Fifteen 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 the latest crises 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.
Babynames.com, a website for expectant parents, has shared a moving tribute to black men and women who have been violently killed in the US. The site, which offers lists of namei deas and meanings, now shows a black box listing names of people who died as a result of violence by police or other individuals. “Each one of these names was somebody’s baby,” a caption on the memorial reads. “Babynames.com stands in solidarity with the black community. #blacklivesmatter.” The website’s founder Jennifer Moss said she and her colleagues were “humbled” by the public’s support for their message. “BabyNames.com is a family owned and operated business. When we saw the names of black victims listed on NPR, we were devastated,” she said. “Our statement is that these are not just names on a page, but loved ones. We are humbled and grateful for the public response and hope it helps in the conversation.”
Following the lead of IBM and Amazon, Microsoft has paused selling facial recognition tools and called on US legislators to pass federal regulations on the use of the technology. Microsoft president Brad Smith said that his company won’t sell facial recognition technology to US police until federal regulations are in place. He also warned that Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM can’t act alone. “If all of the responsible companies in the country cede this market to those that aren’t prepared to take a stand, we won’t necessarily serve the national interest or the lives of the Black and African American people of this nation well,” he said, adding that Congressional regulation “is the only way that we will guarantee that we protect the lives of people.” The announcements follow several years of research, in particular from MIT Media Lab’s Joy Buolamwini and Microsoft Research’s Timnit Gebru, showing that commercial facial recognition tools are much more likely to misidentify darker-skinned women than lighter-skinned men.
The Ford Foundation, founded by automaker Henry Ford’s son during the Great Depression, is borrowing $1 billion as it joins with some of the nation’s most venerable charities to help smaller nonprofits survive an economic slump due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization says it will be the first nonprofit foundation in history to borrow through the sale of labeled social bonds – securities earmarked for funding of projects with a tangible societal benefit such as clean drinking water, healthcare or affordable housing – in the taxable American corporate bond market. “The nonprofit sector will be fundamentally upended and diminished by the economic fallout from COVID-19,” said foundation president Darren Walker, whose organization is teaming with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to boost their collective grants by $1.7 billion beyond normal levels over the next two years. “The story here is really a story of something that doesn’t happen enough in philanthropy and that is collaboration, real collaboration,” said Walker.” I have been so inspired by my colleagues who joined and together crafted a strategy that ensured we would significantly increase our payouts in whatever mechanism, through whatever vehicle worked for us and our boards.” The grants from the organizations will support nonprofits that are” advancing the fight against inequality at a time when communities who are most vulnerable have been hit hardest by the pandemic,” the Ford Foundation added. Social justice advocates say COVID-19 and the economic downturn it caused have highlighted existing racial and economic disparities in American society, with data showing minorities more susceptible to illness and death.
A new Twitter test feature aiming to “promote informed discussion” will nudge users to read content before they retweet. The company describes the test as a step to help people be more aware of what they’re sharing in a broader effort to inspire “healthier conversations” on the platform. The feature will only appear for some U.S.- based Android users for now. In May, Twitter began testing a prompt that warns users they’re about to tweet a potentially harmful reply, based on the platform’s algorithms recognizing content that looks like stuff often reported as harmful. Facebook tried out a similar test feature last year and reported that its results showed promise. The idea is that giving users a chance to make different choices rather than forcing them to do so could help reshape some of the unproductive or actively harmful strains of behavior. In the case of the new Twitter test feature, that means nudging them to slow down and read the content of the link they’re about to share.
British rapper Stormzy has announced he will donate £10m to black British causes over the next 10 years: “Organisations, charities and movements that are committed to fighting racial inequality, justice reform and black empowerment within the UK.” He said in a statement: “I’m lucky enough to be in the position I’m in. Black people have been playing on an uneven field for far too long and this pledge is a continuation in the fight to finally try and even it.” The donation is described as the “beginning of a lifetime commitment” from him and his company #Merky. He urged others to join him in pledging to causes that support black people. In 2018, he announced scholarships for two black students attending Cambridge University, expanding the scheme with two more in 2019. He and black YouTube influencer Courtney Daniella were credited with helping boost the number of black applicants inquiring about its courses, with an almost 50% increase in admissions between 2018 and 2019. That year, he also launched #MerkyBooks, an imprint within Penguin Random Houseto publish writing “from underrepresented communities”. Numerous other cultural figures have donated to causes in the wake of the Floyd killing, and amid global Black Lives Matter protests. Korean group BTS, the world’s biggest boy band, donated $1m to Black Lives Matter, with the donation later matched by fans via a crowdfunding initiative. Canadian R&B singer the Weeknd has donated $500,000 across three organisations: Black Lives Matter, Know Your Rights Camp and National Bail Out. He added: “To my fellow respected industry partners and execs – no one profits off of black music more than the labels and streaming services. I urge you to go big and public with yours this week. It would mean the world to me and the community if you can join us.” Lady Gaga announced a range of social justice initiatives that she was donating to, while stars including Harry Styles and Drake have donated to bail funds for protesters.
Airbnb has made changes to its homepage and app in an effort to get people out in their own metaphorical backyards. The “Go Near” campaign will appear on its own homepage and app and is to be followed up with a social media and email campaign to promote domestic travel and the platform’s own online experiences. It was partially inspired by a survey commissioned by the brand that showed that nearly half of its U.S. respondents said they’d prefer to stay within a day’s drive for their first trip after lockdown restrictions lift. Airbnb also said it had seen bookings grow between the end of May and the beginning of June year-over-year. During the same period, from May 17 to June 6, nights booked for a family – bookings including at least one child or infant – were up 55% year-over-year. Domestic spots were among the top trending destinations, which include Big Bear Lake, Calif., Miramar Beach and Panama City Beach, Fla., and the Great Smoky Mountains. Airbnb wasn’t alone in sharing some internal insights this week as travel recommendation and booking site Tripadvisor released its own findings from a months-long study examining traveler sentiment during the pandemic. Tripadvisor’s results mirrored Airbnb’s, showing that consumers are most comfortable traveling closer to home and to rural and beach destinations.
Oddbird, a Swedish alcohol-free wine brand, has created a temporary restaurant called Nowhere within the expansive Häringe nature reserve – taking the concept of socially distanced dining to a whole new level. It has created six unique table settings scattered around in beautiful locations, free from contact with other guests. The six place settings have been designed by Danish interior design duo The Norrmans using recycled furniture and material, while the menu has been created by chefs Linn Söderström and Marion Ringborg of restaurant Garba in Stockholm. Oddbird’s wines will be served alongside each meal, for those lucky enough to get their hands on a reservation (and be living in Sweden) when bookings open.