PRNEWS GRADES: Brand Responses to Coronavirus Week of March 29

kid failing test

[Editor's Note: The PRNEWS staff encounters many examples of brand communications. We decided to compile a weekly assessment each Friday of some of the best and not-so-great examples. Our intent is to provide a learning experience on what works or doesn't.]

Nicole Schuman, reporter/content manager

Everlane Facebook Ads: F

We get that everyone is cooped up and that a little online shopping might brighten up the right audience. However, in this Facebook ad, the Everlane clothing company really misses the mark. The text of “This week only—Enjoy 25% off Sitewide. We’ve never done it before. But there are a lot of firsts right now,” is completely tone deaf. Yeah, there are a lot of scary, horrible, awful firsts going on with this uncharted, barely known disease. Also, not to mention that 25% is not really a big sale. A first that Everlane will NEVER get? Us as a customer.

Sophie Maerowitz, senior content manager

Tesla’s False Ventilator Promise: D 

Elon Musk’s off-the-cuff Twitter comments have come back to bite him before, not that the Tesla and SpaceX CEO seems to care (remember that pesky $20M SEC settlement?). In this case, Musk—perhaps in penance for downplaying the virus for weeks—promised Tesla would join the ventilator procurement process, only to mislead government entities by confusing BiPAP machines with ventilators (BiPAPs are not ventilators, and could increase the spread of COVID, per global medical experts). Musk loves nothing more than playing maverick, but if Tesla had donated resources in consultation with a credible health care organization, the company could have used its resources wisely and avoided another round of public ridicule.

Mark Renfree, event content manager

HarperCollins & LeVar Burton Reads: B+

The “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Roots” star has a long history promoting literacy, going back to his more than 20 years hosting the popular PBS show “Reading Rainbow” that premiered in 1983. Burton never stopped his efforts to foster a love for reading, most recently with his podcast, “LeVar Burton Reads.” To bring reading into as many homes as possible while much of the world is homebound in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Burton will be live streaming his show on Twitter three times a week. But when he expressed concern about finding titles in the public domain, author Neil Gaiman and publisher HarperStacks, HarperCollins’s School library branch, gave blanket permission to Burton, and any librarian or educator, to use their titles for online readings (with a few guidelines).

Seth Arenstein, editor

Grubhub's Lack of Consistency: F

The American public is getting a crash-course in a basic principle of PR: it's vital to communicate consistently during a crisis. By day, the homebound devour news and social media items about shortages of PPE, the lack of tests, mounting deaths, record layoffs and overworked health care providers. In the evening, White House briefings offer an escape. There are almost no shortages. Everyone on the White House virus team is doing "a fantastic job," the president says repeatedly. When Mr. Trump yields the podium, team members begin their remarks lauding "the president's leadership" during this crisis. Any problems, blame the states and their governors.

Similarly, some brands offer mixed messages. In an interview, Grubhub founder Matt Maloney told “MarketWatch” in late March that restaurants could not survive on takeout alone. Their chances for survival are lessened when Grubhub gets vulnerable restaurants to agree to predatory deals so egregious the online service rescinded the arrangement. 

Not long after Maloney's said takeout won't save restaurant, Grubhub began running a  TV ad to do the right thing, help restaurants through takeout orders, via Grubhub, naturally. It wasn’t exactly a plug for business. Instead, the sentimental message concludes, “Together, we can help save the restaurants we love.” Did anyone tell Mr. Maloney?

Together, we can save the restaurants we love.

With dine-in down as much as 75%, restaurants are relying on delivery and pickup to keep the lights on.

Posted by Grubhub on Friday, March 20, 2020