The Brand Move Roundup – June 4, 2020

We’re tracking the notable brand moves & highlighting the companies who are tackling this challenge successfully.

Fourteen weeks ago, when the gravity of the situation became clear, we started daily reporting on how brands were dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. What’s now becoming clear is that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption. So we made the decision to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid this latest crisis in an anxious world. Our goal remains the same: to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.

The chief executive of the fashion company behind Coach and Kate Spade has spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, even after the brand’s stores were damaged during protests over the weekend. Jide Zeitlin, who is chairman at New York-based Tapestry, said in an open letter to employees that the topic was “personal” and he had cried while writing his message. “We can replace our windows and handbags, but we cannot bring back George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and too many others,” he wrote. “Each of these black lives matter.” A number of other US business leaders have also promised to step up inclusivity efforts following the unrest. PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi said: “The road ahead will undoubtedly be challenging, and the scale of the work that needs to be accomplished is staggering. Let’s vow to be kind, to roll up our sleeves, and to be part of the force that bends this path toward justice.”

Intel CEO Bob Swan wrote in a memo to staff earlier this week: “Black lives matter. Period.”

Other bosses who have addressed the issue in public letters and posts include David Solomon of Goldman Sachs, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and BlackRock’s Larry Fink.

Disney has pledged $5 million to support nonprofit organizations that advance social justice, including a $2 million donation to the NAACP. “The killing of George Floyd has forced our nation to once again confront the long history of injustice that black people in America have suffered, and it is critical that we stand together, speak out and do everything in our power to ensure that acts of racism and violence are never tolerated,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO, said in a statement. Additionally, through the Disney Employee Matching Gifts program, employees of the Walt Disney Company will have their donations to eligible organizations matched by the company.

Two of the industry’s biggest VC investors are launching funds aimed at people of color in an attempt to harness the talents of an often-overlooked community. Andreessen Horowitz has launched the Talent x Opportunity Fund. “We are looking for entrepreneurs who did not have access to the fast track in life but who have great potential,” the company said. It will look at ideas both in and outside of tech, and all returns from investments will go back into the pool to finance future entrepreneurs. SoftBank, meanwhile, has announced The Opportunity Growth Fund. “This fund will only invest in companies led by founders and entrepreneurs of color,” SoftBank International CEO Marcelo Claure said. “Our focus will be on companies that use technology to disrupt traditional business models.” Its mission is very much the same, but the specifics are slightly different: SoftBank won’t take a management fee and plans to donate a portion of returns to related organizations. Talent x Opportunity is starting with $2.2 million in donations from Andreessen Horowitz partners and a matching promise from Ben and Felicia Horowitz of another $5 million. SoftBank is pledging an impressive $100 million.

One of the world’s largest brands, McDonald’s, has joined the conversation with an ad spot that names and memorializes seven Black Americans killed by police or shot to death while unarmed. “They were all one of us,” the McDonald’s ad reads. “We see them in our customers. We see them in our crew members. We see them in our franchisees. And this is why the entire McDonald’s family grieves. It’s why we stand for them and any other victims of systematic oppression and violence,” the ad continues. “Today we stand with black communities across America. Which is why we’re donating to the National Urban League and the NAACP. We do not tolerate inequity, injustice or racism.” McDonald’s has posted the ad on its social platforms, and will be donating $1 million to the National Urban League and the NAACP. “Our internal support is no longer enough. Now is the time for our brand to raise our voice and speak up,” read a message from McDonald’s USA CMO Morgan Flatley and Vicki Chancellor, chair of McDonald’s Operator’s National Advertising Committee. “Consumers are watching how brands act in this moment, and our own multicultural communities deserve not only our support, but our action. We must leverage the power and scale of our brand to make meaningful change.”

Amazon deliveries are facing delays in U.S. cities with curfews as well as in areas the company determines are unsafe as demonstrations continue throughout the U.S. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our employees and partners,” said Amazon Delivery Services spokesperson Rena Lunak. “We are monitoring the situation closely and have adjusted routes or scaled back typical delivery operations in the affected areas to ensure the safety of our teams.” While Amazon did not comment on specific locations affected, U.S. cities that have imposed curfews include Minneapolis, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Louisville, New York, Washington, D.C., and at least 30 more by some counts. Bloomberg, however, reported that only “small number of cities” including Chicago have been impacted by delivery limitations and route changes. The outlet also quoted a message Amazon’s delivery drivers received in Chicago on Saturday, which read, “If you are currently out delivering packages, stop immediately and return home. If you have not completed your route, please return undelivered packages to the pick-up location whenever you’re able to do so.”

Chinese ecommerce platform Alibaba has announced new products and services it hopes will help U.S. small businesses attempting to go digital and reach new audiences abroad. They include a freight service to book and track bulk shipments by air and sea; a financing option for cross-border trade, which allows qualified buyers to order goods and pay for them up to 60 days after they are shipped instead of upfront; and, in the absence of live trade shows this year, a series of live streamed events to connect U.S. manufacturers and wholesalers with buyers. “Doing business online is the bridge for American small businesses through this crisis and into the next decade,” said John Caplan, president of North America and Europe at Alibaba.com. “We are accelerating our transformation to get both sellers and buyers quickly set up for success and provide the critical tools and services that are required for growth—access to supply and demand, shipping and logistics, and working capital.” The move seems aimed at least partly at Amazon sellers looking to diversify. Zach Weinberg, director at research firm Gartner, agreed that it makes sense for Amazon sellers to explore other options now. “In our very recent digital commerce consumer survey, we found that 85% of consumers have changed at least one shopping behavior in at least one category since the outbreak,” he said, including 36% of consumers who shopped via a website or app they’d never used before. “82% of these consumers are satisfied with their new shopping experience, and 85% of these consumers expect to use the websites or apps about the same or more in the next 12 months.” Adjusting fulfillment strategies can help brands and sellers future-proof themselves, Bowman said. “Brands need to build a relationship with a non-Amazon fulfillment company to either replace Amazon outright or operate as a backup in case we ever have another shutdown that causes Amazon to deprioritize products and extend their ship times.”

Automaker Ford’s China ventures have reported year-on-year sales growth for May in a sign that the world’s biggest auto market is continuing its recovery from coronavirus-induced lows. The U.S. automaker’s Chongqing-based venture with Changan says that it sold 23,491 vehicles in May, up 130% from a year earlier, while Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC), in which Ford owns a stake, said that it sold 29,008 vehicles last month, up 32% year on year. Ford also said that sales of its luxury Lincoln brand in China reached 5,000 units last month, up 22%.

As countries begin to reopen to tourists this summer, some locations are hoping to lure visitors back with discounts and even offers of a partially paid-for holiday. In Cancún in Mexico, over 200 private businesses in the holiday hotspot have set up an initiative to offer travelers money off. The theme of the initiative is the number two. For instance, hotels will offer two nights free for every two nights booked, or a free stay for two children when two adults book. Tourists would get two days free car hire for every two days they book. Puerto Morelos, Tulum and the Caribbean island of Isa Mujeres, eight miles off the coast of Cancún, are all also expected to take part in the initiative when they reopen. Sicily, Japan and Bulgaria have also brought out similar plans; Sicily’s regional government is planning a €50 million campaign to attract tourists back to the island in the autumn which will include subsidizing travelers who book flight and accommodation packages, by paying half their air fare and one free night of accommodation in three. Japan has followed suit, with the Japan Tourism Agency announcing the country was looking to boost tourism by subsidizing a portion of travelers’ expenses. $12.5 billion (£10.2 billion) will be allocated to the new reimbursement program for tourism. This scheme is aimed at domestic tourism – though a plan for international tourism may follow. This is made more likely by Japan’s position as one of the world’s worst-affected tourism industries, due to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, originally scheduled for July but moved to 2021. In Bulgaria, meanwhile, many of the country’s beaches will become free for tourists, including amenities such as sun loungers and umbrellas. While this isn’t quite as good as a subsidized holiday, the offer will help make an already good value destination even more affordable.

According to FAIR Health‘s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, which draws from 31 billion private health care claim records, telemedicine claim lines increased an astounding 4,347% year-over-year in March. Telemedicine services have been available for years, but health concerns around the pandemic combined with the fact that most doctor’s offices and hospitals were effectively off-limits to non-COVID-19 patients have led millions of Americans to use their smartphone to access remote care for the first time. The stock price of leading telemedicine company Teladoc has risen by more than 30% since the beginning of March.