The Brand Move Roundup – June 24, 2020

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

Three months 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.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has written a company-wide email that addresses racial injustice and the actions Microsoft plan to take to commit to improving the “lived experience” and drive change. He laid out a multi-tiered game plan to help Microsoft increase diversity within the company’s own walls as well as with its partners and contractors and use its software skills to help strengthen black and African communities. Among the highlights is the company’s plan to, “…further strengthen company accountability for progress on representation. We will deepen our practice of evaluating each CVP/GM’s progress on diversity and inclusion when determining their impact and rewards, as well as promotion considerations.” In addition, Microsoft will also be putting forth a five year, $50 million “sustained effort” towards expanding the company’s current justice reform initiative as well as providing $5 million in cash grants to community-based non-profits with the intent to aid skilled work among Black and African student bodies. Microsoft will be offering another $500 million to a selection of Black- and African American owned suppliers who follow the company’s inclusive diversity initiatives.

In the midst of lockdown-sparked hobbies, Google has launched a new social network, Keen, as “a home for long-term interests”. The firm acknowledges that “technology struggles with understanding what we want to spend our time on.” Built to “expand what activities you’re into, helping you curate, collaborate and expand every interest,” Keen can save and add links, text, images and web searches, and everything you add gets you more to explore, as it leverages the Google Search index, combined with user feedback, to provide personalized recommendations that improve over time. “Keen isn’t intended to be a place to spend endless hours browsing. Instead, it’s a home for your interests: a place to grow them, share them with loved ones and find things that will help in making this precious life count,” said co-founder CJ Adams. “You say what you want to spend more time on, and then curate content from the web and people you trust to help make that happen. You make a “keen,” which can be about any topic, whether it’s baking delicious bread at home, getting into birding or researching typography. Keen lets you curate the content you love, share your collection with others and find new content based on what you have saved. For every keen you create, we use Google Search and the latest in machine learning to remain on the lookout for helpful content related to your interests. The more you save to a keen and organize it, the better the recommendations become. You can also follow keens that others have created, discovering thousands of hand-curated lists from the community and getting alerts when new things are added.”

As movie theaters begin to reopen in the U.S., NBCUniversal’s ticketing and video-on-demand company Fandango has launched a theater reopening program on its website and mobile app, with resources and information on which theaters have reopened and their health and safety policies. The guide offers details from more than 100 theater chains, along with a special search filter to find theaters by location. “At Fandango, our mission has always been super-serving fans with their entertainment needs, and we cannot wait to help fans get back to the big screen safely and at the right time,” said Fandango president Paul Yanover. “It’s a complicated roll out, with various states, cities and counties opening their venues in different phases. We hope Fandango will serve as a helpful one-stop resource for fans to find all the information and services they need for a comfortable return to their local theaters.” The program has also curated information including occupancy limits and social distance seating maps, mask and personal protective equipment policies, increased cleaning measures and special concession services.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a move to ecommerce across all industries, and secondhand clothing is no exception, according to a report released by ThredUp. Online resale is expected to grow by 23% this year, the report said, and the category is predicted to overtake the traditional thrift and donation segment by 2024. As the world’s largest online resale website, ThredUp was seeing impressive growth prior to the pandemic, especially among Gen Z and millennial consumers concerned with the sustainability of their purchases. An April survey conducted by Global Data for ThredUp’s resale report showed that consumers were just as concerned with the climate as they were prior to the pandemic.

Consumers are showing a “resilience” with respect to their focus on sustainability, said Marino. “They’re keeping that in mind even when times are tough.” ThredUp also found that brands with a strong commitment to sustainability practices are growing fastest on its site, demonstrating consumers’ loyalty to those values even when buying those brands – like Patagonia, The North Face, Everlane and Reformation – secondhand. Retailers have also begun to notice the appeal of resale for its consumers, according to the report. Several retail stores, from Banana Republic and Athleta to Walmart and Macy’s, have partnered with ThredUp to promote resale either through their own website, or through store credits in return for donations.

22 N.B.A. teams are ramping up activities in practice facilities and preparing to begin regular coronavirus testing for players and staff members in preparation for a restart, but since the league began distributing a 113-page guide of health and safety protocols to govern its planned restart of the 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World next month, the rate of confirmed coronavirus cases in Orange County, Fla., has risen dramatically. The N.B.A. chose Disney World for its single-site resumption of play for many reasons – business reasons among them given Disney’s status as the league’s top media partner. But Orange County’s increase in positive tests over the past two weeks has made it an “infection hotbed,” as described by Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health. The worrying trajectory of the testing data, at the very least, is bound to prompt questions about whether even the N.B.A.’s strict protocols will be sufficient. The Florida Department of Health has acknowledged the shifting situation, issuing a lengthy health advisory that included a reminder to “wear masks in any setting where social distancing is not possible,” and a recommendation that “all individuals should refrain from participation in social or recreational gatherings of more than 50 people.” Another concerning development in the state from the weekend: Major League Baseball, while still searching for the labor agreement it needs to salvage a 2020 season, ordered all team facilities in Florida and Arizona to shut down after players in both locations tested positive for the coronavirus.

Twitter is giving its U.S. employees Election Day off and offering global employees paid time off to vote in national elections, the company told employees Tuesday. “Given the importance of voting, going forward all national election voting days that take place on a weekday will be a paid day off. Since the U.S. presidential election falls on a work day (November 3), we will plan to close all U.S. offices on that day,” the company told employees. “For all other elections, if you do not have enough time outside of working hours to vote or your country doesn’t already have a process in place to address this, you should take the time you need to do so and you will be compensated for the time off.” Employees that are responsible for election-related functions, such as security of its service, will still have to report to work those days, Twitter told employees. Twitter previously permitted employees up to two hours of paid time off to vote, but some companies are moving to honor the day as a holiday. Uber announced last week it would make election days around the world company holidays.