What small businesses can learn from big brand response to COVID-19

If your small business struggled with knowing how to adjust or respond to the challenges of COVID-19, you weren’t alone. Knowing how to pivot your business, communicate with customers, and keep promoting your brand during a national crisis is challenging and complicated. It’s so difficult that even big brands get it wrong. 

The big brand response to COVID-19 had a few misses that fell flat and were out-of-touch with what really mattered and what customers really needed. But, there were some brands that got it right. 

Let’s look at a few examples of brands who succeeded at marketing during COVID-19, and see what lessons they can teach us for the future. 

1. Create exceptional online customer experiences. 

Even brick-and-mortar small businesses that typically sell their products in a store can pivot to create online experiences that connect customers with their offerings. 

Typically known for products that you find in vending machines and convenience stores, Frito-Lay launched, an ecommerce site where customers can create snack packs and have products delivered right to their door. 

2. Provide online resources that engage digital audiences.

Every brand can find a way to create online content that draws attention to their website and engages their audience. 

Knowing that many kids were at home during COVID-19 (and that parents didn’t know what to do with them), STEM crate company, Kiwi Co launched an online resource hub with activities and DIY projects to keep families entertained.  

Related: How entrepreneurs are shifting to online classes during COVID-19

3. Keep communicating with customers.  

Even in difficult times, it’s important to keep lines of communication open between your brand and your customers. Don’t let them think that you disappeared or bowed out. 

To keep their customers informed, Starbucks dedicated a page on their website to sharing regular updates about what they were doing to protect employees and customers, give back, and adjust their store hours during the pandemic. 

Related: How to get the word out that your small business is open again

4. Always update your messaging for cultural relevance. 

When creating messaging for your brand, always consider significant cultural movements, conversations, and events. Don’t keep your content as “business as usual” while major events are unfolding. 

KFC was ready to roll out a new “Fingerlickin’ Good” ad campaign that showed customers sitting in public places sucking on their fingers. Once COVID-19 hit, they halted the campaign and moved to messaging more aligned with habits that prevent the spread of the virus.

Related: How to use social media to stay in touch when your doors are closed 

5. Show your brand’s commitment to community. 

Brands should support the communities that support them. And, they should find opportunities to give back and provide resources to communities and customers in need.

Grocery store chain Publix was profiting from COVID-19 as grocery store sales skyrocketed. So, they quickly turned around to use those funds to help their community and made two $1 million donations to Feeding America. 

Go beyond the big brand response to COVID-19.

There were a lot of lessons to be learned during COVID-19, and there are still many challenges to face. Hopefully, these five examples can offer some ideas for how you can launch new marketing initiatives to support your brand during COVID-19 business disruption. 

For even more resources and to help you get your small business these tough times, please visit