Eighteen 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.
Three separate letters signed by 87 investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion have asked Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to terminate their business relationships with the NFL’s Washington Redskins unless the team agrees to change its controversial name. Native American leaders have pushed for the Washington, D.C., NFL team to change its name (a racist slur that stems from bounties paid to white settlers in exchange for the skins of Native American adults and children as proof of their murders) for decades, including through two high-profile lawsuits. But the team has dug in its heels, with owner Dan Snyder saying in 2013 he would “never change the name.” After the reckoning brough by June’s global protests against racism and police killings of Black Americans, Native American leaders—and advocates who want to see the NFL team change its name—are acting with renewed urgency, hoping to strike while the iron is hot. The investor letter to PepsiCo, for example, cites the company’s “decision to sunset the Aunt Jemima brand is an important and meaningful step,” and calls on it to continue that commitment to divesting from racist mascots by ending its relationship with the Redskins.
Hundreds of companies around the world have joined a temporary ad boycott against Facebook, but Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg says he’s not worried and has no intention of changing its policies. Zuckerberg said the boycott is more of a PR issue than one that will hurt the social-media giant’s bottom line, according to remarks Zuckerberg gave at an employees-only virtual town hall. “We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue, or to any percent of our revenue,” he is quoted as saying. The #StopHateForProfit campaign was started by civil rights groups last month, calling for major companies to stop their Facebook ad spending for July to protest the company’s inability to rein in hate speech, threats of violence and misinformation on its platform. A portion of the virtual town hall was streamed to the public from Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, where he announced some policy changes to crack down on hateful content and voting misinformation. But he was reportedly more blunt in private remarks to employees, saying Facebook would not cave to pressure. “You know, we don’t technically set our policies because of any pressure that people apply to us,” he said, “and, in fact, usually I tend to think that if someone goes out there and threatens you to do something, that actually kind of puts you in a box where in some ways it’s even harder to do what they want because now it looks like you’re capitulating, and that sets up bad long-term incentives for others to do that [to you] as well. My guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.”
Tesla has overhauled Japanese rival Toyota to become the world’s most valuable automotive company. Despite never having made a profit, billionaire Elon Musk’s electric car manufacturer has been tipped by some pundits to achieve a valuation of more than $1tn (£800bn) as demand for electric vehicles soars. Shares in Tesla have climbed by more than 4% to more than $1,100 apiece, giving the company a valuation of $209bn, ahead of Toyota on $205bn. Analysts at stockbroker Jefferies said the coronavirus pandemic could accelerate the speed at which the world adopts cleaner fuels. “We see COVIDD-19 as an accelerator of the transition to EVs [electric vehicles] and renewables, from consumers and public policy,” they said. “Tesla remains significantly ahead of peers in product range, capacity and technology.”
United Airlines has announced that it would add nearly 25,000 flights in August, tripling the size of its schedule and flying roughly 40% of its fleet capacity when compared to August of 2019. “We’re taking the same data-driven, realistic approach to growing our schedule as we did in drawing it down at the start of the pandemic,” said Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president of Domestic Network Planning. “Demand is coming back slowly and we’re building in enough capacity to stay ahead of the number of people traveling. And we’re adding in flights to places we know customers want to travel to, like outdoor recreation destinations where social distancing is easier but doing so in a way that’s flexible and allows us to adjust should that demand change.” American Airlines has announced the addition of nearly 1,300 new daily flights in July, up to nearly 3,500 flights from 2,100. Those numbers are still nowhere close to where the airline was at the same time last year – American was flying more than 6,700 flights last July. It is now flying roughly 55% of its domestic capacity. JetBlue has also announced that it would add 30 new domestic routes – routes that it didn’t fly pre-pandemic – to its schedule. The locations were selected based on where the airline believed leisure travel was returning, with flights between Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and Austin, San Diego, Las Vegas and Dallas, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
These new routes are a sign of JetBlue trying to gain market share in parts of the country it hasn’t traditionally operated in.
As the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technology in the consumer space, retail and pharmacy giant Walgreens Boots Alliance has turned to Adobe Experience Cloud to create personalized experiences for the 100 million members in its loyalty programs in the U.S. and U.K. Francesco Tinto, global CIO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, noted each of the retailer’s channels was previously separate, so Walgreens had siloed views of customers who, say, phoned the call center, filled prescriptions and consulted a beauty adviser. Now, Walgreens plans to build out customer IDs for those 100 million members in order to personalize the experience for each. “We’re going from a siloed multichannel experience to an integrated omnichannel experience through all the channels we serve,” added Vineet Mehra, global CMO. Adobe said the goal is “every customer begins to have their needs anticipated and addressed faster.” This includes custom tools to make prescription refills easier, along with product recommendations for beauty shoppers and personalized offers for “value seekers.”. According to Stephen Frieder, president of the Americas at Adobe, COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior across the retail landscape as shoppers embrace services such as curbside pickup. Mehra agreed, estimating what would have otherwise taken consumers five to 10 years has changed in just five to 10 weeks. For example, Mehra said 2 million people accessed Walgreens’ online healthcare marketplace Find Care, which allows consumers to find nearby health services, in Q1, marking a 40% increase year over year. In addition, downloads of Walgreens’ app have reached 62 million.
This comes as Walgreens has expanded the number of products available for pickup at its 7,300 pharmacy drive-thrus in the U.S. The retailer has also added the ability for consumers to chat with pharmacists 24 hours a day.
General Mills and Conagra Brands are the latest companies to reveal just how in demand the packaged-food industry is during the pandemic. General Mills, which produces brands such as Pillsbury, Cheerios and Annie’s, reported that net sales spiked 21% to reach $5 billion for the fiscal quarter ending May 31. Likewise, Conagra Brands, the company behind Slim Jim, Duncan Hines and Chef Boyardee, stated on Tuesday that year-over-year sales rose 25.8% to $3.3 billion throughout the same time period. “Our business clearly benefited from increased at-home eating in the fourth quarter, as the elevated retail demand outweighed the reduced foodservice demand,” said Sean Connolly, president and chief executive of Conagra Brands. “In retail, many consumers tried our modernized products for the first time and then returned for more.” After months of sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Americans have begun cooking more. Research from PricewaterhouseCoopers indicates the activity has brought people joy – a sign that the behavior is likely to persist even after restaurants begin operating at full capacity. Survey data from the sales and marketing agency Acosta shows that, in early June, consumers remained cautious about dining in restaurants. Only 12% showed an eagerness to eat at a restaurant as soon as they open. In addition, nearly two-thirds of shoppers (65%) said one of their biggest concerns included a second wave of the virus that might force another shutdown.
Amongst widespread concern around social media behaviour, nonprofit membership trade association the American Influencer Council has been set up to try to bring some order to the often rather lawless world of internet influencers. Their game plan has five key points — consumer transparency, standardization and professional ethics, data science and influencer economy, learning and development and public goodwill. Before the pandemic struck, brands were expected to spend $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022, according to estimates based on Mediakix data. Consumer transparency efforts will involve lobbying the Federal Trade Commission to adhere to, promote and improve the Endorsement Guides. There are also plans to create market-relevant operating standards to support innovation and ethical conduct. Supporters will be trying to enhance the co-branded content experience on all social media platforms. In terms of data science and the influencer economy, AIC will foster and analyze research on the digital economy, as well as career influencers’ contributions to the gross domestic product. There will also be efforts to further digital marketing learning at the university level and to offer mentoring support for the next generation of influencers. The group also plans to create an innovation lab, public service announcements and to host events to promote the influencer trade.
Spanish law firm Abogados Cebrián have found a novel way to advertise a service that lockdown may well have made into a necessity for some – the quickie divorce. Their advertising vehicle is a garish pink-and-white van with a blaring siren which tours the streets. “Without stress, divorce express,” the driver of the ‘Divorcioneta‘ – a play on the Spanish words for van and divorce – tells listeners through a megaphone, also sounding a penetrating alarm just in case any passers-by have failed to notice it. The van advertises a quickie divorce at a cut-price rate of just €150 per person, and offers couples the chance to untie years of misery within just 24 hours. Sadly, couples cannot finalise their divorces in the van but have to settle the legal niceties at the offices of Abogados Cebrián in Madrid. Alberto García, a partner at the firm, said: “We are unique in Spain and we are proud of ourselves because we have prompted a debate among traditional lawyers, who say we are undercutting their prices.” Mr García dismissed critics who have said their service takes a frivolous attitude to the serious business of divorce. “A divorce is not a whim, it is a necessity,” he said. “Couples who come to us are adults. In a marriage breakdown, it is either amicable, contentious or people stay in an unhappy marriage.”