The Brand Move Roundup – May 6, 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.

Airbnb bookings have risen in a number of European countries. Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, highlighted a surge in domestic bookings in Denmark and the Netherlands. “The recovery is better than what we had forecast even two weeks ago. Is it a temporary recovery? Is it a permanent recovery? Nobody knows,” Chesky said. It has not been enough to alleviate a financial crisis at Airbnb, which said on Tuesday it was cutting 25 per cent of its workforce; the company now expects its global 2020 revenue to be half of the $4.8bn it took in last year. But the company said that by the end of April the number of bookings by Danish users planning stays in their own country was at around 90 per cent of April 2019 levels, while in the Netherlands domestic bookings were approaching 80 per cent of last year. Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria also saw some improvement in the number of domestic bookings. “People fundamentally are still going to want to travel, but I don’t think travel will look like it used to – I think it will be permanently altered,” said Chesky. The company is taking encouragement Chinese Airbnb, where users made twice as many bookings in April as in March as the country continued to reopen. About 60 per cent of bookings were to places within 200 miles of where guests lived.

The luxury property business is starting to react: Extell Development, a leader in setting the bar for luxury prices, is offering discounts of up to 20 percent on all remaining units at its One Manhattan Square condominium. The New York developer said the decision to slash prices was made “in response to global conditions related to COVID-19.” To keep deals moving, brokers across the city have hastily shifted their operations online, conducting meetings on Zoom and showing properties virtually — the closest thing buyers can get to a look inside from the confines of lockdown. “While we have adapted to selling our residences through a virtual sales experience, we recognize that it is also important to incentivize our buyers with this program,” Extell’s founder and chairman, Gary Barnett, said in a statement Thursday. “Combined with low interest rates and a 20-year tax abatement, we feel this will make for a very compelling offering.” The tower is currently advertising prices ranging from a one-bedroom unit asking $1.2 million to a three-bedroom unit asking $7.8 million.

Homeware brand Olivia’s has launched a consultancy service that’s now taking applicants for interior designers to help Animal Crossing: New Horizons players perfect the look and feel of their in-game homes. Budding and professional interior designers are being offered upwards of £40 an hour to provide this much-needed service, and it’ll be available to players worldwide. The consultant will visit your virtual island to discuss design ideas and desired styles, then attempt to find practical solutions in real-time. Consultants can also supply a mock-up of different design styles for you to use in future if you ever fancy redecorating.

“At Olivia’s we love sharing our passion for luxury living and design expertise with our customers, whatever their plans.”, said Nick Moutter, founder of Olivia’s. “So we thought why not set up a service where this advice can be provided in a virtual world? Especially one like Animal Crossing where players take a lot of pride in their game surroundings”.

Many people are turning to smart home devices for the first time as the coronavirus pandemic forces them inside, according to a new set of listening trends from Pandora.

The Sirius XM-owned digital audio company tracked a surge in Pandora listeners logging in from a connected home device for the first time in the weeks since quarantine measures started going into effect in the U.S. The company has also seen general at-home listening – a category that encompasses smart speakers and TVs, gaming consoles and other internet-enabled home appliances – pick up by double digits some of the time they would otherwise spend plugged into a mobile device on a commute. In light of that shift, Pandora is rolling out a new brand campaign this week called “Discover Your Great Indoors,” which will run across social, digital display, audio and email channels as well as on Pandora’s own platforms. The theme of the campaign is listeners transforming rooms of their homes with audio experiences on smart-home devices. Streaming music and podcast services including Pandora have long been the most popular use for smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. The company has also noticed an adjustment period to life under quarantine similar to that noted by other ads metrics analysts – namely a short-lived spike in news and science or health content giving way to more escapist and entertaining topics. Fitness content is also seeing a surge in popularity.

With travel grounded, media organizations have noted that their audiences still want to read about new experiences and destinations. These publications are seeing the same kind of traffic uptick around travel that publishers have noticed amid Covid-19. A piece from Travel + Leisure, for example, spotlighting museums that readers could tour virtually, racked up over 4 million visits and over 1.2 million video views in less than a week, the publisher said. Since its initial publication, the piece has generated over 7 million visits. The New York Times, also aware of how readers’ content preferences were changing, has

provides more service journalism for readers. In print, the publisher renamed its travel section At Home, providing coverage around an at-home lifestyle. Online, it tweaked its popular franchise 52 Places to Go to include all the virtual ways readers could visit those destinations.

UK optical chain Specsavers has been trialing virtual services. “We’ve been exploring remote alternatives to our traditional in-person appointments,” said Giles Edmonds, clinical services director at Specsavers. “Our stores are currently only able to offer urgent and essential care to a limited number of customers.” The new way of doing business is to allow customers to get advice and care from optometrists and audiologists via video and telephone link. “It removes a number of barriers, especially with health services already under immense pressure,” says Mr Edmonds. They also have an Ask The Expert service on Facebook, while in branches, “frontline” teams provide urgent and essential eye care.

Online UK grocery delivery service Ocado‘s sales jumped 40 per cent in the second quarter of the year thanks to surging demand for online grocery shopping. The online-only supermarket has expanded capacity in response to a big increase in business as restaurants shut down and shoppers became more wary about venturing to supermarkets. Sales might have increased even further, however, if Ocado had been able to scale up more quickly. Ocado said it had increased capacity at its warehouse in London 80,000 to 110,000 orders per week from 80,000. However, it said “more normal shopping patterns have returned” in recent weeks. Ocado isn’t the only grocer enjoying bumper sales. Consumers are making fewer trips to the shops but are spending more when they do venture out, according to data from analysts Kantar. Grocery sales in Britain rose by 5.5 per cent year-on-year in the four weeks to 19 April, Kantar said. Ocado said it expects “the long-term shift towards online grocery to accelerate post-crisis” but said it is unable to provide guidance for its outlook for the rest of the year due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Apple‘s now all-virtual World Wide Developers’ Conference will kick off on June 22. Apple is promising a “completely new online experience,” much of which looks likely to be happening inside the Apple Developer app itself; the only other element so far publicised is a young developers’ competition.

Though electric scooter hire companies Lime and Bird are still inactive, Spin, the scooter company owned by Ford, restarted service in some cities yesterday. It’s offering free rides to healthcare workers, cleaning scooters more often, and hoping that now is a good moment to win some market share. “We’ve taken this slow and steadier path towards growth,” Spin co-founder Euwyn Poon told me. “I think we’re kind of poised to be one of the leaders, if not the leader in growing this and scaling this as a true solution.” Spin hasn’t had to do layoffs, largely because Ford’s willing to play a long game with scooters. In that way, Poon said, “we’re very unique in this space, actually.”  Spin did shut down service in 60 of its 70 markets, but Poon said that with staff still on board and scooters in warehouses ready to go, getting things back up to speed won’t take much time at all.

A budget airline has announced six new short-haul routes from the UK’s Luton airport. Wizz Air, based in Hungary, will begin with a link to Faro in Portugal. New routes to four Greek islands will follow, with maiden flights in July, to Zakynthos, Heraklion in Crete, Corfu and Rhodes. A Marrakech service will follow in late October. “Although travel is currently restricted by government regulations, we are planning for the easing of restrictions as the situation improves and our customers are able to start travelling again, said Owain Jones, managing director of Wizz Air UK.

General Motors said it is planning to resume production at the majority of its North American plants on May 18 as it prepares operations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Considerable planning is under way to restart operations in North America,” the automaker said. “Based on conversations and collaboration with unions and government officials, GM is targeting to restart the majority of manufacturing operations on May 18 in the U.S. and Canada under extensive safety measures.” Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has also announced plans to resume production at most U.S. plants the week of May 18.