The Brand Move Roundup – June 25, 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.

Delta Air Lines has said that it plans to restart passenger flights to China shortly, the first U.S. airline to do so after a months-long hiatus that started as the coronavirus pandemic took hold but has been extended by a diplomatic dispute. United Airlines is also expected to restart flights to China in the coming weeks. More than 8.5 million passengers traveled on direct flights between the United States and China in 2018, the last year for which the Transportation Department has complete data.

UAE-based airline Emirates will restore the Airbus A380 to its London-Dubai route on 15 July. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Emirates was by far the biggest user of the double-deck “SuperJumbo” with six return trips a day between Heathrow and Dubai. Emirates’ chief operating officer, Adel Al Redha, said: “The A380 remains a popular aircraft amongst our customers and it offers many unique on-board features. “Even though we’ve modified services on board for the health and safety of our crew and customers, we are confident that our customers would welcome flying again in this quiet, comfortable aircraft.” There had been speculation that the Airbus jet would be withdrawn from service, as airlines downsized their fleets and networks. British Airways has grounded all its Airbus A380 jets and has also stopped flying Boeing 747 Jumbo jets.

Less than a year after announcing the sale of its food delivery service Caviar, payments company Square has announced a new option for restaurants and retail stores using its payments hardware to have their products delivered to customers’ homes. “In this challenging new business environment, it’s more important than ever that sellers have access to the tools they need to sell online quickly, efficiently, and affordably,” Square said. “On-Demand Delivery is just the latest feature we’ve built to help sellers take their business online.” Square announced the sale of Caviar to DoorDash for $410 million last August. The move highlights the elevated attractiveness of delivery models as brick-and-mortar stores remain closed. Instacart, for example, said that demand in March was the highest in the company’s history, and that customer order volume is up more than 500% year over year. Meanwhile, Grubhub announced this month that it would merge with European food delivery company Just Eat Takeaway after merger talks with Uber fell through.

Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house reopened Monday and performed its first concert since the coronavirus lockdown, to an audience that didn’t have to worry about social distancing. Instead of people, the UceLi Quartet played Giacomo Puccini’s I Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) for 2,292 plants, one for each seat in the theater. The concert was also livestreamed for humans to watch. The event was conceived by Spanish artist Eugenio Ampudia who said he was inspired by nature during the pandemic. “I heard many more birds singing. And the plants in my garden and outside growing faster. And, without a doubt, I thought that maybe I could now relate in a much intimate way with people and nature,” he said before the performance. The theater says it will gift the plants to local health workers as a thank you for their efforts during the pandemic.

Covid-19 is set to transform car design by making consumers demand vehicles that are greener and better for their health, according to the chief engineer at Jaguar Land Rover. The pandemic has completely changed the way people think about their safety and the wider environment and this will revolutionize the way cars look and feel, JLR executive director of engineering Nick Rogers said. “I think Covid will transform car design. The pandemic has made people more aware of the natural environment and wanting to protect it – and also more aware of the physical car environment, which they want to be healthy. There will be a big push where space will become the new premium,” he said. “The design of cars is going to be more obsessed about the space inside the car than anything else – making sure it’s got the right materials, making sure there’s no pollutants, making sure there’s no plasticisers, making sure they don’t use animals or animal waste. On the back of Covid-19 people will care more about the planet than ever before. People are so much more aware of the environment now – the simple things, like the birds coming out, nobody wants that to go back. Our number one objective will be maximizing interior space and minimizing exterior space. Maximizing visibility, maximizing occupant positions, all of those things are going to become important – and they’re going to affect the way cars look because a good car is built from the inside out,” he said. Mr Rogers is convinced that the car industry is at a Covid-19 induced turning point. “It’s a terrible thing that’s happened. However, this could be the inflection point of change and I think it’s overdue.”

Online review and booking site Tripadvisor has added filters to let travelers search destinations based on safety and sanitization. The filters allow business owners (who advertise on the platform) the ability to add their own safety measures and sanitization procedures, like whether mask policies are enforced, and ask travelers to validate their own personal experience at the establishment. The option is now available in every market Tripadvisor operates in. “If we want to get the world traveling again, the safety needs of consumers must be appreciated and recognized as the biggest hurdle to closing the confidence gap created by this pandemic,” said Lindsay Nelson, Tripadvisor’s chief experience and brand officer. The introduction of the new tools, called Travel Safe, comes after Tripadvisor released its own findings from a months-long study examining traveler sentiment during the pandemic, which found that a vast majority (92%) said cleanliness will remain very important when selecting accommodations after Covid-19. Additionally, 79% said it was important to publicly display compliance with government safety standards.

The University of Cincinnati will remove Marge Schott’s name from its baseball stadium, citing the late Cincinnati Reds owner’s “record of racism and bigotry.” The university’s board of trustees on Monday unanimously voted to remove Schott’s name from the stadium and from the university’s archives library. The decision is effective immediately. Former Bearcats outfielder Jordan Ramey started a petition earlier this month to remove Schott’s name. On Tuesday, the petition was approaching 10,000 signatures. University president Neville Pinto also had recommended the removal to the board. The university’s baseball facility was named Marge Schott Stadium in 2006 after the school received a $2 million donation from the Marge and Charles J. Schott Foundation. Marge Schott died in 2004. In 1996, Major League Baseball banned Schott from Riverfront Stadium and day-to-day operations of the Reds following her comments about Adolf Hitler. The decision led to Schott selling her controlling interest in the Reds in 1999. MLB also banned Schott for the 1993 season due to racist comments toward Black players and team employees. “Marge Schott’s record of racism and bigotry stands at stark odds with our University’s core commitment to dignity, equity and inclusion,” Pinto said

Activist investor Jeff Ubben has left ValueAct Capital, the $16bn hedge fund he founded, to launch a new environmental and social impact investment company. He’s leaving to start a new hedge fund, Inclusive Capital Partners, with co-founders like the investor Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who’s focused on “inclusive capitalism.” The new firm is focused on environmental and social impact investments. Mr. Ubben’s focus now is a different sort of activist investing, with an eye on big issues like the environment. Impact-focused activism, particularly at older corporate names, he claims, can drive bigger profits than traditional activism: “The legacy companies are valued like they’re going out of business and they have the workforce, they have the geographies and intellectual property and all of that,” he said, admitting that he’ll need to find “courageous C.E.O.s and boards,” and added, “I think we’re going to have to fire our shareholders. We’re going to have to find new shareholders, shareholders that want to be focused on the long term.”