We’re entering week four of isolation…or is it week five? Time is presenting unusual symptoms at the moment. It may have completely lost its sense of self.

People and brands are also demonstrating a wide range of responses to COVID 19. Toilet paper reached new heights in popularity, baking bread overtook selfies on Instagram and people around the world have been singing and clapping in (close proximity to) the streets.

Brands have been rushing to understand what their customers expect from them now and how best to respond to the crisis, taking into account the safety of their staff and those around them.

One thing that is clear from an advertising perspective. This is not a time for showboating or taking advantage of the situation.

According to the Kantar COVID Barometer (14 – 23 March 2020), 75% of people feel brands should NOT exploit the situation to promote their brand. Exactly what the other 25% think is possibly the more interesting side of that statistic. But, in the interest of progressing beyond this point, let’s just assume that the 25% work in finance or advertising.

Advertising agencies need not be quite so worried. Only 8% of people surveyed in the Barometer believe that companies should stop advertising at this time.

Sure, you might not want to push cheap flights to Ibiza right now, but brands in all categories can help consumers through this difficult time, and show how much they really care.

People still want to hear what businesses are doing to adjust to the crisis and what products or services they’re offering. They’re also looking for some surety about the future, ways to cope with the changes, some sense of normality, signs of humanity and a fairly decent serving of entertainment.

More than ever, brands need to take their cues from their customers, listening to them and identifying what’s important to them. Plenty of brands are doing just that. There are companies enabling future planning, helping consumers be resourceful, creating moments of joy, or giving away the resources they can no longer use themselves to help those taking on COVID 19.

Here are a few examples of some of our favourite responses.

Tesco little helps

Tesco were very quick to show what they’re doing to keep shoppers safe in-store. The ‘Little Helps’ features real staff members as they explain the supermarket’s public-health measures, including separate entry and exit points, social-distancing advice, one-way aisles and protective screens at tills.

Secret Cinema Launches Secret Sofa

Secret Cinema made a quick pivot to bring ‘congregational storytelling’ into the digital world. It started with an 80’s themed Zoom party (selling over 1,00 tickets at £5 each to raise money for the Trussell Trust). Now, in partnership with Haagen-Dazs, it’s running ‘Secret Sofa’. It’ll take place at 7:30 pm every Friday night (UK time) and will feature bespoke content, character narratives and interactive elements inspired by the evening’s film.

Allbirds gives shoes to NHS feet

Getting in early on the NHS appreciation front, Sustainable footwear brand Allbirds gave 2,000 free pair of shoes to NHS staff. It’s “A small way of saying thank you and providing comfort for the long hours they’re putting in to keep us safe and healthy.” Sandeep Verma, MD of Europe,  told TheIndustry.fashion

ITV Clap for our carers

During ‘Claps for Carers’ on 16 April ITV halted live TV to deliver a message back to the public from people on the frontlines. In a short video, NHS workers thank the public for staying indoors and for showing their support. They also remind them to look after their mental wellbeing by staying in touch whilst staying away from each other.

COKE gives its voice to experts

Coke has turned over its Twitter to health experts. They’re using their reach to share helpful information from credible sources.

AirBnB Virtual Experiences

AirBnB have taken their ‘Experiences’ online, providing a new way for people to connect, travel (without travelling) and earn income during the COVID-19 crisis. If you’ve just finished watching Chernobyl on Netflix, follow it up with a virtual tour and ‘Meet the Dogs of Chernobyl’. If that’s not your thing, you can meditate with a Buddhist monk, cook with a Moroccan family, take a HITT class with an Olympic rower or pick something else from an array of experiences.

Aviation Gin Tips Bartenders

Aviation Gin is donating 30% of proceeds from online sales as a ‘Tip’ to bartenders’ who, according to owner Ryan Reynolds ‘REALLY miss you’. Bar staff are a definite casualty of social distancing and it’s great to see Aviation Gin engaging fans to help people who have lose their bar jobs.

ASOS supports Frontline Heroes

Buy a hero T-shirt or Hoody from ASOS and 100% of the proceeds go to UK hospitals, Barnsley Hospital Charity and UCLH in London (hospitals that are local-to-ASOS). ASOS are also donating hand creams and comfy post-shift clothing to the NHS staff at these hospitals and all NHS workers can get a 20% discount through the Blue Light Card scheme.

United Airlines donates UK Billboards to UNICEF

No longer able to run its spring campaign, United Airlines gifted 214 out-of-home advertising placements to UNICEF. The charity is working to provide education about the coronavirus and protect children around the world.

Lighthaus Café turns shop and gives discount to NHS

In a sign of local bias, Lighthaus Café definitely deserves a place on this list. No longer able to fill its tables at their café they quickly transformed themselves into a store and now sell the top-quality produce they’d normally use in the kitchen. They’ve also shown their generous side by giving a 10% discount to NHS workers on all shop items.

There is plenty about our current situation that is rather depressing. The English summer may have happened while we’re locked inside and unsolicited emails with guides to working from home show no signs of abating.

But there is something amazing about what humans can do in times of duress and it’s great to see praise being heaped on those we normally take for granted. May the heroes keep their place even after the crisis has been averted. Stay strong. Stay safe. Wash your hands after reading this.