Before most businesses shut down (or were forced to close) to halt the spread of coronavirus, companies were doing everything they could to encourage people they were handling the crisis.
Over the past two weeks, your email inbox was likely flooded with messages detailing what brands were doing to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
Now that local authorities and state officials have begun to order the closure of most public spaces and banning “nonessential” gatherings and hangouts, the likelihood of receiving more COVID-19 update emails has grown exponentially as brands update customers about how they’re handling the virus.
After analyzing emails from 18 different brands on world cloud generator TagCrowd—The Apollo Theater, Asbury Park Boardwalk, Cava Group, Chipotle, Crocs, Delta, DoorDash, Expedia, Hertz, Hims, Hotels.com, Marriott, Park City Mountain/Vail Resorts, Starbucks, Sweetgreen, The Athletic, Uber and Van Heusen—we found that each of these companies’ expressions of solidarity amid cancellations or postponements had a few terms in common.
Grouping similar words (such as learn, learned and learning) and excluding “the,” “a” and “for,” we found that at least 100 terms that were used more than once among the 18 brand memos.
Some results were obvious, while others revealed discrepancies in how the virus was named (and therefore described). Companies also revealed who and what remained a priority, and how many times brands attempted to make their updates sound personal and understanding versus factual and to-the-point.
Since the new coronavirus is highly contagious, with an ability to remain viable for several days on some hospitable surfaces, customers and clients are likely concerned about the cleanliness of the plane they’re on the fence about catching, or the local eateries they want to support during these difficult times. Several of these brand emails, like those from retailers, restaurants and car rental services, emphasized the increased usage of disinfectants and robust sanitation procedures to ensure that their products and places are as clean as possible.
As a way to express unity and care, the word “community” was often used to explain how certain protocols were being implemented for the benefit of all shoppers, visitors, members and travelers, as well as the well-being of employees. “Community” was also frequently used when describing how the pandemic has impacted the various groups these brands serve, and when explaining the measures being taken to keep people healthy and safe.
Of the 18 brands we analyzed, seven directly focus on travel and transportation: Delta, Expedia, Hertz, Hotels.com, Marriott, Park City Mountain/Vail Resorts and Uber. Quarantines, travel bans and anxieties amid the outbreak have made jet-setters more inclined to practice social distancing by staying home (and employers to restrict or outright suspend all “nonessential” business travel). This has prompted certain brands to ramp up their efforts in encouraging travel by downplaying worries, while also making difficult decisions about how to keep their businesses afloat during a period when the hospitality and tourism industry is being dealt a huge financial blow.
By now most of the people you know (and likely even yourself) have been barred from coming into your offices and are working from home instead (if you have the privilege and means to do so). Similarly, many brands are sending their own office employees to work from home, and are relaying their collegial empathy via these COVID-19 update emails. At the same time, some brands are still asking their employees to come into the office if they do not feel symptoms—even though the incubation period takes an average of five days, during which you could be contagious—because they want to convey that operations are still running as normally as they can during a global health crisis.