Freebies for Front-Line Workers

Coronavirus Commercials

If you’ve watched any live TV in the past couple of weeks, you know that most companies have completely shifted to marketing based completely around the coronavirus, and their response to it.  Some of these efforts resonate better than others.

In our opinion, the content that’s doing best right now is the content that (surprise, surprise) has some real meaning behind it.  There’s a fine line between showing the world that you’re sympathetic to what’s going on, and coming across as opportunistic.

Ultimately the judgment is going to be in the eye of the beholder.  Some people are not going to want to hear from brands at all about this crisis, and others will be more receptive to companies and people who seems to be coming at this from a standpoint of compassion, not just their bottom-line.

Thank You Meals

The biggest fast food chain of them all is trying to lead the way in the “actually doing something category,” as they’ve been running a campaign aimed at highlighting front-line employees.  McDonald’s is giving away meals to first-responders and healthcare workers through May 5.

The marketing around this campaign is also completely focused on the people it’s designed to help.

Their “Grown Brave” ad showcases people on the front lines from their childhood at McDonald’s.  It puts the people first, and most importantly it’s a marketing campaign based around an effort that’s actually working to help the people it’s highlighting.

Discounts and Freebies Abound

The Golden Arches are far from the only ones who are working on efforts like this.  Dunkin Donuts is having a healthcare heroes day in early May, when healthcare workers will get a free coffee and a donut.  Walgreens, Costco, and other retailers that have remained open have similarly offered discounts or perks to those who still have to be going to work.

Again, as we’ve been saying for the past few months, there’s always a cynical lens through which we can view these stories right now.  But if you’re going to continue marketing, you may as well do it in a way that also helps out the people who are facing this pandemic head-on every day.

Lessons Learned

You might not be able to offer free burgers or coffees to people, but there are still some things you can take away from these large-scale efforts.

Most importantly, if there’s something your company can do to give back right now, it’s probably a good idea to do it.  First of all, it’s the right thing to do, and from a brand standpoint it likely won’t be forgotten soon by those who you help.

From a storytelling perspective, the McDonald’s campaign is a good reminder to narrow your focus.  AdAge has a round-up of ads that definitively don’t work right now – some are bad timing, and some are bad taste – which serves as a checklist of what to avoid right now.  Bottom-line: provide value, have compassion, and keep humanity in your brand and your marketing.

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