The Brand Move Roundup – March 20, 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.

Google Chrome extension Netflix Party which adds a social, sharing element to watching streaming video – a development that is obviously much needed in these times of self-isolation – has experienced a massive boost in popularity over the last few weeks. The extension (an unofficial add-on, with no connection to Netflix) works by showing your requested video, but with a bar down one side for your user group to comment and chat. It’s a very interesting development, bringing the ‘watercooler moment’ to streaming video.

Music website Bandcamp is waiving its revenue share on all sales today (Friday) to help musicians affected by the crisis. “Artists have been hit especially hard as tours and shows are being canceled for the foreseeable future,” explained the website’s CEO, Ethan Diamond. “With such a major revenue stream drying up almost entirely, finding ways to continue supporting artists in the coming months is now an urgent priority for anyone who cares about music and the artists who create it.”

Workplace communication platform Slack has launched a very timely redesign to make the platform friendlier to new users. As remote working has suddenly become an essential tool for many companies, the number of workers newly moving on to the platform has made its quirky, tech-heavy interface look like an obstacle to new adopters, compared to more intuitive, traditional rivals such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. The update, which is being rolled out over the next few weeks, is intended to “make it easier for anyone to use Slack, adapt it to how they work and access essential tools,” according to the company.

Social media giant TikTok is to donate $3m to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s charity After-School All-Stars. The charity was set up in 1992 by the former actor to support children with free after school activity programs. The money will go to feed families whose food security has been affected by the closure of public schools in response to the virus outbreak.

Food delivery firm Just Eat is launching a £10m-plus package of support for UK restaurants over the next 30 days. The company said it would be handing back a third of all commission paid by independent restaurants, removing commission on orders which customers collect from restaurants and waiving sign-up fees for new restaurants. It will also begin paying restaurants weekly and relaxing restrictions on independent restaurants working with other delivery partners. Andrew Kenny, UK Managing Director, said: “These are some of the most challenging times the restaurants we work with have ever been through. We want to show our support and help them to keep their doors open.”

German publisher Lensing Media, which prints a number of local newspapers, has published a ‘help needed” poster for readers to stick in their windows or on their doors in case they need assistance from their neighbors.

Ebook and audiobook platform Scribd is making all its content free for the next 30 days. “With millions of people around the globe staying close to home to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, access to books and information is more important than ever before,” said CEO Trip Adler. “We encourage you to take care of yourself and each other, and we hope reading can offer you solace during these difficult times.”

The list of British brands offering discounts to National Health Service staff is still growing. Many are high-street takeaway or restaurant outlets, who are offering free drinks and/or discount on food. The list currently circulating contains Prêt à Manger, McDonalds, Leon, Domino’s, Nando’s, Busaba, Carluccio’s, Wimgstop, Feya Café, Elan Café, Itsu, Gusto, Benugo, Burger King and Starbucks. And generously, hairdressing chain Rush are offering a free wash, style and blow dry. Let’s hope that some of the NHS’s frontline staff find time to take them up on it.

Media and tech organisation Popsugar has rushed to launch a new fitness app, Active by PopSugar and is offering it to users for free. The app, which is available on iPhone, Android, Roku and Chromecast, gives users access to more than 500 workouts from yoga and pilates to dance cardio and strength training. “We worked through the weekend to get to get it out,” said PopSugar general manager Angelica Marden. Though the app was originally intended to be a subscription service, it’s going to be free for the foreseeable future. The aim, said Marden, is to give “support and a small joy to consumers as they’re at home.”

UK-based retailer the John Lewis Partnership has launched a £1m community support fund. It will be used, via its Waitrose grocery stores, for schemes such as local delivery services to support the self-isolating, the vulnerable, older people and those looking after them, as well as for delivering boxes of staples to local care homes. It will also donate products for customers to share with vulnerable neighbours.

Formula 1 today announced the launch of a new F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series, featuring a number of current F1 drivers. The series has been created to enable fans to continue watching Formula 1 races virtually, despite the coronavirus affecting this season’s opening race calendar. The broadcasts, which will be available on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels, will run in place of every postponed Grand Prix, starting with the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday March 22. Every subsequent race weekend will see the postponed real-world Formula 1 race replaced with a Virtual Grand Prix. The initiative is currently scheduled to run until May.

British railways operator Network Rail, which owns and operates stations as well as managing a more diverse property portfolio, has cancelled all first-quarter rent for its tenants, both station retailers and elsewhere to, as the organisation says, “provide significant relief for small businesses who are worried about the impact of the virus on their footfall… and help retailers during this tough time.”

Parking app JustPark has asked the UK public to use their app to list driveways and other parking spaces that can be used by health workers and patients. The aim is to ease pressure on NHS staff and patients by giving them more parking options and to help them avoid using public transport to and from the hospital. The app will not be levying any fees from the listings, “in order to say a huge thank you to NHS workers and a ‘get better soon’ to patients.”

Craft and vintage sales website Etsy has announced that over the next month it is to put $5m into an effort to drive sustained business to sellers, and is giving a one month grace period to any seller who needs extra time paying their bills. “In times of crisis, small businesses and the self-employed face enormous financial challenges,“ said CEO Josh Silverman. “This is the community that Etsy is built to support, because behind every purchase, there’s a person, not a factory.”

Luxury British perfumier Miller Harris is donating its entire stock of 11,000 hand washes, hand lotion and hard soaps as treats for the elderly via charity Age UK. The company is distributing soaps and hand washes to charity units across the country; support workers will then deliver packages to those in need within their local areas.

US movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse has set up an emergency fund in an effort to aid staff members who have critical short-term needs. Alamo Drafthouse co-founders Tim and Karrie League set up a relief fund in partnership with the Emergency Assistance Foundation and contributed $2 million dollars from their Alamo Community Fund. The chain has so far closed 40 locations, Approximately 80% per cent of Alamo’s corporate staff, along with almost all theater employees, were furloughed, with only a few core employees remaining. Furloughed team members who work for corporate-owned locations will receive a supplemental two weeks’ pay, and their health coverage will be covered through the end of April. “We’re doing everything we can to help get our teams through the furlough period while making certain there will be a stable company to return to,” Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League said.

Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Aldi, Danone and Coca-Cola European Partners have partnered with donations platform Neighbourly to create the Neighbourly Community Fund, funneling funds directly to UK community organisations helping those most at risk during coronavirus crisis. The partners have already committed a combined total of almost £500,000 to the fund, to provide immediate micro-grants to community organisations that are helping the people most affected by the outbreak, including the elderly, those on low incomes and people at risk of food insecurity.