The global fight against Coronavirus has sparked a massive change in the way we live, and a new phrase heard everywhere – "social distancing". The now-popular phrase is commonly understood to mean staying six feet apart from others and avoiding groups and crowds in an effort to lower the risk of contracting the virus. With many resisting to follow these guidelines at first (and still), some of the biggest brand names have joined the conversation in an effort to promote this vital practice.
In Times Square, NYC, one of the most crowded places on Earth on a normal day, Coca-Cola sends a social distancing message on its iconic billboard. The billboard features the famous red and white brand but with each of its usually connected script letters spaced apart. Underneath, a message reads,"Staying apart is the best way to stay connected." Strikingly different as Coca Cola is famously known for celebrating togetherness and love in its ads. The ad was created in partnership with Argentina's branch of McCann Worldgroup, Mercado McCann, and will only run in Times Square.
In addition to this message, The Coca-Cola Foundation has made contributions to support relief efforts in China, Italy, the United States, and Canada. The foundation is reviewing additional opportunities to support other communities around the world. Foundation grants so far total $20.5 million.
The two German automotive companies, Audi being a subsidiary of VW, tweaked their logos for awareness as well. The updated Audi logo separates the four rings from each other, while the Volkswagen badge—which was recently redesigned—puts some extra space between the "V" and the "W." The automakers have so far posted animations and logo images on various global consumer and media websites, as well as on social media channels.
"At Volkswagen, we traditionally stand together in all crises and support each other. We are convinced that together we will find new ways and solutions that will enable us to overcome this crisis. Right now it is particularly important that we follow the rules of conduct and hygiene with a lot of discipline. Stay safe - keep social distance! #flattenthecurve."
In a very similar move, Audi, released this short video, in which the famous four rings are divided with some distance in between. 'Stay together/ Keep Distance,' read a catchphrase beneath the ad.
Earlier this month, Volkswagen Automotive Group suspended production at all its factories in Europe, including the plants in Setubal (Portugal), Bratislava (Slovakia), and the Lamborghini and Ducati plants in Italy, for a period of at least two weeks.
Chiquita is the latest marketer to adapt its logo in response to the pandemic, revealing the illustration of its Miss Chiquita mascot removed from their iconic blue and yellow sticker on Instagram. The post is accompanied by the caption: "I'm already home. Please do the same and protect yourself. #stayhome."
According to a Chiquita spokesperson, the effort was developed by the Chiquita digital team and Portuguese digital agency YoungNetwork Group.
While Nike hasn't yet reinvented its 'swoosh' logo, they have also appealed for fans to stay inside and self-isolate.
The ad by the sports giant reads: 'If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world'. Several of Nike's high-profile athletes including Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Cristiano Ronaldo and more have posted the message on their respective social media channels in solidarity.
While not all brands took the brave leap to make a statement, a creative director based in Slovenia, Jure Tovrljan, reimagined more of the world's most iconic logos with the same concept. Simply as an experimental project, Tovrljan redesigned 12 logos from brands like Mastercard, the NBA, Nike, and the Olympics.
Design by Jure Tovrljan
Some of his designs use a simple play on words: The U.S. Open changed to "US Closed" and LinkedIn as "LockedIn." In others, Tovrljan made changes to the visual concept rather than changes to the tagline. Like increasing the negative space between the rings in the Olympics logo to completely separate them, a fitting representation as it was recently announced that the summer games would likely be rescheduled for 2021. Tovrljan didn't expect his series to go viral, describing the redesigns as "just an idea of how logos should look like in these difficult times". But it seems he might've done something right that most brands are still trying to figure out, as many are now reaching out for his help. Check out his full series here!
According to experts in the design field, messages and slogans created to advertise for social spacing have pros and cons.
"Brands that design social distance logos have the power to reduce the severity of what we're going through. Creativity, passion and thought that goes into the desire to help, educate and participate in the physical distancing is a noteworthy remark," Douglas Sellers, executive creative director for firm Siegel+Gale, told CNN Business.
On the other end, Brian Braiker, editor-in-chief of Ad Age says, "Understanding the situation, shutting up and doing something helpful is really the only way to go here. When you see brands like McDonald's or Coca-Cola spacing out their logos in ‘solidarity,' it strikes a sour note."
It was just last week when McDonald's Brazil shared an ad in which its two famous golden arches became separated to convey the idea that we are "separated for a moment so that we can always be together" – but the internet was not impressed, including Senator Bernie Sanders, who responded to their "act of solidarity" on Twitter.
The altered logo and accompanying social media posts have since been deleted.
Braiker also adds that it's time for brands to provide a "real, meaningful service," likely referencing companies who are extending their resources to provide necessary equipment that have become extremely scarce. For example, a number of fashion labels like Louis Vuitton and Christian Siriano have stepped up to manufacture face masks in response to the shortage. Another limited resource in demand – hand sanitizer. Big name alcohol manufacturers are using their resources and facilities to make it, like the manufacturer of Fireball Whisky and a number of distilleries across the nation.
In times like these, businesses are often faced with the challenge of tackling crisis management on the spot. Advertising is a tricky game as brands have to be careful that they don't come off as tone-deaf or self serving. But overall, the more voices advocating for this extremely important practice, the better. If you don't want to listen to the CDC, how about some of your favorite brands who are telling us the same thing?
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