The Brand Move Roundup – September 10, 2020

We’re tracking the notable brand moves & highlighting the companies who are tackling this challenge successfully.

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.

Outdoor wear brand Patagonia has released a heartfelt statement about its struggle to become a more inclusive company. The acknowledgement, published on its website, says:  “Patagonia has struggled to find the right words to respond to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Dijon Kizzee, and far too many others. We’ve also struggled to express our support for the racial justice movement sweeping the country. The few words we have conveyed fell short and failed to comprehend the pain of our colleagues of color and partners in the outdoor community. The Black Lives Matter movement has forced a reckoning of the deep racial injustice around us and laid bare our complicity. We are a white-led outdoor company reliant on recreation on stolen Native lands that are not yet safe for all. Recent months have revealed how much more we need to do to live up to our values as an activist company. We missed too much. Our hearts hurt, but our pain is nowhere near what our colleagues who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color have suffered. We are sorry for the harm we’ve caused. To truly step up to this work, we must confront Patagonia’s lack of progress and take full ownership of the legacy of our failures. We must listen to and support our Black, Indigenous and colleagues of color first and commit to becoming a more inclusive and equitable company. And we will amplify the true leaders on justice and equity in the environmental movement and outdoor industry. This work is urgent and lifelong. We will never be “done.” We’re recommitting our time and resources to this essential part of our mission. We welcome having our eyes opened to what we ignored. We’re building a foundation for our work by listening more deeply to our colleagues of color to learn from their experiences and insights. We’ve begun company-wide learning sessions to create a shared understanding of what it means to be an antiracist company. And we’re updating policies to make equity more explicit.Talk is cheap. In the months ahead, we’ll share our progress so that we can be held accountable. We’re in business to save our home planet, but we can’t possibly do this alone. We must focus on those most impacted by the environmental crisis and follow their lead. We are here for the work of forging a more just world.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided it will require films competing for best picture to meet criteria aimed at fostering a more inclusive Hollywood. The criteria will come into effect starting with the 2024 Academy Awards. Since the #OscarsSoWhite campaign of 2015 criticized Hollywood for gender and racial inequality, the Academy and movie studios alike have been implementing a series of initiatives meant to include more people from underrepresented groups. Hollywood has made some gains in recent years, but it has continued to draw criticism for predominantly employing and honoring white professionals. In a statement Tuesday, the Academy issued an expansive list of standards, detailing the many ways films can qualify under the new regulations meant to spur increased inclusion both on and off screen. Films can qualify by meeting standards in at least two of four broad categories. Those include having at least one main actor from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group; casting at least 30% of minor actors from underrepresented groups; and telling a story that focuses on such groups.

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus is launching a new digital marketing campaign titled “Neiman’s State of Mind,” which will replace its print magazine The Book, at least for the near future. Opting for digital versus print made sense during a time when consumers are engaging more with online content, according to Lana Todorovich, the company’s president and chief merchandising officer. The aim of the campaign is to deepen Neiman Marcus’ personal relationships with customers by “leaning into” the changes wrought by Covid-19. “For us, luxury has been about the personal relationship, and we see that in how our customers are loyal to us,” Todorovich said. With that in mind, there is a focus on categories such as casual luxury and sustainable luxury, items such as loungewear for relaxing at home and beauty products for “camera” time, whether with loved ones or for work. Like other retailers, Neiman Marcus is also seeing a significant increase in its sales of home furnishings as well as items such as sneakers, of which it sold 35,000 pairs in one month to men alone, trends that the retailer recalibrated for in its merchandise assortment, Todorovich noted. Earlier this year, the luxury purveyor rolled out Neiman Marcus Connect, a service that links up customers with its nearly 5,000 sales associates, which generated some 1.5 million interactions either via email, phone calls, video calls or text messages during the three months when physical stores were closed due to the pandemic. It also resulted in $60 million in sales in addition to the revenue from, according to Todorovich. The ultimate goal is to provide a high level of customer service, no matter how customers shop, she said, encompassing personalized services such as appointments either in the store or online as well as matching customers with a style adviser or “soulmate” via Stylist Match, who will be on hand either in the store, online or via FaceTime. There is also the Neiman Marcus app, which offers tools such as the Memory Mirror that lets customers record and review try-ons.

The COVID-19 pandemic led guitar companies, like many industries, to shut down production earlier this year, and was at first seen as a potential death knell in what was already a declining guitar market. Instead, guitar sales have bounced back in a big way. Fender’s guitar-instruction app, Fender Play – which offered a number of free trials over the lockdown period – saw its user base increase to 930,000 from 150,000 between late March and late June, with close to 20 percent of the new users under 24, and 70 percent under 45. Additionally, new female users increased from 30 percent before the pandemic to 45 percent. Gibson had closed its factories in April due to the pandemic, and, said Gibson CEO James “JC” Curleigh, “When we had no production, we had no sales, let’s face it.” But by late summer, he continued, “we literally couldn’t deliver enough. Everything we were making, we could sell.” Martin CEO Chris Martin described the current situation as a “guitar boom,” while Taylor co-founder Kurt Listug said his company “had the biggest June, in terms of orders received, that we’ve ever had since we’ve been in business.” Retailer Guitar Center, meanwhile, has reported triple-digit growth for most top brands on its website, and Brendan Murphy, a senior salesman at rival Sweetwater, said, “I’ve been in the instrument retail business for 25-plus years and I’ve never seen anything like it. It feels like every day is Black Friday.”

UK supermarket chain Tesco is to trial home deliveries by drone in a move that could allow small items to be despatched to customers within 30 minutes to an hour of ordering. Britain’s biggest retailer has teamed up with the drone delivery company Manna and will conduct the six-month trial next month delivering essentials from its Oranmore store in Co Galway, Ireland, where Manna has a licence to operate. The trial is aimed at “small baskets” – a market Tesco estimates will be worth £10bn in the UK in the coming years. Claire Lorains, group innovation director at Tesco, said: “We are interested to see how drones could be part of the solution to deliver to our customers on-demand small baskets. If our trial with Manna is successful, we believe there is an opportunity to reach many customers through our stores, extending via our drone service.” Food retailers around the world have expanded their delivery services since the Covid-19 pandemic and several are following Amazon in trialling drones. The online retail giant started testing drones several years ago. Amazon claimed its first successful Prime Air drone delivery in Cambridge, UK in December 2016 when it delivered a TV streaming stick and bag of popcorn directly to the garden of a nearby customer. Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer which also owns the UK supermarket chain Asda, also said that it would run a project to deliver grocery and household products via drone delivery firm Flytrex.

From today the government of British channel island Jersey is sending 105,000 eligible citizens a prepaid Spend Local card with £100 on it to spend in shops and businesses on the island. It is part of a £150m fiscal stimulus package by the island’s government. Residents will be able to spend their card with any local business in Jersey that accepts Mastercard payments face-to-face or over the phone. They can spend in multiple locations on island and in any amount, up to the balance of the card. The card can also be used to purchase higher value goods or services and users can pay the difference with another card or cash. The card is restricted to Jersey and will not work off-island or online.

In past years, vodka brand Grey Goose has been one of dozen corporate sponsors that help generate millions in revenue for the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Past campaigns have included on-premise fan events, as well as nearby brand activations. But perhaps most importantly, however, Grey Goose annually sold nearly 250,000 Honey Deuce cocktails — which contain lemonade, Chambord, honeydew melon balls and, of course, vodka. The drinks typically cost around $15 a pop. But now the brand is tackling the challenge of engaging virtual fans with the launch of the Honey Deuce home cocktail kit, in partnership with Sourced Craft Cocktails. The campaign will also include a popup at New York’s Dante bar, which is serving the Honey Deuce at its outdoor patio and the kits to-go. “This year required us to break from our traditional approach and tap into consumer desire,” Grey Goose brand director Stacy Saltiel said. That is by recreating the signature Honey Deuce cocktail of the U.S. Open – of which over a million have been served at the stadium since 2007 – for an at-home audience. The kit includes all the needed ingredients, including a bottle of Grey Goose and the collectible cups people would get when buying the drink at the match.