The Brand Move Roundup – March 26, 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.

Luxury brand Prada has kept a factory open in Perugia and converted it to mask and medical overall production: they will start daily deliveries to Tuscan hospitals of 80,000 overalls and 110,000 masks to be delivered by April 6th.

All-star education website Masterclass is giving existing members free all-access passes, to donate to isolating relatives, colleagues, friends, local volunteers or neighbors.

The shortages of ventilators in hospitals has led to engineering companies offering their services to design or build the essential medical equipment. Among those lending their efforts are Ford, whose US-designed version uses some parts from its best-selling F150 truck, UK motorsport specialists Prodrive, European aircraft group Airbus, and vacuum cleaner makers GTech and Dyson.

INEOS, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies, has today announced plans to produce 1 million hand sanitizers per month to help with the European shortage. INEOS will build a UK factory to produce 1 million bottles per month within 10 days and will replicate this in Germany. INEOS is the leading European producer of the two key raw materials needed for sanitizers – isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and ethanol. The company is already running their plants flat out and diverting more of this product to essential medical use, and will now build two new factories to make hand sanitizer from them. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder and chairman of INEOS adds, “INEOS is a company with enormous resources and manufacturing skills. If we can find other ways to help in the Coronavirus battle, we are absolutely committed to playing our part”

Online business tool platform SAP has updated its suite of COVID-19 services, adding new resources including an online, guided COVID-19 pre-screen questionnaire to identify high-risk citizens and then route them to the appropriate resources, and provide low-risk citizens instant access to the information most relevant for them, The company has also launched two customer checklist templates adapted from content created by the CDC to help businesses plan, prepare and respond to COVID-19 via Ruum by SAP. And to help with the transition of office life to working at home, they have made two new tools available: Remote Work Pulse, a free and automated feedback solution from experience management platform leader Qualtrics to give managers insights they need to listen and act to help employees as they transition to working from home. They have also teamed up with Thrive Global to curate resources, tools, and advice to can help employees survive and thrive in this new work reality. And they have also offered free ready-to-watch video-based courses from the SAP Litmos Training Content library until the end of June 2020 to help teams, leaders, and employees work effectively, no matter where they are.

High street clothing brand Zara owner Inditex may soon be stitching hospital scrubs, helping its home country Spain fight the coronavirus epidemic. Inditex last week said the epidemic had shut nearly half its stores around the world, and the company said it was studying converting part of its textile manufacturing capacity in Spain to produce hospital gowns.

It also said it would make available to Spain its vast logistics and supplier network, especially in China, to “meet Spain’s emergency needs of both medical and textile materials” such as protective masks, gloves, goggles and caps. It said it had already donated 10,000 masks and another 300,000 were due to be sent by the end of the week.

A+E Networks, the joint broadcasting venture between Hearst and Disney, has shifted focus  from programming to COVID-19 initiatives and other pro-social community efforts, including working with the American Red Cross, as well as supporting the Ad Council and CDC’s new marketing initiative by sharing info on its networks, donating money and airing PSAs. The company is also sharing free educational materials on History.com to help the millions of students who have had to switch to distance learning.

Spanish petroleum company Repsol has repurposed its Repsol Technology Lab to produce disinfectant gel for emergency sanitation for hospitals. This is more usually where the company’s fuel and lubricants are developed.

Korean auto manufacturer Hyundai has started the Hope On Wheels non-profit in the US. It will donate $2 million to help 10 US children’s hospitals conduct drive-through testing for COVID-19. Testing will be conducted for children who are at high risk ,as defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, with a doctor’s order. The hospitals will each receive a donation of $200,000 to support their drive-through testing centers. “Through our Hyundai Hope On Wheels program, we are committed to being a strong partner on behalf of children’s health and assisting during this time,” said Jose Munoz, CEO of Hyundai Motor North America.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is using an auto plant in China to make a million face masks a month to donate to first responders and health-care providers in the US. Conversion of the plant began Monday and Fiat expects to start production in the coming weeks. A spokeswoman said that making the masks at a China plant that is up and running is the fastest way to get much-needed supplies to health workers in the US.

Chinese technology giant Tencent this week announced the launch of the Global Anti-Pandemic Fund, a $100 million effort designed to help curb the devastating spread of COVID-19. The news follows the launch of $100 million funds from fellow tech giants Netflix and Facebook. In the case of the Shenzhen-based corporation, initial funding will go to practical and vitally important health supply donations, including protective gear and other products for hospitals and healthcare first responders. This effort is only the latest from the company. It previously set up an Anti-Pandemic fund to support healthcare workers in its native China, with around $211 million allocated as part of that effort. “COVID-19 is drastically impacting people around the world,” Tencent President Martin Lau said. “We are facing this challenge together and Tencent is committed to supporting the international emergency response. Based on the experience in China and feedback collected from hospitals around the world, we recognize there is an urgent need for PPEs and other medical supplies, particularly at the onset of the pandemic, when traditional supply channels cannot meet the sudden surge in need.”

Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, owner of mobile network Jio, has announced a “ #CoronaHaaregaIndiaJeetega initiative” aimed at helping users stay connected and productive, allowing for remote working, remote learning, remote engagement and remote care. This includes combining its “digital capabilities” with Microsoft Teams, introducing a symptom checker platform that will allow users to check for symptoms from home and stay up-to-date with the latest updates on the pandemic, and in partnership with the Indian government and WhatsApp has launched a messaging bot to help users stay informed about the pandemic. In addition to these measures, and offers on data and broadband, Jio has partnered with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to set up a dedicated 100-bed centre at Seven Hills Hospital, Mumbai for patients who test positive for Covid-19. It has also developed an isolation facility at Lodhivali.

Walmart-owned UK supermarket chain Asda has donated £5 million to charities and giving shop and distribution workers bonus extra pay. The company said its donation will provide over four million meals to families in poverty impacted by virus as well as giving more than 3,000 charities the ability to access free food over the next three months as they tackle the impacts of the pandemic in their communities. Asda is also investing in logistics and support services including funding for telephone, and online food delivery systems for people unable to afford food, as well as supporting the recruitment of 20,000 volunteers to support food banks. “These are the most extraordinary of times and I am keenly aware of our responsibility to help feed the nation – both by keeping our shelves stocked and deliveries moving – but also by providing employment opportunities where we can and supporting our charity partners to help the most vulnerable in our communities,” Asda chief executive Roger Burnley said. Meanwhile, Asda staff members who work on the shop floor or in distribution centers will be paid a bonus worth an additional week’s pay in June as a “thank you” for their efforts in keeping shelves filled for customers during the crisis.

Consumer goods giant Unilever has committed €100m to curtail the spread of coronavirus through the donation of soap, sanitizer, bleach and food to help protect the lives and livelihoods of consumers, suppliers and its workforce. Product donations will be made to organisations on the frontline of the virus fight including the COVID Action Platform of the World Economic Forum as well as local donations, partnerships and education programs conducted in conjunction with national health authorities and non-governmental organisations. Moreover, Unilever is offering €500m of cash flow relief through early payment to small and medium-sized suppliers and extended credit lines for small-scale retail customers. The multinational has also vowed to protect the pay of all employees and contractors for a period of up to three months. Alan Jope, chief executive, said: “We are deeply saddened by the terrible impact that coronavirus is wreaking on lives and livelihoods everywhere. The world is facing its greatest trial in decades. We have seen the most incredible response from the Unilever team so far, especially those on the front line of our operations in factories, distribution centers and stores.”