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Branded Face Masks Are The New Normal: How To Do Them Right

Almost overnight, face masks became a wardrobe staple around the world, and as our new COVID-reality sank in, businesses were quick to jump on the branded face mask wagon.

Organizations of all shapes and sizes are catching this wave. From colleges including Princeton and Georgia Tech, to pro sports teams, and fashion labels like Ralph Lauren, branded PPE is the 2020 trend that nobody saw coming.

Alongside the public health necessity of face coverings, many organizations have recognized the potential in masks as both an additional revenue stream and a vehicle for clever marketing and communications. In fact, we have seen a 366% surge for mask design since Q1, including everything from small independent retailers to major corporations.

If you are considering where face masks fit into your brand’s plan for connecting with customers, employees or the wider community, here are three great examples for inspiration and lessons about what works and why.  

Vistaprint: “This is not a mask”

Vistaprint, best known for making business cards and other printed collateral, pivoted to creating face masks during the pandemic. In June, the brand launched a campaign featuring kids and adults wearing masks as the voiceover reassures audiences: “This is not a mask. This is a sign of love. This is solidarity.”  

As well as running a number of collaborations with local artists, Vistaprint also donated $1 million to the Save Small Business fund it co-founded with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and $500,000 to the NAACP to support Black-owned small businesses off the back of the campaign.

Why it works: As masks became a politicized statement in the U.S., Vistaprint leveraged an authentic message to reframe the conversation around masks being a vehicle for communities and small businesses returning to a level of normal. With a large proportion of Vistaprint’s customers being small businesses, this initiative demonstrated support for, and understanding of, these companies’ needs and hardship.

Burger King: Safe Order Masks

Understanding that communicating through face coverings can be a little challenging, Burger King Belgium took this problem and ran with it. As part of a social campaign, every customer who ordered in advance via Burger King's Safe Order service on Facebook and Instagram received a free custom-printed version of their order on a face mask.

Why it works: Is it gimmicky? Yes, but Burger King is renowned for its stunts, and this campaign is in keeping with the brand's playful personality. It’s authentic, brings a little fun to a time when we could all do with a smile, and brought the brand international media attention.

Crayola: The School Mask Pack

When it became apparent that masks were going to become a nonnegotiable back-to-school item, Crayola launched a partnership with SchoolMaskPack to provide a helpful way for parents to help keep their kids safe at school.

Each pack includes five reusable cloth masks, color-coded for each day of the week, available in solid colors, crayon prints or “Craymoji” patterns. These packs are designed to make the transition back to school less stressful for families, as well as encourage better mask-wearing habits in kids.

Why it works: This is a great example of a brand partnering with a complementary business to provide a creative solution to a customer’s problem. As a trusted brand, already synonymous with the ritual of buying back-to-school supplies, Crayola positioned itself perfectly to demonstrate empathy and understanding of its customers’ needs and challenges, as well as providing a genuinely valuable product.

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