Six months into business unusual, we’re seeing one trend that we believe has the potential to help companies not just outlast this virus, but push their industries forward. Brands have taken today’s challenges head-on, nimbly pivoting and responding to our new realities – both the need to stay at home and to respond to the injustices in our society. Many of these brands have put a clear stake in the ground around social responsibility, acting on their values in a more meaningful way and/or finding fresh opportunities to connect with their communities. We’ve rounded up six brands from various industries which have demonstrated this kind of flexibility and responsiveness, and have inspired us along the way.
Kith: Cult Favorite Retailer Gets Political
Graphic by Kith
Since their launch in 2011, hypebeast retailer KITH has continuously broken the mold of what a conventional retail brand looks and feels like—from their distinct store designs to the ever-evolving retail experiences. On August 28th, KITH kindled our civic pride with an announcement to repurpose their flagship stores as voter registration hubs for the day. With a commitment to instrumenting long-term change, they have since included a virtual voter registration system on their website. Bonus shout-out: The MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL also recently announced that their stadiums and arenas would become Election Super Centers. We’re inspired to see the sports industry get in the voting game too.
Camp: Bringing Play Into Your Home & Neighborhood
Graphic by Camp
Born in 2019, Camp quickly made waves by opening 5 stores in one year. This magical (physical) world of play offered rotating experiences for kids and families, but with COVID-19’s mandatory store closures they had to adjust. Camp didn’t waste any time launching new remote programs, from hosting free virtual birthday parties and developing a TV series sponsored by Apple+, to creating an app in partnership with Walmart. Beyond their roster of virtual offerings, they also recently launched Camp Trucks, which pop up across the country to bring enchanting play kits and educational activities to kids, IRL. Camp’s pivot and expansion has redefined our traditional view of the beloved summer camp concept, keeping kids connected and playing, no matter the physical barriers.
Junzi Kitchen: Using Meals as a Vehicle for Community
Photo by Jenny Huang for the New York Times
Junzi Kitchen is a fast-casual restaurant chain in New York making “nourishing everyday Chinese food accessible to the many.” While most restaurants have had to pivot in some form during this time, Junzi Kitchen’s inspiring initiatives truly reflect their namesake (in Chinese philosophy, a junzi 君子 is a person with integrity). Their Share a Meal program has provided over 5000 meals to frontline healthcare workers, and their Distance Dining series offers a three-course meal delivered contact-free, paired with an Instagram Live session with the chefs. Celebrating “how Chinese food connects the world,” the series has been a source of community and collective learning, and has spurred culinary collaborations and conversations with other restaurants, including Kopitiam and Adda Indian Canteen.
Alamo: Bringing the Theater Experience Home
Graphic from The Verge
Like many other industries, the movie theater business came to a screeching halt at the onset of the pandemic. However, independent cinema chain Alamo Drafthouse quickly developed branded experiences for the home: for the Alamo diner, Alamo Curbside offers curbside pickup of some of their most popular menu items; and for the Alamo cinephile, their signature “Terror Tuesday” and “Weird Wednesday” series became online screenings featuring their classic pre-show content, introductions, and discussions. And finally, for those that look to Alamo for the very best in film picks, they launched Alamo on Demand, with a library of films (for on-demand rent or purchase) completely curated by Alamo Drafthouse employees.
The Snap Bar: A Pandemic-Born Brand That Is Keeping Everyone Smiling
Photo by Keep Your City Smiling
Photo booth rental company The Snap Bar took a huge loss in the beginning months of the pandemic when physical gatherings were banned. They decided to use their team’s skills (from shipping to web development) to pivot into the gift box industry, finding ways to support and showcase local businesses struggling to stay afloat. Keep Your City Smiling (a name we can definitely get behind) sells curated care packages and virtual event packs that allow companies to gift intentionally to employees, clients, or customers. These pre-packaged gift boxes—with products from local vendors across Seattle, Portland, Austin, NYC, SF, & LA—range from “Snack Break” to “Healthcare,” a care package for frontline workers.
HENRY the Dentist: Dental Care That Comes to You
Photo by HENRY the Dentist
HENRY the Dentist was created to redefine healthcare delivery, giving more individuals more access to dental care through pop-up and roving services. Pre-pandemic, HENRY would convert an office suite into a dental office for the day, or park their mobile practice on company parking lots, to provide full dental care to employees. But in light of the new WFH model, they have redirected their focus towards telehealth consultations and in-van sessions for residents of high-rise condo complexes. By focusing their attention on the individual rather than the corporation, HENRY’s appointment bookings have skyrocketed in the past three months, with a 31% increase over the same period in 2019.