8 UK brand marketing strategies adapted for COVID-19



    Here are some UK brand marketing strategies that are successfully being adapted in these strange and unpredictable times.

    UK food retailers: supporting their customers

    Whilst the majority of people are being encouraged to #stayhome to help fight the spread of COVID-19, key workers, such as NHS staff and healthcare professionals, are working harder than ever. Amidst the panic buying that has taken hold of the nation, a number of UK food retail brands have implemented measures to ensure front-line workers are taken care of. 

    Waitrose, known for being a strong supporter of local charities and community groups,  highlighted the activities their different branches were doing to support NHS workers. Pride in the NHS has been a unifying factor for the UK during this crisis. By taking care of NHS staff specifically, Waitrose are able to use this good feeling to encourage positive sentiment towards the brand. Along with partners, John Lewis, they also donated money to three charities who are helping to support vulnerable people during the crisis, emphasising their continued support for the communities they serve.

    M&S have been actively responding to customer concerns and questions at this time. They have adapted their Twitter marketing campaign to offer useful and thoughtful tips to customers who might be struggling in this situation. From stressed parents who are homeschooling their kids, to people who might be suffering from anxiety and loneliness. All whilst promoting relevant products.

    Graph showing engagement with M&S on Twitter

    Interactions with M&S on Twitter saw peaks correlating with the tweets mentioned above
    (Source: Talkwalker Quick Search)

    Even in times of crisis, putting your customer at the heart of your marketing strategy is important. Using the right tone and addressing the most pressing issues of the moment is key to the success of this approach.



    Leon: putting people before profits

    Healthy fast-food chain, Leon has always had its finger on the pulse when it comes to tackling consumer concerns, from sustainable sourcing of natural ingredients, to healthy convenience foods. Like Waitrose, their approach to the crisis caused by COVID-19 has been to use their resources to help frontline workers. They created the hashtag #FeedNHS and set up a platform for people to donate, resulting in a community-driven support campaign. 

    Leon's website homepage showing #FeedNHS campaign in the header

    Partnering with actors Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory, Leon have united multiple restaurant chains, including Dishoom and Wasabi, to bring hot meals to NHS workers. As the campaign has gathered pace, various celebrities have become involved, further endorsing Leon’s brand strategy. Actor Matt Lucas has gone as far as releasing a song, “Thank you Baked Potato”. Written in aid of the cause, all proceeds will go to the #FeedNHS campaign.


    This is a great example of how putting people over profits can have a powerfully positive effect on your brand. Within three days of launching the campaign, there had already been 1.3K mentions of the hashtag, and all references had an overwhelmingly positive sentiment. As you can see below, by aligning themselves with this messaging, Leon benefits from this halo effect.

    Graphs showing mentions and sentiment towards the hashtag #FeedNHS

    Mentions and Sentiment for #FeedNHS, 25/04/20 - 01/04/20
    (Source: Talkwalker Quick Search)

    Graphs showing sentiment and potential reach for Leon with the #FeedNHS

    Sentiment and potential reach of content referencing Leon AND #FeedNHS, 25/04/20 - 01/04/20
    (Source: Talkwalker Quick Search)


    UK tea brands: same voice, different message

    Is there anything more British than popping the kettle on for a brew when something bad happens? It’s no surprise then, that UK tea brands have adapted their marketing strategies to tune into the current zeitgeist, offering familiarity and comfort to the nation. 

    With references to “home office” and “working from home” increasing dramatically in March, Yorkshire Tea sympathised with the common challenges that people face when adapting to a new work environment and schedule.

    Yorkshire Tea is famous for injecting real humanity into their social media approach. By continuing to talk in their brand voice (down-to-earth northern-ness) but covering topics that are of current social importance, Yorkshire Tea have been able to adapt their brand marketing strategy for the times.

    PG Tips addressed the situation in a different way, highlighting the need for people to come together virtually despite having to stay apart. Adapting their #CuppasTogether campaign for the current situation, PG Tips are encouraging people to connect over a cup tea in a different way. By giving people a reason to actively engage with them, they’re also raising their brand profile.



    Independent brands adapting their marketing strategies

    It’s not just large, household brands that have shown skill in adapting their marketing strategies during this crisis. There are also some great examples of small UK brands tackling their communications well. Arguably, it’s smaller brands that will need to consider their crisis management plan more carefully to lessen the impact on their businesses during this difficult time. 

    Soapsmith London, the independent luxury soap brand has pledged that, for every bar bought online, they will donate a handmade bar of soap to NHS staff. The brand continues to cleverly weave their narrative of ‘Inspired by London. Made in London’ by sharing the soaps inspired by the area of London where each NHS hospital is based.

    Not only is this an excellent way to demonstrate positive brand values of giving back to the community, but this also provides an additional reason to choose Soapsmith London - normally a luxury purchase - over other soap brands. 

    Online florist Floom has taken this opportunity to pivot their business strategy and broaden their offering by launching Floom Market. The aim of this is to help local food suppliers who have been affected by COVID-19 closures have another route to customers. They have updated their marketing strategy to offer very clear communication to customers around how they plan to adapt their delivery model. Directly addressing customers’ concerns around safety increases trust in the brand, encouraging people to continue to do business with them during this time. 



    Floom has also cleverly used customer testimonials to point out that, whilst much of the news around the world is doom and gloom, there are still events to be celebrated, such as birthdays and Mother’s Day. Key reasons to continue buying their products.

    How can you adapt your brand marketing strategy in a crisis?

    Times may be tough for many brands at the moment but business as usual is just not possible. It’s important to adapt your marketing strategy to the current situation to ensure you can weather the storm. It will end eventually. And in the meantime, there are some great examples of UK brands who are successfully adapting, to give you some ideas. Remember:

    • Develop a clear plan on how to adapt your marketing strategy for these changing times

    • Stay true to your brand but adapt your communication

    • Keep the customer at the heart of your marketing strategy. It’s an uncertain time for everyone, so addressing your customers’ concerns will keep them on board

    • Putting people above profit in a time of global crisis can have a positive impact on your brand

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