Are face masks the new corporate umbrella?

A tongue in cheek look at the branding opportunities presented by a global pandemic!

They say necessity is the mother of all invention, and someone at Vistaprint was obviously listening!

A week or so ago, I checked my “other” mailbox to discover an intriguing marketing email entitled “Fabric face masks are here”. Ordinarily such an email wouldn’t make it past the glance stage, but during a global pandemic of a virus that makes you cough, understandably this one grabbed my attention!

It seems that some bright spark at Vistaprint has worked out that there is a high probability that the public will continue to demand face masks for some time to come, in order to protect themselves or indeed others from spreading Coronavirus. As such they have launched their own range of low cost fabric face masks, which can be printed with “your own design” or in entrepreneur lingo… branded!

“HURRAH!” I hear you scream, “its just what we’ve been looking for…”

In all seriousness, there is a discussion currently going on in government about how to gradually ease the lockdown. Which business should be allowed to open first, how can they do so safely, and of course how can we ensure that the reproductive rate (R0) of the virus doesn’t start to creep up above 1 once we all start shopping again?

The chances are that masks are likely to play some part in the strategy, despite the somewhat confused debate in the scientific community as to whether or not they do any good. The science notwithstanding, there is also the behavioural impact of masks, as there is evidence to suggest that the mandatory wearing of masks in public, especially on public transport, could in fact encourage people to venture back onto public transport and more importantly the shops sooner rather than later.

Across Europe many countries have made the wearing of masks mandatory, including Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. In Asia, masks have been common in many countries for years as epidemics have come and gone far more often than we in The West might care to remember, and in the US the CDC advocated relatively early on the wearing of a home made face covering whilst in public.

Working as we do as agents in an industry that requires human to human contact as well as visiting other peoples houses, it is likely that masks (and gloves and copious amounts of hand sanitiser) may become common tools of the trade for months to come. This is of course a fabulous opportunity for any marketing department worth its salt!

Whilst perhaps our branded products in the past have been limited to notepads, hemp bags and the trusty agents umbrella, which can be spotted at every major sporting event from the Six Nations to the school sports day, we now have the opportunity to actually get the public to wear our brand… on their face… at rush hour!! This is surely the stuff of any brand consultants dreams!

Be warned however, corporate masks will need to come with a healthy dose of disclaimer, for the simple reason that they may not actually stop you from contracting coronavirus!

Fabric masks do not count as PPE, they do not filter air in or out & they do not stop you from touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face. The reality is that they protect others from you more than they protect you from others, as wearing a mask simply cuts down the amount of water particles (which might contain the virus) which escape from your mouth, and the distance they can travel.

This might seem like pointless stuff, but when walking the fine line between easing lockdown to get the economy going again and ensuring the R0 remains below 1, every little helps.


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