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How 3 Big-Name Brands Thrived During the COVID-19 Crisis – and What You Can Learn from Them

You don’t need us to tell you that 2020 hasn’t exactly been the best year for business, in almost any industry.

While it seems like things are slowly getting back on track, most industries still aren’t completely there yet. As of September, many – if not most – companies are operating at about 80% capacity across the board.

Obviously, this hasn’t been good for business: As Statista reports, a global loss of over $75 billion is, at this point, a best-case scenario for the economy.


A number of companies (both large and small) have managed not only to weather the storm, but to actually thrive throughout the crisis. Here, we’ll take a look at how three popular – and now ultra-relevant – brands quickly adjusted their approaches during the global shutdown in order to stave off catastrophe.

Let’s dive in.

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Impossible Foods Modifies Its Supply Chain, Adds Extra Value

For the average consumer, the meat shortage that took hold during the early stages of the shutdown was perhaps one of the most notable.

Though the crisis wasn’t near as bad as it could have been, early signs pointed to major catastrophe for meat and meat-packaging companies throughout the country. And, of course, there was no telling exactly what would happen back then; only hindsight is 20-20, after all.

At the time, a perfect storm was brewing that had the industry scrambling. Factories and packaging plants were shutting down indefinitely – as were delivery routes throughout the supply chain. This led to stockouts in grocery stores across the country, as panic-buying swept through the nation.

At the same time, many consumers were opting to forego meat altogether – choosing instead to give The Impossible Burger a spot on their dinner plate.

Of course, they didn’t just make this shift unprompted. Rather, it was Impossible’s ability to pivot that made it all…well…possible.

The key shift Impossible made was moving its product availability from restaurants to grocery stores. In just a few short months, Impossible Foods’ retail footprint increased from 150 stores to over 5,000. The move was so successful that IF projects a fifty-fold increase in its retail footprint by the end of 2020.

(And, when restaurants are able to ramp things back up, Impossible will likely be able to ramp up this footprint, as well.)

Impossible also managed to create a new, unbreakable supply chain via its recent direct-to-consumer efforts, as well. Though the company has spent zero dollars on advertising its DTV offering, the initiative boasts an astounding 90% retention rate.

The team partnered with two other food-related brands – Home Chef and Imperfect Foods – to expand their reach even further. Here, Impossible’s meats are packaged alongside complementary food items, allowing the recipient to make an entire meal out of the product.

On this same note of complementary value, Impossible also created a branded cookbook during the shutdown. In doing so, they not only add value to their product, but also create an additional flow of income for the company.

Overall, Impossible has certainly made the best of a bad situation throughout the coronavirus crisis. In fact, the shutdown may have somewhat forced the team’s hand, and led them to make moves they may not have made otherwise.

Impossible Foods’ President, Dennis Woodside, makes the company’s ultimate intentions clear during the early stages of the shutdown:

“Impossible Burger has always been delicious and nutritious – and this summer, we’re making sure it’s ubiquitous, too.”

With a clear plan for spreading brand awareness and keeping its supply chain intact, Impossible Burgers seems to have carved out a path for itself during what are still pretty uncertain times.

Steak-umm Gets (Surprisingly) Real with Its Audience

Speaking of “uncertain times”, there was no shortage of brands using that exact phrase in an effort to compassion and camaraderie with its audience base.

Needless to say, consumers were pretty quick to pick up on the downright pandering nature of most of these marketing campaigns. Without going too into it (since you know exactly what we’re talking about), way too many brands made their “We’re here for you” statement, only to turn around and go right back to their normal marketing routines a week later.

Steak-umm was not one of those brands.

In fact, Steak-umm is still going hard on its promise back in April to spread awareness, information, and overall positivity to its social media audience.

Sure, they used the same, tired phrase all brands were using back in April – but they didn’t stop there.

Instead, Steak-umm’s Twitter channel has, to some extent, become a go-to resource for:

  • Scientific information regarding COVID-19
  • Messages relating to health & safety
  • Critical thought and discovery

…not exactly what you’d expect from a frozen food company, is it?

And, to be sure, the ongoing campaign has worked like gangbusters for Steak-umm in terms of:

  • Creating brand awareness and engagement
  • Generating praise for their honest, authentic messaging
  • Increasing purchasing intent among their target audience

Really, the “out-of-left-field” nature of Steak-umm’s efforts is what made their efforts so successful.

It’s the expectancy violation theory in action: By delivering pleasantly surprising messaging to its audience, Steak-umm’s perceived value essentially skyrocketed in the eyes of its customers.

Take a look at some of the praise and engagement the brand has generated in the past six months:



This isn’t National Public Radio, or a non-profit organization operating in the healthcare sector.

It’s Steak-umm – just a frozen food company.

Or, at least, it was just a frozen food company.

Through their dedication to the health, safety, and well-being of its audience and global community, Steak-umm has solidified itself as an authentic group of people who truly care about the world around them – that also happens to sell frozen steaks.

To be sure, the swift transformation Steak-umm has undergone will absolutely be enough to get the ethically-conscious consumer onboard with their brand – as a customer, an evangelist…or both.

Cadillac Goes Hyper-Agile, Meets the Customer Where They’re At

Back in April of this year, the Detroit Free Press speculated that the pandemic would all but derail Cadillac’s plans for a 2020 comeback.

And, well…it certainly did: The automotive giant reported a 34.7% decrease in overall sales throughout Q1 2020, with some now-discontinued models showing a decrease in sales of over 90%.

This, of course, was to be expected once the global shutdown took hold. Of the many priorities that consumers had during such an economically-uncertain time, buying a new car wasn’t exactly at the top of the list.

(On top of that, most people just didn’t have anywhere to go during the shutdown, anyway.)

Basically, product sales were out of the question for Cadillac.

That being the case, the team instead shifted toward “redefining Cadillac’s reputation and repositioning it for the future”.

Cadillac’s first order of business was to get hyper-agile in their messaging throughout the early stages of the shutdown.

This meant:

  • Pulling any previously scheduled marketing/advertising campaigns
  • Developing authentic, empathetic, personable messaging within its campaigns
  • Creating a shorter, more agile campaign rotation to keep up with day-to-day changes

As Cadillac’s CMO, Melissa Grady, explains:

“We changed our advertising about every two weeks going on through the pandemic. Collectively as humans going through this whole thing … we needed very different things in week four (than we did in) week one.”

The creation of more short-lived campaigns allowed Cadillac to gradually refine its messaging on a bi-weekly basis. This, in turn, showed consumers that Cadillac, as a team, was with them every step of the way (and, conversely, that they aren’t stepping in with a new campaign every once in a while just to stay relevant.)

Cadillac also made a number of changes to directly impact the individual consumer’s branded experience throughout the shutdown.

Though developed before the pandemic, Cadillac’s discount programs for first responders, members of the military, educators, and more took center stage during the shutdown.

From there, the team developed a number of promotions, services, and experiences to better serve its community throughout the pandemic.

A few key examples:

  • Extending discounts and personalized financing options to emergency personnel
  • Ramping up its digital showroom experience to keep consumers engaged
  • Creating its Shop, Click, and Drive initiative, allowing consumers to finalize automobile purchases from their home devices

Currently, Cadillac is looking forward to its next big campaign, dubbed “Never Stop Arriving”.

More than a marketing campaign, the team is adopting the statement as a mantra for future customer-facing initiatives. Though the pandemic has made it blatantly obvious that change is the only constant, this is always the case – whether or not a global emergency is taking place.

To that end, Cadillac understands the importance of never resting on their laurels, and instead to always be looking for new and exciting ways to deliver value to their audience.

The takeaway:

No matter what industry you operate in, or how successful your company has been in the past, there’s always more to be done in the future – and what that “something” is may not always be so obvious.

No matter how well things may be going for your business today, you need to have a plan in place for how to succeed tomorrow. Without this critical piece of the puzzle in place, it’s only a matter of time before your once-loyal customers move on to greener pastures.

Wrapping Up

The biggest lesson the coronavirus shutdown has taught the business world is that nothing is guaranteed, and that anything is possible.

But, it’s also taught us that being prepared for the unknown – or, at least, knowing that “the unknown” isn’t “the impossible” – is what keeps businesses afloat during times of crisis. Though most businesses have plans in place for dealing with known emergencies, it’s those who best navigate the unknown who will continue to come out unscathed.

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