The Brand Move Roundup – July 14, 2020

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

Four 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.

After a high-pressure campaign, the NFL’s Washington, D.C. team has finally announced that it will be changing its name from the Washington Redskins. “We will be retiring the Redskins name and logo” at the end of a review period, the team said in a statement posted to Twitter. Team owner Dan Snyder and coach Ron Rivera “are working closely to develop a new name and design approach.” The statement did not offer a new name, nor a date on which the new name can be expected. This follows a letter from shareholders worth $620 billion asking FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo to discontinue brand sponsorships unless the Washington team agreed to change its name. As news of the investor letter spread, the following two-day period saw rapid change: Nike removed the team’s merchandise from its website, FedEx issued a statement urging a name change, and Snyder and Rivera announced they would begin a review “to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.” Last week, a group of Native American leaders and advocacy nonprofits sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell demanding that the league retire the Washington team’s name and all Native mascots. That letter was initially signed by around a dozen leaders and groups. By week’s end, the number of Native Americans and community groups to sign the letter to Goodell had grown to over 1,500.

The Dior men’s collection has shown another timely shift as it confronted the issue of diversity on the catwalk. One week after the brand was criticized for casting an all-white ensemble of models for its womenswear couture presentation, the artistic director of menswear, Kim Jones, featured only black models in his spring/summer 2021 collection, which was designed in collaboration with acclaimed Ghanaian portrait painter Amoako Boafo. “It’s not political: we started this back in December,” said Jones. “But one of the things designers can do is [reflect] the time they are in. For me, diversity is a natural thing; a reflection of the wider world.” Formerly of Louis Vuitton, Jones has become well known for merging suiting with streetwear, and reworking tailoring for a modern audience. These commercially successful partnerships have helped to make Dior the world’s biggest luxury brand.

With museums closed and visitor numbers certain to be drastically cut on re-opening, it’s a brave move for the UK’s Imperial War Museums group to scale back its social media advertising, but from this month, it is boycotting Facebook and Instagram in response to their collective failure to clamp down on the spread of disinformation and hate speech. IWM, which has five sites in London, Belfast, Duxford and Manchester, is the first British cultural institution to join the Stop Hate for Profit campaign and withdraw its advertising. “All we’re doing, like everyone else who has joined the campaign, is asking Facebook to take some responsibility and accountability,” Pete Austin, IWM’s assistant director of marketing & communications, said. “They must think about what impact the spread of inauthentic information has in society.” Many British museums have been challenged over their ethics in recent years, and IWM’s boycott comes at an important moment for the sector. A long-standing refusal to consider repatriation and restitution of exhibits sourced from other cultures is starting to crumble, and Manchester Museum has taken the lead, with a recent ceremony returning 43 sacred artifacts to aboriginal peoples. This process was described by its director, Esme Ward, as a significant step towards the institution becoming “more inclusive, caring and relevant to the communities it serves”. Museums and galleries are also being urged to shun money from organisations such as oil giant BP, with Yasmin De Silva from action group Liberate Tate asserting that the firm’s profit “depends on trashing the climate, and it shouldn’t receive credibility by being associated with our most-cherished cultural institutions.”

Railway operator Amtrak has launched a summertime promotion that lets anyone who books a roomette (a cabin of about 4×7 feet with two seats that convert to bunk beds) to bring a companion along for free. And while the offer is foremost a 2-for-1 discount, its subtext is a message for the times: “A roomette,” read Amtrak’s announcement, “is the perfect option for customers seeking privacy and space.” In other words, a roomette is the perfect option for customers who want to isolate themselves from other passengers during a pandemic. “These days, our customers are prioritizing health and safety when traveling. So we think that private rooms are the perfect option for customers seeking privacy, safety and space,” Amtrak’s chief marketing and revenue officer, Roger Harris, said. “These rooms provide travelers with their own space where they can control their own environment, relax and enjoy the journey without having to worry about maintaining social distance. This adds an extra level of confidence to make travel safe and secure.” Amtrak’s roomette special features fares rarely seen in modern times. A ticket from Washington, D.C. to Chicago, for example, is $319 – and that’s for two passengers, which translates to about $160 each. That’s little more than the gas money it would cost to drive the 700-mile trip in an SUV. The roomettes join a list of other enhancements that the railroad is pushing amid travelers’ newfound concerns during the pandemic, including limited bookings, redoubled cleaning efforts and onboard air filtration.

Travel and recommendation site Tripadvisor has quietly launched what it’s calling Reco, a concierge-style platform that matches travelers who’d rather not flip through Tripadvisor’s entire portfolio of hospitality brands, restaurants and destinations with a personalized “trip designer.” For a $199 fee, travelers on Reco (which is still in beta testing mode) can search a destination, offer their budget, and list any activities and interests. They’re then matched with a travel adviser (the platform has hired “a few hundred”) who will begin planning the trip with the traveler accordingly. “Their role is to be there for the traveler from start to finish. That’s a really important aspect for what they’ll do for the traveler when there’s so much uncertainty out in the world,” said Brad Soroca, who joined Tripadvisor this April as VP of Marketing and Business Development, and is overseeing the Reco brand. When asked why Tripadvisor opted to create a service like Reco, a spokesperson said the two were “different travel planning experiences.” The main site is for individual planners, they said, and Reco is for the concierge service.

A number of top tech companies say the Trump administration’s new directive to strip foreign students of their visas could crush the tech industry’s workforce, and have filed a lawsuit against the move. In an amicus brief filed Monday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Salesforce, Microsoft and more, sided with Harvard and MIT in their lawsuit against the U.S. government. The suit pertains to a directive from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would send foreign students home if their college classes go entirely online due to COVID-19. In the suit, Harvard and MIT, which both plan to hold classes online in the fall, argue that ICE failed to consider the potentially devastating impacts of that rule. The amicus brief is backed by 19 tech associations and individual companies, and largely argues that the ICE directive should be overturned because of the harm it could do to the U.S. economy, driving nearly half of all international students out of the country.  The companies wrote that they would be “harmed substantially” if the directive takes effect. “Without international students, American educational institutions face a sudden loss of critical mass – jeopardizing their ability to maintain their standards of excellence; produce research that helps keep U.S. businesses on the cutting edge of innovation; and provide the training that makes American students a strong talent pool for their future employers,” they wrote. ICE argues that the directive is an effort to enforce existing law forbidding international students from taking all of their courses online. International students make up the majority of students in many science, technology, engineering and math programs across the country, hailing from countries including India, Iran and China, among other nations. And the tech industry relies heavily on those students to build up their workforces, first bringing them into the fold through internships and work programs and then hiring them after they’ve graduated. “Dropbox wouldn’t exist without immigrants,” a spokesperson for Dropbox, one of the companies that joined the brief, said. “The students impacted by the administration’s order make significant contributions to our society, and the effect of the order will hurt U.S. competitiveness. We’ll keep fighting for immigration reform because it makes our country stronger and more diverse.”