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Compassionate Commerce: How Brands are Helping Humanity Navigate the COVID-19 Disruption

From loan forgiveness programs to free Wi-Fi and online courses for kids with cabin fever, brands are helping society wade through foreseeable challenges, while maintaining the long term health of their businesses. SVP of Strategy Mike Stutman shares how some brands are rising to the occasion with empathy and utility at a time of historic need.

As Mr. Rogers said…“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”  And while there are countless individuals and nonprofits who are at the true heart of the compassionate and courageous response to the coronavirus crisis, it is heartening to see American businesses step up and contribute during their own moments of distress.

In a sea of continuous bad news and escalating concern, these constructive actions are a bright spot, a beacon, something positive to hang on to. With that in mind, we wanted to acknowledge some of the creative overtures being made by companies around America and the world to help others in a time of need, while simultaneously moving their business forward.  Here are some of the best examples we’ve seen and we encourage you to add other examples in the comments section below:

Software and EdTech:

  • Zoom, Adobe and Google providing free access to their technology to school systems, educators and students around the world
  • a platform where software companies can join and donate their tools to empower those in need.
  • LinkedIn is opening up 16 of its learning courses for free. Courses that provide tips on how to stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face-to-face, use virtual meeting tools and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way.
  • Slack Technologies is offering free upgrades to paid plans and consultations for anyone working on Covid-19 research, response, or mitigation.
  • Scholastic is offering  free online courses to support virtual learning plans from pre-K to 9th grade


  • Comcast, Charter, Verizon, Google, T-Mobile and Sprint have signed a pledge to keep Americans internet-connected for the next 60 days, even if people cannot afford to pay.
  • Comcast is offering free Wi-Fi hotspot access


  • Large media companies, such as the Hartford Courant, are providing free access to their Coronavirus content
  • Forbes8 is hosting a free digital summit under the theme of Business Resilience: Thriving in Crucial Times. The speaker roster includes many who were scheduled to speak at SXSW.

Small Business:

  • Mark Cuban announced that any of his employees will be reimbursed for lunch and coffee purchases from local, independent small businesses.
  • Shine Distillery in Portland is one of many distilleries around the nation who are making and giving away free hand sanitizer, utilizing their supplies of alcohol and production capabilities.


  • Stop & Shop and Target are designating certain hours for elderly shoppers only
  • Loads of restaurants are offering free meals for students.  Here is one example from Arizona.
  • Sweetgreen announced it will support health workers on the front lines by delivering free salads and bowls to hospitals in the cities it serves.


  • Headspace (meditation app) making their content free for healthcare workers
  • Health Systems are recognizing the heroic efforts of their staff in supporting the community
    • Aetna is offering a $0 copay for telemedicine visits, waiving copay for all COVID-19 testing, and providing care packages to those diagnosed with COVID-19. Containing resources, personal care items, and household supplies, these care packages can help protect loved ones from potential exposure in their homes.
    •  A number of providers, like Baptist Health in South Florida, Indiana University Health and Cox Health in Missouri are now offering free virtual visits for coronavirus assessment and assistance with other urgent care-type illnesses and concerns.
    •  CVS Pharmacy is offering no fee for home delivery of prescription medications

Financial Services and Banking: 

In the midst of the havoc that the coronavirus has thrust upon both daily life in America and business, it is heartening to see commercial organizations who are pitching in to help those in need, whether it is their customers, employees or society at large. In doing so, they are not only providing needed compassion, services and benefits to people in need across the country, but are activating their higher brand purpose, strengthening their brand reputation, providing employees with reasons to believe and exposing prospective customers to their offerings.  You can call it ‘compassionate commerce’ or maybe just the right thing to do.

What might your business or brand be able to contribute to lessening anxiety around this pandemic? While not everyone can provide their products or services, if your employees are safe and your business is reasonably stable, consider other ways to support your local community, by making a donation, partnering with a local nonprofit or otherwise.

Stay healthy and good luck with your own efforts.  And please feel free to share other Compassionate Commerce examples by commenting below.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

Author: Mike Stutman

As SVP of Strategy at Primacy, Mike helps clients envision and plan for new ways to use digital channels to improve their marketing and customer experience efforts.

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Published March 2020

Category Strategy