This Week’s Friday Five: ‘Sharing’ Economy, Plentiful Potatoes, Fashion Masks, and more

Friday Five sharing economy plentiful potatoes fashion masks


Back to the basics of the sharing economy

Is the sharing economy’s moment gone? It seems like just yesterday that we were seeing new food delivery apps popping up, more electric scooters were showing up on city streets, and “Ubering” became the generic term for hailing a ride from an app. Now, the thought of sharing anything other than a wave from your neighbor standing 6 feet away seems absurd. Sharing living arrangements or your personal vehicle with a stranger? No way. It’s difficult to see how these companies will recover from a world rocked by COVID-19. On the other hand, we’re also witnessing a collective change in mindset – one that has people picking up groceries for one another, ordering more locally, reaching out when they need and hand and helping everyone they can whether that means sewing masks or cheering loudly for their essential workers. And as Scott Rosenberg, writing for Axios points out, isn’t this what the sharing economy was about in the first place? They began as a way to sharing vehicles with those in need instead of leaving them parked, and offering a spare room to a traveler so they could feel the comforts of home? The pandemic is bringing many people back to the basics, whether that’s making homemade bread or realizing the importance of spending time with loved ones. It would be a missed opportunity for sharing economy companies not to do the same.

COVID came in like a lamb and will go out like a lion

We’ve now entered a month (or more) of shelter-in-place restrictions (but who’s counting?) and companies are having to adapt to the new normal. Restaurants are selling groceries, rideshare drivers work for Amazon, and now Kroger is joining the mix with its expanded Dairy Rescue Program to donate surplus milk to Feeding America food banks. With restaurants and schools closed, farmers have been forced to destroy perfectly good food. Canadian and Belgian farmers are pleading people to eat more fries because of their store ~200 million pounds of potatoes.

COVID’s impact on agriculture was delayed with the focus on stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but it’s now come roaring in with a fury. Food banks have limited storage and volunteers, grocery shopping doesn’t cover it, and exporting is out of the question. The pandemic has laid bare the inability of farms to cope with the demand and logistical changes. This is another blow to the industry, which was already suffering from low prices and the U.S.-China trade war. With lockdowns and phased re-openings taking months, the agriculture industry is facing more hardships and it’s unsure how the industry will bounce back from this.

Good things come in small packages

As business booms for Amazon, and we’re seeing the other FAANGs continue strong growth in revenues it seems that all the focus is on these mega companies. However, small businesses without deep pockets and army-sized top-quality staff, are also showcasing their ingenuity in this time. Launched in January, Bookshop was an online bookstore with the hook that by purchasing books on the platform you wouldn’t be putting more cash in Bezos’ billionaire sized pockets. Sales in May are projected to be $6M, light years ahead of projections. However, for indie brick and mortar bookstores without the resources to build out an robust online e-comm platform and the logistics for a same day shipping, the story is a bit bleaker – some indie stores have had to set up crowdfunding to stay afloat.

Other small businesses have been utilizing online platforms, like Etsy, to sell their goods – one craftswoman repurposed her skills sewing Christmas tree skirts and homemade gifts to sewing masks. Another shop owner used her skills to create trace boards to help parents teach their children penmanship. Restaurants have also been shifting their models relying on take-out, but also turning into mini-grocery stores selling pantry items, as well as becoming meal-kit subscriptions so at home you can make your favorite menu items. Small businesses account for 47% of the private-sector payrolls in the U.S.. If these don’t survive the pandemic than many will not have jobs to go back to. Support local!


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Make it fashun

Among the industries struggling with the fallout of the pandemic is the fashion and retail industry. A McKinsey report found that the average market capitalization of apparel, fashion and luxury players dropped almost 40% between the start of January and March 24. They also said that “a two- to three-month lockdown will cause financial distress for 80% of European and North American fashion businesses.” Despite the threat that looms, many brands have responded to the crisis by shifting production to create much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) or donating to those in need. For example, H&M, Zara, Prada, and Kering are arranging their supply chains to produce PPE, particularly masks, while others are donating on average 20% of proceeds to various organizations.

On the other hand, brands have also had to rethink how they connect with and appeal to consumers during this time. According to Heuritech, “by shifting campaign strategies, providing virtual entertainment and producing useful products for consumers, fashion brands can build deeper connections with their customers and ensure positive returns in the long run.” Examples include Bella Hadid’s Jacquemus campaign shot at home through FaceTime, trivia games on the Instagram Stories of Salvatore Ferragamo or stylist Jessica Mulroney encouraging Canadian moms to share their feelings about quarantine life and matching the number of comments to the number of her Shoebox Project donations to women’s shelters. Those brands that embrace the spirit of charity and good deeds are those that will come out on top.

Post-pandemic ads: He who laughs last laughs best

During the First World War, to soothe the downtime in the trenches, portable gramophones became the hottest thing. Advertisements positioned them as comfort to the ‘nerve-shattered wounded’ and pictured a soldier cursing at the enemy for stealing his beloved music-making box. A look into the annals of history shows that brands which successfully adapted to wartime advertising are still alive and well today, from Burberry trench coats to Gillette. Brands of the time have successfully incorporated key propaganda messages into commercial advertising and revolutionized consumers’ relationships with what were once boring old regular goods.

COVID-19 is not the First World War, but the philosophy of advertising still applies. Ove the months of global lockdown, brands have opted for safety, clamouring over themes of safety and solidarity. Everyone was toeing the line so devoutly that there’s even a YouTube video making light of the fact the ‘every COVID-19 commercial is exactly the same.’ Granted, there were some outliers like KFC, but as the world reopens, where does advertising go from here, especially as the budgets become ever more flimsy? Marketers say that ‘nothing can convey a change in tone and that the worst is behind us like humor.’ Get ready to laugh again, folks.

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