The Brand Move Roundup – July 29, 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.

The Consumer Technology Association, organizer of the annual CES show, has announced that next year’s event will only take place as a series of online webinars. “Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,” Gary Shapiro, the CTA’s president and CEO, said. Details are scant about what the 2021 format will actually look like, although the CTA’s release promises “a new immersive experience” that will be “highly personalized.” CES is the first big in-person tech event for 2021 that’s been canceled, and was one of the last to take place in 2020 before the world went into lockdown. This year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was canceled as Spain became one of Europe’s COVID hot spots, and SXSW in Austin was canceled at a time when many were still unsure whether the virus would take hold in the U.S.

Walmart’s ecommerce business grew 74% during the pandemic, monthly search volume was up more than 70% in 2020, and pickup and delivery by new customers quadrupled, according to Stefanie Jay, VP and general manager of Walmart Media Group. Jay also said that the company is working on more customized web solutions with its advertisers. “We’re really leaning into different programs – some of them longer, some of them shorter, some of them targeted to different specific audiences – and it’s pretty neat to see,” she said, ticking off verticals such as food and beverage, costumes and beauty. “These are all things that are really top of mind for people right now, and marketers. “My CMO clients are really thinking about their jobs differently I think,” she added. “The evolution of the CMO is often a theme that we often talk about. I think that attribution is at the fore of that.” CMOs are thought of as driving real business results now and not just messaging, at the core of which are accountability and attribution, she noted.

Emirates has become the first airline to offer free Covid-19 insurance as it tries to get people flying again. Passengers will be covered for medical treatment, hotel quarantine – and even their funeral if they catch the coronavirus while travelling. “We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually re-open, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel,” Emirates Group Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said. The coverage is free to all customers regardless of class of travel or destination and is applied automatically with no need to register. The Dubai-based carrier said the insurance would cover medical expenses of up to €150,000 (£137,000; $176,500). It will also pay for the cost of quarantining in a hotel for up to two weeks at €100 per day. In the event of a passenger’s death due to Covid-19 the insurance cover will provide €1,500 towards the cost of their funeral.

Research conducted by the National Retail Federation found that back to school spending by households with elementary school-aged children is expected to increase 29% this year, to $33.9 billion, an average of $789 per household. Spending by households with college-aged children is expected to rise 24%, to $67.7 billion, an average of $1,059 per household. Much of that increase has been driven by parents looking to better equip their kids for remote learning. While apparel is normally the top product category for Popsugar’s back to school season, school supplies have outpaced clothes so far, Popsugar cofounder Lisa Sugar said. Popsugar, which has for years been building and augmenting a custom shoppable guide for back to school shopping called Backpacked, said it is outpacing the revenue targets set for its affiliate partners. “We’re seeing major growth,” Sugar said. Popsugar’s back to school bet hinges on more than affiliate. This past week, it launched a line of tween-focused apparel in partnership with Old Navy. Though the line’s launch was timed for a back to school push, it has been in the works for a year, Sugar said, who added that the line’s emphasis on comfortable fit and fabrics should help with sales, even if more school districts plan for a remote year. While things look promising from a revenue standpoint, this year’s school shopping season stands out in another grim way. For much of July, one of Popsugar’s top sources of traffic and commerce revenue was a post about masks for children. “People just can’t get enough masks for their kids,” Sugar said.

Future movies from Universal Pictures will come to online platforms like iTunes and Apple TV just 17 days after a theatrical release following a deal between Universal and AMC Theaters. Under the terms of the deal, the theatrical window for new movies will be shortened to 17 days from the current 75 days, so viewers will be able to watch new titles online as soon as 2.5 weeks after they first appear in theaters. During the pandemic, Universal had been experimenting with offering movies online while they’re still in theaters, which AMC was not happy with. Universal’s digital release of “Trolls World Tour” in the early months of the coronavirus was a success, earning more than $100 million in three weeks, and spurring the company to further experiment with digital releases. Movie theaters have been closed, but AMC said that if Universal released new movies direct to digital platforms, it would not show new Universal releases. With the new 17-day theatrical release window, however, the dispute between the two companies has been settled. AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron said that AMC will have an opportunity to generate additional revenue by offering new Universal films on its AMC Theaters on Demand platform. New Universal titles will also be released on digital platforms like ‌Apple TV‌ and Amazon.

Hilton and Marriott hotels across California are taking extra precautions when it comes to staff-to-guest interactions by introducing robots that deliver groceries, wine, towels and even pet treats to customers. Hotel Trio, a Marriott hotel in Healdsburg, Calif., is employing its social distancing robot ambassador, Rosé, which is programmed with the hotel map, embedded with technology to communicate with the elevator and phone systems, and able to be at a guest’s room in five minutes. “For guests who prefer contactless deliveries,” said Scott Satterfield, general manager of Hotel Trio, “Rosé provides them with peace of mind as she can deliver items to their suite.” Guests can receive deliveries by placing them through the front desk, and within moments will be greeted by Rosé, which is sanitized after each room visit. A similar robot at LAX’s Embassy Suites named Winnie is serving the same purpose, and the hotel reported in a statement that, as of the end of June, more than 60% of guests were engaging with it. H Hotel Los Angeles and Homewood Suites by Hilton Los Angeles International Airport share a building, along with their own robot, Hannah, to deliver food from their lobby eatery to guests. Many hotels are taking a different approach to robot room cleaning, though: They’re using UVC robots, which are designed to kill Covid-19 particles rapidly by mapping out hotel floor plans and cleaning each room with high-powered UV light. Teklight, in partnership with UVD Robots, and MIT, in conjunction with Ava Robotics, are creating and distributing models to make this possible. The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., is currently using UVC robots, while the InterContinental Hotels Group is beginning to use the technology at its properties, including a Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains, N.Y.

Mattel has announced the Barbie® 2020 Campaign Team – four diverse dolls including candidate, campaign manager, fundraiser and voter, to show girls the importance of a political team working together to win. Ahead of the 2020 election, the brand is launching this new doll set alongside a full marketing program aimed at the next generation of leaders by highlighting the importance of voting and taking a stand and showing girls how to run a campaign. The set highlights dolls of different ethnicities, including a Black candidate, to remind all girls they can lead from the polls to the podium. “Since 1959, Barbie has championed girls and encouraged them to be leaders whether in the classroom, community or someday, of the country,” said Lisa McKnight, SVP and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls, Mattel. “With less than a third of elected leaders in the U.S. being women, and Black women being even less represented in these positions, we designed the Barbie Campaign Team with a diverse set of dolls to show all girls they can raise their voices. Our goal is to remove barriers to leadership by giving girls the tools to imagine and play out their future roles.” The brand has teamed up with She Should Run, a non-partisan non-profit that provides guidance and support to women considering a run for office.