Panera Bread Approaching the Coronavirus Campaign Head-On

Making Take-Out Sandwiches Heartfelt

While lots of companies and brands are going quiet (many for very good reason) during the COVID-19 crisis, others are using it as an opportunity to try to communicate on a human level.

Panera Bread is releasing a new marketing campaign highlighting their delivery drivers in an effort to put a face to the brand as they remain open delivering food.

“From One Neighbor to Another”

The videos are all filmed by the drivers themselves, and so far are a mix of inspirational and informational messages.  The overall theme is all about neighbors supporting one another, but the videos themselves also serve as a reminder to the customer that there are real people out there delivering the food.

As we all place online orders and interact with fewer and fewer people, this campaign is working hard to try to put some human back into the brand.

Mixed Reactions

Judging by the comments (which is an admittedly horrible way to judge these things) the reaction is largely positive.  There are certainly people voicing their concern for driver’s safety.

This is clearly a valid concern, and Panera seems to know that.  The videos so far all include some description of how the drivers are practicing social distancing and leveraging contact-less delivery to stay safe, and keep customers safe.

But as with any marketing campaigns right now, this is a tight-rope walk.  Every marketer needs to be hyper-aware right now, and continue to ask themselves whether or not their campaign is important right now, and if it is how to best tell the story.

A Pivot in Business Model

Panera is also looking to a new sales tool during the pandemic – grocery delivery.  If you’ve tried to order groceries via Whole Foods delivery or Instacart, you know that there aren’t many slots available.

The grocery service includes a lot of things that you might expect to see in a Panera – fresh fruit, bread, and dairy products.  These are all things that Panera is already sourcing – and would potentially be wasting – without this service up and running.

And as you saw above, there is a built-in delivery network ready to go to get the groceries out.

Lessons Learned

So what can you take away from the Panera campaign?  As always, it’s great to showcase your people whenever you can.  There are real people working hard to deliver food to people who need it, sharing messages about social distancing and staying safe to boot.  Putting them front and center and having them speak directly to the world is a great idea.

Think about your own business.  What can you and your people offer to the world in this time?  How can you deliver value related to what you do as a brand?  Which of your people can best share this message?  What questions can you answer that a segment of the population has?

If you can highlight your people addressing some of these questions, and do it safely, you just might have a recipe to connect with your audience in a meaningful way.

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