Fourteen weeks ago, when the gravity of the situation became clear, we started daily reporting on how brands were dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. What’s now becoming clear is that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption. So we made the decision to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid this latest crisis in an anxious world. Our goal remains the same: to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.
In the aftermath of this week’s widespread social unrest following the death of George Floyd, many brands have begun to take much more public stances on racial injustice and police violence. Twitter changed its profile image to black and added “#BlackLivesMatter” to its description. Mark Mason, chief financial officer of Citigroup, wrote a public blog post on the company’s website that repeated Floyd’s pleas to the white officer kneeling on his neck: “I can’t breathe.” Reebok said in a message to “the black community” that it “stands in solidarity with you,” telling its social media followers: “We are not asking you to buy our shoes. We are asking you to walk in someone else’s.” WarnerMedia brands including HBO, TBS and the newly introduced HBO Max, changed their Twitter names to #BlackLivesMatter and quoted the black novelist James Baldwin: “Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.” The hashtag also appeared in posts from retailers like Nordstrom, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s and media companies like TikTok. Nike released a new ad on Friday that was reposted by other shoe companies like Adidas and Converse. “For once, don’t do it,” the spot said, beseeching people to stop pretending “there’s not a problem in America.” Speaking out on social issues is often a calculated decision, a form of “values and identity-driven targeted marketing,” said Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. By aligning corporate values with what customers care about, companies are hoping to build a sense of loyalty and a deeper sense of personal connection, he said. “There’s a general trend toward executives in the C-suite being called out and pressure-tested by consumers who want to know where they stand – there’s an opportunity to differentiate not just on function, on what’s a better mousetrap, but on values,” he said. “It’s smart – they’re taking a stand, hopefully, because it’s moral, but also because they understand the long-term economic game.”
According to a survey from data intelligence firm Morning Consult, a majority of people said that if a company declined to make an official statement about the protests, that would cause them to see a brand in a less favorable light. This was true among all adults, as well as both black and white consumers, though responses differed along generational lines. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of Generation Z and millennials said they view brands that support protesters on social media more favorably, while 39 percent of Generation X and Baby Boomers said the same. Other types of financial support, such as establishing a fund for small businesses that were impacted by looting during protests or donating to community cleanup efforts, can also promote brand favorability across different demographics. Fifty-six percent of respondents said donating to small businesses would improve their view of a brand, while 51 percent said the same of companies that support community cleanups. What gets some of the most public support pertains to the messages business leaders convey to their employees. Roughly two-thirds said they find it appropriate for CEOs (68 percent) and executives (65 percent) to share messages about the demonstration. Those actions garner more support than if a statement was put out by a brand spokesperson (64 percent) or its social media account (52 percent).
Ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, which has been vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement in the past, has issued a blog post called “Silence is not an option” in which they detailed support for national actions including support for Congress to pass HR 40 and echoed George Floyd’s family in calling for the creation of “a national task force that would draft bipartisan legislation aimed at ending racial violence and increasing police accountability.”
The food brand Emmy’s Organics issued a statement affirming that it is committed to being an anti-racist company and that it would be donating 100 percent of the profits from its online store from Monday through Wednesday to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. You can donate to the fund yourself here.
Fast food chain &Pizza has made a statement of support for the black community and said they will now be giving employees paid time off for activism.
Mailchimp is offering price relief for organizations working to end social injustice in the U.S. “If you’re fighting racism and you use Mailchimp, let us know so we can help,” said founder and CEO Ben Chestnut. “I’ve been trying to find the right words, but silence isn’t an option. Black Lives Matter. I stand with our Black employees, customers, and community in the fight against racism and violence, and I urge us all to do the same.”
Glossier was one of the first beauty brands to announce a major donation —specifically $500,000 across Black Lives Matter, the NAACP Legal Defence & Educational Fund, the Equal Justice Initiative, the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, and We the Protestors. Furthermore, they said, “in an effort to make an impact within our own industry, we will be allocating an additional $500K in the form of grants to Black-owned beauty businesses” an initiative about which they will share more information later this month. Other beauty brands including L’Oréal, E.L.F., Deciem and Anastasia Beverly Hills have also pledged funding and support.
A startup called Bimble, which makes sparkling CBD-infused drinks, is offering to cover up to $200 in therapy costs for some of its customers. “During a year with a pandemic, the worst unemployment numbers in a century and riots in the streets of every major city, it would seem that only one month dedicated to mental health awareness wasn’t enough,” said Ari Halper, founder of Sauce Idea Lab, the consultancy behind the project. “It only makes sense for Bimble and therapy to join forces during one of the most stressful times in modern history.” Bimble, which bills itself as “therapy in a bottle” and sells at specialty retailers and direct to consumers, has pledged to give $200 for counseling to the first five consumers each day who order a case of its product.
British Vogue’s July issue cover features key workers instead of professional models. A community midwife, a train driver and a supermarket worker are the stars of the latest edition. In a statement posted to Instagram, British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful explained that the magazine decided to profile the women to pay homage to their bravery and dedication to helping others. “This chapter in history has seen a society shift its attention onto some of the people in this country who are not usually afforded the spotlight,” Enninful wrote. He said the frontline workers’ commitment during the pandemic “has stunned all of us.”
Both the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and financial news publication Barron’s have seen record traffic and engagement figures in recent months. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update showed that trust in traditional news media is at an all-time high, up seven per cent on the previous year, and additional research from the Kantar COVID-19 Barometer 2020 shows that just eight per cent of consumers think that brands should stop advertising during the pandemic.
Department store Galeries Lafayette opened the doors of its historic flagship in Paris on Saturday for the first time in almost three months, as French business gradually resumes amid continued restrictions aimed at controlling the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s an emotional moment,” said Philippe Houzé, chairman of the board at Galeries Lafayette Group. “I’ve been coming here regularly, but seeing the store empty is fun for about five minutes. It’s quite something seeing this whole place shut. It’s as if there had been a nuclear war.” His son Nicolas Houzé, chief executive officer of Galeries Lafayette Group, has said he expected revenues this year to drop by 50 percent to around 1 billion euros. “In terms of profits, it will be even more,” said Philippe Houzé. Clothing sales in France fell 85.5 percent in April, as all ready-to-wear stores remained shut nationwide, according to the latest data from the Institut Français de la Mode. Retailers’ revenues were down 30.9 percent in value terms in the first four months of the year, compared with the same period a year ago, it said. Alexandre Liot, director of the Boulevard Haussmann store, which is famed for its Art Nouveau glass cupola, compared the atmosphere to the start of a new school year. “Our staff are eager to be reunited and to get back to work,” he said. “We all have a huge smile behind our masks, as you can imagine. We’ve been waiting for this for three months.”