The Brand Move Roundup – June 22, 2020

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

Seventeen 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.

Neighborhood social networking app Nextdoor says it is discontinuing its Forward to Police feature which let users send message board posts directly to local police. The site has been under increasing scrutiny for how it handles communications with law enforcement, and for how it handles racism among members on its app. “As part of our anti-racism work and our efforts to make Nextdoor a place where all neighbors feel welcome, we have been examining all aspects of our product,” the company announced in a blog post. “After speaking with members and public agency partners, it is clear that the Forward to Police feature does not meet the needs of our members and only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies chose to use the tool.” Black Nextdoor users have said that posts on the app often make them feel unsafe, and that volunteer moderators have silenced posts about Black Lives Matter protests. Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar penned a blog post on June 11th titled “A Nextdoor Where Everyone Belongs,” saying the company was taking steps to improve diversity. “Racism has no place on Nextdoor,” Friar wrote. Meanwhile, Police cars have been removed from the hit video game Fortnite, a change that comes amid a national debate over law-enforcement practices in response to the killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. Fortnite is one of the most popular games in the world, with more than 350 million players as of May, according to its creator, Epic Games. The shooter-survival game, which normally features police cars and other vehicles, launched a new season last week

US consumer brand Colgate-Palmolive has said that Darlie toothpaste – infamous for its racist branding and history – will be rebranded. The toothpaste was known as “Darkie” until 1989 when the owners apologized and replaced the name in English. But local advertising assured customers that it would still be called “Black People Toothpaste” in Chinese, as it was for decades. “Darlie is a Chinese brand owned by Colgate and our Joint Venture Partner, Hawley & Hazel,” a spokesperson for Colgate-Palmolive said. “For more than 35 years, we have been working together to evolve the brand, including substantial changes to the name, logo and packaging. We are currently working with our partner to review and further evolve all aspects of the brand, including the brand name.” In light of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement Quaker has announced that it would drop its “Aunt Jemima” food brand, admitting its racial undertones and Mars said that it was reevaluating its use of “Uncle Ben’s” branding for its rice products. “Darkie” remains a discriminatory slur in many western countries and the image on the packaging is still reminiscent of racist Black and White Minstrel Shows in the US. Darlie’s Hong Kong manufacturer, Hawley & Hazel, is owned by the New York-based Colgate-Palmolive. Despite its decades-long commitment to Darlie, the firm has previously launched Black History Month campaigns and its own Black Leadership Network initiative.

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor, has unveiled plans to re-open after coronavirus forced it to close its more than 600 venues in the U.S. for nearly four months. The company is expected to resume operations in 450 of those locations on July 15 and expects to be almost fully operational by the time that Disney’s “Mulan” debuts on July 24 and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” bows on July 31. As part of that process, AMC is reducing its seating capacity in order to help people social distance, it is implementing new cleaning procedures, placing hand-sanitizing stations throughout its theaters and encouraging contact-less and cash-free concessions. “We didn’t rush to reopen,” AMC CEO and president Adam Aron said. “There were some jurisdictions in some states, such as Georgia and Texas, that allowed people to reopen theaters in mid-May. We opted to remain closed, so we could give the country time to get a better handle on coronavirus. We wanted to use this time to figure out how best to open and how to do so safely.” AMC’s competitors Regal and Cinemark announced their own plans to resume business earlier this week, targeting a similar mid-July time frame for when they expect to be fully operational.

The North Face, the sports and outerwear brand owned by VF Corp., has said it’s ending paid advertising on Facebook over concern the social media company is allowing racist content and disinformation to propagate. “We know that for too long harmful, racist rhetoric and misinformation has made the world unequal and unsafe, and we stand with the NAACP and the other organizations who are working to #StopHateforProfit,” the company said in a statement following a Twitter post. REI Co-Op, which also sells sporting gear, and Upwork Inc., an online recruitment services provider, said they will suspend advertising in July. Facebook and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, have come under fire for failing to stop the spread of political disinformation and allowing violent or hateful rhetoric to thrive on the site. Though Facebook has pulled some campaign ads for President Trump, the site hasn’t taken action on other posts that were removed from social media platforms such as Twitter. Civil rights groups including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League have called for advertisers to pull their money from Facebook in July.

Indian telecoms giant Reliance/Jio has announced its latest inward investment, the final one of their mammoth round of fund-raising – this time $1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia‘s investment fund. Starting with Facebook in late April, the company has now raised $15.2 billion in two and a half months, selling just shy of a quarter of the company to 10 investors. It also raised billions of dollars more by offering new shares to existing shareholders. Reliance’s Jio Platforms is aiming to be the WeChat of India, and the fundraising has left the company debt-free and poised to try to turn that promise into reality.

Apple is temporarily shutting some of its U.S. retail stores again after cases of Covid-19 spiked in some areas across the country. The closures will impact 11 stores across Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and South Carolina. “Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas,” an Apple spokesman said. “We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible.” Cases have recently spiked in some U.S. states, prompting local governments to consider new measures. Apple had reopened the majority of its U.S. locations, including many stores in major markets like New York City and Los Angeles.

Japanese shoppers queued at Uniqlo stores and crashed its website on Friday as the clothing chain began selling face masks with breathable fabric used in the brand’s popular underwear, preparing for the coronavirus outbreak lasting through summer. Scenes of people standing in the rain waiting for stores to open were seen throughout Japan and broadcast on Twitter, while the online store displayed an apology to those looking for the washable Airism masks, saying the website was inundated. Airism has been one of Uniqlo’s most popular lines, known for allowing wearers to stay cool in the heat and during exercise. The masks are sold in three-piece packs for ¥990 ($9.26) plus tax, and are available in three sizes. Prospects of a prolonged crisis has encouraged Japanese consumers to buy and make reusable washable versions even as disposable masks, initially in short supply, have become more easily available.