The Brand Move Roundup – April 23, 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.

Fast food brand Denny’s is joining in with the boom in online gaming by participating as a gamer on PS4 and Xbox One, where it plays as Dennys247. It’s also on Nintendo Switch, where it hit the limit on its number of friends on the platform in less than a day. The diner brand is giving codes and discounts to people it connects with in gaming, and it’s leveraging fan engagement with gaming-related posts on Twitter and Instagram.

Workwear brand Dickies has announced that, in partnership with its parent company, VF Corporation, it is shortly to start manufacturing FDA-compliant isolation gowns for hospitals and healthcare workers. The personal protective equipment (PPE) garments will be distributed to communities throughout the US in cooperation with federal and state government leaders. “Dickies has stood alongside generations of workers and in light of these unprecedented times, we’re joining in the effort to help healthcare professionals on the front lines,” said Denny Bruce, Dickies Global Brand President. “As a heritage brand that goes to work, especially when the work gets tough, we are committed to equipping these workers with the critical medical garments they need to protect themselves as they continue the fight against this pandemic.” With initial production beginning next week, VF Corporation and Dickies expect to produce and deliver 50,000 gowns in May and intend to create production capacity to make up to 675,000 gowns by June and up to 3.4 million by September with fabric sourced from industry partner Milliken & Company. This builds on several other initiatives that both Dickies and VF Corporation have each rolled out in response to COVID-19, including a $1.5 million donation to local communities from The VF Foundation, the private grantmaking organization funded by VF Corporation, and a donation of Dickies branded scrubs to impacted US hospitals in partnership with Careismetic Brands, the largest US supplier of scrubs.

Hot dog brand Oscar Mayer, which typically does big business during the spring and summer barbecue season, is suggesting people do a Front Yard Cookout where they can see their neighbors, but from a distance of at least 12 hot dogs apart. Each time someone shares an image from a cookout with the #FrontYardCookout it will donate a meal to Feeding America, which is already getting 1 million meals from the Kraft Heinz brand.

The James Dyson Foundation, Dyson’s charitable arm, recently published 44 science and engineering tasks to keep young minds ticking over during the isolation period. The foundation’s Challenge Cards have been designed by Dyson engineers for children, in order to encourage inquisitive young minds to get excited about engineering. The challenges include building a cardboard boat, racing a balloon-powered car – or making a Golden Gate Bridge replica out of spaghetti.

The UK mobile industry, banking and finance sector and the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have united to tackle criminals sending scam text messages exploiting the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the cross-industry initiative, the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) has developed a “white list” which allows businesses and organisations to register and protect their sender IDs when sending out real text messages.

This makes it harder for criminals to send messages using the same sender ID as a particular brand or government department, by checking first whether the sender is the genuine registered party. Some 50 bank and government brands are currently safeguarded as part of the initiative, with 172 trusted sender IDs registered.

McDonald’s is devoting its next two weeks of advertising to Thank You Meals, its new push to give free meals to first responders, and its biggest coronavirus-related marketing move to date, showing that COVID-19-related efforts are not slowing down in the restaurant industry.

UK media brand The Telegraph is launching a coronavirus-free weekly newsletter to carry news and information separate to the global crisis. It is aimed at those who might be seeking a distraction from the Covid-19 news, escapism or simply a wish to know what else is going on in the world. Kirsten Powley, Editorial Newsletters Editor, said: “We are delighted to introduce our brand-new Telegraph In Other News newsletter, which is delivered free to inboxes every Tuesday afternoon. We understand that although we are in a global crisis, you may want to hear about something unrelated to Covid-19. Whether this is for escapism, distraction, or simply to know what else is going on, we are offering a respite from our comprehensive coverage of the pandemic.” She added: “Coverage of the pandemic is everywhere, and we understand that it can be overwhelming. It’s not easy to get away from it all – made especially difficult when we can’t physically escape either.”

While restaurants are closed, including those in stores and amusement parks, some brands are continuing to offer their iconic dishes – at least remotely, via home cooking. Swedish homeware giant IKEA, for instance, has released the recipe for their well-known meatballs, while Disney has been posting recipes for some of the dishes offered at its venues.

Nonprofit COVID Tech Connect (CTC) is asking tech manufacturers to donate WiFi-enabled devices for hospital patients to video chat with their loved ones while they undergo medical treatment, as hospitals are no longer admitting family members or friends due to the risks of spreading the disease. CTC came about after Sara Rodell, CEO of technology logistics company Loop and Tie, heard that people in the New York Nurses Union were trying to organize donations of smart devices so that family members could stay in touch with their loved ones during the chaos of the COVID-19 outbreaks. “We have over 3,000 devices committed and more conversations are underway to get us to that goal,” Rodell said. “We’ve received some great responses from partners willing to donate devices, including Microsoft, PCS Wireless and Presto, with more announcements coming soon.”

In the face of an advertising slump, UK parenting site Mumsnet is, for the first time in its 20-year history, turning to a paid membership model in an attempt to make up for some of the shortfall. For £4.99 ($6.15) a month, Mumsnet Premium users can access an ad-light version of the site – display ads will be removed but native ads will remain. The membership will also soon include access to discounts and offers from third-party companies and additional forum features, such as being able to filter threads by users and the ability to edit posts. “At the moment it is very limited, more like an appeal, but we are very committed to bringing on board partners who offer really great exclusive discounts that make it a good value exchange for our users,” said founder Justine Roberts. Mumsnet has set a target for around 100,000 of its 1 million registered members to sign up for the premium offer over time. Roberts said there had already been a plan in the works for a paid tier, but that the current crisis expedited its launch.

Animal shelters and rescues are seeing an increase in people adopting pets. The Central California SPCA have said they haven’t had many animals coming in, but they are seeing more dogs and cats finding homes. Animal shelter officials are worried about families returning pets once stay at home orders life, however, The California Director of the Humane Society of the US says they’re working on ways to make sure adopted animals can stay in their new homes. “We’re trying to do measures like providing pet food and veterinary services so people won’t give up their pets due to financial support issues,” Sabrina Ashjian said.

In associated news, online pet supplies specialist Chewy has announced that it is joining the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and donating $1 million to expand Chewy, Inc. food support for people and pets living in under-served communities through the HSUS’s Pets for Life (PFL) and Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) programs. Both programs serve pet parents and pet healthcare partners to ensure that families are able to keep their pets healthy at home rather than facing the difficult decision of surrendering their pet. This partnership is the latest in a series of relief efforts to which Chewy is contributing; totaling more than $4 million in pet products donated across the country. “It has always been Chewy’s mission to serve pet parents, and we’re committed to fulfilling that promise now more than ever. We are honored to continue our support with a $1 million donation to help put much-needed resources directly into the hands of millions of pet parents dealing with the economic effects of COVID-19. This program is going to help people around the country by making sure pets stay healthy, happy, and at home,” said Sumit Singh, CEO of Chewy.