The Brand Move Roundup – April 30, 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.

As some US states begin to reopen non-essential businesses, the National Retail Federation has announced Operation Open Doors, which provides guidelines and assistance for brands trying to bring their brick-and-mortar stores back into operation during the pandemic. The NRF separated retailers’ priorities into four areas: health and safety, people and personnel, logistics and supply chain and litigation and liability, and has resources available online to help with each. But the group stressed that it needs government help with such efforts.

Mattel’s latest special edition action figure collection, #ThankYouHeroes, is commemorating delivery drivers, nurses, EMTs, doctors and grocery workers. Proceeds from the new Fisher-Price line of 16 action figures and five Little People Community Champions will go to #FirstRespondersFirst, an initiative created by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Thrive Global and the CAA Foundation to support first responders. Mattel is also providing toys to Bright Horizons daycare centers, which recently opened in partnership with #FirstRespondersFirst for the children of first responders. According to Mattel, these topical toys will be the first of several brand efforts designed to support today’s everyday heroes, with others kicking off in the coming weeks as part of the California-based company’s broader platform for social responsibility.

On Monday, fashion retailer J. Crew and its sibling brand Madewell started advertising packages of three masks made in their popular gingham and stripe patterns, and both brands’ products sold out in less than a day. By Tuesday morning, the product page on J. Crew’s site for the non-medical face masks advised consumers to “Please check back for a restock soon.” Sales were limited to two per customer. Banana Republic (which has also been advertising “video chat” accessories) is another retailer to have run out of masks.

Bakery chain Panera Bread has re-thought the way it provides services to consumers during the pandemic. Panera Grocery offers contactless pickup or delivery of grocery items at a time when individuals are attempting to shop less to reduce exposure to coronavirus. Consumers can order produce and dairy items as well as bread, bagels, sandwiches and soups through Panera’s website, app or GrubHub.

HP Inc. and its partners are working to close the homework and digital access gap during the pandemic: HP has launched HP Turn to Learn – a program that will deliver educational content curated from leading scientific, publishing and media companies to support teachers and students in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. HP is partnering with TIME for KidsBritannica and NASA on the program, which will focus on providing critical resources to Title I school districts and underserved students across the US. HP has removed the paywall from its TIME for Kids digital content and will ensure immediate access to printed classroom materials (textbooks, workbooks and other paper-based assignments). The program will ensure K-Grade 3 learners in select school districts will have access to TIME for Kids, Britannica and NASA for the rest of the school year, with the program expanding to K-12 soon.

Google is opening up its Google Meet videoconferencing service to anybody who wants to use it, instead of just offering it to enterprise and education customers via G Suite. The company says anybody with a Google account will now be able to create free meetings of up to 100 people that can last any amount of time, though after September 30th it may restrict meeting length to 60 minutes. Users won’t be able to just click a link and join a meeting; they’ll need to be logged in so meetings can be better controlled by their hosts. Google will also introduce other safety measures as a way of differentiating its Meet product from Zoom, which has had a meteoric rise that over the past few months and caught both Google and Microsoft flat-footed but suffered a series of security problems, which the fast-growing company has scrambled to address. Meet is also to be integrated into Gmail.

WhatsApp has launched an eight-person group video chat feature, up from the previous four participants. WhatsApp reports that over the last month, people on average spent over 15 billion minutes talking daily on WhatsApp calls. To utilize the new higher participant limit, users need to update to the latest version of WhatsApp.

Facebook is to broadcast a live graduation day ceremony titled #Graduation2020 with a commencement address from Oprah Winfrey and other celebrity appearances and performances. The virtual ceremony will acknowledge US high schools and colleges by name, state by state, including photos and videos of graduating classes. The ceremony video will be shared on Facebook Watch, with highlights posted to Instagram’s eponymous account. Facebook’s virtual activation will give both Facebook and Instagram grads a reason to celebrate graduation on social media despite schools being closed throughout summer. Facebook and Instagram are also adding a variety of creative tools to help grads celebrate the occasion, including a virtual graduation hub and custom filters on Facebook, as well as a grad countdown sticker, AR effects and grad-related songs added to music stickers on Instagram.

Footwear brand Hush Puppies is debuting a giveaway program for seniors who may be lonely and in need of support—both emotionally and physically. The company is giving away 5,000 pairs of Power Walker shoes, what it describes as “grandpa style,” in a program that asks customers to send the shoes via a form on their website to those seniors in their lives who could use a lift. According to a Hush Puppies spokeswoman citing a report in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 43 percent of U.S. adults who are at least 60 years old were already feeling lonely prior to the pandemic. Hush Puppies will also give 500 pairs of Power Walkers, which retail for about $100, to a retirement home in Grand Rapids, Michigan that is near its Rockford, Michigan headquarters.