Coronavirus: Brand Moves for Thursday March 19

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We started this series of brand updates just over a week ago, but the reaction has been so positive, and the crisis so fast-moving, that we’re going to move to a continuously updated rolling news format from now until it’s all over (hopefully soon). Keep checking back here for the latest updates on how brands are dealing with coronavirus.

WhatsApp has launched a Coronavirus Information Hub aimed at helping governments, health organisations and community workers communicate truthful, helpful information to people during the global coronavirus pandemic. The company has already been working with governments and NGOs in Singapore, Israel, South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia to provide factual information to people at scale, but it plans to extend this, with a hub that will collate all materials for people to use. The hub, in partnership with the World Health Organization, Unicef, and UNDP will be aimed at health workers, educators, community leaders, nonprofits, local governments and local businesses, giving them provide simple and actionable guidance for communicating using WhatsApp during the crisis. The company is also giving $1m to the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), which it says will be used to fund the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, a group which includes 100 local organizations in over 45 countries.

The British drinks industry is finding ways to navigate the crisis; with pubs, bars and restaurants closed or empty, they’re struggling but have already started to find imaginative solutions. Self-styled “Punk Brewery” Brewdog from Scotland have started producing, and giving away, their own brand of hand sanitizer – Brewgel – as has their near neighbour, Edinburgh’s Leith Gin Distillery. Meanwhile, beer enthusiasts’ organization CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale) has launched an online portal to list local initiatives by breweries, pubs and other businesses. Dublin-based brewer Guinness has also pledged around €3m to support bartenders and communities in the UK, Ireland and the US.

The UK’s takeaway food businesses are queueing up to offer support for National Health Service workers. High street chains Prêt à Manger and Greggs are among those offering free drinks and food discounts for NHS employees, while convenience retailer WH Smith, which operates outlets inside a number of hospitals, is also increasing the discount it offers to NHS staff. Meanwhile, mid-market restaurant/takeaway chain Leon is attempting to pivot to a supermarket and delivery service, selling ready meals through an online platform.

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury‘s has come under fire after offering to open its stores to elderly and vulnerable customers only for the first hour of the day; shoppers described it as “chaotic and unsafe”. They will get it right, but it’s an object lesson in delivering on your band’s well-meaning promises.

British advertising trade publication Campaign is pausing its long-running and popular Turkey of the Week column, in which it pokes fun at a particularly poor example of that week’s ad output. “We want to focus on creative excellence. Advertising needs more hope and joy, not negativity, at this difficult time,” said Editor Gideon Spanier.

US breakdown recovery service AAA has reached out to its members with a promise that their technicians are cleaning their trucks multiple times a day and limiting contact with members during calls, but are still offering to help those infected with the virus. “We ask that if you are currently sick to let us know at the time you request service,” said the organisation. “One of our core values is that ‘we help and serve as a way of life,’ and we remain committed to this statement.”

 Online gaming services have been inundated with traffic; Nintendo Online and Microsoft’s  Xbox Live both reported outages due to the huge demand. Online game platform Steam reported its highest ever number of concurrent users – more than 20 million users were logged in at the same time, with almost a third playing at the same time.

AppAnnie, which analyses market trends in smartphone apps, said it had seen predictable waves in the Chinese response to coronavirus that were now repeating in the west. First, users downloaded business and education apps, a stage the UK had hit by last Friday, when Apple’s App Store was led by remote working tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. Then came mobile games: average weekly game downloads in China went up 80 per cent in February, they said. That trend is being mirrored in the west. Humam Sakhnini, the president of game developer King, said the company had seen a rise in the number of people playing their games such as Candy Crush.

Italian apparel brand Moncler have put €10m into supporting the construction of a hospital in Milan with 400 intensive care units.

Danish supermarket Meny pioneered a unique answer to the problem of customers hoarding hand sanitizer by pricing the first bottle at Dkr40 ($5.75) and the second bottle at Dkr1000 ($144). No word if anybody has bought that second bottle.

In the absence of live sports, the NFL and NBA have made access to their streaming platforms, Game Pass and League Pass, free of charge. The platforms allow fans to watch past games, see interviews with stars, and access a wide variety of other sport-related content.

British football ex-player and manager Gary Neville has announced that his two hotels in Manchester will open free of charge to National Health Service workers as emergency accommodation. The Hotel Football and Stock Exchange Hotel will be closed to the public, freeing 176 beds for NHS and other medical staff. The former Manchester United captain also promised that none of his staff will be made redundant or asked to take unpaid leave. This comes shortly after Chelsea Football Club made a similar offer;the club owns a hotel in North-West London, and the team’s owner Roman Abramovich has offered to cover the costs of opening it to NHS staff.

Latin America’s largest ecommerce platform, Mercado Libre, has redesigned its handshake logo to feature an elbow bump. “Mercado Libre is a brand that reaches many people,” said Louise McKerrow, branding director for the landing pages. “That is why we are committed to helping our users and collaborators with different prevention, solidarity and responsible consumption initiatives. Changing our iconic logo from a handshake to an elbow bump is part of these new habits that we try to promote.”

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