Google, Microsoft and Verizon challenge Zoom, retail sales decline to new low, and PlayStation launches ‘Play at Home’ campaign

Also: Land O’Lakes updates its packaging, Busch offers couples free beer for a year, your WFH photos, bringing farm animals to a meeting, and more.

Hello, communicators:

Ahead of its 100th birtrhday, Land O’Lakes removed the “butter maiden” from its packaging—an image that Eater described as “a non-specific American Indian woman with a feather in her hair, kneeling and presenting the consumer with a container of butter.”

The new packaging features both heavily-wooded land and a lake, with the term “farmer-owned” stamped over the top.

 

In a press release, the company wrote:

“As Land O’Lakes looks toward our 100th anniversary, we’ve recognized we need packaging that reflects the foundation and heart of our company culture—and nothing does that better than our farmer-owners whose milk is used to produce Land O’Lakes’ dairy products,” said Beth Ford, President and CEO, Land O’Lakes.

“As a farmer-owned co-op, we strongly feel the need to better connect the men and women who grow our food with those who consume it,” Ford said. “Our farmer-to-fork structure gives us a unique ability to bridge this divide.”

What’s interesting is the press release is dated Feb. 6, and there is only one mention of the design change on the brand’s Twitter feed:

Now, there’s a slate of headlines highlighting the change.

It can serve as a reminder to PR pros that even when you try to quietly make a change or announce an update, your story can pick up steam at any time (even during a pandemic). It also highlights the importance of focusing on your customers and community, whether in your brand images or throughout your storytelling efforts.

Here are today’s top stories:

Google, Microsoft and Verizon seek to challenge Zoom

As the streaming wars continue, another battle in the digital media landscape has surfaced—this time, over videoconferencing platforms.

Verizon is acquiring Blue Jeans Network, The Wall Street Journal reported, to “bolster Verizon’s business group as the carrier rolls out faster 5G networks and pitches new applications of wireless technology to its largest corporate customers.”

Google and Microsoft are also beefing up features on their own videoconferencing platforms to further challenge Zoom.

Google is adding a gallery view and other features to its videoconferencing tool “Meet”—including the ability to filter out background noise.

Reuters reported:

Meet, which is available only to schools, businesses and governments and is distinct from the consumer-focused Hangouts tool, has added daily users faster than any other Google service since January. Millions of institutions now are relying on Meet because of lockdowns associated with the coronavirus, the company said.

Microsoft has also added a Gallery view and backgrounds (the ability to upload your own is coming soon).

CRN.com reported:

“With the upgrade to more concurrent visible screens and the new background customization feature, this puts Microsoft Teams up there with Zoom and GoToMeeting,” said Miguel Zamarripa, CIO of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Simpleworks IT.

Meanwhile, a “raise hand” feature—to let meeting participants send a visual cue when they want to speak—will debut this month, Microsoft said.

Meanwhile, Zoom has turned to security consultants and privacy experts to fix its security issues and fix its image following a slew of negative headlines and “Zoombombing.”

MarketWatch reported:

With that move, Zoom is taking a page from the playbook Microsoft deployed almost 20 years ago to restore the image of its Windows software, said Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook who is helping Zoom manage the effort as a consultant. Microsoft’s pivot to “Trustworthy Computing” in 2002 came after years of security problems left Windows users vulnerable to internet worms and viruses that battered the company’s reputation.

Why it matters: The battle for consumers’ attention and dollars might shift to different formats or harness new technology, but the underlying best practices remain. The early bird usually gets the worm, but you must also provide your customers solutions along with transparency, lest you lose their trust as they turn to a competitor.


TACTICALLY SPEAKING

 Sony’s PlayStation has launched a “Play at Home” campaign to encourage people to continue staying indoors during the pandemic—and are giving away two of its games for free to sweeten the request:

In its blog, PlayStation wrote:

 

As a thank you to all who are doing their part to lessen the impact of this pandemic, Sony Interactive Entertainment is pleased to announce the Play At Home initiative.

Play At Home has two components: first, providing free games to help keep the PlayStation community entertained at home; and finally, establishing a fund to help smaller independent game studios who may be experiencing financial difficulties continue building great experiences for all gamers.

Many organizations are have launched CSR and philanthropy efforts to respond to the current crisis, but by also offering an easy way for consumers to take part, you increase engagement as well as brand favor. PlayStation’s move highlights its community, which will help the company increase consumer loyalty.


CRISIS LEADERSHIP BOARD

Looking for more insight on how to address the current global crisis and lead your organization into a strong recovery?

Join Ragan’s Crisis Leadership Board to network and brainstorm with peers, get the latest intelligence and research and start to strategize for the future of your organization.

Learn more about this exclusive membership here.


YOUR WFH PHOTOS

We’ve been asking for pictures of your setup for working from home and we have some new additions to add for this week.

See all the images of your colleagues in their new workspaces here.

You can submit a photo of your WFH scenario to Roula Amire, our VP of editorial at roulaa@ragan.com.


MEASURED THOUGHTS

Business Insider recently reported that retail sales are at an all-time low, according to U.S. Census Bureau numbers:

Image courtesy of Business Insider.

Fashion and clothing retailers have taken the biggest hit, down nearly 51%, with furniture, motor parts, food services, gasoline stations and sporting goods, music, book and hobby stores down from 18% to nearly 25%.

Communicators should expect to hear more about struggling retailers, including store closings and bankruptcy announcements, as the crisis continues (and even after shelter-in-place edicts are removed). Organizations that will survive and even thrive despite the crisis are those who can pivot from a brick-and-mortar model to e-commerce and social media sales.

Other communicators across industries should also be looking at ways to embrace technology and stay current on both social and digital media trends as they adjust to both the future of work (which will probably see more remote employees) as well as changing consumer behaviors.


SOCIAL BUZZ

If you’re one of the many couples who have had to postpone your wedding because of COVID-19, Busch Beer is offering the consolation gift of a year’s worth of its beer:

To enter, you must post a photo of you and your partner, tell Busch how you’re planning to celebrate, and include the hashtags #BushWeddingGift and #Sweepstakes. The company will choose 250 winners at random on May 2.

At a time when many headlines and social media conversations are dominated with COVID-19 news and updates, don’t forget that your audience might also be looking for a respite from feelings of isolation or boredom. By offering that through a sweepstakes, social media outreach or interactive content, you can both uplift people as well as strengthen your brand’s reputation.


TACTICALLY SPEAKING

Are you in need a moment of levity on your Zoom call?

Sweet Farms has launched a new service it’s calling Goat 2 Meeting, where staff will join your videoconference call with farm animals.

Business Insider wrote:

For less than $100, you can request a cameo appearance in your video chat from Sweet Farm’s llamas, goats, and other farm animals.

… Since Goat 2 Meeting opened up in mid-March, more than 300 requests have been made, Sweet told Business Insider. Sweet Farm’s animals have already made appearances in meetings for Fortune 500 companies and tech startups, she said. In one virtual happy hour for a law firm, lawyers brought their kids along to the video call to meet the animals and get a virtual tour of the farm.

Think about ways to offer a mental break to your employees and offer happiness to workers who are putting in extra hours to keep your company in business during the lockdown.


WHAT YOU SAID

 We asked if you’re leaning on influencer campaigns and partnerships during the pandemic, and most of you (67%) said you’re focusing on other communications strategies. Amost 17% of you have done a few influencer efforts, and the same amount say they rely on these efforts consistently as consumers shelter in place.


SOUNDING BOARD

What do you think about Zoom backgrounds? Do you think they add fun and flair, or distract from important conversations?

Share your thoughts, along with your top videoconferencing tips and tricks, below and under the #DailyScoop hashtag. We’ll share in Monday’s roundup.

COMMENT

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