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Brands that repurposed their production: The Drum editorial team’s best of 2020

Brand after brand repurposed their production to turn out PPE, face masks, visors, sanitiser, respirators

It’s that time again, when we look back at the agencies, the brands, the organizations, movements and trends that have shaped the past year. In 2020 – a year so many of us would like to forget – our industry of problem solvers proved time and again that they have what it takes to muck in, help out, ask questions, shape cultures and change the world. It is them that we celebrate in our New Year Honors.

There’s been no shortage in the 21st century of brands super-eager to jump on whatever bandwagon’s rolling through town, simply to issue some surface-level social responsibility statement before sitting straight back down again, saviour status secured.

The thing about the pandemic, however, is that words were never going to cut it while nurses were forced to wear bin bags and the most basic of equipment was in short supply, putting their lives at constant risk as they worked to save others’. Cue the perfect opportunity for brands to straight up do something, rather than just stand for something.

It was quite something to watch as brand after brand repurposed their production to turn out PPE, face masks, visors, sanitiser, respirators.

Of course there was some cynicism along the way that this was nothing more than a PR play, and a headline in The Guardian claiming the NHS had rejected BrewDog’s sanitiser as substandard didn’t help (it later clarified that the brewer was in fact working closely with the health service to get its hand rub to meet medical standards, and that it was only its first batch that hadn’t quite reached clinicians’ requirements).

In Italy, Armani was converting all four of its productions sites to produce medical overalls, while in France, Chanel was making protective masks and gowns. Ralph Lauren was doing the same in the US. LVMH, LL Bean, L’Oreal, all similar. Apple committed itself to designing and producing face shields while Dyson, Ford, GE and more set their engineers to making respirators and ventilators.

A long list, you’ll agree, and by no means exhaustive. Any brand in it purely for the press would have realised quite quickly that public praise would be lost in the sheer volume. And yet they kept coming, promising and delivering more.

In a world of green washing, woke washing and empty gestures aplenty, it was refreshing to see brands actually deliver in a time of need. So here’s to each and every one of them that made a difference.

We’ll be celebrating all our favorite things about 2020 on thedrum.com between now and early January. Keep an eye on our New Year Honors hub to read more.

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