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In this episode of the update

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I talked to George Hanson from Panera Bread restaurants

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and Alex Tshering from FIGS,

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makers of premium medical uniforms,

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and heard how two radically different brands

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found a common response.

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As the world is changing around us,

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it’s clear we are all seeking advice and reassurance

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for life’s big and small decisions.

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Globally, search trends for “should I buy”

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are up by more than a 100%.

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But for Panera Bread, this uncertainty didn’t just lead to a drop in consumer demand.

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The necessary social distancing measures taken to combat the pandemic

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fundamentally jeopardized their ability to serve their community.

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To meet this business challenge, they first had to address the human impact of these changes.

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How were you feeling in that moment?

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How is your team feeling?

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It was really emotional.

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I mean, it was emotional hearing the stories in our cafes,

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hearing the stories in the communities we serve.

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Like this was impacting us on a human level,

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and that’s really what we paid attention to first.

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We had to make really fast decisions

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around how we were going to pivot.

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We were still able to filter

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all of our decisions through — the principles of how do we

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protect our employees and our customers.

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How do we protect the brand and then how do we emerge stronger.

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By creating clear filters for decision making,

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Panera Bread was able to adapt to rapidly changing consumer behavior

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and identify new opportunities and demand.

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Year-on-year, search interest for online grocery shopping

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and grocery delivery had increased 23%.

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We also took a step back and said what are the needs of our customers right now.

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And you know, like many of us

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they had challenges accessing grocery.

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And each week the level of discomfort of physically going to a grocery store

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really caused a lot of opportunity for us to help.

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And so we within a couple of weeks,

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made the decision that we are going to help

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and start providing a grocery service.

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But with 39 million My Panera members,

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the next challenge was communicating

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basic information about the cafes to their customers.

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Information like when is my local cafe open?

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What services are provided?

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And is drive-thru pick up available?

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All these dynamics were changing rapidly over the last four to six weeks.

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And so we knew that that was a primary window in which customers could know

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how and when they could access Panera.

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And so our KPIs were really about awareness and access to the customer

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whenever they were searching for Panera or food near me.

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And the Google insights

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that the Google teams have provided has really shaped

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how we have messaged to our customer.

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By listening to signals from their community,

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Panera opened up a new ordering channel

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that captured dynamic customer demand

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and positioned them for the next phase of recovery.

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In the middle of all of the heads down decision-making that we had to do,

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there was always a component of looking forward

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Knowing that this brand is here to stay and

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how do we then ensure that it thrives and grows.

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Meanwhile, for Alex Tshering, the SVP of marketing at FIGS,

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a young direct-to-consumer startup

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that supplies premium medical uniforms,

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taking care of their community took on a completely different meaning

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as their community became the front line

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during a war against a global pandemic.

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What was going on with you,

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with your team at FIGS overall

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in kind of the first few days of the COVID pandemic?

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When we saw this and you know,

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it kind of trickled in.

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At first I was like, oh, it’s not a big deal.

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Oh, it is a big deal.

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And so we kind of escalated as

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the world of COVID really escalated as well.

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It was a little chaotic here because you know,

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we want to do everything to help.

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the demand for all health-related retail was surging.

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Videos related to DIY tutorials and “how to” with face mask in the title

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have been viewed more than 60 million times

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since the US declared COVID-19 a national emergency.

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For FIGS, this urgent need made them realize

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that serving their community went far beyond

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simply serving paying customers.

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Our immediate things that we’ve done

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during COVID is we’ve

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donated about 30,000 sets of scrubs nationwide.

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We’ve been delivering

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care packages to emergency rooms and hospitals around the country.

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I think right now, we’re shipping about a hundred a week and that consists of

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some compression socks that we sell

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and we’ve worked with a lot of different partners

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to kind of fill those up with goodies and and snacks and stuff to get them through the day.

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Throughout the crisis

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FIGS regularly engaged with their community of healthcare workers

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and used social listening

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to identify an unexpected opportunity.

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While most brands had taken a somber approach to their advertising,

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their community was craving some levity.

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We put together an ad where

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we had a woman and she was in a hurry, you know,

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and she had her scrubs on and she was

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in a rush on a coffee run.

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We pivoted and put some dialogue in there that just really talked about

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we made this before COVID.

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We get it, you know, there’s a lot more important things than coffee.

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And so we want to let you know that we’re giving back

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We’re very in touch with our community. We talked to them

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and you know just hearing them on the front lines, understanding what they’re going through

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is crucial for us and it’s always been

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really in our DNA to listen to them.

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I’m always going to do in my mind

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what’s right and what’s true.

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I like to live by that and I expect

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all our team to really live by that as well.

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So, you know just just ride it and stay true to what you believe in

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because it’s going to roll through for sure.

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In the midst of all of this change, both Panera and FIGS managed to focus on their core values

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which allowed them to display active empathy

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by responding to their communities’ needs in real time.

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You don’t always know if you’re making the right decision

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the best you can hope for is

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that you’re making the best decision.

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And the best decisions usually

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are mostly connected with really rooted, grounded

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principles and values

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that really transcend

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difficult times and challenging times.

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It’s such a great time and a great opportunity for us to just

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really show that we’re here for you.