The Brand Move Roundup – June 18, 2020

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

Sixteen 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 the latest crises 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.

Multiple companies have announced that they will either honor or recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday for their employees this year, as a sign of support for the Black community.

Juneteenth, a blend of the words June and nineteenth, honors the end of slavery in the United States. Celebrated on June 19, it marks the day in 1865 that Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army landed in Galveston, Texas, and informed slaves there that the Civil War had ended and slavery was abolished. To honor the holiday, some companies, including Google, J.C. Penney, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, Nike, Lyft and Target are giving employees a paid day off while others, like General Motors, are observing moments of silence. Our group of agencies, too, will be participating. As John Wren, Chairman and CEO of the Omnicom Group, put it: “We are recognizing June 19th, or Juneteenth, as a company-wide day off from work to reflect and engage on this global issue. Omnicom stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement; diversity and equality have always been among our core values. There is no place at Omnicom for racism or discrimination against any person in any form. Our entire leadership team is committed to accelerating our efforts to build a more inclusive, diverse and aware organization.” As a result, we will be pausing our daily update tomorrow, and it will return on Monday 22nd.

Very shortly after PepsiCo made the decision to change the name and packaging of its Aunt Jemima brand, rice brand Uncle Ben’s said it plans to follow suit by “evolving the visual brand identity.” Sara Schulte, external communications manager for Uncle Ben’s parent company Mars Food North America, said, “We have indeed been considering a more substantive change and have begun that work even before news of Aunt Jemima.” She did not specify what that “substantive change” will look like or what the timing will be, saying only, “We are evaluating all possibilities.” In 2007, Mars reportedly spent $20 million to reimagine Uncle Ben as the chairman of the company. Consumers were able to tour a virtual office, which included chairman Ben’s emails, voicemails, datebook, executive memorandums and a portrait in a gold frame, but the office and title are now gone. Now, Schulte said, the global brand is aware it has a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices. “As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do,” she added.

Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix, and his wife, Patty Quillin, have donated $120 million to the United Negro College Fund, Spelman College and Morehouse College, the largest-ever individual gift to support scholarships at historically black colleges and universities. The Silicon Valley executive said he hoped his contribution would lead other wealthy individuals to give. “Generally, white capital flows to predominantly white institutions,” he said. The record donation comes amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd, and the national conversation about how to end systemic racism. That conversation has included discussions about how to provide more education and job opportunities for African Americans.

Target is raising its starting wage to $15 an hour, making it the first major retailer to permanently increase pay during the pandemic. The retailer, which previously had a starting hourly wage of $13, has been offering workers an extra $2 per hour in “hazard pay” since March 25, two weeks after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. On Wednesday, it said it would make that pay increase permanent.

UK-based hotel guidebook publisher The AA has launched a COVID Confident assessment scheme to “support the hospitality industry in re-establishing and rebuilding consumer confidence as parts of the UK come out of lockdown”. It’s a free scheme, open to all hospitality establishments that pass the AA’s criteria, though all applicants are encouraged to make a donation to charity Hospitality Action. The accreditation, which will appear on the AA’s Rated Trips website, will indicate to customers that an establishment has in place the necessary risk assessment, safety measures and staff training to reopen safely, in line with the UK’s respective government guidelines as well as UKHospitality and respective trade association guidelines.

WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani has said that the company is in discussions with private schools in New York City about conducting classes in its office spaces this fall. “To allow them to get started, they can go into some of our WeWork locations, which sort of fit well as classrooms,” Mathrani said, adding that the goal is to help schools reduce density while still allowing for in-person instruction despite the threat of the coronavirus. “This is another indication of the need for flexibility by companies and organizations in a world altered by the Covid-19 crisis,” he added. “Even schools are going beyond just thinking about it in a structured way. They’re opening their minds on how to bring children back into schools.” WeWork has over 100 locations in New York City, according to Mathrani, who became CEO in February, five months after the company scrapped a plan to go public last year amid valuation and governance concerns that led to the departure of founder Adam Neumann. So far, the office-sharing company’s conversations with schools have been with only private schools. “Obviously we will extend that to discussions with public schools if we’re able to have that conversation,” Mathrani said. Many schools across the U.S. went to remote instruction in March as the coronavirus pandemic intensified, but now the focus has been on how to safely resume in-person classes in the fall. The question carries broader implications for the U.S. economy as it seeks to restart from the impacts of Covid-19 because parents and guardians may find it difficult to return to work if schools aren’t open and children have to stay home.

Guitar maker Fender is offering five high-end Custom Shop Master Built electric guitars, as well as a select number of exclusive signed guitars by Fender signature artists, on to benefit Live Nation’s Crew Nation global relief fund for live music crews. 100% of the net proceeds from the sales of the guitars, which are featured in the Official Fender x Crew Nation Reverb Shop, will go toward helping touring and venue crews continue to make a living during the coronavirus pandemic. Live Nation launched Crew Nation in April to help support touring and venue crews while COVID-19 puts concerts on pause. Live Nation has committed $10 million to the fund – contributing an initial $5 million, then matching the next $5 million in donations.

According to just-published Irish government guidelines, only pubs that serve food as well as drinks will be allowed to open from June 29, while customers will face restrictions on how long they can stay. Pubs must serve a “substantial meal” costing at least 9 euros, while customers have to leave after 105 minutes. The bar will take contact details of the lead member of any group while pre-booking will be encouraged. All customers have to be seated, putting an end to lingering at the bar, and drinkers will have to stay at least 1 meter apart. “These guidelines are intended to provide clarity to businesses so that they can reopen safely,” Paul Kelly, chief executive of Ireland’s tourist board, said in a statement.