Recent mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caught many marketers off-guard. The new recommendations, which allow for fully vaccinated individuals to shed face coverings indoors, run counter to many of the mask and social-distancing mandates that stores have had in place for over a year. Several retailers, including both established chains and smaller businesses, are now scrambling to adjust signage and clearly communicate their mask positioning, all while continuing to keep customers happy.
“It’s going to take a while to iron out,” says Mary Howard, who runs Penny & Ting, an independent toy store in Ossining, New York. Since most of her young clientele is unvaccinated, she plans to continue to ask customers to wear face coverings. Yet, she recognizes the dilemma. “You don’t want to get anyone upset,” Howard says, adding, “But I don’t know what the safety is for those children.”
It’s a tightrope many brands have gotten used to walking as they navigate the ever-changing guidelines around the pandemic. A new Stop & Shop campaign released this week was created with flexibility in mind. The supermarket chain made two spots—for each one, there is a version with customers in stores wearing masks and a version of without masks.
“It was important to capture it both ways, you just never know,” says Jasmine Dadlani, chief strategy officer at McKinney, which was named Stop & Shop’s agency of record late last year. The new commercials were filmed last month. “Everything keeps changing so rapidly,” Dadlani says, noting the comfortability of Stop & Shop customers and employees with masked environments. “Out of an abundance of caution, whenever we’re in the retail environment for right now, we will have shoppers with masks on.”
The chain is continuing to require masks in locations where state and local mandates remain in place, according to Jennifer Brogan, a spokeswoman. She notes that in Rhode Island, “where mask mandates have been lifted, Stop & Shop will no longer require those who are fully vaccinated to wear masks in our stores, although we will continue to strongly encourage everyone to do so.”