The Brand Move Roundup – September 3, 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.

Estée Lauder is reviewing the language and marketing around its skin-lightening creams, after accusations of cultural insensitivity levelled at rival cosmetics firms. The company, which owns 25 brands including Bobbi Brown, Clinique and La Mer, did not disclose which products would be affected. It will assess the use of terms such as lightening and brightening on its products and if certain product lines should have a wider range of shades, Estée Lauder’s senior vice-president, Susan Akkad, said. It comes as cosmetic companies are accused on social media of hypocrisy for selling skin-whitening products while supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. In June, employees sent a letter to William Lauder, the executive chairman of Estée Lauder, asking him to do more to address race-related issues. The company subsequently pledged to do better, including committing to working with more black-owned businesses. Estée Lauder is not the first cosmetics company to take action. In June, Johnson & Johnson announced it would stop selling dark-spot reducers, which lighten skin, within its Neutrogena Fine Fairness and Clear Fairness by Clean & Clear lines, which are sold in the Middle East and Asia. Unilever also said it would rename its Fair & Lovely line, now called Glow & Lovely, and remove the words lightening, light, fair, fairness, white and whitening on all of its brands and products. L’Oréal said it would also remove words such as white and fair from its products.

Ben & Jerry’s has partnered with Vox to create a podcast that will examine America’s history of systematic racism, and how the injustices of slavery continue to affect Black Americans today. With America facing a reckoning on racial inequality in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police, the politically outspoken ice cream brand said there was a need for an “honest look at the American history that has allowed and encouraged white supremacy to thrive for the last 400 years.” The podcast, titled Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, is based on Jeffrey Robinson’s acclaimed presentation of the same name. Robinson, who is ACLU deputy legal director and director of the ACLU Trone Center for Justice and Equality, is executive producer of the podcast series, which will launch Sept. 15. Author Carvell Wallace will host the podcast, which will also explore the ways legal discrimination and systemic imbalances continue to “profoundly limit Black Americans’ ability to gain access to jobs, housing, education and health care; or to create and accumulate wealth.” The podcast has been produced by Vox Creative, the news outlet’s brand studio, and is Vox Media Podcast Network’s first original series produced in partnership with a brand. “Economic and social justice has been a part of Ben & Jerry’s mission since our founding 42 years ago,” said Jabari Paul, U.S. activism manager for Ben & Jerry’s. “We now sit at a critical inflection point in our nation’s history. If we are to seize the opening that this moment presents, we must be willing to acknowledge the sins of our past so that we move together toward a future of justice and equity.”

Unilever’s “clean future” initiative aims to develop renewable or recycled alternatives to chemicals derived from the oil industry as part of the company’s pledge to eliminate carbon emissions from its products by 2039. The investment in research and development for eco-products comes on top of €1bn Unilever has already committed over the next decade for environmental projects that will improve the “health of the planet”. The company, which owns more than 400 brands including Marmite, Dove, Comfort and Sure, has also pledged to reduce the mountain of plastic rubbish that its products generate. With nearly half of the carbon footprint of the consumer goods giant’s cleaning products coming from oil-based ingredients, reformulating with eco-friendly alternatives is expected to reduce their environmental impact by up to a fifth. A whole “rainbow” of alternatives, varying from well-established palm oil-based chemicals to those derived from algae, plastic waste and carbon captured from energy production, is being investigated. Peter ter Kulve, Unilever’s president of home care, said it was essential to investigate a diverse range of alternatives to “grow within the limits of our planet”. He said that Unilever hoped that by sharing details of its “carbon rainbow” – outlining the different possible alternatives for sourcing fossil fuel-based ingredients – Unilever was “calling on an economy-wide transformation”. “A new bioeconomy is rising from the ashes of fossil fuels,” he said.

Mars Wrigley, a longtime Super Bowl advertiser, plans to return with a spot in the 2021 game – which makes it the first marketer to confirm it will run an ad in the Big Game next year. “The biggest moments deserve the biggest brands and since the Super Bowl is one of America’s most iconic and beloved sports moments, it makes sense that Mars Wrigley would secure a spot to share our iconic and beloved brands such as M&M’s, Snickers and Skittles,” the company said. Mars Wrigley is preparing for the Feb. 7 Super Bowl as uncertainty surrounds the biggest NFL game of the year and the biggest stage for blockbuster ads. Live sports in general have become uncertain during the coronavirus pandemic. The NFL did away with its preseason games, and its new season, set to begin on Sept. 10, will feature games with few-to-no fans in attendance. Societal issues are also pressuring play. On Aug. 26, multiple NBA Playoffs games were postponed after Milwaukee Bucks players boycotted their own game in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin on Aug. 23. The new National Football League season has marketers less likely to commit to Super Bowl spending, according to agency execs who say they would normally be briefed on potential campaigns by now. The ad inventory would also likely be sold out, or close to, by now. “Fox was probably 85% sold in the Super Bowl at this time last year,” said a media agency executive. “[This year] it’s a tough sell because there’s so much ambiguity around it… I think it’s going to be a year where the Super Bowl is not filled until January.”

Online retail giant Amazon has said it will create a further 7,000 UK jobs this year to meet growing demand. Amazon said it had already added 3,000 roles so far in 2020, and so by the end of the year it will have created a total of 10,000 new jobs. This will take its total permanent UK workforce to more than 40,000. Amazon is recruiting for roles at more than 50 sites. It said the creation of the new roles, which will include engineers, graduates, human resources, IT, health and safety and finance specialists, as well as the teams who will pick, pack and ship customer orders, was in response to growing customer demand. “At the centre of the job creation programme are three new, state-of-the-art fulfilment centres in Darlington, Durham and Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, each fitted out with advanced Amazon Robotics technology and each creating more than 1,000 new permanent roles,” the firm said in a statement.

Since May, Accenture has been surveying close to 1,000 CEOs about their feelings on the economic impact of the pandemic. In the most recent survey from late July, nearly half of the executives polled said they believed the economic recovery will be U-shaped rather than V-shaped. Many CEOs have started shifting investments to areas that they hope will set them up for long-term success or pushing ahead with things they were just thinking of trialing before the pandemic, according to Jimmy Etheredge, Accenture’s North American CEO. He said: “I think what companies are looking for is ways to make investments in innovation that is going to be at the core of their strategy. And cloud is where they see the ability to be thoughtful about cash. Because in periods of slow growth, cash is king, so everybody becomes very conscious of that, and they look at cloud as a way of leveraging the technology from some of the big ecosystem players, the hyperscalers, to be able to accelerate that innovation. If you look at the survey results, there was a 26-point leap in two months of the companies that said that they were going to accelerate their investments with an emphasis on cloud. The migration to the cloud will be fundamentally accelerated by what’s happened with COVID. I see that in every conversation I have with CEOs of our clients, and we saw that in our research as well. One of the areas I see that in particular is around the deployment of change. A lot of our clients, both B2C and B2B, have seen the customer experience and the way they interact with their customers completely disrupted, and they have leveraged technology to respond to that. This is often something that clients were thinking about piloting in a couple of stores for a quarter and then thinking about rolling out. All of the sudden, it was, ‘How quickly can we get these changes in place?’ So some of these were ideas that they had pre-COVID that got accelerated, but I think some of it as well is a fundamental change where the C-suite is stopping, looking and considering, ‘What does this mean for our business, and how do we accelerate?‘.”