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Innovation

How to Pivot a Brand in Response to Covid-19

March 31, 2020

7 min read

When a crisis comes, you need to think on your feet. Many business leaders are asking, is it possible to pivot a brand and start offering something useful during the coronavirus pandemic? 

We’ve already seen some wicked innovation, with brands demonstrating lightning-fast new product development (NPD). Often this has meant deploying their operations in a completely new way. 

Pivoting like this is helping companies to not only stay in business and keep their employees but also aiding recovery efforts. Below, we highlight some of the most diverse and interesting pivots since the outbreak of covid-19, providing you with inspiration for how you can pivot your business

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Huggg pivots to provide school meals

Huggg pivot

Micro-gifting app Huggg, which lets people send instant treats like a coffee or a cake, has adapted its platform to be used by schools. 

As an alternative to free school meals, headteachers and other school staff can send Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s supermarket vouchers to eligible families, ensuring no child goes unfed.

“As parents, ex-teachers, partners, brothers and sisters of teachers, the Huggg team became aware of the immediate problem of getting #FreeSchoolMeals to children following the closure of schools,” says Paul Wickers, Founder of Huggg. 

“We set to work over the last week to convert our platform for school use. We already have our first schools up and running and we’re happy to open it up to any other schools and trusts looking for a solution until there’s a central one put in place. 

“We’re waiving all platform fees, schools will simply pay for the vouchers that get used and claim it back from the DoE. We cover our admin costs only via a small margin that the supermarkets give to us.”

Pasta Evangelists pivots to produce care packages

Pasta Evangelists pivot

Along with toilet roll, pasta is one of the most in-demand items in the supermarket right now. To ensure the most vulnerable people can get their hands on some and benefit from an easy to prepare meal, Pasta Evangelists has unveiled a special care package in partnership with Age UK.

The kits, which each contain three fresh pasta recipes, can be ordered on behalf of loved ones who are unable to leave the house. At the same time, customers can support other vulnerable people via a £5 donation made to Age UK.

“In light of covid-19, we recognise it’s harder than usual to visit the elderly and other family members, friends and colleagues we care for,” says Pasta Evangelists. “Our pasta care packages are delivered to your loved one’s door and include three delicious and nutritious recipes, as well as easy-to-follow instructions to prepare each dish in under 10 minutes.”

Dogfish Head pivots to make hand sanitizer 

Dogfish Head pivot

Delaware-based craft brewery Dogfish Head, which also owns a distillery, is one of a number of alcohol manufacturers to realise it had the ability to pivot. It’s switched production from spirits to hand sanitizer – and is selling the new product to raise money for people affected by coronavirus in the local area.

“As we ramp up production, we will be providing bulk shipment of the sanitizer to the state in the weeks to come,” says founder of Dogfish Head Sam Calagione. “The sanitizer will be sold to the state of Delaware at market price, and 100% of the profits will go into a fund to support Delawareans affected by the Coronavirus.

“I never thought Dogfish Head would be in the sanitizer business. But this is a time of crisis, and necessity is the mother of invention. It is our duty to do what we can to keep as many people safe and healthy in our community.”

LEON pivots to cater to healthcare workers 

Leon pivot

The fast-food chain LEON is bringing together restaurants, food distributors and suppliers to deliver free daily hot meals to NHS critical care staff. The #FeedNHS initiative is also backed by actors Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory and Matt Lucas, who are spearheading a crowdfunding campaign to raise £1 million

They aim to get 6,000 meals a day into London hospitals for critical care staff. The initiative comes after it emerged that as much as £20m of food with a shelf-life of fewer than three months is lying in warehouses after the government ordered the closure of millions of hospitality businesses to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We have launched FeedNHS because we have been inundated with direct requests from NHS staff and from their families, asking us to feed them,” says John Vincent, the Chief Executive of LEON. “These amazing people need us. They are already going without sleep. If they also don’t have good food, they will burn out faster, function less well and become ill themselves.”

Mercedes F1 pivots to invent breathing device

Mercedes pivot

Usually focused on the race track, Mercedes’ Formula One engineers have changed direction to develop a new breathing device for coronavirus patients.

In an incredible example of how to pivot a brand, Mercedes worked with academics at University College London to produce the device in just four days. The first ‘continuous positive airway pressure’ (CPAP) device – which pushes air and oxygen into a mask to inflate a patient’s lungs – is an alternative treatment for people too frail to undergo invasive ventilation procedures.

The team deconstructed an existing CPAP machine used to treat sleep apnoea, which had fallen out of patent. They improved on the design and have the tools and equipment to construct 300 a day for the NHS.

“Given the urgent need, we are thankful that we were able to reduce a process that could take years down to a matter of days,” says Professor Tim Baker, a mechanical engineering expert at UCL

“From being given the brief, we worked all hours of the day, disassembling and analysing an off-patent device. Using computer simulations, we improved the device further to create a state-of-the-art version suited to mass production.”

Decathlon pivots to convert snorkel masks into ventilators

Decathlon pivot

Another famous brand to pivot during the coronavirus crisis is sports retailer Decathlon. It has partnered with Italian design consulting firm Isinnova to develop a 3D printed adapter to turn its full-face snorkelling mask into a non-invasive ventilator.

The product was dismantled and studied so that a new component could be used to connect the mask to a ventilator. This new part was named the ‘Charlotte valve’, and was quickly prototyped using 3D printing.

Isinnova urgently obtained a patent for the Charlotte valve in order to prevent any speculation on the price of the component. They have decided to freely share the design file, meaning anyone with a 3D printer can print it correctly. Healthcare facilities will be able to purchase the Decathlon mask and get local 3D printing facilities to produce the part.

“The patent will remain free to use because it is our intention that all hospitals in need could use it if necessary,” says Isinnova. “Our initiative is totally non-profit, we will not obtain any royalties on the idea of ​​the link, nor on the sales of Decathlon masks.”

Why pivot a brand?

As these six business pivot examples show, lateral thinking can result in innovative ideas for repurposing your company’s hardware and people. While these are primarily non-profit initiatives done for the greater good, this type of pivoting business strategy could reap more than just good karma.

Brands that step up to the plate when we need them most will be the ones we remember when the storm subsides. And the altruistic pivot approach keeps your brand name in the public consciousness at a time when normal marketing is hard. Meanwhile, you could actually be saving lives – that’s got to be a win-win. 

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How can your brand pivot to help at this time of crisis? Why not ask your consumers for ideas? Book a chat with one of our experts to discuss rapid, self-service consumer research. 

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