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.
In another sign of online commerce’s ascendancy, CRM leader Salesforce forecasts that ecommerce’s footprint will double this holiday season, accounting for 30% of all U.S. retail sales, up from 14% last year. Total digital sales in the U.S. are forecast to reach an all-time high of $221 billion. Despite the rise of ecommerce, the cloud-based software company anticipates overall U.S. holiday spend to be flat at an estimated $730 billion in sales.
The growth represents a long-term shift in how people shop, particularly for groceries and other essential items, which Rob Garf, VP of industry strategy and insights at Salesforce, believes is here to stay. “Each holiday season we see new and different digital behavior created,” he explained. “What happens is that new behavior doesn’t snap back [to] pre-holiday shopping, and that will be the case for the holiday in the context of the pandemic.” The company predicts that the change in consumer demand brought about by life under quarantine will create a new list of hot holiday products, which include home fitness, beauty, and toys and games. These will supplant some of last year’s best-selling categories, such as footwear, general apparel and luxury apparel. “This year, it’s shifting a bit,” Garf said. “It really has a theme that revolves around health, safety and fun.” Electronics and gaming is expected to maintain its position from 2019 as this season’s top category. Online sales will also benefit from people wanting to avoid crowds on Black Friday and beyond during the holidays, as well as Amazon pushing Prime Day to mid-October from July due to issues related to Covid-19. But there is a downside for retailers and customers: Salesforce foresees that up to 700 million packages around the globe will experience shipping delays as orders exceed fulfilment capacities. The amount of returned merchandise is also bound to spike. “I would be shocked if the traditional December 17th ground shipping cutoff date stayed intact,” Garf said, predicting that shipping deadlines will move much earlier. “Winners and losers this holiday season will be defined by the last mile,” Garf continued. He suggested that retailers that are working with gig economy companies such as Uber and Lyft to expand their delivery capacity might be putting themselves in a strong position. Other options, he said, included “utilizing the store associates as not only pick-pack-shippers, but also delivery experts,” or asking customers to come into stores to collect items.
In a partnership with Swedish intimate wellbeing brand Intimina, color specialist Pantone is launching a bright, cherry-red hue called “Period,” a custom-made shade of red that is meant to be symbolic of a steady menstrual flow. “Despite the fact that billions of people experience menstruation, it has historically been treated as something that shouldn’t be seen or talked about publicly. And if we look at popular culture, depictions of periods have ranged from wildly inaccurate and unsympathetic to being the subject of jokes and derision. Enough is enough, it’s 2020,” said Danela Žagar, global brand manager for Intimina. “Pantone’s Period red shade represents making periods visible, encouraging positive conversations and normalizing menstruation in our culture, our society and in our everyday lives,” she added. The hue, which is described by Pantone as “an energizing and dynamic red shade,” is not meant to be an accurate visual depiction of menstrual blood. Rather, according to Laurie Pressman, VP of the Pantone Color Institute, the shade is more of a “visual identifier” to help the Swedish wellness brand leverage the power of the color to share its purpose and draw focus to its array of menstrual cups. Meanwhile, Modibodi, which sells period and leak-proof underwear, said an ad it recently began running on Facebook has violated the platform’s advertising policies. According to the brand, Facebook indicated that three scenes that use the color red to represent period blood have to be edited out if Modibodi wants to resume the campaign. Modibodi said it violated Facebook’s guidelines regarding “shocking, sensational, disrespectful or excessively violent content.” “Our aim for this film was to open people’s minds by taking the stigma out of what is a perfectly natural bodily function for women,” Modibodi’s founder and CEO Kristy Chong said in a statement. “It was not made to be deliberately sensational or provocative, but to show the very real and natural side of periods. We’ve used red to represent blood from day one.” Chong said that other media platforms “have not taken the same direction as Facebook.” According to Modibodi, YouTube also initially banned the ad, but later rescinded the decision following a review. Modibodi is one of many brands that’s trying to destigmatize periods and portray them more accurately. Libresse, a European brand that sells menstrual products, recently debuted a campaign “Womb Stories” that poignantly explores what it’s like to have a womb. Beyond menstruation, it shows women suffering miscarriages, navigating menopause and dealing with the pain of endometriosis.
As the US presidential election enters its final month, fashion brands are encouraging customers to perform their civic duty and vote. Pyer Moss revived the “Vote or Die” T-shirt popularised during the 2004 US presidential election, Christian Siriano sent models down his backyard runway wearing vote-stamped face masks, wide-brimmed boater hats and at least one full-length gown, and Michael Kors is selling an $850 cashmere sweater with the word stitched into it. Vineyard Vines, Studs, Lunya, Stuart Weitzman, American Eagle, MM La Fleur, & Other Stories, Brother Vellies, La Ligne, Tory Burch, Clare V., Universal Standard, Prabal Gurung, Urban Outfitters, Madewell, Fabletics, Gap and Foot Locker are also among the many brands and retailers selling voting-themed gear, organising get-out-the-vote campaigns with non-profit partners (for example, 100 percent of sales of the Michael Kors “vote” sweater benefit the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund) or have pledged to give paid time off to employees on Election Day. Often, it’s all three. According to data compiled by communications firm Devries, 60 per cent of Americans agreed they would like to see brands, including fashion brands, “encourage people to vote,” and 65 per cent showed support for brands participating in the political process. Nearly half of Americans surveyed said they support brands making donations to political organisations. Levi’s, which launched its “Vote About It” campaign in August, said its efforts were squarely targeted towards encouraging first-time voters and Gen Z to participate this cycle. In addition to selling “vote” merchandise and releasing a public service announcement, the Levi Strauss Foundation is donating $2.6 million towards voting initiatives in 2020, including theAmerican Civil Liberties Union, Fair Count and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “[Retailers] have been decimated by the pandemic…and they’re really thinking of trying to think outside the box,” said Hildy Kuryk, partner at consulting firm Artemis Strategies, who previously worked as executive director of communications for Vogue. “It’s smart business.”
Australia-based telco Belong has recently launched an app that allows users to quantify the environmental impact of their mobile phone usage. Carbon Thumbprint uses data modeling and AR to help consumers visualize the amount of CO2 their mobile data use contributes to carbon emissions. The estimated calculation, which is based on a series of questions about mobile data usage and the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, includes emissions associated with key mobile network infrastructure (such as towers and cables) but excludes the phone itself. New research from Belong found that only around eight per cent of Australians realise mobile data is a contributor to carbon emissions. Yet it is estimated that mobile data networks in Australia cause more than half a million tonnes of CO2 every year. In recognition of this impact, which is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from someone flying between Melbourne and Sydney more than three million times in a year, Belong has become Australia’s first accredited carbon neutral telecommunications provider – with all operations and services certified ‘carbon neutral’ at no extra cost to its customers. Belong CEO Ben Burge said the organisation is dedicated to helping Australians understand their ‘carbon thumbprint’, arming the general public with easy steps to help reduce their emissions. “More than half of Australia’s CO2 emissions are a product of energy use – either directly or as an output from the products and services we use. We don’t see the physical and tangible process which cause these emissions. Therefore, awareness around carbon usage is understandably very low,” he said.
Britain’s Cambridge University is to divest its multibillion-pound endowment fund from fossil fuel corporations after a five-year campaign by students, academics and politicians. Its vice-chancellor, Prof Stephen Toope, said that the university would divest from all direct and indirect investments in fossil fuels by 2030 and cut its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2038. “The university is responding comprehensively to a pressing environmental and moral need for action with an historic announcement that demonstrates our determination to seek solutions to the climate crisis,” Toope said. Cambridge has one of the biggest endowment funds – about £3.5bn – of any European university, and students and environmental campaigners have been engaged in a fight to force it to stop funding global polluters as the climate crisis worsens. The step-by-step changes, which the university hopes will inspire other institutions, will lead to the endowment fund:
● Withdrawing investments with conventional energy-focused public equity managers by December 2020
● Building up significant investments in renewable energy by 2025
● Divesting from all meaningful exposure in fossil fuels by 2030
● Aiming to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across its entire investment portfolio by 2038.
The university’s chief investment officer, Tilly Franklin, said: “Climate change, ecological destruction and biodiversity loss present an urgent existential threat, with severe risks to humankind and all other life on Earth. The investment office has responded to those threats by pursuing a strategy that aims to support and encourage the global transition to a carbon neutral economy.” The university also announced that all future research funding and other donations will be “scrutinised to ensure that the donor can demonstrate compatibility with the university’s objectives on cutting greenhouse gas emissions before any funding is accepted.”
Honda has decided to pull out of the FIA Formula One World Championship at the end of the 2021 season. The Japanese company, which is currently an engine supplier in the racing series, said: “As the automobile industry undergoes a once-in-one-hundred-years period of great transformation, Honda has decided to strive for the ‘realization of carbon neutrality by 2050.’ This goal will be pursued as part of Honda’s environmental initiatives which is one of the top priorities of Honda as a mobility manufacturer. Toward this end, Honda needs to funnel its corporate resources in research and development into the areas of future power unit and energy technologies, including fuel cell vehicle (FCV) and battery EV (BEV) technologies, which will be the core of carbon-free technologies. As a part of this move, in April of this year, Honda created a new center called Innovative Research Excellence, Power Unit & Energy. Honda will allocate its energy management and fuel technologies as well as knowledge amassed through F1 activities to this area of power unit and energy technologies and take initiatives while focusing on the future realization of carbon neutrality. Toward this end, Honda made the decision to conclude its participation in F1.”
Two mining firms, Trafigura and Glencore, have just announced that they’re in a “managed transition” away from coal – and into electric vehicles. Glencore’s chairman Tony Hayward told a commodities conference that firms invested in fossil fuels face a choice between managed decline, selling off assets, or finding a new business. What’s the next business? Electric cars. “We’re not going to sell our coal assets,” Hayward said, “but will reinvest cash coming out of the coal business to grow the base metals business to meet what we believe will be very significant new demand in those metals over the next 10 or 25 years as the world seeks to electrify.”