Twenty-three 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.
As COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated the adoption of digital and remote healthcare services, two of the industry’s publicly traded companies have agreed to a massive $18.5 billion merger. The union of Teladoc Health, a provider of virtual care services, and Livongo, which has made a name for itself by integrating hardware and software to monitor and manage chronic conditions like diabetes, will create a giant in the emerging field of telemedicine and virtual care. The combined company is expected to have pro forma revenue of $1.3 billion representing 85% year on year growth, on a pro forma basis. For 2020, the combined company expects adjusted EBITDA to reach $120 million. Teladoc currently counts 70 million customers in the United States with an access to Medicare and Medicaid patients that Livongo’s services could reach. “By expanding the reach of Livongo’s pioneering Applied Health Signals platform and building on Teladoc Health’s end-to-end virtual care platform, we’ll empower more people to live better and healthier lives,” said Glen Tullman, Livongo founder and executive chairman.
Mulan, a live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1998 animated movie of the same name, will be released on Disney+ on September 4 – for an additional payment of $30. In countries where theaters are open and Disney+ is not available, like China, Mulan will still be shown in theaters. The move surprised most observers, who assumed Mulan, which reportedly cost Disney $200 million to produce (and millions more to advertise), was too big to move to streaming in lieu of a global theatrical release. But the coronavirus pandemic convinced Disney to try a hybrid model of distribution, putting the film online in several crucial markets without removing it from theaters elsewhere. Mulan had already been delayed twice this year as the pandemic forced most theaters around the world to close for months. Disney lost nearly $5 billion in the last quarter, while its theme park revenue plummeted 85% compared to the same period in 2019. The lone bright spot was streaming. Disney+, which is available in the US, Canada, Australia, and much of Western Europe, has more than 60 million subscribers less than a year after launching. Disney thinks Mulan can help capitalize on that momentum and boost the service’s appeal even more. CEO Bob Chapek said he expects the film to “act as a fairly large stimulus to sign-ups.”
Last month venture capital firm Black Founders Matter made its first investment. Launched in 2018, so far Black Founders Matter has raised about $1 million for the fund, and has put its first funds in a company called A Kids Book About, founded by Jelani Memory. “In a world where we look at how Black lives matter but also how we look at the quality of Black life in this country, it’s about creating access for the community to be able to solve problems,” founder Marceau Michel says. That’s what the fund’s first investment did. A Kids Book About, which published its first book on the topic of racism in October, helps solve a problem for all communities, he says. Black Founders Matter only invested $40,000, but that figure is more of a reflection of how much space was left in the funding round. Michel says Memory carved out that space for Black Founders Matter by turning down other checks.
On-demand delivery startup DoorDash has launched a digital storefront to sell household items, as well as the types of items you’d find at a convenience store like chips, ice cream, spices and packaged foods from local restaurants. Called DashMart, the convenience store is available in eight cities throughout the U.S. and plans to launch in additional cities over the next few months. The move into the virtual storefront comes a few months after DoorDash partnered with more than 1,800 convenience stores throughout the country to better respond to the needs of customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite gloom on much of the high street and the cancellation of the music festival season, UK retailers say shoppers have been snapping up tents, sleeping bags and cooking equipment, with many camping staples selling out. The UK’s largest retailer, Tesco, said sales of camping equipment remained strong despite people being unable to go to festivals. “Camping chairs are by far the most popular item, with sales well ahead of this time last year, while tents and airbeds have steadily increased in popularity over the past few weeks and ponchos and inflatable pillows also seeing strong growth,” a spokesman said. At Halfords, sales of tent pegs are up by 45%, airbeds by 130%, gas stoves by 300%, cool boxes by 180% and camping chairs by 120% since lockdown measures were lifted in England in early July. Roofbox sales have soared by 165% and bike racks are selling at a record rate, suggesting cars and bikes will be put to more use this summer. Even sales of leisure batteries – used in caravans, motorhomes and boats – are up by 36% year on year. “As we head into peak holiday season we’ve seen demand surge for everything from rooftop boxes to camping chairs as customers ensure they can take everything they need with them for their touring and camping staycations this summer,” said David Howells, of Halfords. “We have also seen extraordinary sales of bike racks, suggesting that UK consumers plan to continue their newfound fondness of cycling whilst on holiday.” John Lewis said camping equipment sales for the period from February to July were up by 58% compared with last year, with tent sales up by 34%. Sales of firepits have more than tripled and most models have sold out. Independent price comparison service PriceSpy reported that sales of tents were up 126%, sleeping mats 86%, sleeping bags 25% and thermos flasks 49% between June and July.
Goldman Sachs has said that by 2025 it wants 7% of its employees with the title vice president to be Black and 9% to be Latino professionals. The bank also aims for 40% of its employees with this title to be female, Goldman’s chief executive officer, David Solomon, wrote in a statement posted on the bank’s website and emailed to staff. The diversity targets add to ones Goldman set for staff in lower-level positions last year, and reflect a growing acknowledgement on Wall Street that most top jobs are held by white men. Goldman executives have frequently said that greater diversity also equals greater success in business. “Progress on diversity will enhance our ability to execute our strategy and deliver for our clients,” Solomon said. In 2019, Goldman set a goal for 11% of all new analysts and entry-level associates hired in the U.S. and 9% hired in the U.K. to be Black professionals. The bank said it also aimed for 14% to be Latino professionals and half to be women. The bank has also committed to doubling its hiring from historically black colleges and universities for the position of analyst by 2025.