Brand Moves for Thursday September 24

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In early March we began reporting daily on how brands were dealing with Covid-19. But it’s become clear that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption, so we decided to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid the latest crises in an anxious world. Our goal is to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.

Retail consulting firm AlixPartners has added October for the first time to its holiday shopping forecasts, while saying that the holiday season, as commonly defined by other organizations and firms, is “meaningless” this year. AlixPartners cited “the coronavirus pandemic’s dramatic effects on shopping behaviors and long-bubbling retail trends now accelerated by the pandemic.” But, as with many other disruptions related to the pandemic, the virus acted as an accelerant on trends in place well before it began its spread. “The traditional November-December holiday-season definition is meaningless this year – and, I would argue, for the future as well,” Joel Bines, who co-heads AlixPartner’s retail practice, said in the release. “For years now, holiday sales have been pulled forward earlier and earlier, thanks mostly to the explosion in online shopping. This, in turn, has led to such things as the diminishment of Black Friday, of door-buster sales and of many other traditions.” In terms of online spending, AlixPartners found that 45% of surveyed consumers plan to shop online, up 15% from their survey last year. Other observers have issued similarly high expectations for online shopping during the season. Deloitte last week said it expects e-commerce sales to grow 25% to 30% year over year, and survey data from analytics firm Glassbox found that 70% of respondents planned to do the majority of their holiday shopping online, via the web or mobile.

Meanwhile, social AI analysts Pattern89 have a few ideas about what people will be buying. “Every holiday season has its own unique creative trends and special offers,“ they said. “For example, imagery with the highest CTR [click-through rate] in Q4’s 2019 contained ski boots, ice skating, and snowmen. Top-performing colors, in terms of CPC [cost per click], were orange and maroon.” However, none of these trends are projected to win big this year. Pattern89 predicts that imagery of candles, holiday trees and gloves will see the largest uptick in CTR, in terms of holiday creative. In terms of CPC, the best colors will be teal, purple and green.

For Latinx Heritage Month, also known as Hispanic Heritage Month, Spotify has unveiled Lo Nuestro es Arte (Ours Is Art), a digital and outdoor campaign that spotlights musicians and podcasters through colorful art pieces that reflect different genres. Spotify commissioned five visual artists across the Latinx diaspora to create the colorful pieces. The art is featured behind musicians on the streaming platform, as well as on billboards in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. Spotify will also highlight the artwork in a virtual gallery accessible via Snapchat. Spotify introduced the campaign mantra with a colorful video, a kickoff to a series of mini films it will release on its social platforms, starring influential Latinx music artists and podcasters who will narrate their career experiences. Additionally, the brand has introduced a Latinx Heritage Month hub that offers listeners curated playlists that amplify different Latinx identities and communities such as Afro-Latinx, indiginous and LGBTQ+.

Berkeley, California’s City Council has passed an ordinance that will remove unhealthy food from grocery store checkout aisles. The ordinance is the first of its kind in the U.S., supporters said. The new policy will require retailers larger than 2,500 square feet to stock healthy food at the register and in areas where customers wait in line, instead of items like chips, soda and candy. It forbids food items with 5 grams of added sugars and 200 milligrams of sodium, chewing gum and mints with added sugars, and beverages with added sugars or artificial sweeteners. In Berkeley, the policy will affect stores like Safeway, Monterey Market and Whole Foods. The ordinance will make grocery stores a “more neutral and health-promoting space for consumers,” said Ashley Hickson, a senior policy associate at Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a national consumer advocacy organization. Junk food manufacturers spend big to make sure their products are placed front and center in stores, Hickson said, but some consumers aren’t fond of the practice. In a survey by CSPI, 76% of shoppers who bought unhealthy food or beverages at the checkout counter regretted the purchase, she added.

United Airlines is turning to a Google-powered interactive map to help still-scarce travelers find destinations that fit the coronavirus era. The map, on United’s website, allows travelers to punch in the most they want to spend on a ticket and filter airports by their destination activities or descriptions: beaches, beer and breweries, culture, food and drink, hiking, national parks, outdoors, romantic, skiing and snowboarding, and snorkeling and scuba. Air travel demand is stuck at less than a third of the same levels a year ago and airlines are scrambling to come up with ways to encourage travelers to book. Executives have noted that travelers are waiting much longer to book than last year, a result of so much uncertainty surrounding the virus as well as work, school and child care. United’s new booking tool, which uses Google’s flight search engine, also allows travelers to browse flights without set dates. “Where in the past, more people would look for flights to specific destinations on specific dates, we’re seeing that today, travelers are often more open about the destinations that they would like to visit,” United spokeswoman Christine Salamone said. “They know they’d like to get away, but they’re not exactly sure where they want to go.” United executives and those at other airlines have said they’ve seen relatively good demand for destinations that allow travelers to physically distance, such as those near national parks and others that offer outdoor activities.

National Parks in Japan have improved internet access and taken other steps to attract teleworkers as the coronavirus pandemic has increased interest in the idea of a “workation” – a vacation that combines business and leisure and allows people to work remotely at their destinations. Lodging facilities and camping grounds at national parks have upgraded Wi-Fi access points with financial support from the Environment Ministry. The government has been promoting the workation concept in the hope it will revitalize local economies hit hard by the coronavirus. The National Park Resorts of Japan, the operator of Kyukamura hotels across the country, plans to rent out large tents, portable power stations, and Wi-Fi devices at camping grounds in four national parks. It will also put up and take down the tents, as well as supply guests with food, so they can use more time for work.

Update: Following yesterday’s story, Amazon is now distancing itself from the $500 “EX-Prime” bike launched by exercise equipment maker Echelon Fitness, after the product was incorrectly marketed as a collaboration between the two companies. Echelon on Tuesday announced the so-called Prime bike, calling it “Amazon’s first-ever connected fitness product” that was “developed in collaboration with Amazon.” The move was widely heralded as Amazon’s first foray into the smart bike market and caused shares of exercise bike maker Peloton to fall as much as 6% on Tuesday. But on Tuesday evening, Amazon denied it was involved in a partnership with Echelon or the Prime bike. The company has told Echelon to stop selling the Prime bike and change its branding. Peloton shares hit a record high Wednesday. Amazon also appears to have pulled the product from its website, listing it as ‘currently unavailable.’ “This bike is not an Amazon product or related to Amazon Prime,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “Echelon does not have a formal partnership with Amazon. We are working with Echelon to clarify this in its communications, stop the sale of the product and change the product branding.” Echelon spokesperson Marissa Mastellone said in a statement that the product was built by the company to sell exclusively on Amazon. Echelon is working to rebrand the product to “get it back up for sale as soon as possible,” she added.

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