Coronavirus and Creativity: Brands that are thinking outside the box

If this year has shown us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. The last six months can only be likened to riding a rollercoaster blind folded. But through a year of mostly lows, there have also been some things that put smiles on our faces. Brands across the globe have entertained us with a host of interesting and somewhat unusual campaigns that have uniquely demonstrated solidarity and lent a figurative hand of support to their consumers. 

In a time where we’ve seen the world slow to an almost halt, brands have had to juggle keeping relevant while also remaining sensitive and considerate of these unprecedented circumstances, putting aside their usual strategic approach and prioritising the wellbeing of their consumers. 


We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite, inspiring and even a little strange campaigns that have emerged throughout the year and helped some of the world’s biggest brands maintain a strong connection to their audience throughout a challenging time for all:

McDonalds Belgium creates a 500-piece burger puzzle

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, puzzling quickly emerged as the unofficial quarantine pastime. With restaurants across Europe closed, McDonalds Belgium piggybacked off the activity’s popularity and people’s longing for fast food by creating a 500-piece burger puzzle which they gave away via an Instagram competition. The activity gained instant social momentum with the competition’s announcement securing just shy of 4% engagement and was an ingenious opportunity for McDonalds to show a sense of support and provide a welcome entertainment outlet to consumers. 

PornHub offers free premium subscriptions to Italians in lockdown

As Italy was one of the countries hit worse by Coronavirus, Pornhub, in a display of solidarity, offered Italians a month-long free premium subscription to its service in an effort to offset feelings of irritability, anxiety and depression while also encouraging people to stay indoors. The eccentricity of the campaign sparked major global media attention with many unsure whether it was a stroke of genius or hilarity by the organisation. Nonetheless, Pornhub created an opportunity that saw their traffic and awareness jump by a whopping 57% thus demonstrating how by being agile, brands have the potential to remain relevant even when it seems they are anything but.porhub

IKEA Russia releases instructions to build furniture forts

A brand notorious for their difficult-to-construct products, IKEA decided to help brighten consumers’ time in lockdown, especially those isolating with young children, by creating and publishing instructions for furniture forts. From castles to caves and wigwams, the fort instructions aimed to provide parents with inspiration for DIY entertainment using everyday household items. The brand also encouraged consumers to share their creations using the hashtag #явдомикеикеа (loosely translates to “I’m in an IKEA house”) to which hundreds obliged. What made this campaign so effective was that IKEA played on the existing perception of the difficulty to build their furniture and ran with it. 

Mattel healthcare heroes action figures

While most kids are used to playing with dolls and the latest Marvel superhero, toy brand Mattel launched a special edition collection of hero workers during the pandemic and donated 75% of funds per sale to the #FirstRespondersFirst charity initiative which has now raised in excess of $8 million. The collection was designed to immortalise, honour and celebrate the everyday heroes who have worked tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The campaign’s underlying message is a heart-warming sentiment, inviting children to learn about the heroes who live among them while also giving parents an opportunity to give their thanks and support to the workers, ultimately creating a sense of unity in a time when the world needs it most.

Burger king social distancing crowns

As the pandemic went through its ebs and flows and countries have slowly allowed their citizens to venture outdoors, Burger King in Germany happily welcomed consumers back to the restaurants, on one condition, they have to wear a ‘social distancing crown’. A play off the brand’s tradition of handing out paper crowns with meals, the fast food giant designed the novelty crowns to help make sure customers keep six feet apart from each other, but in a fun and playful way that scored major hits with media across the globe. It was a genius initiative from Burger King as they pre-empted that consumers would be tired of the continuous reminder to abide by social distancing policies and so put an amusing spin on them that still ensured they were being responsible. 

Implications and Insights 

These campaigns each uniquely showcase the mass potential for brands to constantly retain relevance no matter the circumstances. Here are some key insights that we can learn from them:

  • You must know who you are talking to – before planning the creative idea and the key messages, it is essential to know what your audience is thinking and feeling in order to ensure your campaign will resonate with them
  • Always think outside the box – in times like this, consumers are constantly looking to be engaged, so use the opportunity to really give them something to look at or do
  • But don’t underestimate the power of simplicity – creativity doesn’t have to mean complex execution; these campaigns were able to achieve widespread resonance without any major events or activations but merely relied on effective communication

We have been involved in developing campaigns during the Coronavirus period and have experience in enabling brands to maintain and secure resonance and engagement with their audience. If you would like assistance in planning and executing a campaign during these unusual times, please get in touch!