Brands Bid Adieu to 2020 and Greet 2021

January 4th, 2021 | Rachel Arndt

We’re wrapping up the year with a look at how brands are bringing the values of 2020 into 2021—without too much of the baggage.

Brands balanced reminiscence with impatience, as they celebrated making it through a tough year they couldn’t wait to end.

The year that was

Companies marked the end of the year with a note of gratitude, adding to the usual reminiscent tone a sense of relief at having made it through. Many tried to make the most of a rough year by highlighting their own achievements, while some weren’t afraid to mix the good with the bad in content looking back at 2020. Both strategies allowed brands to contextualize their work and, more importantly, show people that they still embody the values of perseverance and togetherness that have driven much of the messaging throughout the year.

Google and Reddit gave a glimpse into what people were talking about in 2020. Neither company shied away from the hardships of the year, though both tried to add a positive spin by intertwining the bad with lighthearted moments.

Source: Mintel social media monitoring [11/12/20-12/10/20] as of 12/11/20]

Brands distilled 2020 into best-of lists, thereby highlighting their own contributions to the year. By framing their offerings as something that made 2020 a little easier to get through, brands positioned themselves as helpers. Hulu took the best of 2020 as an engagement opportunity, leaving it to its followers to fill in the shows that helped them make it through the year. 0.48% engagement (0.068% average)

Source: Mintel social media monitoring

American Express and Amazon tooted their own horns by reminiscing about the good things they did in 2020. Amex highlighted its Amex Unstated content, and Amazon showcased how its workers got people the items they needed.

0.012% engagement (0.006% average)
Source: Mintel social media monitoring [11/12/20-12/10/20] as of 12/11/20]
Source: YouTube 11/30/20 0.016% engagement (0.035% average)

In a short film, “The Bodega Giveback,” Pepsi offered a moving tribute to the small grocery stores central to the culture of New York City. It also sent reps to 14 bodegas around the boroughs through Dec. 20, where they passed out prepaid credit cards, encouraging patrons to spend the extra money in store.

The year that will be

Some brands used the end of a hard year to look ahead to a year that, they suggested, simply must be better than 2020. This was trickier than reminiscing since brands had to acknowledge why the year was so bad to make it clear why they want 2021 to be different. They did this with typical tropes, like new year’s resolutions, and with brand-new campaigns driven by themes that, though established in 2020, will evolve in the year to come.

Mass Mutual and Fidelity turned financial well-being into a new year’s resolution. Mass Mutual’s creative spoke specifically to 2020, using everyone’s favorite word (“unprecedented”). Fidelity, on the other hand, reran a creative that first appeared in 2019.

Paid Facebook November – December 2020 Source: Comperemedia Omni [11/1/20-12/10/20] as of 12/11/20]
January 2019 – December 2020
Source: Comperemedia Omni [11/1/20-12/10/20] as of 12/11/20]
With a #ACallForKindness, companies are encouraging people to be kinder, especially to frontline workers. Verizon, Capital One, and other brands joined together in a new campaign that encourages people to bring kindness into the world in 2021. “The goal is to help shine a light on the dedicated frontline employees that continue to serve the needs of our communities,” according to a press release. Part of the campaign asks frontline workers to show, with the accompanying hashtag, who they are behind their masks.

Source: Capitol One Press Release

In a bid to help support struggling businesses and show solidarity, Burger King France gave restaurants the equivalent of free advertising until Jan. 21, when they were allowed to reopen.

Source: Mintel social media monitoring [11/01/2020-12/15/2020] as of 12/16/2020]
AT&T deepened its commitment to women in sports and women in business with a new content series titled “She’s Connected by AT&T.” The first video profiles WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike. Other profiles will roll out as 2021 progresses.

Homestay rental company Vrbo sees 2021 as the year of the reunion, be it with family or friends. A national TV and online video ad campaign themed “Your Together Awaits” featured a voiceover from musician John Legend.

What we think

Brands must take a cue from consumers as they plan for 2021. Consumers are entering 2021 cautiously optimistic. People want to see real, relatable content, and that means brands have permission to throw out the idea of “perfection.” Marketers will continually be pressed to decide whether to continue with related priorities or adapt to unexpected realities.

Rachel Arndt

Rachel Arndt

Rachel Arndt is a Marketing Intelligence director. Drawing on marketing intelligence data, she delivers custom insights by uncovering how brands are marketing—and what they should be doing to move their strategies forward.