Coronavirus pandemic 2020: great marketing and PR examples

If you’re in need of some inspiration for your marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic, look no further.  Here are some great examples from some of the top brands:


McDonald’s, Audi, Volkswagen and Coca-Cola

I’m not normally a fan with brands straying too far from their area of expertise but in this case, encouraging social distancing was a near-universal message repeated by governments and medical authorities around the world. Brands like Audi, Volkswagen, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola used ad space that they’d already purchased, or their own real estate, to reinforce the message.

The concept made it to the list because it’s so simple and clever.  It showed big brands can be agile too (and on occasion, are prepared to break their own brand guidelines!).

Both Audi and Coca-Cola took the opportunity to position themselves as part of our communities with messaging of ‘togetherness’. On Twitter, Audi’s image was accompanied with the copy “stay at home, keep your distance, stay healthy, support each other – we are in this together.”

McDonalds, Audi, VW and Coca Cola logos all socially distanced


Ikea took a slightly different approach – one that brought a smile to viewers’ faces.  Using its infamous instruction-book style, it encouraged people to stay at home.  The inclusion of 100 toilet rolls, touched on the hoarding and stock-piling that caused supply-chain issues in many countries.  A great example of simple, yet effective real-time marketing that attracted a lot of organic engagement.

Ikea: Stay a At Home Instructions Booklet

Guinness and Luke O’Reilly

Luke O’Reilly, a copywriter from Dublin, grabbed the limelight when Guinness gave the ok to use this ad he created. I love how it makes you look twice. I love the simplicity.

Guinness advert 'stay at home' created by Luke O'Reilly


Nike’s advert is a play on words. Turning its audience’s aspirations on their head, Nike demonstrates that, it too, shares its customers’ frustration while positioning itself among the world’s top athletes.

Nike advert 'Play inside, play for the world'

Time Out

Time out, a global media and leisure business that inspires people to explore and enjoy cities, has turned 3600 to become Time In. Staying true to its values and audience’s needs (“we’ve taken into account your thirst for culture and your love of the kind of lifestyle London can afford you”) the outlet is bringing together the best music, theatre, film, art, food and drink cities have to offer on lockdown.  That includes the best films that can be streamed online and the best take-outs. The pivot will keep traffic flowing to the website and social media channels, keeping them warm until the lockdown is over.

'Time Out' changes its name to 'Time In'

Public Relations

Among the headlines are companies and brands that are ‘doing their bit’ – from manufacturers producing ventilators to fashion brands making face masks.  Getting their names in the press for commendable reasons.

Most of these initiatives have longevity.  The brands behind them will be able to communicate regularly on their progress towards their goals and earn organic engagement social media channels.  They’ve a fine line to tread though – promote these activities too much and cynics see it as a PR exercise rather than focusing on the goodwill.


Dyson is designing and producing ventilators. Airbus, Ford, McLaren and Rolls-Royce are all part of ‘The Ventilator Challenge UK’ consortium and producing ventilators based on existing designs.  Ford is working with 3M and GE to manufacture medical equipment. Land Rover is supporting the Red Cross by lending vehicles to use for distributing supplies.


But it’s not just manufacturing sector that’s contributing to the response effort.    Fashion brands such as Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci are using their factories to produce surgical face masks.   Prada, H&M and Zara are also swapping producing from fashion to medical protection equipment. Meanwhile Christian Dior’s and Givenchy’s parent company has switched production facilities from perfumes and cosmetics to hand sanitiser.


Spotify has launched a project that, together with Help Musicians and the PRS Foundation, will fundraise for artists. Spotify is matching donations up to $10m. The company has also made a donation to WHO.

Google has launched an education site, donated $25 ad credits to WHO and other government agencies and given G Suite users access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities.

WhatsApp has launched the Coronavirus Hub enabling users to fact-check information.


John Lewis Partnership has donated items to the NHS, including pillows, phone chargers, eye masks and hand cream. It’s also launched a £1m community support fund to help local communities and is donating a further £75,000 to charities such as Age UK, FareShare and The Trussell Trust,

Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have introduced NHS hours.

Food and Beverage

BrewDog is using it’s distillery to make hand sanitiser and giving the newly named, BrewGel, away for free to those that need it.

Being sensitive to the mood of your audience is critical in a crisis – those that are gaining positive press are reading the mood well. They are using existing resources (whether that’s product, production facilities or knowledge) to contribute to the global effort, while staying true to their brand values, expertise and knowledge base.

Social media

Other brands are keeping their names in their customer’s minds through more organic content.


Oasis, for example, are running a photo competition encouraging followers on Instagram to post pictures of pets, tagging the company. The author of Oasis’ favourite pic win a piece from the companies new ‘just landed’ collection. Pets are well-known to be good for engagement. Tying ‘fluffy’ pictures and the warm emotions to your brand is a smart move.  And there is nothing a pet owner likes more than sharing pictures of their beloved companion.

The National Theatre

The National Theatre is streaming some of its archive on YouTube every Thursday at 7pm on it’s channel National Theatre at Home. The Globe is streaming a Shakespeare plays free every fortnight. While neither will earn any revenue for these initiatives, both will keep their brands in their existing customer’s minds when they otherwise might be forgotten. They are also likely to attract a new audience – the content being free – many potential customers that wouldn’t pay to go to a theatre may well tune-in and get a flavour for the stage…which in the long term could convert to sales.

The Getty Museum

The Getty Museum has encouraged it’s followers to choose their favourite painting and recreate it at home. With 6.8k retweets, 16.5k likes, nearly 1.5k entries plus various 3rd parties picking up on the Getty Museum has certainly raised it’s profile, showcased the art it has and given it’s audience a reason to smile.


Modsy – e-interior design service is among the many companies offering backgrounds for zoom calls. It’s a perfect fit, showcasing their service to an entirely new audience. The company has cleverly picked out the characters from long-living TV shows such as Friends and Sex in the City (gives a bit of an insight into their target audience age group!). This is what Modsy thinks Rachel Green’s apartment would look like now:

Rachel Green's apartment by Modsy

Joe Wicks

Joe Wicks’ has done a tremendous job of broadening his audience.  Through his free PE lessons for children Joe has successfully developed a new generation of habitual viewers.  The parents of those participating children have also been exposed to his brand and, in many cases, associate it with positive emotions (even if it’s a little peace and quiet inspire a new generation of engaged followers rather than the rush of endorphins associated with exercise). When parents themselves are looking for some online fitness to do in the near future, chances are the name they will remember and try is Joe Wicks!

All these examples are stay true to their brand values and have found a way to keep their names fresh in the mind of their audience.  They’ve found a way to meet the needs and wants of potential customers while being sensitive to current situation.