2020 was a difficult year, and as marketers, we found brands not immune to these challenges. How do you break through the noise to reach an anxious, angry and skeptical audience? How do you prove to them the brand aligns with their values and beliefs, in an increasingly polarized climate?
Though inspiring creative and innovative storytelling usually wins the day in other years, brands had to go the extra mile in 2020 to stand out. Here were some of my favorites I hope inspire our work in 2021 and beyond.
Patagonia has a long history of activism. They participate in meaningful environmental and conservation work, institute programs to recycle garments and encourage customers to use Patagonia gear to the end of its useful life. However, in 2020, the brand doubled down on their position by sewing a tag that reads “Vote the assholes out” into a collection of shorts. After the tag became viral organically, Patagonia clarified that the “assholes” were “any politicians…who deny or disregard the climate crisis…” Though many brands took relatively strong political and social positions in 2020, Patagonia further solidified their status as a brand that walks the talk.
As the preferred sounding board of Donald Trump, Twitter faced increased scrutiny of their influence over public opinion and politics. In 2020, Twitter highlighted a series of tweets tagged #blacklivesmatter by posting them on billboards across the country. The campaign aligned Twitter with a movement occupying the hearts and minds of their most popular user group, young people, and elevated the company’s reputation beyond just a venue for angry political rhetoric. The brilliant media buy imbued these real tweets with significance and relevance beyond Twitter’s own platform, implicitly applying these same qualities to company itself.
Another ingenious media buy, Calm sponsored the “Key Race Alerts” on CNN the night of the presidential election. In conjunction with a 30-second commercial, this clever move received national attention on Twitter as their mentions increased by orders of magnitude. With the 30-second commercial demonstrating the usefulness of the meditation app by giving viewers an opportunity to “do nothing” for 30-seconds over calming rainfall, the sponsorship served as a “hilarious” but empathetic connection to an audience on the edge of their seats.