A regularly updated list tracking marketers’ response to coronavirus
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.
Aug. 7, 2020
1:25 PM EDT
Consumer spending climbs back – but very unevenly
Consumer spending has bounced back, but still not to year-ago levels and with wide variances by state and sector, according to new data from Commerce Signals, which tracks and analyzes credit and debit-card spending.
For the four weeks ending July 25, overall card spending was down 2.3 percent vs. a year ago. While 2.3 percent isn’t great, it definitely beats the decline of more than 30 percent seen in March. Travel spending is still down 65 percent year-over-year, but better than its lowest point of down 80 percent.
In-store spending was down 12.3 percent, offset by online spending up 22.2 percent. But states where COVID-19 cases have surged recently didn’t see nearly the same level of recovery, with card sales in Texas, Arizona, Florida and California off 11.8 percent. Meanwhile, some Midwest and Southern states actually saw sales up year over year, including Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and South Dakota, says Nick Mangiapane, chief marketing officer of Commerce Signals, a unit of Verisk Financial. He cautioned that card sales are probably doing better than overall sales, because some stores aren’t accepting cash, or consumers are less likely to be using cash or spending at places where they use it.
The data puts in context recent gains reported by Amazon, with North American product sales up 40 percent last quarter. Despite that surge, Amazon may have actually meant losing market share, as Commerce Signals shows online sales overall in grocery, mass, club, hardware and home stores and sporting goods retailers all rising faster than that. Sporting goods and hobby stores saw sales soar 59 percent for the four-week period vs. a year ago—22 percent in store and 149 percent online—a sign that while people may be staying home more, they’re not just watching Netflix.
Aug. 4, 2020
5:54 PM EDT
Pandemic is making Gen Z healthier and more liberal
The pandemic is making Gen Z healthier and more liberal, according to tracking research by CivicScience. People ages 13-24 ate less at quick-service restaurants and exercised more, even as they quickly drifted left.
The share of 13 to 24-year-olds who said they exercise several times a week rose from 42 percent in January to 48 percent in July. The share of that same Gen Z group who said they eat at fast food/quick-service restaurants once a week or more fell 10 points to 18 percent during the same period. Those were from surveys of 2,300 to 4,200 people.
But the biggest shift came in politics. The share of people under 25 describing themselves as liberal rose 12 points to 34 percent between the winter (among 30,000 people surveyed January to March) and summer (among more than 193,000 people surveyed in June and July). Gen Z was slightly more conservative than millennials before the pandemic, but now is slightly more liberal. And while all age groups drifted left by at least a percentage point, the Gen Z shift was most dramatic. “The economic fallout from the pandemic is not completely certain,” CivicScience says in a blog post. “But even if it’s not as long and pernicious as the Great Recession, these last few months will reverberate for some time.”
4:26 PM EDT
Amazon ad costs rebounding after pandemic plunge
The pandemic meant a pricing break for advertisers on Amazon, but the deals are now over, according to a report by e-commerce software-as-a-service platform Pacvue. Amazon cost-per-clicks declined in April and May due to the pandemic and Amazon’s delayed shipments on non-essential items. But they went back up in June to pre-pandemic levels as advertiser confidence started to rebound and bids got more competitive, according to a report by the firm.
Overall cost per click on sponsored brand ads were down 13 percent and down 15 percent for sponsored product ads. Sponsored brand ads worked particularly well, sending cost per (customer) acquisition down 35 percent, while CPA improved a more modest 8 percent for product ads. Even with costs per click declining overall, average daily spending still soared last quarter on Amazon along with site traffic – up 78 percent year-over-year for sponsored brand ads and 23 percent for sponsored product ads.
July 30, 2020
11:22 AM EDT
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
July 2, 2020
12:03 PM EDT
Coca-Cola highlights at-home dining in new COVID-19 spot and donates $1 million to World Central Kitchen
Coca-Cola puts an optimistic and delicious-looking spin on at-home dining during the pandemic in a new 90-second spot from Anomaly New York. In the video, bottles of Coca-Cola are seen alongside a variety of dishes being prepared during COVID-19. The spot, which was shot remotely, shows 13 families, couples and housemates in households from around the world including clips from Orlando, Shanghai, Lisbon, Kiev, London, Mumbai and Mexico City. “From now on we’re not going to leave anything on our plates, because we’ve learned to savor the moments that were always there,” a voiceover says toward the end of the spot, which is running in the U.S. and is set to run in other countries.
Coca-Cola also announced a $1 million donation to World Central Kitchen to serve 100,000 meals in the U.S. and Mexico, with plans to expand that effort globally, and to help about 150 restaurants hard-hit coronavirus communities rehire up to 1,400 employees. The donation was announced on July 1, two days before the July 3 release of “Hamilton” on Disney+. In a related move, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” and World Central Kitchen Founder and Chef José Andrés will be shown on Coke’s website discussing how the pandemic has impacted people’s access to food.
“Food insecurity, especially among minority communities, continues to rise as Black, Indigenous and People of Color have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Miranda said in a statement.
June 29, 2020
5:44 PM EDT
American Express commits more than $200 million to recovering U.S. small businesses
American Express has been advocating for small U.S. businesses since the company founded the now widespread holiday Small Business Saturday in 2010. As many small businesses work to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the credit company has announced its largest “Shop Small” campaign by providing more than $200 million to small businesses over the next several months to help those struggling to recuperate. According to research conducted by American Express, 62 percent of U.S. small businesses reported that they need to see consumer spending return to pre-COVID-19 levels by the end of 2020 to stay in businesses.
As part of the $200 million commitment, American Express is offering to give $5 back to cardmembers after they spend $10 or more with a U.S. merchant. Card holders can take part up to 10 times until September 20. The company is also supplying merchants with marketing tools and has created an online map for consumers looking to shop small.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, and now is the time to join together and help them rebound from this global crisis, because their success is critical to job creation, strong economies and thriving neighborhoods,” said Stephen J. Squeri, chairman and CEO of American Express, in a statement.
Separately, American Express is building a $10 million program that will provide grants to Black-owned businesses over the next four years in a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the U.S. Black Chambers, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Business League and Walker’s Legacy. As part of the initiative, American Express is running new 30 and 15-second versions of a new TV and digital spot created by dentsumcgarrybowen, and narrated by American Express Lin-Manual Miranda. The ad highlights local spots like Brooklyn-based bakery Sweet Spot, LA design studio Lot Stock and Barrel and LA BBQ spot The Park’s Finest.
June 24, 2020
12:45 AM EDT
Hennessy’s ‘Unfinished Business’ fund backs business owners of color
Hennessy today released a video promoting its “Unfinished Business” program that pledges $3 million in support for businesses owned by Black, Latinx and Asian American people who have beenhard hit by the pandemic. The video, from Droga5 and New York City-based filmmaker Haley Anderson, spotlights seven small-business owners talking about their challenges. It is backed by music from jazz pianist Julius Rodriguez and also features artists from the gallery at Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA).
The Unfinished Business fund, announced in late May, provides funds to One Hundred Black Men of New York, the Asian American Business Development Center, and the Hispanic Federation “to ensure support is distributed directly at the community-level among those who need it the most,” according to Hennessy.
Droga5 was involved in formulating the program, as well as creating its visual language and web site.
9:13 AM EDT
Domino’s adds a ‘Rain Check Registry’ for pizza fans with weddings delayed
Domino’s Pizza has had a wedding registry since 2017. Now, it has added some very 2020 registry options, aimed at couples replanning their coronavirus-postponed weddings. The Domino’s Rain Check Registry offers gift cards with humorous themes such as the $20 “You Taught a Relative How to Video Call” card and a $30 “vendor call-a-thon” card, since eating pizza might help lessen the pain of rescheduling all of those florists, caterers and so on. "We created Domino's Wedding Registry because pizza-loving couples have shared over the years how Domino's pizza was a part of their big day,” Kate Trumbull, Domino's VP of advertising, said in a statement. "With so many weddings being postponed or scaled back in 2020, we knew those couples might need some extra love from those around them, because everything is better with pizza."
June 22, 2020
2:11 PM EDT
Store loyalty declining
Consumers are becoming less loyal to their preferred retailer of choice amid coronavirus-related stockpiling, one study found. According to a survey from data company Numerator, 64 percent of shoppers are trying a new store because their “preferred store” is out of stock on items they need. Meanwhile, 38 percent of respondents said their regular store is too crowded and 36 percent said they are shopping closer to home than normal because of COVID-19 concerns. The report raises concerns for how retailers should be attracting former loyalists.
June 19, 2020
3:15 PM EDT
End of the roll
Toilet paper’s reign at the top of household shopping lists might be at an end. Bath tissue sales fell 0.6 percent in the week ended June 13 from the year-earlier period, according to Nielsen data. The decline caps weeks of slowing growth as consumers pull back on stocking up on the bathroom item. At the same time, some shoppers are turning to disposable urinals for travel as they avoid public restrooms on road trips.
In addition, Nielsen found that paper towels are still in demand, ending the week of June 13 with sales up nearly 9 percent compared to the year-earlier period. That rise could continue to be good for napkins, which have seen sales rise during the pandemic due to the shortages of other paper products.
June 18, 2020
10:30 AM EDT
Carnival predicts continued losses as it doesn’t know when its cruises will resume
Cruise operator Carnival Corp. says it cannot definitively predict when it will return to normal operations. Earlier this week, rival Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings extended its suspension of cruises through September, except for Seattle-based Alaska cruises still set to sail in September.
Carnival says that there was demand for 2021 cruises even as it substantially cut back on marketing spending. About two-thirds of 2021 bookings in the six weeks ended May 31 were new bookings, it says, while the rest were from guests who applied credits from canceled sailings to future cruises. Carnival posted a second-quarter loss of $4.4 billion and says it expects to post a loss in the second half of 2020.
Carnival is scaling back its operations, with preliminary deals in place to dispose of six ships and plans for additional deals.
June 16, 2020
3:04 PM EDT
Cycling industry hits $1 billion in monthly sales
Consumers are continuing to buy bikes as they turn to at-home fitness equipment and new, non-public modes of transportation outside due to coronavirus concerns. After growth in March, the cycling industry revved up even more in April, according to a recent report from trend research firm NPD Group. April sales of bikes, including outdoor and indoor bicycles and accessories, grew 75 percent from the year-earlier period to $1 billion, the firm found. Typically, cycling sales are between $550 million and $575 million. Experts say brands should expand their marketing focus beyond the single cycling enthusiast to a family of recreationists.
“For far too long the cycling industry has been solely focused on the pinnacle athlete, but these results show that a broader, family and beginner focus can reap gains,” said Matt Powell, NPD’s sports industry advisor, in a statement. “This is a silver lining, and one of the important sports retail lessons to come out of the pandemic.
June 10, 2020
4:55 PM EDT
Men more likely to try on clothes post-pandemic
As stores reopen, not all consumers will be comfortable trying on clothes in fitting rooms even after the pandemic ends, suggests a new poll from YouGov. According to the poll, 43 percent of Americans say they are somewhat or very comfortable trying on clothes at a store when COVID-19 is over and 43 percent say they are somewhat or very uncomfortable doing so. Yet more men say they would be comfortable than women.
June 9, 2020
4:45 PM EDT
Zaxby’s brings romance to the drive-thru line
Chicken chain Zaxby’s held a “Drive-Thru Date Night” on a recent Friday at one of its Tennessee locations to appeal to couples looking for a break from pandemic meals at home. Zaxby’s says customers were treated to roses, a violinist and a caricature artist as they waited in the drive-thru line, where the chain has been doing well during COVID-19. The chain worked with creative agency of record Tombras on the May 29 event, which promoted its Zax Pax for Two, which includes eight chicken fingers, two regular crinkle fries, two slices of Texas toast, two Zax Sauce dipping cups and two 22-ounce drinks.
3:59 PM EDT
Store closures to skyrocket following coronavirus lockdowns
The pandemic is continuing to pummel the retail industry, and one research firm says the struggle will continue. In a new report, Coresight Research said store closures in the U.S. will be between 20,000 and 25,000—even higher than the firm’s March estimate of 15,000 closures and more than double the 9,821 closures of 2019. Last week, struggling Gap Inc., which has begun reopening its stores following COVID-19 shutdowns, reported quarterly sales declines and announced it will permanently shutter its two-year-old menswear brand Hill City. Signet Jewelers, which owns mall-based brands including Zales, Jared and Kay, said it will close more than 150 of its locations; bankrupt JC Penney recently announced it will close 242 stores, leaving just 600 open. Coresight expects that as much as 60 percent of the retail closures will be from mall-based stores.
June 8, 2020
12:20 PM EDT
A majority of U.S. consumers want brands to continue COVID messaging
More than half of U.S. consumers say brands need to continue messages about a new set of concerns and messages around protecting workers and consumers, even as the COVID-19 threat subsides, according to new survey research by GfK. But it’s a relatively thin majority – 55 percent – with the other 45 percent believing brands should return to pre-coronavirus themes as soon as possible. The survey was conducted with more than 1,000 people in the U.S. ages 16-65 conducted May 28 and 29. It finds women, millennials and Gen Z more likely to believe brands should change messaging in a post-COVID world. People with children under 3 prefer brands return to pre-virus messaging, such as innovations, promotions and general product information.
11:05 AM EDT
Men playing a much bigger role in shopping during pandemic
Men are playing a much bigger role in grocery shopping during the pandemic and are now the primary grocery shoppers in 54 percent of U.S. households where only one person does the shopping, according to a survey of more than 1,000 people commissioned by Emodo.
Like most surveys about household chores, it bears scrutiny. Women now report they’re the primary shopper in 60 percent of households where only one person does the shopping, and men report they’re the primary shopper in 54 percent. That adds up to over 100 percent, so someone is fibbing.
But, significantly, the survey found the number of women in all households who self-report that they’re the primary shopper has fallen to 59 percent during the pandemic from 74 percent before – a 15 point drop. Emodo behavioral data, based on tracking mobile devices in store, also confirms the shift, with the ratio of men to women shopping at CVS and Walgreens rising substantially in March and early April. Emodo also finds that dads have taken a more active role across every aspect of shopping – most notably in store but also with online delivery and pickup orders.
There are big implications for packaged-goods marketers. Survey responses suggest men are less brand loyal and more willing to buy alternatives, particularly private labels, if they have any trouble finding their favorite brands.
The survey didn’t indicate exactly why men are playing a bigger role in shopping now – whether it’s because they have more time on their hands due to unemployment or working from home, being noble by taking the risk, or just eager to volunteer for something that gets them out of the home. Jake Moskowitz, VP of data strategy at Ericsson Emodo, sees signs that the pandemic could lead to permanent changes, with people of all ages shopping for food more, but particularly people ages 25-34. With 68 percent of people reporting that they’ve increased cooking from scratch, and 58 percent saying they’ve tried new recipes during the pandemic, they’ve developed skills they may continue applying for years. More than half of respondents also say they won’t immediately go back to normal activities even with government encouragement, and 40 percent say they won’t do so even if there’s a vaccine.
June 4, 2020
4:32 PM EDT
Americans get fatter, snack more, but willing to wear masks
Americans are snacking more and getting fatter during the pandemic, according to the latest wave of surveys from Acupoll. Its survey found 29 percent of more than 5,000 respondents May 7-18 reported having gained weight—3 percent of them more than 10 pounds. Balancing things out, 20 percent said they’ve lost weight. Of the gainers, 46 percent blame eating more; 28 percent blame less exercise; 17 percent blame less healthy eating habits, and 7 percent blame emotional reasons.
On those eating habits, 33 percent said they’re eating more or larger portions of snacks, and/or using single-serve snack packs less. For single-serve snack marketers, Acupoll sees an opportunity to focus on the health value of portion control, tacking away from the more cynical approach of just piling displays of value-size cheese puffs higher at Walmart.
Despite masks becoming a culture wars flashpoint, Acupoll found 91 percent of respondents are willing to wear them to enter a business, at least grudgingly. Actually, 36 percent said they wouldn’t go into a business that lets people in without them. Another 44 percent said they don’t like it, but wear masks anyway when they go to businesses. And 11 percent said they’re willing to wear masks but can’t find them. Overall, 83 percent of respondents agree with public health restrictions on businesses and public gatherings at least to some extent.
June 2, 2020
5:26 PM EDT
Perdue’s latest coronavirus ad doesn’t star any Perdue family members
The latest Perdue Farms commercial is a first for the poultry brand — the spot doesn’t star a member of the Perdue family or a brand spokesperson. “Keep Cookin’” features non-actors preparing meals in their homes that, of course, feature some Perdue chicken products. The work plays on the idea that people are spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic learning new recipes and trying to have moments of joy while dining. The effort relies on a montage of remote production shots, like many other campaigns have done over the past couple of months, but doesn’t specifically mention the pandemic. It comes from The VIA Agency, which in March worked with Perdue on selfie-style spots that showed Chairman Jim Perdue thanking frontline food workers.
June 1, 2020
6:30 PM EDT
Ice cream, canned foods among big e-commerce winners
COVID-19 has been a huge boost for e-commerce, with sales up ranging from 29 percent last quarter for Amazon (North America) to 141 percent for Target (U.S.) But the growth hasn’t been uniform, according to Numerator.
E-commerce sales of ice cream and novelties were up ninefold from year-ago levels during the 10 weeks from March 1 to May 15. Other top growing categories were canned and frozen foods (up more than sevenfold); toothpaste and soda, sports and energy drinks (up fivefold); makeup (up 4.6 times) and shampoo and conditioner (up 2.1 times). Overall grocery e-commerce sales levels are 20 months ahead of where they were trending before the pandemic, according to Numerator, which expects the elevated sales to continue based on prior patterns of people continuing to buy categories online once they start. Numerator collects online and offline sales data from a panel of more than 100,000 consumers.