The Brand Move Roundup – July 23, 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.

Facebook has formed a new “equity and inclusion team” at Instagram that will examine how Black, Hispanic and other minority users in the U.S. are affected by the company’s algorithms. The company is also set to do the same for Facebook. It’s a departure from the social network’s previous approach to exploring how its platforms affect different minority groups. “The racial justice movement is a moment of real significance for our company,” said Vishal Shah, Instagram’s head of product. “Any bias in our systems and policies runs counter to providing a platform for everyone to express themselves.” The team will study the company’s algorithms from the grassroot level, including its machine-learning systems, and how those effects compare with white users. Various studies over the years have shown potential racial bias on social media platforms. While Facebook does not explicitly ask for a user’s race, it has found a different way of performing the analysis of “multicultural affinity” of its users. Under this banner, the company can speculate a user’s race based on the content they engage with on one of its platforms, and then use that information to target ads. However, that is not the only thing that Facebook reportedly does with that information. Last year, when Instagram was creating new thresholds for suspending or deleting accounts, an internal analyst found that accounts belonging to African American users were 50% more likely to get banned compared to their white counterparts. Facebook has been facing a boycott from advertisers, including Starbucks, Verizon, Walt Disney and many others, which have criticized the company for ‘not doing enough’, siding with the #StopHateForProfit campaign.

Women-focused career advice platform and events business Create & Cultivate is offering consumers a way to peruse items without stepping inside a physical store. The company has partnered with Postmates to open a retail pop-up in Los Angeles offering branded accessories and products from small businesses owned by women of color. The #CCSmallBizPopUp offers its products through the Postmates app for curbside pickup or home delivery within 45 minutes of ordering. Passersby can also shop at the storefront by scanning QR codes from the window to ship anywhere in the U.S. Create & Cultivate founder and CEO Jaclyn Johnson said that before the pandemic began, the brand was planning a traditional pop-up to support small businesses, but pivoted its strategy to cater to customer needs and safety concerns. “In a recent survey, we found that our audience was doubling down on delivery during the pandemic, so we knew we wanted something on-demand but also something innovative in the space,” Johnson said. The pop-up sells items from Create & Cultivate’s Vegan Leather Essentials collection, and products from seven brands owned by women of color, based across the country. “It’s rare to shop online and receive something in 30 to 45 minutes in the retail space, so we want to play into that demand,” Johnson said. “The items we curated from each brand fall within the self-care category, supporting the needs and wants of customers during the pandemic. If you try to order a mask online, it sometimes takes two weeks to receive, whereas this is immediate and supports women of color-owned small businesses.” Once the pop-up closes next month, Johnson said that Create & Cultivate plans to bring more iterations of the activation to other markets

Zola, which allows couples to create personalized wedding websites, has returned with new ads that have implicit rather than explicit nods to the pandemic on streaming platforms like Hulu and networks like NBC, CBS, TLC and Freeform. The new ads nod to the current moment, as wedding planning is often happening at home now, as well as the need to be able to continually adapt wedding plans should couples need. The startup’s return to TV advertising is one signal that the battered wedding industry is beginning to see signs of life. “Recently we’ve noticed a significant shift where couples are feeling much more confident and comfortable planning,” said Mike Chi, chief marketing officer of Zola. “The majority of couples with dates in the summer are moving forward with at least their ceremony, and overall weddings are starting to resume.” Zola ads weren’t running on streaming platforms or on TV from April to June. Typically, 25% to 40% of Zola’s media budget is allocated to streaming and TV. In 2019, Zola spent approximately $14.9 million on media, according to Kantar, which doesn’t track social ad spending. The startup is currently spending roughly one fourth of what it typically would during wedding season on advertising. “There is a shift to co-viewing where people are streaming together [because of coronavirus],” said Chi of the changing behavior of couples that helped the company decide to get back on streaming and TV. Chi continued: “The ultimate decision makers are tuning in with their other family members or their partner who they are quarantined with, which is extremely relevant for a wedding business. This means there is a more immediate cycle between viewing and purchasing or signing up for a service. This also means that programs have wider demographics than they did previously.”

Plant-based food brand Beyond Meat says it is partnering with Social Change Fund, a new nonprofit, to help fight disparities in the Black community including access to nutritious food. Social Change Fund was created by Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Black executives. Paul, a point guard who now plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is a Beyond Meat investor and brand ambassador. In a statement, Beyond Meat Founder and CEO Ethan Brown said the company is “excited to support and work with the Social Change Fund initiative to address racial inequalities in nutrition access and health outcomes in America.”

Tourism advertising is returning to Europe, though total ad spending in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and the U.K. for the first half of the year was down nearly half (46.2%) compared to the same period last year, according to Nielsen Ad Intel. But the real pandemic-induced decline in digital traffic came in April, when performance marketing agency Roast saw a 62% reduction from March, with some of its advertisers similarly pulling significant portions – if not all – of their paid media ads. However, each subsequent month has seen a growth in ad spending, notably in paid search, which nearly doubled traffic from May to June, according to SimilarWeb. And while ad spending in travel is still far below pre-pandemic levels, it has been slowly on the rise since May when countries like Italy, Spain and Estonia outlined plans to restart tourism. Between May 20 and June 20, ad spending across Italy, Spain, France, Germany and the U.K. was up 6.3% on the previous month, according to Nielsen. It may be only a fraction (16.2%) of what advertisers spent in January, but the increase suggests advertisers are getting more confident in their ability to salvage some sales over the summer. However, nearly two-thirds (64%) of adults across Great Britain would not feel safe traveling by plane currently, up from 40% on 8. June, according to a recent survey by YouGov. There is a similar unease about other types of international transport. Over half of those surveyed (55%) say they’d feel unsafe traveling by train, while 48% would not feel comfortable on a ferry. In both cases, this is a substantial jump from 31% on June 8 for both modes of travel. Between March and April, Facebook ad spending from travel advertisers across Italy, France, Germany and the U.K. dipped from $11.5 million to $3.8 million, according to Pathmatics. Since then ad spending has risen and hovered at $9.5 million for the first 21 days of July.