By August 4, 2020ISDose

The latest moves brands are making to deal with the fallout and mount a comeback

Since stay-at-home orders went into effect in mid-March, the pandemic forced marketers into unprecedented action, including closing offices, stopping agency reviews and tweaking or stopping certain advertising. Now, as major cities begin allowing more business to re-open, brands are trying to resume some normalcy. Still, major hurdles remain, including restoring consumer confidence, while also revamping operations to account for social distancing. At the same time, brands must respond to nationwide protests, rioting and civil unrest in the wake of the police-involved death of George Floyd.

Below, some of the latest actions that major marketers are taking related to the pandemic. For a look back at how brands responded in the first three months, check out our archived coverage here. And for the latest on how companies are dealing with protests and calls for social justice, visit this regularly updated blog.

John Hancock launches virtual summer camp for kids

A number of brands, like Shake Shack, The North Face and Amazon, have launched virtual summer camps for kids to bring some relief to parents this summer with normal summer camps having to close or go virtual due to the pandemic. Life insurance brand John Hancock might be an odd company to enter the fray, but it’s doing so with its own “Camp John Hancock.”

The free camp, which officially launched last week began as an internal offering to ease the burden of parent employees, but is now being promoted to all children between the ages of four and 10. It contains four week’s worth of online and offline content and activities on John Hancock’s websites and YouTube channel. John Hancock executives act as camp counselors and deliver camp singalongs, stories and instructions on how to create diy art projects like lava lamps, play dough and cereal bars. For children of John Hancock employees, they can sign up to receive STEM and art boxes. The company says it has 3,339 registered campers so far.

—Ilyse Liffreing

July 29, 2020

11:05 AM EDT

Best Buy and Kohl’s to close on Thanksgiving

Two more big names joined the growing list of retailers closed on Thanksgiving. Best Buy and Kohl’s both announced they will close on Nov. 26, joining the likes of Target, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Good which have all recently made similar announcements. At a time when consumers should be social distancing, large crowds clamoring for doorbusters is hardly the behavior brands want to encourage

On its corporate blog, Best Buy noted it will be “enhancing the way we fulfill orders,” and said it will “start offering some of the hottest deals of the season earlier than ever.” Similarly, Kohl’s said it expects customers to begin their holiday shopping earlier. In recent years, single-day shopping holidays such as Black Friday and Thanksgiving have been losing relevance as deals and promotions are offered earlier and spread out more equitably throughout the season.

– Adrianne Pasquarelli

July 24, 2020

1:25 PM EDT

McDonald’s U.S. requires masks, delays dining room reopenings

McDonald’s announced that its customers must wear masks inside its restaurants beginning on Aug. 1, making it the latest major U.S. business to announce such a requirement. It also announced it would take an additional 30-day pause before reopening its dining rooms. And it says restaurant operators can add protective panels in the areas where patrons may be and in the kitchens if they feel they are necessary.

According to McDonald’s, nearly 82 percent of its roughly 14,000 restaurants are in spots in the U.S. that require facial coverings. Now, it’s making that the standard across the chain. The company’s statement referred specifically to customers needing to cover their faces “when entering” its restaurants and did not mention any such requirements in the drive-thru.

The Golden Arches appears to be prepared for backlash. “In those situations where a customer declines to wear a face covering, we’ll put in place additional procedures to take care of them in a friendly, expedited way,” McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger and its National Franchise Leadership Alliance Chair Mark Salebra said in a statement. “Additionally, we will provide training for our restaurant staff to ensure they are prepared to address this new policy in a friendly and positive way. We also will re-share resources for our and our franchisees’ employees who want to revisit de-escalation training.”

McDonald’s previously paused dining room reopenings by three weeks, as the Wall Street Journal reported on July 1.

– Jessica Wohl

July 23, 2020

10:17 AM EDT

Pandemic fuels Unilever sales and e-commerce in U.S. but curbs marketing spend

Unilever’s sales soared more than 7 percent in North America, but pandemic-related

slowdowns in the rest of the world left revenue growth roughly flat—down 0.1% in the first half —the company reported today. Unilever cut what it calls “brand and marketing investment” by a percentage point as a share of sales, which were close to $30 billion.

About half of Unilever brands gained household penetration. CEO Alan Jope said on an earnings call that brands gaining household penetration during recessions tend to grow value share the subsequent five years at a pace 1.4 times brands that don’t. To that end, Unilever will step up marketing spending in the back half of the year. But it has trimmed the lesser 20 percent of its innovation program to focus on bigger things, said Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly.

Unilever’s U.S. sales haven’t been boosted by pantry loading, but by increased consumption of skin cleansing products and food at home, Jope said. And its U.S. e-commerce business soared 177 percent. Jope said he doesn’t expect e-commerce sales to retreat to prior levels after the pandemic, adding that his experience in China during the H1N1 pandemic last decade leads him to believe increased focus on hygiene and eating at home also will persist a long time.

Unilever also announced plans to spin off most of its tea business – led by the Lipton brand – into a standalone company, except for operations in India and Indonesia and its joint venture with Pepsico.

–Jack Neff

July 22, 2020

12:42 PM EDT

Pandemic aside, P&G re-ups for Olympics through 2028

Procter & Gamble Co. has dispelled any doubts that the pandemic would dim its enthusiasm for Olympics sponsorship by extending its deal with the International Olympic Committee for the next four Olympic and Paralympic Games, though 2028. The new deal also pledges P&G and IOC to take action on inclusion, environmental sustainability and community impact and encompasses global rights to the Paralympic Games and International Paralympic Committee for the first time. The deal comes with the Tokyo Summer Games scheduled for this year on hold at least until 2021 due to pandemic concerns. P&G has been an Olympics sponsor since 2010.

-Jack Neff

July 21, 2020

3:09 PM EDT

LinkedIn cuts 6 percent of staff as demand for recruiting tools wanes

Microsoft Corp.’s LinkedIn professional network eliminated almost 1,000 jobs after the coronavirus pandemic curbed demand for the company’s recruiting tools.

A total of 960 roles will be cut, about 6 percent of LinkedIn’s workforce. The reductions are happening in the company’s Global Sales and Talent Acquisition departments. LinkedIn Chief Executive Officer Ryan Roslansky announced the move in a Monday email to employees.

Millions of workers have lost their jobs since COVID-19 swept across the globe and forced governments, businesses and consumers to limit many activities. That’s left fewer companies seeking to hire new employees, which has weakened demand for the recruiting tools offered by LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions group.

“COVID-19 is having a sustained impact on the demand for hiring, both in our LTS business and in our company,” Roslansky said in a statement.

The company plans to consolidate some parts of LinkedIn Talent Solutions with LinkedIn Marketing Solutions to avoid “duplicating costly platforms, systems and tools internally.” It is also switching from a field sales team to service small-business customers to an online system.

-Bloomberg News

July 20, 2020

10:40 AM EDT

Heinz wants to make watching baseball at home feel more like the stadium

Of all the things fans might miss about baseball in stadiums, pumping ketchup on a hot dog from a large dispenser is probably not at the top of the list. Still, Chicago and Pittsburgh-based Kraft Heinz is coming to the rescue of those who deem the red stuff an acceptable ballpark condiment — except in Illinois, where topping a hot dog with ketchup is almost grounds for being kicked out of the state. Heinz is giving away 200 Heinz Stadium Ketchup packages including a ketchup dispenser and bag of ketchup, napkins, hot dog boats, a red foam finger and a coupon for Oscar Mayer hot dogs to select fans who enter a contest on its site by July 24. If up to 35 people living in Illinois win, they’ll get a Heinz Mustard dispenser in lieu of the ketchup one. After that, it’s back to the ketchup.

-Jessica Wohl

9:05 AM EDT

Pandemic brings d-to-c players together for collaboration

COVID-19 has done something that seemed improbable a year ago: It brought together the fragmented direct-to-consumer startup universe into a national trade association of 2,000-plus.

The virtual group sprang from a Slack group started two years ago, but has truly found its calling during the pandemic, says Greg Ashton, co-founder of Grow. The group is based in New York, but Ashton has been spending time lately in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where his other job is co-founder of IS Golf, a performance sock brand made with 70 percent upcycled material he created alongside his partner and co-founder, golfer Isabelle Shee.

Grow drew around 700 d-to-c companies to an event in Queens last year, but with the pandemic needed to go virtual this year, drawing more than 2,000 attendees last month. “The biggest takeaway for me was just how so many brands are helping each other through collaboration,”  Ashton says. “I think the group could easily grow to 10,000. This new generation of marketers is less secretive and more open to sharing.”

A hot topic of late on Grow’s Slack has been the Facebook boycott. “Direct-to-consumer brands are torn,” he says. “Many know it’s a worthwhile cause, but boycotting Facebook is just an impossible task that risks growth.” Some brands are “peeling off dollars to test other platforms,” he says, and may share their results with the group.

Other d-to-c players have found another path to pandemic collaboration. Around a dozen New York d-to-c beauty brands, which had been planning to open storefronts before the city’s lockdown, instead banded together to launch a virtual, 360-degree interactive store, Beautyque.NYC, notes Marc Somnolet, a marketing advisor to some of the brands.

-Jack Neff

July 16, 2020

4:53 PM EDT

Caress wraps arms around Black-owned businesses hit hard by COVID-19

Research by the University of California Santa Cruz found the number of Black-owned businesses declined 41 percent between February and April as they became disproportionate victims of the pandemic and related lockdowns. Now Unilever’s Caress is trying to address the problem by committing $1 million to IFundWomen of Color to support business coaching for women of color entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Caress is a founding partner of IFWOC, which was launched at the Women’s March in New York City this spring. IFWOC says that while women of color account for 89 percent of new businesses started by women in the U.S., fewer than 1 percent of them receive venture funding and 90 percent were likely denied Paycheck Protection Program loans because financial institutions preferred pre-existing customers.

Caress, identified last year by Unilever CEO Alan Jope as one of the company brands that needs to find a purpose or risk ultimate divestiture, now appears to have found one.

12:03 PM EDT

Pinterest introduces ‘Chefs at Home’ after surge in searches for easy at-home recipes

Pinterest is dishing out recipes and cooking tips from well-known chefs that may give people who are getting tired of cooking at home some inspiration. In May, searches for easy at-home recipes increased by 12 times from a year earlier, Pinterest says. “Chefs at Home” is a collection of 70 recipes from more than 30 chefs and others in the industry, including Kwame Onwuachi, Kia Damon and Stephanie Izard. Pinterest says it will release new recipes on its Today Tab each Thursday through August. Peter J. Kim, founding director of the Museum of Food and Drink, and creative strategist Tracey Johnsen helped curate the recipes, the platform says.

Pinterest is also donating $300,000 in advertising to raise awareness for the National Restaurant Association Educational Fund, Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants and the youth-focused nonprofits No Kid Hungry and Harlem Grown.

-Jessica Wohl

11:25 AM EDT

P&G enlists Grey to back mask wearing in Ohio

Procter & Gamble Co. has enlisted Grey to create a “Mask On” campaign to encourage mask wearing in the company’s home state. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine acknowledged P&G’s help in a talk during the company’s virtual Signal 2020 digital conference July 15. DeWine also approached P&G in April to launch another campaign encouraging social distancing, also orchestrated by Grey, which has generated 17 billion views on TikTok globally. P&G has been providing what a spokeswoman called “modest” paid media support for “Mask On” since July 1 via promoted tweets and YouTube. The state is arranging for radio and outdoor ads. Despite P&G”s efforts at persuasion, Ohio has resorted increasingly to force of law in recent weeks by making facial coverings mandatory in public in 12 counties. But DeWine didn’t issue a statewide mask order, as some had expected, in an address scheduled four hours after his talk to the P&G conference.

-Jack Neff

July 15, 2020

10:52 AM EDT

Walmart and Sam’s Club will require face masks

Walmart and Sam’s Club announced today that they’ll require customers to wear face coverings in stores and clubs starting July 20. The country’s largest retailer joins such competitors as Costco and Best Buy in the move, noting that about 65 percent of its more than 5,000 stores are in areas that already have some form of government mandate requiring face coverings. At Sam’s Club, associates at entrances will be “politely reminding” people of the face covering requirement and provide complimentary masks if needed. Walmart will create the role of “health ambassadors” wearing black polo shirts and stationed near entrances to remind customers not wearing masks of the requirement. They’ll  work to “find a solution that works for everyone,” the company said, adding that it’s  still “considering different options for customers” for when the requirement takes effect.

-Jack Neff

7:00 AM EDT

Country Time says it’s time for a lemonade stand bailout

Country Time is coming to the rescue of kids who can’t set up lemonade stands this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Kraft Heinz drink mix brand announced the “Littlest Bailout Relief Fund,” a plan to send $100 in stimulus funds to 1,000 kids whose lemonade stands can’t open this year due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.

Each kid randomly selected for the bailout will get a commemorative check and a prepaid $100 gift card, the brand says. It’s a humorous play on the idea of stimulus checks that have been sent to millions of households to juice the economy, as well as the PPP loans meant for small businesses that sometimes made it to larger ones. Country Time worked on the campaign with Leo Burnett, Starcom, Merkle and Alison Brod.

-Jessica Wohl

July 14, 2020

3:07 PM EDT

Best Buy requires masks in stores

Best Buy has now joined the ranks of marketers requiring facial coverings worn by shoppers within its stores. The electronics chain says that all customers will have to wear coverings, which the brand will provide if necessary. Those consumers with health reasons as well as small children unable to wear masks will still be allowed entry, the brand stated. “Any customer who has a concern about wearing a mask will be able to shop Best Buy via our website and app and choose home delivery or contactless curbside pickup, which remains in place at all our stores,” Best Buy wrote on its corporate blog. The requirement begins July 15. Starbucks recently began requiring facial coverings by its customers as well, and Costco has had such a rule in place for several weeks. A recent report in USA Today noted that Walmart is also considering such a requirement.

-Adrianne Pasquarelli

11:04 AM EDT

Creative director’s kids and their stuffed sloth star in Domino’s ad

Domino’s latest ad shot during the pandemic has a very made-at-home look — on purpose. The “Made from Home” spot stars Audrey, Charlotte and Lilly, the three daughters of D’Arcy O’Neill, who is creative director at Domino’s agency CPB. O’Neill’s kids appear with props including a play house that became a miniature Domino’s and a delivery vehicle suitable for a young child that were pulled together with a little bit of help to achieve a crafty feel worthy of a parent’s Instagram feed. The spot explains the chain’s $5.99 Mix & Match Deal, which feeds four for about $3 per person — or in this case, per people and stuffed sloth. The spot was shot on an iPhone, but there was definitely some behind-the-scenes help from a smaller than usual commercial crew, as Lilly explains in a making of video.

-Jessica Wohl


July13, 2020

5:24 PM EDT

Molson Coors ‘hibernates’ one of its brands, citing pandemic

Molson Coors is pulling the plug on one of its newer beers, citing the difficulty of marketing it during the pandemic. Saint Archer Gold—which the brewer acquired in 2015 from a San Diego-based craft brewery—will cease production, according to an internal memo from Chief Marketing Officer Michelle St. Jacques shared with Ad Age. “We are making the difficult decision to hibernate Saint Archer Gold,” she wrote. “While early results of the launch were positive, the effects of the coronavirus on our industry caused an immediate loss of momentum for the brand, due in large part to not being able to execute critical brand activations and trial-driving programs that were at the heart of our launch plan.”

The brewer once had high hopes for the brand, which it positioned as a light craft beer. Advertising was handled by Austin, Texas-based Preacher, including ads that ran earlier this year on a significant number of Fox affiliates during the Super Bowl. But like most companies, the pandemic has forced Molson Coors into narrowing its focus. St. Jacques wrote that the brewer would  “accelerate our play” with its new Vizzy seltzer and the forthcoming Coors Seltzer. It is also investing more in Blue Moon LightSky, a lower-calorie version of Blue Moon.

-E.J. Schultz

11:51 AM EDT

Vice gives away ad space

Vice Media Group today debuted “Locals Only,” which gives small business owners impacted by COVID-19 free digital ad space on the publisher’s media properties. The program, which in the U.S. is limited to New York and Los Angeles, also gives Vice a chance to play up its self-serve ad platform. “The ad building interface that we built from scratch in support of this initiative allows participants to design a professional looking ad in minutes,” Paul Opgenhaffen, media director for EMEA at Vice, says. “This makes the tool accessible for all small businesses, not just the digital savvy ones.”

-George P. Slefo 

July 10, 2020

3:58 PM EDT

Peace Out’s pandemic launch backed by Zoom ‘before and after’ shots

What could be more appropriate for a skincare campaign during the pandemic than a series of “before” and “after” photos taken from Zoom? Peace Out skincare has done exactly that through an in-house campaign created entirely from real users whose un-retouched images were captured on the video conferencing app.

The campaign for Peace Out Acne Serum, set to debut Tuesday, launched with teaser Instagram posts July 10. In-house Art Director Andrew Madrid captured images of all participants via Zoom screen shots, each participant taking shots before using the product and then after two weeks of using it, says Junior Pence, Peace Out Chief Marketing Officer. Pence was inspired by a cover shot of Chloe Sevigny for the May issue of The Cut that was taken on Zoom.

“We already had been scheduled to use real models, real people this time,” Pence says. “And we had been doing a very robust before and after program to have people test our products. And we already planned to do a docuseries around it. So since we couldn’t bring people to us, we decided to try Zoom.”

The docuseries will also run on paid YouTube and IGTV. The still before-and-after shots will also run in paid social. Peace Out was launched in 2017 at Sephora by Pence’s husband, Enrico Frezza, who began developing the product line four years earlier, including its signature hydrocolloid patches designed to safely eliminate acne, scars and the associated “gunk,” by tests on his own sometimes severe acne, Pence says. It became the top acne-fighting brand at Sephora, Pence says. But, of course, the pandemic led to shutdowns of most Sephora stores.

Fortunately, online sales have actually held up well at Sephora, he says. And Peace Out, which had begun developing its own direct-to-consumer business only late last year, prepared to put more resources behind it early this year as it saw the threat COVD-19 posed to retail stores.

“We immediately began planning for the worst, because we had seen the worst,” Pence says, “because Enrico is from Milan and his family is still based there.” The d-to-c business appears to reach a different clientele than Sephora, Pence says, and both groups have been stocking up. “We call it the toilet paper effect,” he says, with sales from “customers we had and customers we didn’t have. The brand really took off in an incredible way during the pandemic.”

-Jack Neff

July 9, 2020

3:43 PM EDT

Masks will be required at Starbucks

Starbucks says it will require customers to wear facial coverings while visiting its company-owned locations in the U.S., starting July 15. The announcement comes as people at places such as 7-Eleven, Costco, Target and Trader Joe’s have argued about wearing masks, including in incidents captured on video and shared on social media. Costco began requiring masks at its warehouses in May and continues to deal with some visitors who don’t want to comply. Starbucks says customers who aren’t wearing facial coverings in locales where they aren’t mandated by the government have other ways to order — through the drive-thru, curbside pickup or delivery.

–Jessica Wohl

July 8, 2020

12:00 PM EDT

Burger King puts new plays on passports and online gaming

Burger King is out with two separate campaigns this week with a common thread: the coronavirus pandemic is keeping people home — whether that’s in Sweden or watching gamers in the U.S. First up, Burger King Sweden says its patrons, who can’t currently use their Swedish passports to travel outside the country, can use them to get free food instead. The campaign from INGO Stockholm comes as Sweden’s COVID-19 strategy has faced scrutiny for being too lax. Swedes who bring their passports into Burger King can get stamps good for free burgers from the chain’s new “World Gourmet” line.

In the U.S., Burger King found a workaround to promote offers such as $1 mini shakes and 40 nuggets for $4.99 on Twitch. Burger King isn’t advertising on the popular livestreaming site. Instead, it used the donation feature, donating small amounts to popular gamers and including messages with the $1 to $5 donations. On Twitch, donation messages are automatically read by a bot. So as the gamers play, they and their viewers hear about the BK offers. David Madrid is the agency on that campaign.

Jessica Wohl


Guest Author: Ad Age Staff.

This article first appeared in www.adage.com

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