Glossier, Mondelez, Beijing Olympics: Everything that matters this morning

Good morning and welcome to Marketing Week’s round-up of the news that matters in the marketing world today.

Glossier admits it ‘got ahead’ of itself on hiring as it cuts 80 jobs

DTC beauty brand Glossier is laying off 80 employees as its CEO admits the brand “got ahead of ourselves on hiring”.

In an email to employees seen by Modern Retail, Glossier boss Emily Weiss said the business had made “some mistakes” over the past two years. She admitted the company had “prioritised certain strategic projects that distracted us from the laser-focus we needed to have on our core business: scaling our beauty brand”.

Most of the cuts will be within the technology team, she said, as the business shifts its technology strategy to use external partners for parts of the platform.

The business hopes these changes will put it in a better position to drive long-term growth.

Glossier, which started life as a digital brand in 2014, went on to open two stores in the US, but these were permanently closed during the pandemic. It then opened three new stores in LA, Seattle and London towards the back end of 2021 after raising $80m in funding.

READ MORE: Glossier lays off over 80 employees

Mondelez warns of further price rises as inflation squeezes profits

Cadbury owner Mondelez International says it hasn’t ruled out more price hikes as the rising cost of ingredients and transport eats into its profits.

Despite the challenging environment, the Oreo maker reported a 4.9% boost in its revenues to $7.7bn (£5.8bn) in the fourth quarter and an 8% rise for the year to $28.7bn (£21.4bn).

Gross profit for the full year to 31 December increased by 7.7% to $11.3bn (£8.4bn), while its gross profit margin dropped by 10 basis points to 39.2%.

Dirk Van de Put, chairman and CEO, says the company “continued to execute well against our strategic growth initiatives with volume-led topline growth, strong profitability, increased investments in brands and capabilities, and strong free cash flow generation”.

He says Mondelez “strengthened” its portfolio with the addition of several acquisitions, which “increase our exposure to broader snacking categories and expanding profit pools”.

“We are confident that our brands, strategy and focus on execution position us well to successfully navigate near-term volatility; to profitably deliver against a clear set of sizable growth opportunities; and to achieve our long-term financial targets in 2022 and beyond,” he adds.

Beijing Olympics sponsors remain quiet ahead of Winter Games

Olympics 1Many of the global sponsors of the Winter Olympics in Beijing are choosing to stay quiet, with analysis by the BBC showing a “dramatic reduction” in tweets from sponsors referring to the event compared to the Summer Games in Tokyo.

China’s human rights record has prompted a number of countries to declare diplomatic boycotts of the Games. The UK, US, Australia and Canada are among the countries choosing to stage a diplomatic boycott but athletes from these nations will still compete.

Given the unrest, the 13 official corporate partners of the Beijing Games have remained relatively quiet.

Airbnb, Alibaba, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Intel, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Toyota, and Visa were all global partners for Tokyo 2020 too. Allianz is the only sponsor of the Winter Olympics that didn’t take part in the Summer Games.

The former CMO for the US Olympic Committee at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Rick Burton, told the BBC multinational brands were “walking a tightrope”.

“I don’t think that any of them as global brands can afford, or are willing, to insult the Chinese government,” he said.

READ MORE: Winter Olympics: Global sponsors quiet ahead of Beijing Games

Government launches charm offensive to get commuters back on trains

The government has launched a campaign to get commuters back on the railways after passenger numbers have risen just 5% since Plan B restrictions were lifted and are currently at 50% what they were pre-pandemic.

The rewards scheme offers commuters perks such as a free bacon sandwich, coffee, audiobooks and discounted theatre ticket, with initial partners including Greggs and Pure coffee shops.

It comes as train operators continue to run reduced schedules, with around a quarter of trains not running.

With the end of rail franchising it means taxpayers will need to make up the shortfall for not running trains at normal capacity. Keeping services running during the pandemic has reportedly cost the Exchequer billions of pounds.

Fewer commuters has also had an impact on retailers and food outlets. Spencer Craig, CEO of Pure, says: “Like most businesses that rely on the commuter market we saw our customer base drop by over 50% due to the work from home restrictions coming into force, and rail commuters no longer coming into the city.”

READ MORE: Free bacon sandwiches and coffee to lure commuters back on the railways

‘Dismal’ year for car production as it hits 65-year low

Car production in the UK has fallen to a 65-year low, as the computer chip shortage and the closure of Honda’s Swindon factory impact numbers.

The UK making 859,575 vehicles in 2021, a 6.7% year-on-year decline and the lowest level since 1956, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. It is 61,353 fewer than during 2020 when production was disrupted by the pandemic, in what the SMMT describes as a “dismal” year.

About a quarter of the decline was down to the closure of the Honda factory, while the majority was blamed on the shortage of computer chips.

The SMMT’s CEO said a return to pre-pandemic levels would probably require attracting a new manufacturer to replace Honda.

READ MORE: ‘Dismal’ UK car production drops to 65-year low

Thursday, 27 January

Diageo GB Trade

Marketing investment powers Diageo growth

Diageo has credited increased investment in marketing with helping to drive up margins, increase sales and help a continued push for the ‘premiumisation’ of its products, as it announced interim results for the six months to 31 December 2021.

The multinational drinks group reported net sales up 15.8% to £8bn, with organic net sales growth of 20%, which the company says was supported “by effective marketing and excellent commercial execution”. The group reported an operating profit of £2.7bn, an increase of 22.5%.

Operating margins were up and Diageo showed growth across most categories, with a particularly strong performance in scotch, tequila and beer sales.

“We delivered strong organic net sales growth across all regions and operating margin expansion. This performance demonstrates our world-class branding capability, supply chain excellence and agile culture, and reflects the strength of our portfolio across geographies, categories and price tiers,” says Diageo chief executive Ivan Menezes.

“Strong sales volume growth and continued premiumisation drove an improvement in organic operating margin during the half. This was achieved by increasing our investment in marketing to gain share and support innovation, particularly in North America and Greater China,” he adds.

Britvic grows sales amid inflationary pressures

Britvic Robinsons repositioningThe UK market has led sales growth for soft drinks group Britvic, which published its first quarter trading statement this morning.

Total revenue for the first quarter increased by 16.5% to £373.9m compared to last year, or by 12.8% compared to the pre-pandemic first quarter of 2020.

UK sales were up by 17.1%, with strong growth in the at-home channel while out-of-home sales were hit by a downturn in socialising due to Covid-19 fears. The company highlighted inflationary pressures across the business.

“We have continued to see strong demand for our portfolio of trusted family favourite brands across all channels and markets, helping us deliver strong year-on-year revenue growth of 16.5% in the first quarter,” says Britvic chief executive Simon Litherland.

“We remain confident in our growth strategy, backed not only by our market-leading brands and our highly engaged employees, but also by our proven track record of successfully navigating headwinds. While we continue to experience inflationary pressures, our focus remains on minimising the impact on our business and I am confident we will continue to make progress this year and deliver strong returns for our shareholders.”

No7 launches influencer education programme

No7 BootsNo7 Beauty Company, part of Walgreens Boots Alliance, has worked with the British Beauty Council to launch an industry-first influencer education programme in a bid to tackle misinformation in the beauty industry.

The brand was motivated to take action after learning that 55% of consumers globally find the skincare and cosmetics sectors to be confusing, according to an in-house report.

The online scheme will provide ‘Science of Skincare’ education modules designed to address misleading and incorrect information on social platforms, and to help ensure that skin-related content is accurate and based on scientific truth.

The programme will form a cornerstone of the No7 Beauty Company Creator Collective, a community created for social media creators. With membership by invitation only, the collective will provide training and skills for up-and-coming influencers. The course has been endorsed by dermatologists and beauty journalists and will be delivered by social learning company Learning with Experts.

“As a leader in the beauty industry, we have a responsibility to ensure people receive high quality, factually correct content about skincare so they can make informed choices about the beauty products they purchase,” says No7 Beauty Company vice-president of communications David MacDonald.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the British Beauty Council to create this world-class skincare education content for influencer as part of new Creator Collective. Our ambition is that through this work, we can support social creators in becoming true skincare experts creating valuable and factual content that consumers can trust, and we hope to support their career growth in the beauty industry as a result.”

Boohoo launches filter-free social campaign

Online fashion retailer Boohoo has launched a social campaign as part of a pledge to drive purposeful and positive change. The #boohoofilterfree campaign aims to eradicate filter abuse in social posts and reduce ‘comparison culture’.

The use of filters and face-altering apps online is seen to have a damaging effect on the self esteem of young consumers. Boohoo says that it believes in empowering young people to feel more confident in themselves. The brand is encouraging influencers and customers to post filter-free content across their social channels to spread awareness of the issues.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Sarah Vohra, who is supporting the campaign alongside influencers and burns injury survivor Sophie Lee, says: “With social media constantly serving us up highlights of other people’s lives, it is hard to separate what is real from what has been edited or filtered. While for some these filtered images may be inspirational or aspirational, for others it can spiral into comparison with our unfiltered selves, make us feel ‘less than’ and fuel low self esteem; it can be hard to resonate with images where bodies and skins are portrayed as seemingly perfect and blemish free, but it’s made even more difficult when that is seemingly all we see online.

“#boohoofilterfreecampaign is a powerful reminder of what life is really like beyond the filter, bringing images that are far more relatable to the forefront; the images we compare ourselves to and we perceive to be ‘better than’ us are actually not the reality.”

Speakers for Schools appoints new CMO

Social mobility charity Speakers for Schools has appointed Dan Walsh as its new CMO, as the brand embarks of a period of rapid growth.

The charity’s headcount has gone from 14 to 115 in less than two years, and it has acquired two additional organisations  – Vinspired and Fledglink – over the last six months.

Walsh was previously head of brand marketing for SSE Energy, part of OVO Energy, following roles including head of marketing for BBC Central Brand. He will now work with Speakers for Schools CEO Jason Elsom to integrate the new platforms into the existing offer of Speakers for Schools, which focuses on delivering virtual work experience placements and inspirational talks to state schools from a roster of influential figures.

With extensive experience of engaging youth audiences Walsh will seek to raise the visibility of Youth Card, the free app launched by Speakers for Schools last year to offer young people work placements, careers advice, discounts and volunteering programmes.

“Having grown up in Liverpool and attended a state school, I can deeply relate to the barriers many young people face as they struggle to kick start a life for themselves against a backdrop of few opportunities, which is exactly what Speakers for Schools has set out to alleviate. Its work to provide all young people with incredible work experience and career inspiration irrespective of background or where they live is vital and I look forward to helping the charity grow,” says Walsh.

“Dan joins the organisation at a truly exhilarating time as we continue to scale our impact at pace. Dan’s extensive experience and knowledge of marketing to a young audience for brands like the BBC will be an asset to our team as we work towards supporting one million young people annually by next year,” adds CEO Jason Elsom.

Wednesday, 26 January

Oatly oat milkOatly ads banned for making ‘misleading’ environmental claims

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a series of Oatly adverts for making “misleading” environmental claims, as the regulator ramps up its fight against so-called ‘greenwashing’.

In September the ASA announced a “crackdown” on brands making misleading claims about their environmental impact, before banning an advert for plant-based dairy brand Alpro weeks later which claimed its products were ‘good for the planet’.

The ASA received 109 complaints relating to Oatly, including from campaign group A Greener World, challenging several claims made by the oat milk brand across two TV ads for its 2021 ‘Help Dad’ campaign, paid-for Facebook and Twitter posts, and two press ads.

In response, Oatly UK says it commissioned independent product lifecycle assessment expert CarbonCloud to calculate the emissions of its Barista Edition oat drink and British whole cow’s milk. The analysis did not, however, take into account avoided emissions, actions taken to mitigate released emissions, or carbon offsetting.

The oat milk brand explained its ads included a link where viewers could obtain the reports and see which products were the subject of the comparison. As the calculation did not account for the whole lifecycles of the products, Oatly included the qualification of “from grower to grocer” and said it would amend the claim to clarify it was a comparison between Oatly Barista Edition and whole milk.

The ASA, however, considered consumers reading the claim “Oatly generates 73% less CO2e vs. milk” would understand that to mean all Oatly products generated 73% less CO2 compared to any type of cows’ milk. As the regulator only saw evidence for the comparison of Oatly Barista Edition and whole cow’s milk, it ruled the evidence was insufficient to support the claim and was therefore misleading.

Regarding the claim that the dairy and meat industries emit “more CO2e than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc combined”, the ASA said consumers would believe the comparison was based on an equivalent and full lifecycle comparison of the emissions from those industries. Given the environmental impact assessments had analysed different points of the lifecycles, the ASA ruled the claims were misleading.

On the claim of that “more than 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases are generated by the food industry”, the ASA considered consumers would understand Oatly was describing greenhouse gases caused by human activities only. The addition that “meat and dairy account for more than half of that” was considered misleading as many consumers would believe the claim related to only meat and dairy, as defined narrowly, when that is not the case.

Furthermore, the ASA felt the claim from a single climate expert that “cutting dairy and meat products from our diets is the single biggest lifestyle change we can make to reduce our environmental impact” overstated the evidence provided and could not be substantiated.

The ads judged to be misleading must not appear again in the forms complained about. The ASA told Oatly it should ensure the basis of any environmental claim is made clear, including which parts of the lifecycle had been assessed, while the brand was cautioned to provide adequate evidence to substantiate any environmental claims made in its ads.

Pets at Home’s VIP membership strategy pays off as sales surge

Pets at Home credits its customer acquisition “momentum” for helping grow total group revenue by 5.8% to £319.4m in the 12 weeks to 30 December. Group like-for-like revenue increased by 8.7% compared to last year, up 28.1% on a two-year basis.

Total retail revenue grew by 9.8%, up 9% on a like-for-like basis compared to last year and 28.4% versus pre-pandemic. Pets at Home pointed to “ongoing pet humanisation and premiumisation” for driving record sales of seasonal ranges. Omnichannel revenue rose by 16.7%, or 99.3% compared to pre-Covid levels.

The pet care retailer grew its VIP membership base by 13% year on year to 7 million, an increase of 1.7 million or 34% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Some 27% of all VIPs shopped across more than one channel during the quarter, up 18% year on year.

These VIP members generated revenue of £1.09bn on a rolling 12-month basis, up 22.5% on the same period in 2020.

The number of Puppy and Kitten Club members grew 60% year on year, with year-to-date average weekly registrations of approximately 24,000 versus 15,000 during the same period in 2020. Crucially, Puppy and Kitten Club members typically spend a third more than non-members across the group.

New client registrations across Pets at Home’s First Opinion veterinary practices were “strong”, averaging approximately 9,200 per week year-to-date compared to 9,000 during the same period last year. The company also continued to grow pet care plan subscriptions across the group to more than 1.4 million plans, generating in excess of £115m in annualised recurring customer revenue.

Building on “transformational digital initiative” Polestar, Pets at Home is poised to launch single login functionality to offer “frictionless customer access” to its products and services. In addition, the retailer’s deliver from store capability broadened during the quarter and, combined with its one-hour click-and-collect service, Pets at Home is currently fulfilling approximately a third of online orders through its store network.

During the 12 weeks to 30 December, the retailer also opened two new stores in Brighton and Guildford, taking its estate to 455 locations.

Reflecting on the cost of living crisis, Pets at Home believes it is “well placed” to mitigate industry-wide inflationary pressures by targeting rent reductions, procurement savings and operational efficiencies across the business.

Group CEO Peter Pritchard credits the retailer’s “unique, omnichannel pet care strategy” for delivering strong revenue growth, coupled with “continued momentum” in customer acquisition, engagement and spend. He adds that the business is “firmly on track” to report a record year of sales and profit growth.

Amazon drops employer branding campaign amid ‘poor reach’

Amazon UK warehouseAmazon has reportedly dropped an employer branding campaign which tasked warehouse workers with challenging comments on social media suggesting the online giant was a bad place to work.

The Financial Times reports the company has stopped paying employees to share positive messages on social media aimed at improving Amazon’s perception as an employer, with sources claiming senior executives were unhappy with the scheme’s “poor reach”. The initiative was also hurt by spoof accounts alleging workers had gone off script.

The fulfilment centre ambassador initiative was set up in 2018 to protect the business against negative claims of working conditions, such as that staff were not given enough time to take a toilet break.

Documents published by The Intercept last year show ambassadors were trained to leave “no lie unchallenged” and instructed to reply in a “blunt” but “polite” manner to what Amazon considered untruths posted on social media by critics such as politicians and labour rights activists. The ambassadors were, however, told not to target journalists.

It is reported that the focus will now shift to offering live virtual warehouse tours and more “traditional” marketing. The ability to attract talent is crucial for Amazon as the business continues to grow at rapid pace and has seen the business produce a TV campaign sharing stories of the workers in its UK fulfilment centres.

The online giant has recruited an extra 700,000 workers globally since the onset of Covid, the Financial Times reports, although the expense of attracting talent and “labour-related losses in productivity” cost the business $2bn (£1.5bn) in its most recently reported quarter. In the US alone, Amazon is the nation’s biggest employer behind retailer Walmart.

READ MORE: Amazon abandons influence campaign designed to attract staff (£)

Coke extends footprint in alcoholic drinks with Molson Coors tie-up

Coke Molson Coors Simply Spiked
Source: Molson Coors

Coca-Cola is expanding its alcoholic drinks portfolio with the release of a “spiked lemonade” product in collaboration with Molson Coors.

Following the “successful” first year of its Topo Chico hard seltzer, Coke will begin selling Simply Spiked Lemonade in the US this summer, an alcoholic version of its $1bn (£742m) chilled juice brand. In the US, Simply is the company’s second-largest brand by net revenue behind Coca-Cola.

The launch will mark Coke’s third foray into alcohol, following Topo Chico and the forthcoming Fresca canned cocktails.

The Simply Spiked range will launch as a 12 can variety pack inspired by some of the brand’s best-selling non-alcoholic products, including lemonade, strawberry lemonade, watermelon lemonade and blueberry lemonade. In addition, 24oz standalone cans in selected flavours will also go on sale. Made with real fruit juice, the range is 5% alcohol-by-volume.

Building on the success of the Topo Chico rollout, Coca-Cola North America chief of new revenue streams, Dan White, explains the business wants to expand its relationship with Molson Coors across one of its “most valuable brands” – Simply.

From a Molson Coors perspective, the company describes the launch of Simply Spiked Lemonade, coupled with the expansion of Topo Chico and the introduction earlier this month of new variety Topo Chico Ranch Water, as the latest initiatives to “aggressively grow” its premium portfolio as part of a wider revitalisation plan.

“Over the past two years, we’ve seen success by shaking up existing categories with new brands that have clear, compelling points of difference, like Coca-Cola’s Topo Chico hard seltzer, Vizzy hard seltzer and ZOA Energy Drink,” says Molson Coors’ CMO Michelle St. Jacques.

“Now, we have a huge opportunity to leverage the power of Simply – a brand known for real juice and big flavour – to disrupt the full-flavour alcohol segment in a way that’s never been done before.”

According to Molson Coors, the flavoured alcohol beverages sector grew by 10% in 2021 to become a nearly $2bn (£1.5bn) segment, as more consumers searched for drinks without high sugar and artificial flavouring.

READ MORE: Coca-Cola and Molson Coors to make spiked lemonade under Simply brand

Boohoo positions itself as ‘ethical British’ manufacturer with new factory

Boohoo has opened its first factory as the fast fashion brand looks to position itself as an “ethical British” manufacturer after supply chain “failings” were exposed last year.

Described as representing “millions of pounds worth of investment”, the 23,000sq ft factory in Leicester has the capacity to produce 10,000s of garments and boasts facilities for the manufacture of made to order products and fabric printing.

The factory will create 180 new jobs and be used as a training facility for product teams across the group’s 13 brands, including Boohoo and Boohoo Man,, Karen Millen and PrettyLittleThing. The site will also be used to help suppliers improve their operational and production efficiencies.

Training is being offered to staff as part of a standard employment package, which includes pay above the National Living Wage, 33 days paid holiday, guaranteed 40-hour contracts and a 40% employee discount on all brands.

“It is more than just a factory, it’s a hub of learning and collaboration, as it gives our own teams the chance to work onsite and an opportunity to see a working factory first-hand,” says CEO John Lyttle.

“We welcome the opportunity to share that knowledge with the amazing education institutions in the city and strengthen our collaborative working relationships with our approved suppliers. It’s an exciting new chapter for the Boohoo Group.”

The opening of the factory comes more than a year on from allegations Leicester-based manufacturers supplying Boohoo had “forced” employees to work while sick with Covid.

An independent review, which reported in September, found some workers in the Boohoo supply chain had not always been properly compensated for their work and senior directors were aware of “serious issues” months before they were reported.

READ MORE: Boohoo starts production at new Leicester factory

Tuesday, 25 January

Source: Shutterstock

Peloton implicated in second TV heart attack

Fitness brand Peloton has caused another fictional heart attack in a TV show, just two months on from the death of Mr Big in the Sex and the City reboot.

In the new series of American drama Billions, Mike “Wags” Wagner, a character played by David Costabile, is taken to hospital with chest pains after using his Peloton spin bike.

Following the episode, Peloton tweeted that it “did not agree” to its brand or intellectual property being used in the show. “As the show itself points out, cardio-vascular exercise helps people lead long, happy lives,” the tweet concluded.

Peloton’s reaction to the death of Mr Big in the Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That in December was named as one of the top 10 marketing moments of 2021 by Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson.

The well-known character was killed off in the first episode by a heart attack while riding his Peloton bike – a moment the brand was completely unaware was coming. However, Peloton capitalised on the free media coverage, turning around a new ad featuring Mr Big within 48 hours.

When Mr Big actor Chris Noth came under fire with allegations of sexual assault, Peloton reacted quickly again to pull the ad.

“It’s clear if you understand brand management that the presence of a Peloton bike in that episode was not bad for Peloton,” Ritson said. “It was a little bit good and zero bad.”

The business is currently struggling through fading sales and falling share price, however. Worth $50bn (£37bn) at the peak of its popularity around a year ago, Peloton is now valued at around $8bn (£6bn).

In its most recent preliminary results for the second quarter of its financial year, Peloton reported revenue of $1.14bn, within previous guidance. However, the company added fewer subscribers than expected, now claiming 2.8 million. The business doesn’t anticipate becoming profitable until its 2023 fiscal year.

Activist investor Blackwells Capital is urging the business to oust its co-founder and CEO, John Foley, and sell itself to a major tech or fitness company like Apple or Nike, the Wall Street Journal reports.

READ MORE: Peloton takes another hit from TV heart attack 

Unilever announces ‘thousands’ of job cuts

FMCG giant Unilever has announced 1,500 job cuts across more than 100 markets this week, including a 15% reduction in senior management roles.

No cuts are expected within factory teams, and junior management roles are expected to increase by 5%.

The UK-based business has 149,000 employees around the world, including more than 6,000 in the UK and Ireland. It will make the cuts as part of the wider restructure of its operating model, which the company has promised will improve its competitiveness.

The new model will be organised around five distinct categories: beauty and wellbeing, personal care, home care, nutrition and ice cream. Each group will be accountable for its own strategy, growth and profit delivery.

“Our new organisational model has been developed over the last year and is designed to continue the step-up we are seeing in the performance of our business,” says Unilever CEO Alan Jope.

“Moving to five category-focused business groups will enable us to be more responsive to consumer and channel trends, with crystal-clear accountability for delivery. Growth remains our top priority and these changes will underpin our pursuit of this.”

Earlier this month, a £50bn bid from Unilever for GSK’s consumer healthcare division was rejected, with GSK claiming the offer “fundamentally undervalued” the business. Unilever subsequently dropped its ambition to acquire the division and its popular consumer brands.

On Friday Terry Smith of the Fundsmith Equity Fund, Unilever’s ninth biggest shareholder, called on the company to improve its existing business before looking for big acquisitions, describing the failed bid as a “near-death experience”.

These comments came just a week after Smith launched a scathing attack on Unilever for having “lost the plot” as a result of its commitment to brand purpose.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that Peltz’s New York-based hedge fund Trian Partners has built up a stake in Unilever, which is an issue for the FMCG giant given the fund has a reputation for pushing organisations to be split up and divisions spun out.

Such was the pressure on Unilever last week that the company put out a statement announcing plans for a “major initiative” to enhance performance later this month, following a “comprehensive review” of its organisational structure.

READ MORE: Marmite maker Unilever to cut thousands of jobs worldwide

BrewDog CEO accused of inappropriate behaviour with staff

BrewDog shopBrewDog’s co-founder and CEO James Watt has been accused by former staff of making the beer company’s female bartenders “uncomfortable” with unwelcome attention and inappropriate behaviour.

An investigation by the BBC’s ‘Disclosure’ programme included interviews with 12 former BrewDog USA workers who made the allegations, including claims that Watt flirted with staff, that female bartenders were advised on how to avoid unwelcome attention from him, and that managers would try to schedule shifts so certain female staff would be off when Watt visited.

The investigation spoke to nearly 100 former and current BrewDog staff altogether. The resulting programme, ‘The Truth about BrewDog’, aired last night (24 January).

According to the BBC, Watt declined to be interviewed for the programme, but his lawyers have said the allegations are false.

Meanwhile, chairman Allan Leighton says he had been assured the claims are not accurate and that Watt has “committed to making improvements to his management style” following the publication of an open letter in June last year, signed by almost 300 former and current BrewDog employees, accusing the business of a “culture of fear” and of using “lies, hypocrisy and deceit” to generate positive PR.

The BBC investigation also uncovered that Watt has owned shares in Dutch brewing giant Heineken since at least 2018, despite BrewDog’s stance on competing against large multinational breweries.

Watt has subsequently been accused of trying to “intimidate” staff who spoke to the BBC investigation, writing in a forum for investors and staff that anonymity “can never be guaranteed” if the matter goes to court, and that it is “not too late” to withdraw consent.

A spokesperson for the Unite trade union criticised Watt’s comments, the Guardian reports.

“Any attempt to intimidate current and former workers taking a stand on systemic mistreatment will not be tolerated,” said Bryan Simpson, an industrial organiser for Unite Hospitality. “We will represent all Unite members fully against efforts by a multimillionaire to silence them.”

Last week, the BBC revealed BrewDog sent multiple shipments to the US in 2016 and 2017 which broke US federal laws. While Watt has claimed this to have been a mistake, staff at one brewery said they were put under “enormous” pressure by the business to ship the beer knowing it was illegal.

Last year also saw BrewDog fall into hot water multiple times following the publication of the ‘Punks with Purpose’ open letter. A promotion promising “solid gold” beer cans could be found in the brewer’s beer packs was called out when winners discovered the cans were not solid gold, but gold-plated. They were therefore unlikely to be worth the £15,000 promised.

Watt admitted the brand got the campaign “wrong”, and pledged to send each winner a real solid gold can funded by his own money.

BrewDog also had ads for its hard seltzer product banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for making “misleading” and “irresponsible” health claims.

READ MORE: Brewdog chief James Watt accused of inappropriate behaviour

Major investor threatens to ‘hold boards accountable’ over climate progress

The CEO of Aviva Investors, a major UK investment fund, has warned it will vote against company boards and individual directors if they fail to execute sustainability commitments with “the urgency required”.

In his annual letter to investors, Mark Versey said the fund expects all businesses to develop and report on climate transition plans, biodiversity action plans and human rights plans.

Versey also called for executive pay structures and bonuses to be measured against success on achieving these goals, to ensure all stakeholders are “fully aligned and committed” to their delivery.

“We acknowledge the magnitude of many of these challenges and will evaluate companies on the strength of their commitments and their ability to demonstrate progress over time,” he wrote.

“However, we will hold boards and individual directors accountable where the pace of change does not reflect the urgency required.

Aviva Investors has over £260bn of assets under management. Its letter will be sent to 1,500 firms in 30 countries this week.

Versey added the “most meaningful and direct impact” Aviva Investors can make on achieving a low-carbon, sustainable future for clients and society is to “fully integrate” environmental, social and governance factors across investment strategies, investing only in companies aligned with Aviva’s sustainability ambitions.

“We will invest in companies that mitigate their environmental impacts while investing in their people, customers, suppliers and communities with a view to delivering sustainable long-term returns,” he said.

Earlier this week, the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, urged businesses to prepare to lead in a “net-zero world”.

CEO Larry Fink wrote to business leaders calling on them to use their purpose as a “north star” as they face ongoing disruption from coronavirus and the climate crisis.

However, earlier this month fund manager Terry Smith, founder of Fundsmith Equity Fund, branded Unilever’s focus on sustainability and brand purpose as “ludicrous”, claiming the strategy led to the FMCG giant’s underwhelming performance last year.

Disney+ unveils new campaign showcasing unexpected content

Disney’s new EMEA-wide advertising campaign for the Disney+ streaming service aims to “surprise and delight” viewers by showcasing the breadth of its content.

The House of Disney+ TV spot highlights shows and films from Toy Story and The Book of Boba Fett to The Walking Dead and The Kardashians, blending live-action and CGI elements before ending on the tagline: ‘Stories you’d expect and stories you wouldn’t’.

Created by Leo Burnett London, the campaign will run across TV, cinema and on social.

“Disney is synonymous with timeless storytelling and with this campaign we want to make sure viewers understand Disney+ is the home of a wide variety of iconic content,” says The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA vice-president of marketing for Disney+, Usama Al-Qassab.

“Our subscribers can find just about anything they are in the mood for on Disney+. Some may even be surprised by what they find.”

Monday, 24 January

John LewisJohn Lewis confirms no change to sick pay regardless of vaccination status

John Lewis has confirmed it will not be changing its sick pay policy based on vaccination status, just days after Morrisons joined the likes of Next, Ikea and Ocado in cutting pay for unvaccinated staff.

Executive director for operations, Andrew Murphy, said in a LinkedIn post that the retailer does not believe it is right to “create a link between a Partner’s vaccination status and the pay they receive”.

He explains John Lewis has been “hugely supportive” of the UK vaccination programme, giving all employees time off to receive their jab and turning its Bracknell sports hall over to the NHS as a vaccination centre, which has to date provided 160,000 jabs.

Murphy acknowledges leadership teams across every business have had to work “incredibly hard” to navigate what he describes as “the Covid years”, adding: “There has been no map, guidebook or training programme to help anyone find the best way through. Very often, there’s just a choice between a range of unappealing options.”

The John Lewis operations chief points out that the decision taken by the partnership was not meant as a judgement on any other business.

“We cast no judgement on the decisions of any other organisation, in fact we’ve enjoyed how united businesses – retailers especially – have been in the face of these huge corporate and societal challenges,” Murphy adds.

“However, when life increasingly seems to present opportunities to create division – and with hopes rising that the pandemic phase of Covid may be coming to an end – we’re confident that this is the right approach for us.”

Last week Morrisons said unvaccinated employees who test negative, but are required to isolate, will receive statutory sick pay of £96.35 a week. However, staff who test positive for Covid will receive full sick pay regardless of their vaccination status.

The decision taken by the supermarket followed Next, Ocado and Ikea, which have all confirmed in recent weeks their intention to cut sick pay for the unvaccinated. Both Ikea and Next described the issue as an “emotive topic” for the brands to address.

READ MORE: John Lewis will pay full sick pay regardless of Covid vaccination status

M&S to sell independent chocolate brand after social media backlash

Choc on Choc M&S
Source: @choconchoc Instagram

Marks & Spencer is to stock products from independent handmade chocolate brand Choc on Choc after the founder used social media to claim the retailer had “copied” her design.

Flo Broughton, who founded the Bath-based chocolatier in 2003 with her father Kerr Dunlop, posted on Twitter and Instagram about the similarities between her Perfect Match white chocolate matchstick product and a similar range on sale at M&S.

In her post, Broughton accused the retailer of “double standards” after it took Aldi to court over an alleged copycat Colin the Caterpillar product, adding that she was “extremely disappointed” in a British institution like M&S. Riffing off the retailer’s famed slogan, Broughton described the product as “not just the perfect match, it’s the perfect copy”.

She added: “Anyone else who has ever had their work copied get on board. I want to make a proper stand on this. Share this post and raise awareness for us so these big brands can’t get away with copying.”

Social posts from Broughton and brand fans called on Aldi to join the conversation. The supermarket has faced legal action from M&S, first over its Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake and most recently The Infusionist range of gold-flake gin infusions, which it was told to surrender or destroy.

Following the pressure on social media, Broughton had a call with the M&S team who she describes as being “very respectful” of Choc on Choc’s product and its position as a small business. Marks & Spencer will now stock Choc on Choc by Mother’s Day and Easter, with the retailer telling Broughton that “innovations like yours should be rewarded.”

The existing M&S chocolate matchsticks will stay on shelf and be launched as a limited edition of the Choc on Choc product. Broughton also said the retailer has committed to accept more ideas from small businesses through its Small Supplier Programme. She described the move as a “huge step” for small business.

The incident with Choc on Choc comes just weeks after CEO Steve Rowe highlighted the “special” M&S innovation process during the retailer’s Christmas trading update.

“Our teams put a lot of work into making sure M&S product is differentiated, is better quality, is innovative and we’re going to make sure we protect that IP and we protect as many of the small suppliers who develop it with us,” Rowe said. “Bear in mind this is small suppliers in the UK who are often getting hurt.”

Pressure mounts on Unilever to revise strategy as investor scrutiny builds

Unilever is facing renewed pressure following its failed attempt to acquire the consumer arm of GlaxoSmithKline, as it emerged activist investor Nelson Peltz has built a stake in the business.

The Financial Times reports that Peltz’s New York-based hedge fund Trian Partners has built up a stake in Unilever, which is an issue for the FMCG giant given the fund has a reputation for pushing organisations to be split up and divisions spun out.

While the size Trian Partners’ stake is unknown, the Guardian reports it could be in the region of 1%-3.5%, in line with previous stakes the fund has taken in target companies.

Last week Unilever saw £7bn wiped of its value after it was revealed the organisation had its £50bn offer for GSK Consumer Healthcare rejected. While the company believes the healthcare business is a “strong strategic fit”, combining Unilever’s “consumer and branding expertise” with GSK’s technical capabilities, investors disagree.

On Friday Terry Smith of the Fundsmith Equity Fund, Unilever’s ninth biggest shareholder, called on the company to improve its existing business before looking for big acquisitions, describing the failed bid as a “near-death experience”.

These comments came just a week after Smith launched a scathing attack on Unilever for having “lost the plot” as a result of its commitment to brand purpose.

Fellow investor Bert Flossbach, founder of the German asset management firm Flossbach von Storch – a top 10 shareholder in Unilever – is quoted by the Sunday Times as saying the business should focus on its “core competence” rather than over the counter medicine, adding: “Mega acquisitions are often a sign of lack of creativity and regularly go wrong.”

Flossbach believes Unilever should focus on “developing” its existing portfolio through a mixture of “divestitures and smaller acquisitions.”

Such was the pressure last week that the FMCG giant put out a statement announcing plans for a “major initiative” to enhance performance later this month, following a “comprehensive review” of its organisational structure.

Unilever says it intends to shift from its existing matrix structure to an operating model that will “drive greater agility, improve category focus and strengthen accountability”.

READ MORE: Investors turn on ‘arrogant’ Unilever over failed £50bn GSK bid 

TikTok global marketing boss reportedly ousted after ‘going rogue’

TikTokGlobal head of marketing Nick Tran has reportedly been ousted from the top job at TikTok after “going rogue” with a series of campaigns spanning NFTs and food delivery.

The New York Post reports that Tran, who assumed the global marketing role in April 2020, revealed a plan to launch a TikTok kitchen concept featuring food made popular on TikTok, without getting buy-in from senior leadership.

News broke in late December that the video sharing platform was poised to open 1,000 “ghost kitchens” by the end of 2022, partnering with delivery service Virtual Dining Concepts to deliver dishes across the US that had gone viral on TikTok.

The New York Post reports a source who listened into a call with Tran, attended by 200 people from marketing, during which a TikTok executive allegedly said: “We’re not in the restaurant business and we shouldn’t pretend to be.”

The report also calls out the failure of a “creator-led NFT collection” unveiled in October and TikTok Resumes, an initiative led by Tran aimed at placing TikTok users in entry-level jobs at brands such as retailer Target and restaurant chain Chipotle.

An executive is reported to have said on the same call that these campaigns were “out of line with the company’s goals” and were examples of “stunt-marketing”.

TikTok has confirmed Tran’s departure and stated chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas will take interim control of global marketing while a replacement is sought.

Tran joined TikTok in April 2020 from streaming service Hulu, where he held the position of vice-president of brand and culture marketing. Prior to that Tran served as senior director of marketing and head of social media and brand culture at Samsung in the US. His remit spanned social media, influencer and experiential marketing across entertainment, sports and music.

The role at Samsung was preceded by almost two years as vice-president of marketing at Stance Socks, during which time the clothing brand partnered with car marque Kia on a Super Bowl ad.

Prior to that Tran spent more that three years as digital marketing and social media lead at fast food chain Taco Bell, where he also worked on the customer experience strategy and a framework for mobile ordering.

READ MORE: TikTok’s marketing chief ousted after ‘going rogue’ with bizarre campaigns

WFA launches guide to create a more ‘diverse media ecosystem’

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has launched a guide to tackling diversity and representation issues in the media planning and buying process, covering issues ranging from inclusive audience planning to measuring success.

Developed by the WFA Diversity Task Force with the support of GARM – the Global Alliance for Responsible Media – the guide highlights four key areas where bias can occur and proposes ways to ensure progress is made.

The first area is inclusive audience planning, ensuring audiences are diverse and inclusive at the planning stage. The guide also focuses on supporting diverse voices, encouraging brands to make deliberate decisions on media spend and build partnerships with unique media owners.

In addition, the WFA wants advertisers to think about balancing brand safety with diversity, consciously managing brand suitability and safety alongside inclusion. The last area of focus is measuring success, encouraging brands to measure all audiences fairly and invest in research.

Each area of the media planning and buying process is illustrated with brand examples, alongside resources from GARM members including Diageo, GSK, Reckitt and Google. The guide is free to download via the WFA’s diversity and inclusion hub.

WFA Diversity Ambassador, Jerry Daykin, points out that brands tend to think of diversity as a challenge for creative or HR teams, but media plays a critical role.

“The way a campaign is planned and bought can have a notable impact on reach and engagement across different audience groups. Making the right decisions can both ensure brands create more effective campaigns and, critically, play their part in funding a richer and more diverse media ecosystem,” Daykin adds.

“There is a delicate balance between ensuring we block hate speech but increase the funding of positive representative voices, and whilst the solutions can get technical, they all start with advertisers asking some of these simple questions in their brief.” 

Diageo global media director and WFA Media Forum co-chair, Isabel Massey, adds it is the responsibility of brands not only to create content reflective of today’s society, but for it to appear in media that is diverse and inclusive.

“I am really proud that Diageo has committed to a multi-million-pound global investment over the next two years to media platforms and publishers who are working to make mainstream media more diverse and inclusive, and this guide from the WFA is a great point of reference for all advertisers,” says Massey.

“There’s still so much more progress to make and we need to work together with other brands, media owners, and agencies to drive industry-wide change.”

DMA ramps up marketing apprenticeship push

Data & Marketing Association (DMA) is hoping to increase the number of data and marketing apprenticeships available in Scotland, creating more entry-level jobs for emerging talent.

Joining forces with training provider Sixth Sense Training, the DMA says it wants to “demystify” how apprenticeships function, confusion which the organisation believes is impacting the success of apprenticeships nationwide. The intention is to help find jobs for young marketing candidates, as well as offer apprenticeship opportunities to marketers looking for the next step in their career.

Any person taking a digital marketing apprenticeship with Sixth Sense Training will gain an IDM Award in Marketing training certification and a DMA student membership. Specialising in digital apprenticeships, Sixth Sense Training works with the Scottish Government to deliver apprenticeships across several frameworks including digital marketing, data analytics and creative media.

DMA Talent general manager Kate Burnet believes the partnership will help the DMA support young, emerging talent across Scotland seeking their first roles in the data and marketing industry.

“We have championed the benefits of apprenticeships for many years and we will now be able to further assist our membership organisations, and wider businesses community, by providing them with a trusted contact and framework to set up a successful apprenticeship programme,” she adds.