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.
The next World Economic Forum summit – often just known as Davos– will happen in late January, with the theme of “The Great Reset.” Organizers of the event in Switzerland announced a “twin summit” for the 2021 edition, with a large virtual element running alongside a smaller in-person forum. Including support staff and side events, some 10,000 people have descended on the Swiss ski resort every year. Next year, however, the goal is to distribute 1,200 to 1,500 of the coveted badges for official attendees, “with business, government and media representatives a first priority,” said Adrian Monck, a managing director at the WEF. About 3,000 delegates attended the most recent forum, one of the last big events to be held before the pandemic. “Virtual hubs” will integrate with the in-person programming, the forum said, making the event “open to everyone.” Switzerland has greatly reduced the spread of the coronavirus and will begin lifting lockdowns this month and reopening its borders next month.
Amid global protests over the killing of George Floyd, hundreds of UK ad agency executives have signed an open letter committing to improving diversity by better supporting and championing Black colleagues. Creative Equals, a program that champions diversity and urges better representation of underrepresented people in the industry, has written an open letter calling for change that has been signed by more than 200 agency leaders.
The letter, signed and shared by industry body the IAB and its members, calls on agency leaders to commit to action. In signing the letter, agencies pledge to take action against racism, enable employees to understand their own white privilege, address racist incidents, ensure better Black representation at every level, and examine their preferred suppliers list to ensure their advertising isn’t funding white supremacy or racist content. “We, the signatories of this letter, commit to taking deep, lasting action. Today, we say George Floyd’s name and stand with all black talent in our industry,” the letter reads. Among the more than 200 signatories are executives from AMV BBDO, Engine Group, Leo Burnett London, Grey Europe, Group M, Havas, Karmarama, M&C Saatchi, MediaCom UK, Ogilvy, Publicis Groupe UK, S4 Capital and WPP.
Lego has announced on Twitter that it will donate $4 million to “organizations dedicated to supporting black children and educating all children about racial equality.” The toy company behind the popular The Lego Movie franchise and The Lego Batman Movie did not stop there, however, as it went on to announce that it would remove any marketing for any toy sets that include police characters or are based around a police theme. An email sent to Lego’s affiliate marketers requests removal of product listings and features for more than 30 Lego building sets, mini-figures, and accessories that include representation of police officers, firefighters, criminals, emergency vehicles, and buildings.
Among the continuing social disquiet, there’s been a major shift in App Store downloads this week; Twitter had a record download day on Wednesday: Apptopia said more than 667,000 people downloaded the app, 140,000 in the U.S. alone. The 5-0 Police Scanner has been at the top of the App Store charts all week, way above its normal spot in the hundreds. Other police scanner apps are spiking in the rankings, too. Citizen and Nextdoor have both jumped this week as well. The third big category is encrypted messaging. Signal is at an all-time high, though WhatsApp and Telegram haven’t moved as much. It’s been a big few months for app stores in general: Morgan Stanley research found that Apple‘s App Store sales were up 39% this May versus a year before and predicted the growth will continue this month. That’s even as new device sales are faltering, which means people are increasingly downloading new apps.
NBA owners will vote on resuming the 2019-2020 season at Walt Disney World late next month. The teams that would participate 16 teams in playoff positions in the rankings and six that were close to making them would send essential personnel to live at the Disney resort, and play games in empty arenas. The players’ union still has to approve the plan, though the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, has been negotiating with the head of the union, Chris Paul, for weeks. Bob Iger of Disney, which owns ESPN and the resort, is also involved.
Days after reports that Amazon plans to delay the summertime deal extravaganza known as Prime Day, the ecommerce platform confirmed it is hosting a Big Style Sale later this month. An Amazon spokesperson said the June 2020 event will “include seasonally relevant deals from both established and smaller fashion brands.” The event is intended to boost sellers hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and the delay of Prime Day. However, sellers will participate on an invitation-only basis, and Amazon has asked these sellers to submit items with discounts “of at least 30%” by Wednesday. “We are delighted to help brands connect with our vast global customer base for this event,” Amazon said. The Big Style Sale could very well be an attempt by Amazon to sustain interest even if Prime Day is moved closer to back-to-school and holiday shopping this year. It’s also not surprising to see Amazon focus on clothes this summer. The ecommerce platform has long sought to become a destination for fashion. In 2018, for example, it launched the Prime Wardrobe service, allowing all U.S. Prime members to order clothing, shoes and accessories to try on at home. In 2019, it added a styling service.
The Campbell Soup Company has reported that year-over-year net sales for the quarter ending April 26 were up 15% to $2.2 billion, beating estimates. The company’s meals and beverages segment, which includes Campbell’s soup, Prego pasta sauces and SpaghettiOs, grew 20%. Its snack segment, including Goldfish crackers, Pepperidge Farm cookies and Kettle Brand potato chips, increased 9%. “In the quarter, we experienced unprecedented broad-based demand across our brands as consumers sought food that delivered comfort, quality and value,” said Mark Clouse, Campbell’s president and CEO, in a statement. The days of panic buying and pantry stockpiling appear to past, but several factors ranging from more people working from home to high unemployment rates to concerns about reentering physical establishments, suggest that makers of packaged foods are likely to continue benefiting from the disruption to the nation’s eating habits for some time. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 53% of consumers have made shopping for groceries a higher priority, according to a mid-May survey from market research firm Mintel. “Our sense is that until you have a vaccine, you’re going to continue to have changes in where and how people consume food,” said John Baumgartner, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo.
While the aviation industry estimates that air travel will take no less than three years to recover to pre-outbreak levels, 24 European countries have agreed to work together on international rail transport and make it “an attractive alternative” over distances where it is currently not competitive. According to the joint letter sent to EU transport boss Adina Vălean, “international passenger rail transport is presently not performing to its potential within the EU.” Issues such as complex ticket buying systems for multi-leg journeys with different companies should be addressed by digital solutions, it adds. Frequent rail travellers have long called for an online platform similar to Skyscanner to be set up, perhaps by the EU. The ministers also insist that international services can increase their share of passenger numbers in the 300-800km category, suggesting that rail will be taking the fight to short-haul flights, which generally fall under the 1,000km mark. Research by UBS recently showed that business travellers would put up with a trip time of four hours, while leisure travellers would tolerate six on average. It is in that window where international routes, especially high-speed services, hope to make their stand. Demand is predicted to increase in the coming years, partly due to the impact of the coronavirus, which could alter travelling habits. State interventions in airlines are also changing the game. The French government’s €7 billion rescue package for Air France will obligate the carrier to cut back on domestic routes, opening the door for state-owned firm SNCF to hoover up business.