When pivoting manufacturing makes sense for a brand

Canada Goose and Knix are the latest companies to use their resources to address medical supply shortages.
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Canada Goose will develop medical gear for frontline healthcare workers and patients across the country, the latest brand to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by pivoting its manufacturing to much-needed supplies.

Responding to a shortage of medical supplies across North America, Canada Goose will make scrubs and patient gowns at manufacturing facilities in Toronto and Winnipeg that had previously been closed, distributing them to hospitals for free. Production of the medical gear is set to begin early next week, with an initial target of 10,000 units. It plans to expand production to other facilities if needed.

Canada Goose, a company known for its heavy-duty winter coats, joins other companies that have pivoted their manufacturing facilities to provide products and supplies needed during the pandemic.

Intimates brand Knix has tapped its suppliers to provide masks, gowns and gloves to hospitals, setting up a GoFundMe page to raise money to distribute them to hospitals directly, instead of waiting to find and reorganize new supply chain partners (the page was set up by Knix founder and CEO Joanna Griffiths, whose brother is a doctor at a large hospital).

Last week, Labatt, Spirit of York and J.P. Wiser’s were among several Canadian brewers and distillers, both big and small, that began using their facilities to produce hand sanitizer.

While marketing departments the world over are currently figuring out the best way to keep their brands relevant in a time when traditional advertising channels are disrupted and planned messaging may seem out of place, Max Valiquette, CSO at Diamond Marketing, doesn’t view what Canada Goose is doing as a brand strategy move. “Rather, I think the business is just doing what I think all businesses should right now – which is evaluating what they do in the face of this pandemic, and thinking about how to properly do their part.”

Valiquette notes that a lot of brands are taking on a kind of “at-home, wartime mentality” and using resources they already have to help in the fight against the situation the world is in. But even though brand value may not be the goal, he thinks these efforts will nonetheless have a lasting impact in the minds of nervous consumers, because it shows purpose related to what the company is capable of.

“You need, obviously, someone who has factories and manufacturing abilities and a supply chain in place,” he says, “but fundamentally, as a brand, this is something that really makes sense for them as well.”

As the pandemic progresses, Valiquette postulates that some brands and businesses will go “way too far out of their lane”, in order to stay relevant during a time of crisis.

He notes that pivots for alcohol manufacturers to hand sanitizer makes sense, as it needs alcohol in order to kill bacteria and viruses. The same holds true with Canada Goose and medical gear, where qualities like “protection” from cold weather are associated with the brand, in addition to having easier access to materials and facilities for making garments.

“They’re doing what a smart marketer should do,” he says. “Think about what your brand purpose is, think about what your business actually does and what it truly can be doing. If your organizational purpose is well enough defined, and everyone understands what your brand is about, those two things will probably align really closely.”