Yearly Members: The DTC Emergency Response

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Hims has pivoted from hair loss prevention to coronavirus testing.

The direct-to-consumer brand, which practices telemedicine to approve customers of over-the-counter hair loss prevention drugs online, yesterday launched an emergency Covid-19 saliva test. Retailing on the site for $150, the test has not been officially cleared by the FDA, but rather approved by the FDA under its Emergency Use Authorization protocol. Before selling the test to customers, Hims is offering consultations with medical professionals to see if, according to self-reported symptoms, customers are likely in need of getting tested.

Companies have stepped up to fill production voids during the pandemic. Fashion houses like LVMH and Prada turned manufacturing facilities over to producing hand sanitizer and face masks. Others have set up donations. Hims’ step into testing distribution establishes a bridge between telemedicine companies and the current crisis. Where resources can be redistributed and used to contribute to the resolution of the pandemic, they should, and pivoting to do so represents a brand’s agility. It also sets up a long-term precedent. For a long time, brands will be expected to be cognizant of the current moment, upping their efforts to give back rather than just sell.

Hims’ push also puts to the test the customer’s trust in an online-only, direct-to-consumer brand to handle our health. While these companies have touted building their businesses on the back of community and relationships – in contrast to the opaque relationship wholesale brands had before them – this is a test of whether or not that translates when it comes to handling our health. Best case scenario: This raises awareness for Hims, establishes better trust with customers and sets the company up with longer-term staying power. Worst case scenario? Faulty testing or a mishandling of customer data that will erode any trust there. We’ll watch.

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