The Brand Move Roundup – September 1, 2020

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

In early March we began reporting daily on how brands were dealing with Covid-19. But it’s become clear that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption, so we decided to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid the latest crises in an anxious world. Our goal is to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.

National Basketball Association (NBA) teams will be offering their facilities as voting locations for the 2020 U.S. general election. According to a joint statement from NBA Players Association (NBPA) Executive Director Michele Roberts and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: “In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID.” The NBA plans to help the vote in other ways too. The joint statement offered the following as well: “If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.”  The statement emerged after meetings between NBA players, coaches, and team governors.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, United Airlines is eliminating the change fee. Announced late Sunday, the airline will no longer charge for changes made to a domestic itinerary, forgoing the $200 fee travelers have grudgingly become accustomed to. The airline is the first to permanently eliminate the fee. (However, United is not the only airline that is change fee-free: Southwest has allowed customers to make itinerary changes for years without charge.) The airline also announced that starting in January, customers will be able to add themselves to the standby list of a different flight should their plans change.

“You may remember as we emerged from previous tough times, we made difficult decisions to survive financially but sometimes at the expense of customer service, either by adding new fees or cutting the things that made the experience better,” said United CEO Scott Kirby, noting that the fee was often a point of contention among flyers. The move to earn some goodwill in the industry’s darkest hour is laudable, although in recent months, there’s been next to no revenue associated with the change fee, as it’s been waived since March due to the pandemic. Last month, Kirby called the brand’s last quarter the “most difficult financial quarter in its 94-year history,” as the airline posted $1.6 billion in losses. Operating revenue was down 87%.

Ocean Spray has launched its Lighthouse Innovation Incubator to create new brands to compete with the sudden rise of direct-to-consumer startups, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. The cooperative joins the ranks of brand holding companies like Procter & Gamble and Anheuser-Busch that have added incubators or venture arms. Last week, Ocean Spray debuted the incubator’s latest effort, Tally-Ho, a line of functional water enhancers for dogs. The incubator currently has four new test brands on the market: a line of herbal tonics, Atoka; a CBD sparkling water line, CarryOn; an edible gummy supplement to help protect skin from the sun, Dabbly; and now Tally-Ho. Ocean Spray isn’t the only legacy brand looking to build out new brands within its walls. Big brand holding companies have created venture arms like Anheuser-Busch’s ZX Ventures, Siemen’s Next47 and Procter & Gamble’s P&G Ventures. “Most of the big traditional brands in the consumer space are built for the times when big was beautiful and when agility had not yet entered the lexicon of business,” said Dipanjan Chatterjee, vp and principal analyst at Forrester. “All of that has changed, especially with the all-pervasive infusion of digital. Rather than make a lumbering pivot to agility, incubation is a low-cost, low-risk way to play fast and loose to see if something sticks.”

KFC has taken the decision to temporarily pause using its “finger lickin’ good” tagline, admitting it doesn’t quite work during a global pandemic that requires people to stay ultra hygienic and avoid touching their faces, not to mention putting their hands in their mouths. In a new global campaign the fast-food giant is ditching its “beloved” slogan because it “doesn’t feel quite right.” A replacement is currently being cooked up. “This is a big step for us, but let’s be honest, our slogan is probably the most inappropriate out there right now,” KFC acknowledged in a statement. The move comes after KFC pulled a commercial showing people licking their hands in March, at the peak of the pandemic in Europe. It pulled the ad following complaints to the U.K.’s advertising watchdog that it was irresponsible. In a series of current outdoor ads, buckets of chicken are shown carrying tongue-in-cheek disclaimers, including “Finger lickin’ not currently advised” and “Wash fingers thoroughly before lickin’.”

Three months after he forced a UK government U-turn on summer holiday school meal vouchers, British soccer star Marcus Rashford has set his sights on a bigger target: the end of child food poverty in Britain. After MPs scrambled to line up behind the charismatic young Manchester United footballer and political activist, it is now the turn of the food industry. In a letter to MPs, Rashford unveiled a “child food poverty taskforce” he has formed with brands including Aldi, Tesco, Deliveroo and Kellogg’s, set out three major new policy goals, and issued a rallying cry for long-lasting change. The ambitious plan that Rashford sets out calls on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to fund the implementation of three key policy recommendations from the national food strategy, a government-commissioned report highlighting huge economic and health inequalities, which will be aggravated by the coronavirus crisis. The proposals are backed by Aldi, Co-op, Deliveroo, Iceland, Kellogg’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, and the charities FareShare and the Food Foundation. “Mothers and fathers are raising respectful, eloquent young men and women, who, in reality, are part of a system that will not allow them the opportunity to win and succeed,” Rashford wrote. “Add school closures, redundancies and furloughs into the equation and we have an issue that could negatively impact generations to come. It all starts with stability around access to food.” The footballer convened a Zoom call with supermarket leaders to agree the taskforce plan. As well as backing the national food strategy goals, members of the group agreed to use their social media platforms to share the stories of some of those facing food poverty to raise public awareness of the issue.

The Harvard Business Review has replicated a 2013 study on the productivity of knowledge workers, using the same questions as before and interviewing respondents with similar profiles, to find out how lockdown has changed the work landscape. The key findings are: lockdown helps us focus on the work that really matters. We are spending 12% less time drawn into large meetings and 9% more time interacting with customers and external partners; lockdown helps us take responsibility for our own schedules. We do 50% more activities through personal choice — because we see them as important — and half as many because someone else asked us to; and during lockdown, we view our work as more worthwhile.  We rate the things we do as valuable to our employer and to ourselves. The number of tasks rated as tiresome drops from 27% to 12%, and the number we could readily offload to others drops from 41% to 27%. In sum, lockdown has been positive for knowledge worker productivity in the short term. But it has also created some concerns and challenges around longer-term effectiveness, creativity, and personal resilience. However, in 2020, respondents said their work is more important, less tiresome, less easily offloaded and contributes to the company’s objectives.

Last week, Uber launched a marketing campaign tied to the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. Its core message tells users, “If you tolerate racism, delete Uber.” The message rolled out via social media, emails, in-app notifications, and billboards in thirteen cities. Uber also announced a string of commitments to back up its campaign, including creating anti-racism education for drivers and riders, formalizing a working group that seeks to identify bias in its products, and spending $10 million to support Black-owned businesses in the next two years. Even so, some critics saw the campaign as opportunistic, as the company is currently under fire for unfair labor practices, and both Uber and Lyft were recently found to engage in price discrimination in predominantly non-white neighborhoods. Relevantly, Edelman’s spring 2020 brand trust report noted that 63% percent of U.S. consumers agreed with the statement, “Brands and companies that issue a statement in support of racial equality need to follow it up with concrete action to avoid being seen by me as exploitative or as opportunists.”