Learning from 2020’s winners.

There were some winners in 2020. Here’s some positive brand inspiration from seven:

1. Jacinda Ardern

Above all, lead on the delivery of core benefits

In 2021 New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was re-elected with the first majority government in 24 years and enjoys impressive approval ratings. She leads a diverse cabinet and has managed the Covid-19 crisis decisively with a strict lockdown strategy that aimed to eliminate Covid-19. The result has been relatively low deaths with a relatively quick return to economic growth. (GDP grew 14 per cent in the July to September quarter). Challenges remain, but in 2020 Jacinda and her team, like the most successful brands, has led by delivering on the core benefits. Not surprisingly she has gained more buyers and her nation’s repeat purchase.

2. Marcus Rashford

Win more supporters with a commitment to social purpose

Footballer Marcus Rashford earned the UK public’s admiration in 2020 with his efforts to tackle child food poverty. Rashford led a social media campaign that won a government U-turn and the extension of the Free School Meals programme to holidays. Marcus’s commitment to his social cause is inspirational and a reminder to brand owners that we increasingly choose and support those delivering greater societal benefits.

I don’t have the education of a politician, many on Twitter have made that clear today, but I have a social education having lived through this and having spent time with the families affected…These children are the future of this country… and for as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.” Marcus Rashford, 2020.

3. Kamala Harris

Inclusive communication must align with action

Kamala Harris will soon become the first woman, and the first black and Asian American, to be vice-president. It has been estimated that 87% of Black voters supported Biden/Harris – contributing significantly to their election success. 2021 will see an American government with more diverse representation at the highest levels with an agenda for increasing equality and inclusivity. Beyond government the scrutiny of the cultures and representation within companies will also increase. Brands will need to ensure that their statements and depictions of inclusivity are aligned with their company’s actions.

4. Dr Anthony Fauci

Listen to, and leverage those with expertise and influence

People turn to reliable experts and those they trust when making decisions. In 2020 persuading more people to socially distance and wear masks saved more lives and governments deployed senior medical experts prominently in press conferences and communication campaigns. In the US, despite Trump’s attacks, Dr. Anthony Fauci remains the most trusted voice for Covid-19 related action. His inoculation with the vaccine will convince more Americans than any politician that they should do the same. He is a reminder that brands must value, listen to and nurture the support of experts or trusted influencers to achieve their behaviour change objectives.

5. Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci

The best ideas will probably be from outside your business

BioNTech founders Ugur and Özlem are the innovators behind the new ‘messenger RNA’ technology that has supported the first approved Covid-19 vaccine. BioNTech is one of more than fifty companies supported by Pfizer Ventures. The connection and collaborations with these younger, smaller companies are critical to Pfizer remaining at the forefront of life science and technology developments. Pfizer’s brand growth is enabled by connecting owned advantages to external creativity.

6. Scott Z Burns

Visualise future scenarios to be disruption ready

Who is Scott Z Burns? Well, he is the screenwriter for the 2011 film “Contagion” which became one of the most streamed films of 2020 for obvious reasons. It is a film that reflects a commitment to scientific accuracy and as we have now discovered presents a very credible picture of trying to control a pandemic. The film makes it abundantly clear that we had the knowledge to see many possible impacts of a pandemic and could have been better prepared. In a fast changing world, there is a lesson here in visualising future scenarios and considering how your brand will successfully respond to disruptions.

7. Colin Huang

Consider online communities as well as individual consumers

Colin Huang stepped down as chief executive of group buying app Pinduoduo this year. Founded five years ago the business boasts 731 million active buyers and in 2020 almost trebled in market value to around $185 billion (which for reference is a lot bigger than HSBC). It has been an incredible year for the Chinese business that is yet to make a profit.

Pinduoduo may well point to a future of social selling and community buying that extends beyond China. Self-appointed community leaders create groups on apps like WeChat (China’s equivalent to WhatsApp) to enable group buying with big discounts. These community leaders (who can be local stores or residents) are emerging as influential e-commerce intermediaries. Brands might want to consider how they might deal with the possibility of groups that wield buying power, offer multiple sales and don’t visit online retailers.


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