The Brand Move Roundup – April 16, 2020

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

We started this series of brand updates on March 12, but the reaction has been so positive, and the crisis so fast-moving, that we’re going to move to a continuously updated rolling news format from now until it’s all over (hopefully soon). Keep checking back here for the latest updates on how brands are dealing with coronavirus.

British fashion brand Barbour has turned over its production line to making protective gowns for front line healthcare workers, reviving memories of its patriotic efforts in both world wars. The 126-year old Barbour, famous for its wax jackets and country fashion, is targeting the manufacture of 23,000 gowns over three weeks, chairman Dame Margaret Barbour told BBC radio on Wednesday. It hopes to have made at least 7,000 by the end of the week. “It’s extremely worthwhile to know that we’re playing our part,” she said. Barbour, 80, said the project stemmed from her close relationship with the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, northeast England, which was the first hospital in Britain to treat novel coronavirus patients in January. She offered to help by recalling machinists at Barbour’s nearby factory who in line with the national lockdown were not working, and reorganized the plant’s layout to comply with the government’s social distancing regulations. “They are so enthusiastic to help, I think we all are in this desperate time,” she said, noting that Barbour is no stranger to adaptation; during both world wars the factory was turned over to make military garments to assist the war effort.

Altogether, it has been calculated that the five biggest US tech firms – Google (Alphabet), Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple – have so far promised more than $1.25 billion in economic relief.

In its latest announcement, Apple has promised to donate a portion of sales from Product Red products to a COVID-19 relief fund. Product Red donations normally go toward fighting HIV/AIDS, but the organization has started directing money toward COVID-19 responses in light of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Cooper University Health will receive face shields from Apple. The healthcare provider said that Apple would donate “tens of thousands” of the shields for its front-line medical personnel as they treat patients with COVID-19. And Apple is the latest tech company to tap its wealth of consumer data to help public officials fight the coronavirus.

Google is looking to raise $5 million to help families in the San Francisco Bay Area impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, the company has announced. Google said it will donate $2 million towards the cause, with $1 million of that coming directly from CEO Sundar Pichai.

Facebook-owned social platform Instagram is making it easier for small businesses to feature gift cards, online food orders and fundraisers in their profiles or stories. In the U.S. and Canada, Instagram users will be able to tap on a gift card or food order to make a purchase through a company’s site. Instagram users can spread the word by resharing the stickers in Stories, to encourage their friends and followers to also support small businesses. It hopes the feature will help small businesses ramp up sales. This, along with Facebook’s recent launch of gift cards for small businesses, is meaningful because some 7.5 million small businesses are at risk of permanently closing over the next five months, should the pandemic and economic shutdown continue, according to a survey published this week by Main Street America, a network of 300,000+ small businesses. Facebook reports that there are 140 million businesses across the Facebook apps and 8 million of them are advertisers.

The majority are small and medium-size businesses. On Instagram, 90% of accounts follow at least one business, according to the company. And a Facebook survey found 76% of Instagram users say brands on the platform are “entertaining” and 77% say the Instagram profiles are “creative.” “Small businesses are the backbone of local communities and restaurants are the soul of neighborhoods,” said Instagram COO Justin Osofsky. “They bring people together and build community. We want to do our part in helping them stay open, keep in touch with customers, and be informed on how to navigate this crisis.”

Rihanna, Jay-Z and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey are adding to their seven-figure efforts to aid coronavirus relief efforts, this time with a focus on marginalized communities in cities that have been hit hard during the current pandemic. Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation, Jay-Z’s Shawn Carter Foundation, and Twitter and Square CEO Dorsey’s #startsmall have announced additional joint grants totaling more than $6.2 million that will fund COVID-19 rapid response efforts protecting vulnerable populations with a focus on New York, New Orleans and Puerto Rico, and some international communities.

$10 billion market cap financial services company Discover has helped to facilitate PIN-less transactions as shoppers no longer want to touch keypads. It has also allowed small business owner customers to defer payments on various loans and removed early withdrawal fees for those with CDs. “We are clearly getting a lot of demand from customers calling us to extend their payments. I think there is tremendous uncertainty out there in terms of how much impact all of the government stimulus will have to offset the stress that consumers are feeling right now,” Discover CEO Roger Hochschild said. Hochschild also said on March 13 — the day Discover moved to work-from-home requirements for employees — that there will be no layoffs. The company has donated $500,000 for U.S. food-relief efforts and $500,000 for WHO international relief.

In London, website Dishpatch has been set up as a directory of small, independent businesses that are offering food & drink deliveries. “With the lockdown in place, it took little more than two days for all major supermarkets to see their delivery services fully booked for over three months,” said the company. “The idea of popping to the shops was far from appealing where, to keep in-line with social distancing rules, stores were limited to 30 customers with queues to get inside lasting as long as four hours. Meanwhile, restaurants were going out of business and small independent stores were rapidly losing footfall customers, desperately recalibrating their businesses in order to survive the ensuing recession. Their answer was to pivot to groceries. After all, these businesses had produce that far superseded the quality of products you can get in the supermarkets. The problem: no one knew about them. Or, at least, a lot more could do with discovering them, instead of continuing to queue outside supermarkets.” They have now sent over 60,000 customers to independent outlets. “We see our mission as not only helping ease the situation caused by COVID-19,” they said, “but to make it as easy as possible for people to find and buy great food & drink from the best suppliers in the country.”

Rideshare company Lyft is tapping its drivers to help with delivery needs. While it has not historically offered delivery services, the company is now getting into the space to help partners, ranging from nonprofits to businesses, get meals, groceries, and other necessities to people in need. The initiative is called Essential Deliveries and it will be live in 11 cities, including Atlanta, Dallas and Seattle at first. Approved partners will be able to use Lyft’s platform for scheduling rides, known as Concierge, to set up deliveries. Lyft said it will consider expected delivery demand and notify the appropriate number of drivers who will be able to opt-in for delivery requests. It will expand to more drivers as warranted. In some cases, Lyft or Mastercard will donate rides and deliveries; in other cases, businesses are paying for deliveries. For instance, Dole Packaged Foods will use Lyft to deliver fruit products from its warehouses to senior facilities in Seattle. “It is often difficult for distributors to get to the facilities in a timely manner. Especially during the virus, the ‘last mile’ is oftentimes the most difficult,” said Dave Spare, vice president of marketing at Dole Packaged Foods, Dole is footing the cost of delivery and donating the goods, which is together expected to be around $1 million.

Meanwhile, ride-sharing rival Uber is also looking for new ways to help the under-served get access to foods during the pandemic. The company said Wednesday it is expanding its 1-833-USE-UBER to Uber Eats delivery so older adults, or anyone who prefers a conversation when ordering a meal or doesn’t have access to the Uber app, can place an order using an SMS or text-based mobile phone. Initially, it will only be available in the Greater Miami area and New York City’s five boroughs, the company said.

Camera manufacturer Nikon is offering free digital photography classes online. The classes, which are typically anywhere from $15 to $50 each, are available at Nikon School Online completely free until April 30. The 10 virtual courses cover topics such as photographing pets and children, shooting landscapes, recording video and more. Other courses are in-depth videos on how to use specific Nikon products. Additionally, Nikon is offering its Nikon Live streaming events for free. The pre-recorded events include talks from photographers and videographers on subjects ranging from camera settings to how to choose lenses and from behind-the-scenes stories to lectures on creativity. “Nikon’s mission has always been to empower creators,” the camera company said. “In these uncertain times, we can do that by helping creators stay inspired, engaged and growing.”