The Brand Move Roundup – September 25, 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.

Chinese consumers are finally starting to spend again after the pandemic-induced slump, but the recovery is unbalanced and overly reliant on luxury goods, with poorer Chinese still cautious. Consumption has started to catch up to the much stronger rebound in industrial output, with retail sales growing in August for the first time this year. Spending on luxury goods, cars and electronics is leading the charge, rising faster than food, clothing and other essentials. Though the virus is under control, income and job losses due to the pandemic have made poorer Chinese unwilling or unable to increase spending, keeping a lid on the rebound. “Higher-income households have probably built up savings, because of the forced reduction in consumption during lockdown, and could now be ready for a spending spree. It is lower-income households that face a longer slog of normalizing their finances,” He Wei, an analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, said in a recent report. Luxury spending in China will grow 20%-30% this year, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group, but much of that growth is going to come from consumers in the 50 largest and richest cities. People in the other 2,206 cities bought only a quarter of all luxury goods in April-July this year, and their spending was down 4% compared with 2019, according to the report. “The Mainland China retail market showed strong recovery over recent months, as driven by some pent up demand,” a spokesperson of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group said. It organized more than 230 livestreaming events between February and August to attract the young Chinese buyers. But it’s hard to say if this demand rebound can sustain. While Chinese consumers remain more confident about the future spending than most major Asian markets, 75% of Chinese respondents are still planning to cut back their expenses in the next 3 to 6 months amid the economic uncertainties triggered by Covid-19, according to a Nielsen report in September. “When people can’t travel, they’ll spend money in other ways,” Justin Sargent, Shanghai-based president of Nielsen Asia, Retail Intelligence, said in an interview last week. “Generally speaking, the growth in recent months was driven by emotional spending. Going forward, we’ll see more rationality.”

TikTok has banned ads for fasting apps and weight loss supplements, and will prevent ads for other weight management products from reaching users under 18, it said today. “These types of ads do not support the positive, inclusive, and safe experience we strive for on TikTok,” Tara Wadhwa, the company’s safety policy manager, wrote in a blog post about the new policies. The changes come two weeks after TikTok removed a number of diet pill ads (along with ads for fake apps and other scams) discovered by cybersecurity firm Tenable. At the time, TikTok didn’t have guidelines on diet-related marketing; it removed the ads for violating established policies against “fake, fraudulent, or misleading content.” Now, it’s laying the groundwork to “increase restrictions on ads that promote a harmful or negative body image,” Wadhwa wrote. This involves “stronger restrictions on weight loss and implied weight loss claims” and “further restrictions to limit irresponsible claims made by products that promote weight loss management or control,” she added.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s payment provider Square will invest in an array of funds and lenders focused on underserved communities of color, joining a growing number of big businesses taking on racial economic inequality. Square promises to invest $100 million, or about 3 percent of its cash, in four chunks:

  • $25 million in deposits at Community Development Financial Institutions, or C.D.F.I.s, and Minority Depository Financial Institutions, or M.D.I.s. By parking some of its cash with these firms – much as Netflix has said it would – Square hopes to bolster their ability to lend in underserved communities.
  • $25 million in The Keepers Fund, a vehicle sponsored by the National Bankers’ Association meant to invest in M.D.I.s.
  • $25 million in the Black Economic Development Fund, which was created by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to support Black-led banks and businesses.
  • $25 million will be reserved for future programs.

Dorsey, who has publicly supported the Black Lives Matter movement, has personally pledged $1 billion to relief programs tied to the pandemic. And the company’s Square Capital division distributed more than $870 million in small-business loans through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. The move fits Square’s corporate mission of helping businesses grow through finance. “Part of the reason that Square exists is for this very purpose,” the company said. “It’s not just doing good in the world, it’s good business, too.”

Google is rethinking its long-term work options for employees, as most of them say they don’t want to come back to the office full-time. Sixty-two percent of Google employees want to return to their offices at some point, but not every day, according to a recent survey of employee office preferences the company released this week. So Google is working on “hybrid” models, including rearranging its offices and figuring out more long-term remote work options, said Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. “I see the future as being more flexible,” Pichai said. “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new so we don’t see that changing. But we do think we need to create more flexibility and more hybrid models.” The long-term planning comes as Google, which has been looked at as a model for Silicon Valley workplaces, slowly reveals more details of its plans to return its employees back to the office while also competing with other tech companies for top talent. Earlier in the summer, the company gave staffers the option to work from home through July 2021 amid the global pandemic. That came as Facebook announced a similar timeline, while other companies, such as Twitter, said employees can work remotely “forever.” Google began preparations early on in the pandemic and more recently made changes including to its internal communication forums. However, employees have missed the in-office perks such as food offerings and personal chefs. Ten percent of Google employees – down from 20% surveyed in May – said they don’t want to come into the office at all in the future, according to the recent survey. Fifteen percent said they’d only want to come into the office “ad hoc” or for particular events. Employees’ reasons for wanting to return to offices included face time with colleagues, the ability to socialize, and better collaboration opportunities, the survey showed.

Thrash metal rock legends Anthrax have announced a new entry into the ever-expanding world of odd music merchandise – Anthrax-themed hand sanitiser. The bottle encourages you to stop Spreading The Disease, while also communicating your appreciation for the band’s 1985 album Spreading The Disease. Drummer Charlie Benante took to Instagram to reveal the hand sanitizer is on the way from the band’s merch store, showing off the bottle adorned with the record’s cover art – which has been slightly changed to depict someone being sprayed with disinfectant rather than whatever is going on in the original. Oh, and there’s a “Stop” before the album title, just in case the messaging was getting confused.