It has been interesting to see what brands have been doing over the last few weeks to acknowledge the current coronavirus outbreak and encourage people to do their bit. We've already seen how brands like Pret have been helping the "war effort" by offering free food to the NHS (see here). 

Now, McDonalds, Audi, VW and Coca-Cola (see below) are among a number of brands which have also been deploying their iconic branding in creative ways to combat the coronavirus pandemic - in this case to highlight the need for social distancing. 

From the point of view of an advertising and IP lawyer - as well as a consumer - this is particularly interesting, because it's not something you come across that often. These businesses are all incredibly protective of their brands. Anyone wishing to use their logos are usually subject to weighty brand guidelines stipulating all manner of conditions relating to the size, shape and precise pantone to be used when portraying them. Any deviation from the guidelines risks diluting the brand so, in short, you just don't see it.

The changes are, in fact, only subtle, but they work precisely because of the instant recognition these brands enjoy. We know exactly what's changed and we get the message straightaway. Some have argued that this sort of activity makes light of the current health crisis. I'm not sure that it does - brands have a voice and, rightly or wrongly, their messages get through to people in ways that politicians often don't. Whilst brands do need to take care to use their power in the right way, I think here they do just that.