The Brand Move Roundup – May 11, 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.

With lockdown hitting retail but boosting online activities, gaming is gaining traction in the beauty space. Drest, the gaming app launched last fall by former Porter editor Lucy Yeomans, has launched a beauty partnership with makeup artist Mary Greenwell; users can now choose custom digital makeup looks for the 12 available avatars, which could already be dressed in fashion pieces. When Drest, which gives users daily styling challenges with the latest fashion pieces, launched it partnered with 100 fashion brands. Users could purchase items they dressed the avatars in from Farfetch. Today, the company has 160 fashion partners. “We tackled fashion first, but knew we wanted to add beauty from the get-go,” said Yeomans. “This is the next evolution of content. [To date,] content in the fashion world has been a very small number of people telling you what’s in, what’s the trend, how you should style it; luxury fashion can feel like a club that only a few people can be in. But beauty is a lot more interactive. Anyone can play in beauty, because the price point is lower. This is a way for Drest to be more inviting and inclusive.” Until recently, many gaming apps have leaned into fashion, but not yet beauty. MAC Cosmetics recently expanded its product partnership with Tencent mobile game Honor of Kings from China to other global markets.

According to gaming and e-sports market research firm Newzoo, there are 2.7 billion gamers globally, and this year, the global games market will generate revenues of more than $160 billion, a 7.3% year-0ver-year growth rate. Drest followed in the footsteps of Covet, a fashion game that centers on a digital dressing model, but doesn’t offer the opportunity to shop from the app. Lovelooks, another fashion game that launched last year, has banked on styling too, in the form of paper dolls; users earn points and can then cash out for real products. But Yeomans and Greenwell instead compare Drest’s experience to games like Zynga’s FarmVille. “Ten of my friends, who I knew and respected and had good jobs, invited me to play FarmVille. I liked the strategy piece of it. With Drest, you need a team to make a beautiful look, like pairing this makeup artist with that supermodel or that photographer. I think luxury brands have had a hard time with platforms like Snapchat, because those platforms don’t respect the codes of luxury, but we do,” said Yeomans. Last week, Valentino also created 20 custom men’s and women’s looks with Animal Crossing to download for free. “Animal Crossing gives players a near-infinite level of customization. With the custom design codes, people can represent their favorite brands in the game. This has a social aspect to it, as players interact with each other online. Right now, this is something we expect to see more of, and we’ll see more user-generated content that features brand mentions in video games, as well,” said Kyle Wong, CEO of visual marketing platform Pixlee.

Restaurant franchise operator Yum China is betting that Chinese consumers will still choose to dine-in in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis and plans to open more Pizza Hut KFC outlets in China’s smaller cities in the coming months. Joey Wat, CEO of the fast food giant, said that while the virus had driven up the takeaway rate at its businesses, it continues to see expansion opportunities especially in fourth- and fifth-tier cities where there are less Western dining options and fewer competitors. “If you want to have Western food, or a cup of fresh ground coffee, where can you go? Even the hotels don’t have it. KFC is the only choice,” Wat said. “We will continue to be committed to the China market and we are here to stay for long,” she said. Yum China said last month that it plans to open up to 850 new stores in China this year, having already opened 179 in the first quarter. In reopening its restaurants, especially for dine-in, Yum China has made the wearing of masks and temperature checks mandatory at its outlets. Wat said the virus had helped drive take-out demand for Pizza Hut, which only accounted for 5% of the chain’s orders prior to the epidemic. Pizza Hut’s take-out rate has so far increased to 13% and “may triple to 15% within this year,” she said. “So we are seeing some positive things come out of it.”

Disney has canceled its glitzy live season showcase preview in favor of streaming-video presentations tailored to each of the industry’s biggest media-buying shop. “These are a little more customized and intimate,” said Rita Ferro, president of Disney Advertising Sales, “but will retain some of the hallmarks of a bigger show, such as celebrities who will give shout-outs to agency executives in each audience. Participants will be able to access “bonus content” they can examine on-demand after the presentation is complete. Disney is offering a new twist on a scaled-back version of what is usually TV’s biggest week of promotion; every May, big U.S. media companies book venues like Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall in an effort to woo billions of dollars from advertisers. However, Disney will emphasize its recent ability to pivot to current conditions. In recent weeks, its TV networks have created big-audience specials like a “Disney Family Singalong” sponsored by State Farm and T-Mobile, or ESPN’s “Last Dance” documentary that features advertising support from Facebook, State Farm and Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, all of which are helping to create extra content related to the ten-part series. One State Farm ad that debuted featuring old footage of ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne was created by ESPN’s in-house creative unit. A joint ESPN-ABC telecast of the NFL Draft – using feeds from dozens of participants’ homes – sold out all its commercial time to advertisers including Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Bud Light and Verizon. “We are going to show how Disney drives culture and how Disney drives connections,” says Ferro. “And we are going to show how we have innovated.”

London restaurateurs Corbin & King, who run a small chain of highly popular, upmarket restaurants and brasseries are launching dining vouchers, with 50% going directly to the staff to help make up for lost earnings during the lockdown. The vouchers, which run from £50 to £2,000, will be valid for all the company’s restaurants including The Wolseley, The Delaunay and Brasserie Zedel.

Concert promoter Live Nation is giving investors a glimpse into the future with sales of tickets to see country-rock singer Travis McCready in what will be the industry’s first socially distanced concert. Live Nation is implementing a number of guidelines to comply with local restrictions including limiting the number of available seats so fans remain at least six feet apart during the show. At the McCready show “fan pods” will consist of anywhere between two and 12 seats, cutting the allowed attendance down to 20% of normal capacity. Attendees will need to wear masks and have their temperature checked at entry points. Fog sprayers will be used to sanitize the venue, bathrooms will be limited to ten people at a time, and soap and paper towel dispensers will be touch-less. As for the concession stand, food and beverages will be prepackaged or have lids, Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster said.