The best and most inspiring brands that made this 2020 more enjoyable.
Thinking about the 12 months that just passed, I bet few actually realise how lucky we are to live in the era of brand purpose. With most brands now focused on making a difference and bringing some positive change in the world, today we are certainly in a better place than we were even just a decade ago. Which made this the perfect moment in time to live through a pandemic with these brands below.
Top 10 Brands of 2020
That said, the best brands of 2020 had more than just purpose or positive difference in mind; they had humanity and empathy at the core of every choice they made this year, taking active steps to make the planet a better place while we were all stuck at home – one way or another.
Here are the top and most inspiring brands of 2020, alongside – where appropriate – some of their most effective marketing campaigns from this year.
Burger King isn’t new to bold moves and it frequently incorporates the competition into its messaging. This year, the brand moved one step further. After the amazing Moldy Whopper early on in the year, Burger King encouraged us all to order from McDonald's in an open letter to consumers, urging us to support the fast food industry. A bold marketing move to say the least. And since some complained about the move being too focused on the evil zaibatsu corporations, Burger King is offering just these days its Instagram page to independents for free, letting them advertise as they please. This brand will never stop to amaze me.
One of the many truths we discovered thanks to Covid is just how many conspiracy theorists there are out there, ready to come up with the craziest stories to find simple answers to complex truths. Only this year, there was one social network that stood above most others, by going against none other than the President of the United States. Most of the false claims made by Donald Trump were flagged as such, and Twitter later introduced a feature that warns you when you are about to share an article you haven’t read. Can you name another social network that did that in the year of Covid? I didn’t think so.
Coca-Cola just loves being included in yearly top brands lists, and this year was no different. As the world started to shut down back in the middle of March, Coca-Cola paused all marketing for its brands in the UK, saying it wouldn’t have been appropriate nor sensible to keep going. And though it was certainly a matter of ROI too, one can only applaud the move as setting a strong examples for brands who did otherwise. Plus, if that pause led us to the beautiful Letter Christmas ad… who can complain?
Another brand, another social network that kept us company in the year of a pandemic. Grown to huge success and popularity, TikTok has become a fundamental companion for young people and brands alike during the pandemic, with uplifting challenges and viral videos that made us all laugh in the toughest of times. Moreover, the company opened just this year its TikTok For Business platform, enabling brands and agencies to start advertising there. And in one of the most Internet-heavy years of all time, TikTok has also protected its audience by disabling private messages for under-16s. Whereas we can think of at least one brand who is going through some trouble for exploiting minors just as we speak.
Did somebody say Just Eat? We mentioned this brand in our list of the Top 10 advertising campaigns of this year, and for good reason. Few brands were able to capitalise on the pandemic like Just Eat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo – but which one of the three have you heard the most? Snoop Dogg has been a constant presence in my Spotify ads since early on in the year, a stellar campaign that raised awareness of Just Eat and brought some much needed fun onto the table. Plus, Just Eat has partnered with ITV to focus on the unifying power of food, bringing some uplifting messages to consumers from all around the globe.
Image credit: AKQA
When lockdown measures were in place, Nike encouraged all those staying at home to keep exercising and to remain active by promoting public competitions from home, with the involvement of big athletes and celebrities. All of Nike’s messaging has been about patience, endurance, waiting and hanging in there until better times would come – something enormously in line with Nike’s usual tone and purposes, not to mention its hardworking audience.
When everyone was adopting expressions such as ‘challenging times,’ ‘tough year,’ ‘unprecedented times’ and so on, Tesco used ‘uncharted waters’ and it did so in a beautiful open letter to consumers. The letter admitted the retail brand’s vulnerabilities, and Tesco did not shield itself behind a presumed wall of corporate strength. Instead, it showed consumers that the brand was there for them, and it was among the first retailers to advertise social-distancing measures in store. Certainly one of the brands with the most positive impact this year.
UK Government & NHS
Hard not to include the NHS and the UK government in this list of the best brands for 2020. Consistent in its messaging, strongly human and powerful, every government announcement was a plead to “protect the NHS” and save lives by appealing to the power of storytelling to strike the public. Needless to say it worked long enough for the UK to engage in 5 minutes of non-stop applause every week, celebrating the efforts of our healthcare workers and offering them support. Except for when the same supporters all flocked to the reopening pubs in Soho – but perhaps that’s a story for another time.
Image credit: Ogilvy UK
Dove certainly knows a thing or two about good purpose and messaging. Its strongest campaign from 2020 is a powerful follow-up to what the brand has been doing to celebrate ‘real beauty’ in the past few years. Courage is Beautiful launches a compelling message through a collection of simple photographs, showing the impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers all around the globe. Many campaigns were conceived along these lines in 2020, but this one felt still, distinctly, Dove.
Logic would make me say Zoom instead of Teams, but one can't deny that Microsoft has worked quite hard this year to make sure it was there for us during the pandemic. Microsoft worked behind the scenes with all of its brands to ensure we could have a lovely 2021 – and that our gaming needs were covered too. Both Xbox Series X and Series S were released in November, not without a few stock issues – but still not with as many slips as the rival Sony. Meanwhile, Teams became even more popular in corporate environments – and it is just recent the news that Microsoft is going to offer a part of Teams for free, following the model of Zoom. So even though Zoom has become the most popular video conferencing app this year, I'm confident Microsoft still has a lot to say, and there will be much for us all to see in 2021.