The Brand Move Roundup – May 15, 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.

Motorcycle, ATV and snowmobile manufacturer Yamaha has launched an all-new “Deliver Your Ride” program supporting US Yamaha dealers to complete vehicle purchases remotely, then deliver the product directly to customers. “Yamaha is working hard to support our dealer network and their customers during these difficult times,” said Steve Nessl, Yamaha’s Motorsports group marketing manager. “It’s not business-as-usual for anyone, yet we know people may still want to buy and enjoy new Yamaha products where possible and appropriate based on their local laws and regulations.”

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is taking a bicycle delivery service to cities across the country in its latest effort to extend grocery home delivery during the coronavirus outbreak.

The supermarket is joining up with courier firm Stuart, part of DPD Group, to launch its one-hour delivery product, Chop Chop. By mid-June, 50 stores will offer the service. The company said this would enable one-hour deliveries to 3.2m households. Sainsbury’s said Chop Chop had already more than doubled the number of customer orders it can fulfill from the nine supermarkets where it operates. Clodagh Moriarty, chief digital officer at Sainsbury’s, said: “We are doing everything we can to feed the nation and offer our customers quick, convenient and safe ways to get their groceries. Demand for home grocery deliveries has never been higher and we have been receiving great feedback for Chop Chop, with customers really valuing the speed and convenience it brings.” Customers can order up to 20 Sainsbury’s products from a range of about 3,000 essential grocery and household items via the Chop Chop app.

Due to an unusual virus-related supply chain problem, Canada’s Calgary Zoo will be returning two giant pandas on loan from China because a scarcity of flights due to Covid-19 has caused problems with getting enough bamboo to feed them. The zoo’s president, Clément Lanthier, said this week the facility spent months trying to overcome transportation barriers in acquiring fresh bamboo and decided it was best for the animals to be in China, where their main food source is abundant. Lanthier said the zoo had contingency plans for a steady supply of fresh bamboo, but limits on flights from China was the first problem. Transporting more from California added even more frustrations. “Every week, every 10 days there is more and more problem moving bamboo to Calgary. This risk is unacceptable. We don’t feel comfortable at all that we can impose that risk on the health and the welfare of the pandas.” Giant pandas have unique nutritional requirements; 99% of their diet is made up of fresh bamboo. Each adult consumes about 40kg (88lb) daily.

Guided meditation and relaxation company Headspace is offering a year of its Headspace Plus program free to unemployed or furloughed people in the US. The Headspace Plus subscription includes: Access to the full Headspace library, including hundreds of guided meditations and courses on everything from stress to relationships and more; short mini-meditations; Sleep by Headspace, a collection of relaxing sleep-casts, music, sounds, and more; Move Mode, at-home workouts and guided runs led by expert trainers; The Wake Up, a daily, bite-sized video series designed to inspire mindfulness in everyday life; animations to guide you through essential meditation techniques; and continued guidance from Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe. “The current state of unemployment in America has become an alarming crisis,” he said. “To help those affected, we’re offering a full year of Headspace Plus for free, so they can discover meditation and mindfulness tools to help them feel less stressed, more resilient, and kinder to themselves.”

Houseparty, the video chat app that has seen a surge of growth during quarantine, is expanding into watching live video with friends. The company is to launch its first experiential event series, called In the House, which will feature more than 40 celebrities who will dance, talk, cook, sing, workout and more over the course of three days. The company doesn’t see this weekend’s virtual celeb party as a one-off event, but as the first of many live co-watching experiences. “While many entertainers have turned to performing online during these unprecedented times, this event is different from anything that has happened in the past few months. This is not just another virtual music festival — this weekend’s lineup is a curation of shared experiences: cooking demos, comedy shows, fitness secrets, dance parties, sing-a-longs and more,” said Houseparty spokesperson Kimberly Baumgarten. “Now that we have this live player it allows us to create more interactive experiences for our users to enjoy together in the future. This content will be additive to the Houseparty video chat experience for our users,” she said. Watching video together is an activity that’s been booming during quarantine, as friends binge Netflix together through extensions like Netflix Party or join TwitchWatch Parties.” Shared experiences, like tuning into virtual concerts or DJ sets on Instagram Live, are popular, too.

By focusing on co-watching within group video chats, Houseparty is in closer competition with Instagram, which just this March introduced co-watching of feed photos and videos. But Houseparty is offering planned and scheduled experiences, allowing users to coordinate when they’ll join each other in the app instead of leaving it up to chance.

Software specialists Adobe are extending the trial length of their business-focused Adobe Sign electronic signature package to 90 days “This will help companies of all sizes with business continuity and working remotely,” said the company. They’re also offering limited-time pricing on Adobe Sign Small Business subscriptions in certain regions. Adobe Sign is a cloud-based e-signature solution that lets users replace paper-and-ink signature processes with automated electronic signature workflows to send, sign, track, and manage signature processes using a browser or mobile device. It also allows use of turnkey integrations and APIs to include e-signature workflows in enterprise apps and systems of record.

E-bike companies are seeing strong growth. Brompton, the London-based maker of iconic folding bikes, have seen UK online sales grow rapidly – five times higher than the previous month – even as global sales fell over the last two months compared to a year earlier. In the last three weeks, though, the company saw record-breaking sales in China as travel restrictions were lifted. Brompton’s website traffic has been through the roof, especially in the US where the company has seen an “incredible surge in interest,” said the firm. UK-based Gocycle have seen a sales bump despite an interruption to its dealer network of stores. Sales of its fast-folding Gocycle GX e-bike are up 65 per cent in the last six weeks compared to the same period in 2019, with traffic to its website up 90 percent. The company attributes the growth to changing commuter habits in response to the pandemic. “Smart commuters are investing for the long term and going for e-bikes,” said Gocycle founder Richard Thorpe. “We have seen sales of our fast-folding Gocycle GX range rocket upwards within the last few weeks — literally at a rate 4x in urban areas compared with this time last year. COVID is pulling the adoption curve forward.” Dutch e-bike maker VanMoof, which sells bikes online and through its own brand stores, bypassing traditional bike stores completely, says that sales from February to April were up dramatically compared to the same period last year. Sales increased in all its main markets, including Germany (+226 per cent), the UK (+184 per cent), the Netherlands (+140 per cent), the US (+138 per cent), and France (+92 per cent). US bike retailer Lectric eBikes reported a 140 per cent increase in sales since March 15th. “Our customers have been saying that e-bikes are a great option for the new coronavirus-era way of living,” said co-founder Levi Conlow. “The dramatic increase in sales shows that nationally, people are looking to shift how they get around.” Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes said its sales in April increased by a massive 297 per cent year over year, vastly exceeding the company’s expectations. The company’s sales to business customers in the delivery sector also rose 191 percent from March to April this year, a spokesperson said. Aventon Bikes, based in Ontario, California, claims to be flooded with orders, with sales up in Massachusetts (+298 per cent), California (+85 per cent), and New York (+164 per cent). “We have been busier than ever, we are literally breaking records daily on orders and sales,” said Adele Nasr, chief marketing officer.

With live exhibitions and shows off the agenda, virtual events have proven to be surprisingly popular and may prove to be a lifeline, and a new direction, for the industry. Denzil Rankine, chairman of exhibition company AMR/Globex, said: “Virtual will not recreate the intimacy of live, and not all trade shows will be immediate candidates for virtual. But examples of successes such as private viewings of art fairs and other cancelled events, replicating their main elements virtually, will spread. Virtual will not be just about maintaining contact with communities in the case of cancellations. When normal business resumes, virtual will have earned its place, extending reach both during and also between events.” More than 2,000 exhibitions have now been postponed or cancelled as a result of the virus outbreak. Although some 82% of the shows are said to have been postponed, it is believed that up to 50% of those will ultimately be cancelled. Some 40% of all impacted events are in Germany, US, China or France. Germany, with 12% of postponements and 16% of cancellations, has been worst hit with a total of 340 shows so far impacted. Exhibition companies variously estimate that the current crisis will reduce the scale of their industry by 20-30%.