​The entire world is encountering a critical challenge, with coronavirus taking a toll on public health and the economy as a whole. Right now and in the future as well, businesses are likely to look more carefully at budgets. Every penny spent or invested anywhere will require deep thinking. The focus will be on ensuring that we can focus on maximum returns on investments and while making sure the business can sustain during the crisis. Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon and things will shape out well soon.

However, budget cuts are a reality we cannot ignore and marketing budgets are apparently soft targets in this context. Still, cutting on them is something that businesses need to do carefully because this short-term fix can have negative consequences in the long run.

Maintaining visibility in your target market is, therefore, as essential as ever even during such troubled times. Right now, what is really needed is an innovative approach, one that combines far-sightedness, rational thinking and optimism. And this is something that a few brands have already nailed.

Food chains come forth with free drinks and discounts

As solidarity becomes the only way to defeat the global pandemic, some leading food chains have come forth with offers such as free drinks and discounts for NHS staff as a sign of appreciation for their consistent efforts and services. McDonald's has announced that all health and social workers and emergency services personnel in the UK can collect free drinks at all their restaurants while they are allowed to stay open.

Pret also declared that hot drinks would be 'on the house' and there will be discounts on food for NHS personnel. Starbucks is providing free filter coffee to NHS and emergency services staff as a token of support to their courage, commitment and resilience. Leon, Bakery chain, PAUL and WHSmith are some other names on this list of food chains coming ahead with similar initiatives.

Cosmetics and alcohol brands turn to manufacturing hand sanitiser

As Europe comes across an acute shortage of stocks of hand sanitiser, some leading cosmetic and alcohol brands have pitched in to help. UK brewery BrewDog, Verdant Spirits, and Deeside Distillery, for example, have repurposed their factories to begin mass-production of the antiviral gel.

LVMH, the French fashion conglomerate, has also come ahead with a positive initiative in the fight against the coronavirus crisis. By retooling three of its cosmetics factories, it is all set to manufacture twelve tonnes of sanitising gel, which will be delivered free of charge to hospitals in Paris. The famous skincare brand L’Occitane is contributing in its own way. It has been providing hand creams to hospitals for NHS workers, just for adding a bit of luxury to their continuous hand washing cycle. The workers can pick up a 30 ml pack of hand cream from their stores as long as they remain open.

Automotive brands use their tech capabilities to help in this fight

Beyond food and drinks, cosmetics and sanitsers, brands with tech capabilities are going one step further with positive contributions. As manufacturers of life-saving medical devices such as ventilators struggle to keep up with their unprecedented demand, brands with similar production capabilities are coming ahead to lend a helping hand. An Italian brand using 3d printing technology has printed valves for ventilators. Elon Musk and car manufacturer Vauxhall have volunteered their production lines to manufacture the equipment needed for treating and containing the coronavirus.

There are others that are offering online free resources for making a difference. World Book Online, for instance, have just made an awesome collection of over 3,000 ebooks and audiobooks for children of all age groups available for free. As children can access the collection at home, it is a great help for work-from-home parents. A majority of businesses and brands are offering online training and remote working resources that show their commitment to go the extra mile to ensure the well-being of employees and clients.

Marketing in the time of crisis takes a more human approach, though it will make an impact for brands in the long run. Now is the time to invest in such positive marketing tactics and keep the brand light burning. Even though these investments seem hard with our actual budget dwindling in the crisis, great brands see such troubled times as opportunities to build their equity. They go the extra mile to exemplify their brand values by helping others. This is something that can help them emerge stronger once things are back to normal.