From the growth of virtual events to the rise in brands taking a stand, the world of digital marketing responded to the unpredictability, upheaval, and uniqueness of 2020 with creativity, innovation, and compassion.
We’ve gathered our top 10 digital marketing moments of the year, featured originally in our weekly newsletter The Spark, in hopes that these creative moments might ignite inspiration for next year, and beyond.
Nike Won't Stop
Well known for its creative ingenuity, top-quality production value, and dauntless support of social justice initiatives, Nike took their innovative vision to the next level with the production of “You Can’t Stop Us,” the most talked-about (and Tweeted-about) video ad of the year. Because the pandemic halted just about everything — live sports included — Nike had to adjust. The brand flipped on its creative switch and repurposed 4,000 hours of archival footage to deliver a powerful and unifying 90-second spot that’s true to the company’s identity.
Free Access (to Business Leads)
For one month, tech education company Pluralsight opened up its entire platform of courses for free in a campaign dubbed #FreeApril, giving business users (and potential customers) unlimited access to its massive library of videos. Despite a slashed marketing budget due to the pandemic, Pluralsight’s campaign attracted 1.1 million users, more than 20% of whom were business leads. The #FreeApril movement proved its worth in goodwill marketing — and as a B2B lead generation tool.
Spotify Puts Meaningful Messaging at the Top of Its Playlist
In 2020, social responsibility rose to new levels of importance for brands. The blowback from #BlackOutTuesday showed how important it is for brands to go beyond words and prove to customers they are taking tangible, authentic, and actionable steps toward social good. Spotify was already walking the walk with its “Phenomenal Black Music” campaign for Black History Month. They celebrated Black music culture with playlists, a popup event, merchandise from Black artists, and more. This was all led by the “BLK Members at Spotify” employee group and centered Black artists and members of the community in the conceptualization, production, and communication of the campaign.
Country Time’s Lemon(Aid)
Country Time Lemonade found a way to help the smallest of the country’s small business owners. The brand’s July marketing campaign sent “stimulus checks” to 1,000 kids whose lemonade stand businesses had been affected by the pandemic. The “Littlest Bailout” campaign recognized the challenges of the moment while focusing the messaging around meaningful discussions in a smart and creative way.
Let the Games Begin
One of the top trends coming out of 2020? The power (and profitability) of video games. Nintendo reported a five fold increase in profits mostly due to the popular release of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” Other brands joined in on the fun: Highsnobiety released an in-game clothing line, the Getty Museum helped users decorate their homes, and Tier One client Ally Bank opened an island with an unbeatable turnip exchange rate at their “stalk market.” Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons and explore how video game marketing could fit into your 2021 campaigns.
Florida Paints: 1, Sherwin-Williams: 0
Unique content featuring their products, authentic customer connections, and millions of views on a hard-to-crack social media platform. That’s what Sherwin-Williams gave away when it decided to fire Tony Piloseno, a TikTok star known for his soothing paint-mixing videos. Competitors raced to snatch him up and take advantage of the positive press spotlight and the power of his TikTok virality. Florida Paints, a local, independent brand, won the PR battle — and the opportunity to market to a new generation of consumers.
Rock the Upvote
Reddit forayed into new territory in 2020: brand marketing. Dubbed “Up the Vote,” the social media site’s first-ever campaign compared the number of votes on popular Reddit posts to the results of recent U.S. elections and encouraged its users to vote in the 2020 election. The combination of the often absurd tone of Reddit with the gravity of voting resulted in funny, relatable, and (most importantly) actionable content.
Think Global, Read Local
Dallas-based bookstore Wild Detectives shocked loyal customers when the store announced it was rebranding as a travel agency — but they soon found out the rebrand was just a clever campaign. On the Wild Detectives’ travel site, users could now “buy a ticket” to a global destination and receive a book based in that location. During a difficult time for small businesses, the bookstore’s savvy pivot allowed it to reach new audiences, surprise and delight its long-term visitors, and show off its personality and creativity, proving a little humor — and much ingenuity — can go a long way.
Skip the Shop Talk
Marketers for technology brands can agree: Talking tech is tricky. That’s why cybersecurity company White Ops kicked jargon to the curb and crafted a marketing repertoire that relies on the straightforward premise of humanity. Its “Keep It Human” campaign positioned the brand as an approachable leader in a challenging industry. The story reminds us that even in hyper-technical B2B verticals, sometimes the most effective approach is ditching the shop talk and highlighting the value of real human connection.
Chipotle Has Joined Your Meeting
Though virtual events and Zoom marketing may seem commonplace now (though still difficult to get right), Chipotle stood at the forefront of unpuzzling marketing in a newly-virtual world. “Chipotle Together” brought together cyber lunchtime meetups that featured celebrity guests and up to 3,000 people at a time. This first spark of pandemic marketing creativity opened the door to a new form of engagement. With the ability to connect more personally, offer exclusive promotions, and facilitate direct conversation between wide audiences, who says brands can’t continue virtual hang outs once life returns to normal?
New Year, New Spark
Digital marketers cranked up their imagination to tackle the many twists and turns of 2020. As you set your goals for the new year, take inspiration from these clever marketing moments to spark your creativity. And continue to be inspired all year long by our newsletter “The Spark” where we highlight a new creative campaign, social media moment, or spark of digital inspiration each week.