Coronavirus: Brand Moves for Wednesday May 20

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Facebook is making a major new push into e-commerce. The company today announced the launch of Shops, a way for businesses to set up free storefronts on Facebook and Instagram. The shops, which will be powered by third-party services including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo, are intended to turn the social network into a top-tier shopping destination. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said expanded e-commerce would be important to begin rebuilding the economy while the pandemic continues. “If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.” Online sales have been a bright spot for small businesses. At Etsy, where solo entrepreneurs have been knitting fabric face masks and baking pastries for sale, revenue has doubled from three years ago. While Shops are free to create, they could create significant new business opportunities for Facebook in advertising, payments, and other services. Businesses will be able to buy ads for their Shops, and when people use Facebook’s checkout option, it charges them a fee. Facebook is also working to integrate loyalty programs. Shops will begin rolling out on Facebook today in the United States and is coming to Instagram this summer.

There have been an estimated 4.6m new signups to subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) offerings such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ since the coronavirus lockdown began in late March, according to research. The lockdown provided the perfect launch conditions for Disney+, which debuted in the UK on 24 March, a day after the nation was advised to stay at home. Disney+, which launched with titles including the $100m (£82m) live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian, is estimated to have attracted 1.6 million subscribers in the UK in its first month. The research found that 85% of the Disney+ subscribers say they will keep using the service after the health crisis is over. “With a further 13% of people who have not yet tried Disney+ expressing an interest in trying it, the device could be well past 2 million subscribers in the near future,” says the report by Oliver and Ohlbaum Associates.

The survey found that a quarter of people were more willing to consider subscribing to a streaming service during lockdown than before the crisis. “The appetite for fresh entertainment during lockdown when content from traditional channels has been exhausted, along with increased demand for TV content at all times of the day, is contributing to consumers re-evaluating SVOD services,” the report’s authors conclude.

Recreational vehicles, or RVs, could be among the big winners for summer vacations this year, according to travel industry experts. Mark Wong, an exec at Small Luxury Hotels of the World, said “road trips – the drive market – will be this summer’s trend. Travelers will be more comfortable hopping into their own cars or rental vehicles than commuting in mass transportation.” Nicholas Devane, owner of RV rental company Texino, agreed, saying: “I think corona is making people rethink what vacation looks like. What is their ability to travel without going through airports? Camper vans and RVs are a great way to do that.” Miami’s Ondevan said it’s seen success by focusing on South Florida locals who want to take road trips while they work remotely, and San Diego company AdventureKT said natives have taken up the slack left by out-of-towners and foreigner who have canceled. Now four-year-old company RVshare, a Turo for the RV market, reports that bookings for summer have set new records by shooting up 650% since last month. 84% of renters say they plan to travel with a partner or close family, and 93% of renters say their first priority is avoiding crowds and crowded vacation spots.

London fragrance maker Earl of East, in collaboration with agency Uncommon Creative Studio, has released a range of scented candles called “Scents of Normality” – a collection that smells like the places people have missed the most during lockdown. The three scents are The Festival (“a floral haze of cut grass, burned skin and sun-warmed cider, with just the merest shimmer of distant portaloo. Top notes of burger van and singed candyfloss…”), The Local (“evokes the classic British boozer. Top notes of spilt beer, hair pomade and chip fat jostle amongst a pungent base of varnished teak and sticky carpet… ”) and The Cinema (“a heady fusion of salt popcorn, foam banana and glistening hot dog, enveloped in a fug of recirculated air…”) More seriously, all proceeds go to Hospitality Action, a charity that offers vital assistance to all who work within hospitality in the UK, and who now face sudden hardship and widespread job losses due to COVID-19.  

UK property website Zoopla has suffered from the housing market’s dead stop, but have rethought their marketing, including hosting a competition on social media to encourage people to submit their best pictures of the forts they’ve built, along with an estate agent style caption describing their structures. Over 900 people have participated so far – a number impressive enough for head of consumer marketing Richard Houston that he’s mulling how it can continue to use social to better effect as the market begins to recover. “Since the announcement [of sales to restart] on Wednesday, search is up by 139% versus the last four weeks,” he says. “We’re optimistic with that news.” And while there’s been some controversy over the government decision to allow the public to view property in person, Zoopla is nonetheless beginning to ramp up its marketing activity to explain the situation to wary buyers and sellers. It hosted an exclusive conversation with the UK’s housing minister on its blog, while its content marketing team has been in overdrive trying to help people make sense of the new rules. “We’re using our in-house research and insights team to really help people understand the impact of the government changes, the health of the market and the potential outlook over the next nine months,” says Houston. “What we’re trying to do with any of our strategic thinking and marketing planning for the rest of the year is to pull back to the fact that this has been a really disruptive time for people, particularly if they’re trying to move home.”

About five years ago, electric hair clipper brand Wahl decided to host some instructional videos on its website. But when the coronavirus showed up, almost overnight, what had begun as a simple website upgrade became a major marketing engine for the brand. Since mid-March, traffic to Wahl’s site has risen by 1,400%. Consumers watched the step-by-step instructional video on how to do an easy cut, a business cut, a fade and a brush cut, among others. The videos’ popularity was also accompanied by a huge sales spike. “Hair clippers had about a 48% household penetration before the pandemic, and I’ll tell you that in week two of the shutdown, we started getting point-of-sale data showing that our year-over-year sales had increased in line with pasta—that’s how crazy it was,” Wahl’s vice president of marketing, Steven Yde, said. “The numbers went through the roof.”

Meanwhile, razor brand Schick Xtreme has released its own free mobile game, Shave the Day, available on iOS and Android. In an endless runner format, players become XtremeMan, a bald, caped hero who rides a giant razor down a three-lane street. Players earn points by collecting coins and shaving the heads of other characters by leaping over them. Schick Xtreme will turn these in-game points into real-world dollars (up to $250,000) destined for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood cancer. Once the goal is reached, players will be encouraged to make their own donation through the game. Schick Xtreme is promoting the game on its social media channels, and has also teamed up with popular Twitch streamers Nick Polom and Aydan Conrad, who will play Shave the Day and shave their own heads live on the streaming platform once donation goals are met. In the first quarter of 2020, a largely young audience watched 3.1 billion hours of content on Twitch—nearly double the hours watched on YouTube Gaming, Facebook Gaming and Microsoft Mixer combined. “It’s sports,” said Matt Bell, vp of North America at Edgewell Personal Care, Schick’s parent company, about the appeal of the Amazon-owned platform. “People certainly love watching sports and being able to watch people compete.”

Though travel is still very heavily impacted, Delta Airlines has seen a slight increase in bookings. “We have seen a bounce off the bottom,” said Delta CFO Paul Jacobson. “There are reasons to be encouraged about what we’re doing at Delta.” Jacobson said that on some days the airline saw positive net sales, meaning more people were booking than asking for refunds, specifically pointing to an uptick in June and July travel planning. Delta has since responded to the inching demand by adding back flights, but still capping its capacity at 60%. United Airlines has also said that as of this week, the airline had “seen a reduction in customer cancellation rates” and a “moderate improvement” in domestic demand as well as “certain international destinations” in the latter part of Q2. Jacobson prefaced his comments by noting that it was still too early to tell if this was truly a sign of recovery, and that with refunds still available, the bookings don’t quite mean much until travelers are boarded and buckled in. “We’re still a fraction of where we should be,” he said. “We’re cautious.” He also echoed Delta CEO Ed Bastian’s belief that it could take at least three years before the airline reached sustainable recovery levels. On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration announced that for the first time since the end of March, more than 250,000 travelers passed through its gates in a single day. Previously, the TSA had reported that it had seen foot traffic drop by 95%.

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