Nike
  3. Airbnb
  4. McDonald’s
  5. Disney
  6. Apple
  7. Google
  8. Amazon
  9. Taco Bell
  10. Gap Inc.
  11. Starbucks
  12. Audible
  13. Netflix
  14. Anheuser-Busch
  15. Verizon Wireless

The COVID-19 pandemic has really changed the business world. Some places were forced to board up their windows, while others like PPE manufacturers and streaming sites, saw an increase in sales and users.

So while this “new normal” continues to plague life as we know it, and since 56% of consumers are interested in how brands are handling COVID-19, it seemed like a good time to touch base with some of your favorite companies and see how they’re dealing with the crisis.

Here are the innovative and generous actions brands are taking to help out during these troublesome times.

#1: Coca-Cola


Restaurants had a hard time staying afloat during the pandemic, and since many of them pour Coke from their fountains, this has impacted the soda company just as much. According to The New York Post, sales plunged by 28% for Coca-Cola during the lockdown.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Coca-Cola from trying to lift everyone’s spirits during the pandemic.  Take for example the ad pictured here, which was posted in Times Square at the beginning of quarantine. It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, and even the Fortune 500 companies out there are struggling.

This is the only ad that Coca-Cola released during the pandemic, and they’re now halting their marketing and instead donating those funds to COVID-19 relief efforts.

#2: Nike


People can’t really go to the gym due to COVID-19, which means they had to find ways to stay active. Nike released a social media campaign to address this issue with hashtags #playinside and #playfortheworld. It’s basically a rallying cry to athletes and fitness buffs to find ways to train from the comfort of their homes.

In addition, Nike has also invested $17.5 million in creating PPE products such as face shields and respirators. They’ve even donated some of these items to healthcare facilities across the U.S.

#3: Airbnb


Traveling is nowhere near as popular as it used to be, but Airbnb is still using their time wisely by offering 100,000 places for healthcare workers and first responders to stay around the world. They’re also waiving all fees for these medical workers.

The timing for this initiative couldn’t be better. States like Indiana, Texas, California, and New York are looking for more help at understaffed hospitals. This has led respiratory therapists, nurses, doctors, and other medical workers to temporarily move to these areas.

#4: McDonald’s

McDonald’s fed hungry first responders by offering “Thank You Meals” during the first few weeks of the pandemic. After saving lives, first responders could hit the drive-thru, pick up one of these meals for free, and get a nice “thank you” note instead of a Happy Meal toy. Nearly 4 million of these “Thank You Meals” were served only six days after we all went into quarantine!

That’s not all that McDonald’s did to help out. They also donated $3.1 million in food to local communities as well as 1 million face masks to non-profits in Illinois.

#5: Disney


Disney closed its theme parks and cruises in the early days of the pandemic, but continued to pay their employees. They also gave refunds to anyone who planned on visiting during the shutdown.

Perhaps most noteworthy is Disney’s donations, which included 100,000 N95 respirators to New York, California, and Florida. They also gave away 150,000 rain ponchos that were distributed to hospitals in need around the country.

The theme parks are currently struggling, but the streaming service Disney+ is going strong with 54.5 million subscribers and a $1.54 billion return for the release of the live action Mulan.

#6: Apple


Apple is giving their entire retail staff unlimited paid sick leave. They have also helped fight the pandemic by donating 10 million face masks to healthcare facilities in the United States.

The biggest move by Apple, however, came from their partnership with another huge brand – Google. The two powerhouses are working on an app that enables contact tracing. This is basically a way for people to identify who they have been in contact with if they’ve been tested positive for COVID-19. So far 10 states are using this technology, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.

#7: Google


In addition to partnering with Apple, Google has been responding to the pandemic in their own ways. They wisely created a COVID-19 fund that allows their staff to take paid leave if they test positive for the virus. They’ve also donated $800 million to small and medium-sized businesses and healthcare organizations.

The search engine’s most notable actions are on the tech side. They’re closely monitoring content and banning ads that spread false information about coronavirus. The Google Maps app has also been updated to track new COVID cases as they come up.

#8: Amazon


Amazon is still going strong, even with the spread of the virus. In fact, they hired 100,000 more workers to meet the increased demand. They’re also giving raises to all of their staff and offering them unlimited paid sick leave. The company has, however, faced some criticism for how many of their employees are getting sick. So there is still some work to do in keeping everyone safe.

Every little penny helps, which is why Amazon has also started a $5M fund to help affected small businesses in Seattle. Jeff Bezos has an emotional attachment to the area since he started Amazon about 10 miles away in Bellevue, Washington.

Still that’s not all. At the start of the pandemic, free masks were handed out at select Whole Foods throughout the United States.

#9: Taco Bell


Fast food restaurants were hit hard due to the virus, but that didn’t stop Taco Bell from continuing to push with new ideas. In November, they hosted curbside “hiring parties” at over 400 of their restaurants. Their thought is that students would want additional work during the holidays, so they could participate in a drive-up interview without leaving their cars.

Aside from providing additional jobs, Taco Bell is changing up their drive-thru. There will now be two lanes, one for mobile pickups and one for regular drive-thru. Most noteworthy, however, is how they’re reaching out to students and organizations, providing $11 million in support through the Taco Bell Foundation.

Sales at Taco Bell may have dropped by 30%, but the brand is still reaching out to those in need.

#10: Gap Inc.


Gap Inc., which includes Old Navy and Banana Republic stores, is known for their trendy apparel, but they are now also selling face masks, gowns, and goggles for healthcare workers. This gear has been worn primarily by workers in California hospitals, but Gap Inc. is looking to expand to other areas.

Unfortunately, Gap was one of the companies hit hardest by COVID-19. They reported $1 billion in losses due to the virus. Still, the company hopes to bounce back and land on their feet. As of May 2020, they plan to reopen 800 Old Navy, Athleta, Gap, Banana Republic, and Janie and Jack stores. Old Navy in particular is also receiving a ton of positive attention on social media for their trendy, comfortable masks.

#11: Starbucks


This is a stressful time for everyone! To make it easier, Starbucks partnered with Lyra Health to increase the mental health benefits that they’re offering employees.

Since it’s no longer possible for people to sit with their coffee and laptops, Starbucks has also shifted their business model to their drive-thru and delivery services. This move makes sense since 80% of their orders are considered grab and go, and they’ve been closing many of their stores as a result of the pandemic.

#12: Audible


E-learning has been a nightmare for parents, teachers, and students. Audible’s goal is to make it easier with free audiobooks for kids and teens. This includes such content as Winnie-the-Pooh, Pride and Prejudice, and Harry Potter.

There are over 725 million downloads on Audible with no signs of slowing down. If schools continue to have students take online classes, the service could have a steady increase in new subscribers. Learners might turn to audiobooks instead of paperbacks and textbooks.

#13: Netflix


With people staying at home, Netflix is one of the rare companies that actually had an influx of users with over 30 million new subscribers. The streaming service knows we can’t all get together, which is why they released Netflix Party in 2020. This service allows you to watch movies with your family and friends from different screens.

The entertainment industry was hit hard during COVID-19. To combat this issue, Netflix started at $100 million fund to support screenwriters, directors, actors, and other entertainment workers.

#14: Anheuser-Busch


Anheuser-Busch is taking a break from brewing beer to make hand sanitizer! Thus far they’ve created more than 500,000 eight-ounce bottles for the American Red Cross.

This partnership goes even further. Anheuser-Busch works with a ton of sports stadiums and arenas all across the country. They’re working on identifying available areas and using these to set up temporary blood drive centers. The timing for this initiative couldn’t be better as the Red Cross has had 220,000 fewer donations due to the pandemic.

#15: Verizon Wireless


It’s more important now than ever before that we stay connected via technology. That’s why Verizon partnered with T-Mobile to donate nearly 40,000 phone chargers to hospitals nationwide. As a result, patients could stay connected with their loved ones.

Verizon has also offered help in many other ways. This includes: 1) a $47 million donation to COVID-19 relief and support efforts, 2) a $2.5 million donation to small businesses and non-profits, and 3) enrolling customers affected by COVID in extended payment plans.

Final Thoughts

It isn’t just the big brands that are making a difference. Many small and medium-sized businesses and non-profits have also been also contributed to COVID-19 relief efforts in meaningful ways. Every little thing we do matters in the end.

Time will tell how the business world will change due to the pandemic, but one thing’s for sure, it pays to be proactive and to start taking steps now to ensure that your company has a future.


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About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.