Heroes and Villains: Public Reaction to Brands During The Pandemic

Alex White | April 27th, 2020 | Read Time: 4 mins

During these challenging times, brand decisions are under the spotlight. Customers have made it clear that brands’ actions during the COVID-19 pandemic will have a ‘huge impact’ on how customers are going to choose to spend their money

Right now, the public are spending more time indoors, watching TV and on their devices reading news stories and trending topics. And all of this means that businesses’ responses to COVID-19 will be checked with a fine-toothed comb.

Some notable brands have earned plaudits for their reaction to the crisis, while others have come under fire. Here are some of the public’s heroes and villains of the coronavirus pandemic!

Heroes – Fantastic responses to COVID-19

Levi Strauss & Co

Levis has established itself as a forward-thinking ethical brand. It has supported environmental activism, charities and developed a sustainable production process. So it was no surprise when the brand showed their supportive side during the pandemic. 

Levis announced it would be donating $3 million and producing 10,000 face masks to aid Covid-19 relief efforts. They’ve also focused on supporting employees, community partners and supply chain workers during this difficult time. 

Verdant Spirits (and many other UK-based distilleries)

Many UK-based distilleries have redirected their resources to creating much-needed hand sanitisers. A small distillery based in Dundee called Verdant Spirits are one such example. The public have been very appreciative of the initiative taken by companies like Verdant Spirits, who despite their modest size have planned to use their facilities and resources to produce 400 litres of hand sanitiser gel to help slow down the spread of coronavirus.


Back to Scotland again! This rocket company residing in Edinburgh decided to use all of their resources to produce PPE, including face masks, and hygiene products like hand sanitizers! It’s not rocket science, but any support has been widely welcomed by the British public!


Enviroclothes is a North East company on a mission to reduce clothing waste, by purchasing unwanted items from people in the region and redistributing them to second-hand markets around the world. The UK lockdown has meant the business has closed temporarily, which has freed up its four collection vans.

Enviroclothes is offering local businesses, charities and organisations its vans and drivers to safely supply goods and drop off items in the community at no cost. Any act of generosity like this will have a meaningful impact on local communities around the UK and beyond.

Villains – Brands that have experienced backlash because of their response to COVID-19

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin founder Richard Branson, has faced a lot of criticism from his peers, politicians, celebrities and the general public for asking the UK government to bailout his British airline, Virgin Atlantic. One of the main reasons for the scrutiny is that reports suggest billionaire Branson has not paid any tax in the UK for over 14 years.

As a result of the bailout rejection by the government and also a bailout snub from 49% owner Delta, Virgin airline could go out of business. Further talks are ongoing, but the future of the company looks uncertain.


President of the mixed martial arts promotion, Dana White, has been criticised for challenging the severity of coronavirus, claiming that there’s no point in trying to slow down the spread. He made it very clear he’s not a fan of self-isolation or a national lockdown, claiming it’s like ‘trying to hide from cancer’. 

He was so determined for his business to avoid postponing upcoming events that he attempted to purchase a whole island in order to escape lockdown rules, and host UFC 249 in mid-April. This was until the whole process was stopped by ESPN, Disney and the state of California!


It’s been a bad last few weeks for airlines, who have been among the most affected industries. EasyJet began by telling staff to accept zero pay for three months while its bosses took only a 20% pay cut, but then handed over £174 million in shareholder dividends. This came under a lot of scrutiny from the public, who claimed the company were sacrificing their staff in order to protect their shareholders.

There was even more backlash when the company was only willing to offer their customers vouchers as refunds for cancelled flights. After the criticism, they made a U-turn and started to offer full refunds.


Online fashion retailer Boohoo has also come under fire for selling fashion face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. The £5 masks came emblazoned with messages such as “Eat, sleep, isolate, repeat” and “If you can read this, you are too close”.

The masks offered no protection to the virus, and The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers said “selling items that look like essential equipment is downright scandalous.” Boohoo has apologised and removed the masks from its website, insisting they were not designed for protection.

We have worked with a range of brands from various industries, ensuring they remain relevant within their industries and respond to the stressful circumstances, in a measured and positive way. If you feel like your business would benefit from some external support, don’t hesitate to start the conversation.

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