The Brand Move Roundup – April 21, 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.

Entercom, a leading multi-platform audio and entertainment company, has launched “Stay Connected” (#StayConnectedTogether), a public service initiative to unify the company’s crisis response across its 235 broadcast brands and expansive digital platform to meaningfully impact public health and well-being.  The initiative includes dedicated news content and original programming such as Heroes and Difference Makers, celebrating businesses, civic leaders, medical workers and first responders; Love Local, spreading the word about how best to support local businesses; I’m Listening: Stay Connected hosted by Loveline’s Dr. Chris Donaghue, a daily national conversation with mental health professionals; Home Schooled, featuring dozens of artists on the challenges of being at home; and original podcasts including The Kids are All Home, Coronavirus Daily, and America Dissected: Coronavirus, from the creators of Pod Save America. “As always and today more than ever, people turn to audio. Listeners rely upon us for the information they trust and need, and for the companionship and entertainment they love. Using our reach and influence to serve our communities is our highest priority right now,” said CMO Paul Suchman. To date, Stay Connected community efforts have raised nearly $5 million in local relief funds, delivered 1.5 million meals to those in need, and donated 179 pints of blood to patients. Entercom has also started a Team Relief Fund to support employees facing family, medical, child or eldercare hardships.

Audible, the Amazon-owned spoken-word book platform, is offering free content for children to keep them entertained  and educated during the lockdown “For as long as schools are closed, we’re open,” said the company. “Right now, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids.” All stories are free to stream on desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.

Rootine Vitamins has sped up the launch of their new ambassador & affiliate program to offer new ways for people to earn income remotely. Other ways the brand has integrated community is adding a Rootine community Slack channel where anyone can join to learn more about genetics, immunity, supplements, and nutrition, offer guidance from their team of experts, and connect with others.

A group of advertising people furloughed from some of London’s top agencies have started a pop-up agency, titled Not Fur’ Long, to support small businesses with creative and strategic help. “We’ve been furloughed,” said the team, “which has left us in the unique situation of being paid not to work. So, instead of starting a podcast or learning the art of baking sourdough, we decided to set up Not Fur’ Long and use our time to help brands and small businesses survive and thrive in these challenging times. Our aim is to offer strategic and creative support to businesses during these uncertain times and help set them up for success later down the line. Most reports suggest that this crisis will result in the closure of 1 in 5 small and medium sized businesses. But these businesses are the life blood of every community. And it’s those businesses we want to help.”

After closing their brick and mortar locations, upmarket coffee shop chain Alfred has launched a coffee subscription program which will allow people to automatically receive their coffee order in the comfort of their own homes. They’ve leveraged social media to support this, posting tutorials like “how to make cold brew at home”. They‘ve also launched a fundraising campaign to support UCLA Health’s COVID-19 Coronavirus Patient Care Fund by selling exclusive “I’m a Friend of Alfred” hoodies; 100% of the proceeds will go to UCLA Health.

Publishing has been badly impacted by the combination of anti-virus measures and economic downturn – but some top brands are rethinking their strategies as well as helping with fundraising efforts. Hearst Magazines’ luxury and design collection, comprised of Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Town & Country and Veranda magazines, is partnering with Habitat for Humanity New York City to launch “Design Unites,” a virtual auction hosted on the online platform Charitybuzz and featuring “one-of-a-kind” items and experiences curated by Hearst’s editorial teams. Items up for bid include one-on-one Zoom consultations with experts such as interior designer Nate BerkusQueer Eye‘s Bobby Berk, Town & Country editor-in-chief Stellene Volandes or Elle Decor editor-in-chief Whitney Robinson, a virtual art consultation and custom painting by artist Sally King Benedict and more. At Meredith Corp.Shape senior fashion editor Jenn Barthole has launched a campaign called “Sneakers for Heroes,” leveraging her social media following and her relationships with global footwear brands to encourage donations of sneakers to healthcare workers. Brands including Adidas, Asics, New Balance, Reebok and Under Armor have already signed up. “A pair of new sneakers may not seem like a big deal but a combination of working extremely long shifts on their feet (while dealing with a lack of PPE), and constantly disinfecting their footwear makes new shoes a small luxury,” Barthole said. And telecom giant Verizon Communications’ media division, whose digital brands include Engadget, HuffPost, TechCrunch and Yahoo!, says it’s donating $10 million in digital ad inventory as well as creative services to support COVID-19 response efforts by the CDC, WHO and five mental health organizations, including the Child Mind Institute, the Crisis Text Line and the Trevor Project. Verizon says the campaigns will be intended to both raise awareness and help mobilize resources, spanning display advertising, video and native placements and running across Verizon’s entire portfolio of sites, as well as third-party properties on its advertising platform.

Niche industries are doing their bit to help – like Canada’s hockey equipment manufacturers. Companies such as Bauer and Brian’s Custom Sports,have pivoted to manufacturing PPE, and now Montreal-based CCM Hockey is to begin producing full-head protective hoods to help protect front-line healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The hood was designed by Dr. René Caissie of the Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal, in collaboration with Industrie Orkan, a Canadian leader in high-efficiency particulate air handling systems. Manufacturing blueprints will be shared on the hockey equipment company’s website to allow other manufacturers to join the fight against COVID-19. “We are deploying our culture of innovation and craft, which normally protects the world’s best hockey players doing battle on the ice, for a new purpose: protecting our healthcare workers on the front lines of the most important battle of our time,” said Rick Blackshaw, CEO of CCM Hockey.

Musical gear specialists have stepped up too. California-based Thalia normally make guitar accessories like capos, picks, and guitar-branded smartphone cases, but owner Chris Bradley and his staff of about a dozen employees have pivoted to manufacturing intubation boxes for hospital workers treating COVID-19 patients. Bradley says he got the idea to make the protective boxes from an emergency room doctor and friend. Now the company is ramping up production of its “Thalia Boxes” to meet a demand of 200 boxes per day. While hospitals can buy one for $175, Thalia is donating intubation boxes to hospitals in need thanks to an ongoing GoFundMe campaign, which has already raised close to $30,000. Fellow musical equipment brand D’Addario has come up with a plan to change their Evans drumheads into protective face shields. Realizing that Evans G2 drumheads could were the perfect material to construct hardy, protective face shields, the company is now looking to manufacture 100,000 face shields each week. While hospitals are building secondary sites away from overcrowded hospitals, live concert specialist Upstaging has taken its stage-rigging gear and used it instead to outfit medical facilities and to create room dividers, intubation boxes, and other medical gear. Similarly, Mountain Productions has launched MTN Emergency Services to create the temporary medical structures themselves, as well as to manufacture PPE that includes gowns, mattress covers, and face masks. Another music gear company looking to take care of its local community is string giant Ernie Ball. With a factory in California’s Coachella Valley, Ernie Ball has shifted some of its production line to creating hundreds of face masks every day, to be distributed free to local community members. CEO Brian Ball said: “We are dedicating our accessories and strap manufacturing departments to producing masks and are making it a top priority. The Coachella Valley is our home and we want to help both local charities and the residents.”

With a surge in animal fostering, adoptions and purchases has come a boom in consumer interest in pet products and services. Major U.S. pet brands have had to step up to meet the challenge. “Speaking from a financial perspective,” Suzanne McDonnell, chief commercial officer and head of ventures and partnerships at Bark, owner of DTC brand BarkBox, said, “history has shown us that people actually spend more on their pets in an economic downturn. We are seeing our business grow, especially among retailers who also sell groceries. Not surprisingly, we are also seeing our online business grow significantly among brick-and-click partners.” DTC pet product retailer Chewy is “working quickly and diligently to adapt our practices and policies in a way that safeguards our team members’ health, as well as our customers’ experience,” vice president of communications at Chewy Diane Pelkey. Chewy has partnered with to donate more than $3 million in pet food, healthcare supplies and other essential products to animal rescues and shelters throughout the country that have been impacted by the economic and social effects of the pandemic. And Petco, the international pet retail chain, is keeping pet owners updated on developments related to Covid-19 (including whether domestic animals can contract the virus). Petco tapped into its own veterinary staff as well as the PetCo Pet Wellness Council, a coalition of animal health experts, to provide information and insights on the coronavirus curated for customers. As an essential retailer, Petco remains open, but has implemented a number of changes: Curbside pickup is available at most stores, which are undergoing more cleaning; stopped shipments of nonessential items like toys and apparel; discontinued adoption events; and suspended Vetco vaccination clinics. Petco has also established the Petco Partner Assistance Fund, with $2 million from Petco and more from sponsors and executive leadership to directly aid Petco partners who have been impacted by the pandemic.

Talking of animals, Australian Group Nine digital media brand The Dodo, which delivers entertainment to audiences in the form of animal content, has seen its figures soar. The Dodo’s content consumption over the last six weeks has grown significantly across key platforms YouTube and Facebook compared to the same period in 2019. YouTube watch time and views have risen more than 170% and 162%, respectively, while Facebook watch time and views are up 83% and 70%, respectively. President YuJung Kim said the company has found that, especially in times of hardship and uncertainty such as natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey and the Australian wildfires, election cycles or a global health crisis, people proactively seek out The Dodo’s content because it offers them respite and hope. “During the past few weeks, we’ve been getting a lot of comments from people who say that watching Dodo videos is a bright spot in their day,” Kim said.

A snapshot from Singapore’s online commerce sector: Alibaba-owned platform Lazada says the on-boarding of sellers is a priority and has a dedicated team focused on this initiative, providing training and support to businesses, especially some who are in retail but have not yet explored the benefits of going online. It has joined Enterprise Singapore’s E-Commerce Programme to help retailers change their business model and diversify their sales channels and revenue streams beyond traditional brick-and-mortar. When retailers sign up to be a seller on Lazada’s platform, they can receive up to S$9,000 to cover services including content development, product listings, training and advertising. Lazada Marketplace doesn’t charge commission to its sellers, but its LazMall service does. However, this benefit has been extended to new sellers for the first 30 days, to defray their costs during this incubation period. Also part of the Enterprise Singapore program is Shopee, which says it is keen to nurture and empower local entrepreneurs and SMEs. It has rolled out campaigns such as the #SGUnited Shopee Support Local campaign in Singapore. This initiative aims to increase exposure for local sellers and helps drive traffic to them through a dedicated campaign microsite featuring various local sellers each week, and will also provide sellers with marketing support in the form of vouchers and discounts to optimize sales. Cashback platform Shopback has recommended that all brands, especially those still without an online presence, take this opportunity to ramp up their digital strategy. Brands that on-board onto ShopBack are assigned an account manager from the business development team who works with them on their marketing efforts. On top of that, the platform provides its merchant partners customer insights to make more data-driven and targeted decisions.

“We operate a performance-based marketing model, meaning merchants pay a pre-agreed commission only after a successful sale or transaction, and any other online and offline marketing efforts are free,” Joel Leong, the co-founder of ShopBack, explained. “We also recently launched a campaign called ShopBack To Go as a simple way for consumers to find restaurants with takeaway options in their neighborhood, including those with great takeaway deals. We hope that this campaign will help our F&B merchants during this challenging period, by raising awareness of their brand and driving sales for them.”