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.
Switzerland-based sneaker brand On has announced The Cylon: a fully recyclable pair of running shoes that can only be purchased via a monthly subscription. On’s goal is to achieve total circularity by creating new sneakers from the pairs customers send back. The $29.99 sneaker subscription, which lets customers swap out their current shoes for new ones as often as they’d like, ensures On will receive enough sneaker returns to make circularity feasible. The Cylon is made from castor beans (not petroleum-based plastics, like many shoes) and can be completely recycled. On will debut the sneaker and the subscription plan in fall 2021. Other brands are also implementing business models – particularly those contributing to the sharing economy – that balance consumers’ appetites for new products with our collective sustainability concerns. Muji in Japan is offering a COVID-relevant home office furniture subscription, Levi’s and Ganni in Denmark created a capsule collection of clothes consumers can rent (but not buy!) to access, while subscription box brand Litterbox lets cat owners spoil their pets each month – but only with eco-friendly, ‘farm-to-feline’ items. The Cyclon subscription and On’s commitment to 100% circularity, however, are especially ambitious.
As the streaming video market continues to thrive during lockdowns and the at-home entertainment boom, network Discovery plans to debut its direct-to-consumer streaming service — which will be called Discovery+, according to a trademark filing — in the first quarter of 2021. The streaming service will have both an ad-free and an ad-supported option. Discovery is aiming the service at people who are less likely to tune in to Discovery’s linear networks, said agency executives. Discovery already operates separate streaming apps that require people to log in with their pay-TV subscriptions to stream its TV networks’ shows. “This is for cord cutters,” said an agency executive. To attract cord cutters who are likely younger than Discovery’s linear audience, Discovery has been in the market for original programming, including reality shows and documentary series, for Discovery+ that appeal to younger adult audiences — twenty- and thirty-something viewers — and that star mainstream celebrities, according to entertainment industry executives. Given Discovery’s ownership of networks including Discovery, TLC and Food Network, Discovery+ could vie to be the streaming network of choice for audiences interested in home, cooking and lifestyle-related programming as well as science-related documentaries. The service will be niche compared to general-interest entertainment services like Netflix, HBO Max or Peacock. That could be to Discovery’s advantage, positioning it as a complement to other streamers that people may subscribe to. Such positioning has worked for Disney’s Disney+, which appeals primarily to families and has attracted 60.5 million subscribers since launching in November 2019.
British fashion designer Victoria Beckham cancelled her planned “salon-style” catwalk show just a few days before London fashion week, fearing that although permitted under current guidelines, a show “didn’t feel appropriate”. Instead, she presented her new collection to small groups of three visitors at a time, in the same East London art gallery where she had planned to hold the show. Monogrammed silk “VB” face masks were presented to each visitor, to ensure chic social distancing was maintained at all times. “I was really looking forward to having a show and to the social element of that, after such a long period of not seeing anyone,” the designer said. The intention had been to stage several shows spaced at intervals through a day, each with an audience of 15 people masked and seated 2 metres apart. “I am hoping that next season we will get back to something a bit normal. And maybe have a glass of wine,” Beckham said.
Ridehailing service Lyft has released a set of case studies for what it calls resilient streets, which cater to multimodal commuting, in which people rely on several different ways of getting around. The plans detail how streets in Chicago, New York City and Washington, DC could have wider sidewalks, plus more bus and bike lanes. Some of the plans include details that would clearly benefit Lyft, such as adding more of its bikeshare stations and lanes for those bikes to ride in. (Lyft operates bikeshare systems in all three cities and scooters in Washington, DC.) Caroline Samponaro, who leads micromobility policy at Lyft, said that the company was motivated by steps cities have taken during the pandemic to embrace car alternatives, as well as by concerns that cities will revert to their car-centric ways. Many cities have temporarily closed streets or added bike lanes and outdoor dining spaces. “We’ve spent the last couple decades trying to dig ourselves out of the mess of building our transportation systems around single occupancy vehicles,” Samponaro said. “We don’t want overnight for us to go backwards there.” Samponaro pointed to people in some cases gravitating to cars amid concerns about transit and social distancing. Used car sales have grown this year. She said the design of streets signal to people how they should get around, and what options they have. With more transit, bike and walking infrastructure, people are less likely to rely on cars. Samponaro declined to say if the plans would have any adverse impact on Lyft’s core business, and said that streets are currently an underutilized resource with little done to make them sustainable or efficient. Lyft wants to make cities more effective and efficient, she said.
Bud Light is veering from its usual humorous ad tone with a program on “Thursday Night Football” that promotes Black-owned restaurants. Called “Bud Light Thursday Night Shoutout,” the campaign spotlights the personal stories of business owners, beginning with an ad running on the NFL Network featuring Cleveland’s Beckham’s B & M Bar B Que, a family owned southern restaurant. The brand is also partnering with food app directory EatOkra to encourage viewers to visit Black-owned businesses.
Patagonia is placing tags in its latest line of women’s and men’s shorts, reading “Vote the assholes out” in block lettering. It has been a catchphrase of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard for years, according to the company, and speaks of politicians from any party who deny or disregard the climate crisis. Chouinard founded the 1% for the Planet community in 2002, which commits one percent of Patagonia’s annual sales to the environment. “We have been standing up to climate deniers for almost as long as we’ve been making those shorts,” said the company in a statement. The shorts are regenerative organic certified, which meet standards for animal welfare, farmworker fairness and soil health. “Remember, vote the assholes out – all of those politicians who don’t believe we should do anything about climate change,” wrote Chouinard in a blog post for the 1% for the Planet community at the start of the pandemic. “Vote for the planet and against those who would do nothing. We have the power and now is the time to use it.” Beyond the shorts, Patagonia has a number of ways it’s working to get people to the polls. Patagonia is one of the founding members, along with PayPal and Levi Strauss, of Time to Vote, a nonpartisan coalition that aims to remove barriers to voting by having companies pay their employees to go to the polls. Time to Vote now has 882 members, with more than 700 companies signing up this past year, including Ben & Jerry’s, Bank of America, Nike, Macy’s, Lego, Unilever and others.