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This “roller-coaster of emotions” list will have you laughing and crying from start to finish

The year 2020 was filled with important and tough conversations that affected our daily lives. Conversations about the “new normal” and staying safe during a global pandemic took center stage. For the first time for what seems like a very long time, people came together by staying apart.

There’s no doubt that the media played an important role in shaping these conversations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, we saw a major pivot in the ways that brands were marketing to their customers, as well as the expectations of consumers. In March 2020, about 75% of consumers agreed that:

  • Brands should not exploit the pandemic for their benefit
  • They would like to be informed about what brands were doing to address COVID-19
  • They would like to know how brands could help during the pandemic
  • They preferred a positive approach to a brand’s message and didn’t rule out humor

Marketing had a different tone this year as people expected brands to take responsibility in keeping consumers informed and by giving back while staying true to their brand values. At the beginning of the crisis, we saw many marketing messages carry the same tone, “We were all jumping into the conversation at the exact same time, and so we started similar conversations” said Susan Credle, Global Chief Creative Officer at FCB Global. Towards the spring and summer months, we saw more brands taking a lighter approach to their COVID-19 messaging while remaining sensitive to the crisis.

Here we look at the 10 best digital marketing campaigns of 2020, what qualities made them the best, and what we can expect from marketing efforts in 2021.


Budweiser: Whassup Bud Commercial (Quarantine Edition)


The famous 90’s Budweiser commercial made a comeback in 2020 with a twist. The successful 1999 commercial’s audio was re-recorded to relate to their viewers in lockdown. The commercial is the same as the original except in the newly recorded audio, the actors mention that they are in quarantine. The underlying message of the video was evident in their final line “Buds support buds. Check in on yours” to encourage people to stay connected while remaining physically distanced.

Budweiser did a great job at remixing their old and successful content to relate to their modern-day viewers. The commercial was humourous, relatable, and promoted a socially responsible message while remaining on-brand.


Ikea: #StayHome


Health authorities worldwide encouraged people to stay home. In this Ikea ad, the company paid tribute to the power of homes by reminding us what homes provide and do for us. What made this campaign so powerful was 1) the emotional impact it had on its audience; 2) that it spoke directly to the viewer; 3) relatable to the worldwide human experience of staying home; 4) minimalist and easy to digest, and; 5) true to the company’s brand values.


Heineken: #SocialiseResponsibility


The beer company Heineken took a light-hearted approach in their “Connections” ad by speaking to the struggles of staying connected online. In the ad, we see people experiencing issues with connecting such as Wi-Fi connectivity problems, issues with placing devices, having unexpected guests such as pets, and more. Like millions around the world who replaced in-person meetings with virtual ones, Heineken added a spin to socializing over drinks. Their message was clear and simple, “It’s not the best get-together, but it’s the best way to get together”. What worked great for this ad was that the brand conveyed the importance of social distancing while inspiring and maintaining the notion people could still come together safely while enjoying their product.


Google: Thank You Healthcare Workers


In this emotional and powerful ad, Google shared with their audience what the world was searching for. In March of 2020 when the pandemic hit hard, Google released this emotional ad thanking healthcare workers around the world for their role in helping those affected with COVID-19. The message of this ad not only thanked healthcare workers for their sacrifice and important role but also shared that everyone can help too by staying home.

This ad was successful as it pulled the heartstrings of many by highlighting and relating to the global experience of those dealing with COVID-19. The ad is inspirational and calls for social responsibility and action, leaving viewers with a memorable take on the ad. Google not only does a great job at communicating its social values but also demonstrates the power of its search engine by providing people with the answer to their questions and helpful resources.


Expedia: Let’s Take a Trip


The travel industry was and still is one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic. In this beautifully shot 30-second ad, Expedia relates to its audience by depicting adventures within a couple’s home. The stop motion clips show a couple taking a road trip, mountain climbing, taking a dive into a pool, and receiving room service all from the comfort of their home. The ad asks viewers to “imagine the places we’ll go” once it is safe. One of the biggest reasons why this ad is successful is because it relates to the desires of people who can no longer travel, but has a fun twist that many can take part in by using their imagination.


Uber: Thanks for NOT Riding with Us


This emotional ad by Uber shows clips of people staying home, connecting with loved ones virtually, creating special moments, and having fun while remaining indoors. Instead of a hard sell, this ad does the opposite with the company thanking the public for NOT riding with Uber. The company took a social responsibility standpoint in this ad by communicating their shared value in keeping everyone safe. As many viewers expect businesses to sell their products and services, this ad was successful as the messenger unexpectedly added a slight shock-value to the ad.


Labatt Blue Light: Fake it Till We Lake It


This humorous take on enjoying the outdoors while indoors reminds people that they can still have fun while staying home. In the ad, we hear a soundtrack playing on the “fake it till I make it” notion with a humorous twist. The homemade wakeboard simulator shows that even those who enjoy outdoor activities can fake it until they make it to the outdoors by being creative indoors. This ad was successful because it pivoted towards a light-hearted approach to COVID-19 messaging that leaves viewers inspired to have fun at home.


Coca-Cola: Open Like Never Before


Everyone has their thoughts and feelings about the pandemic, and while many have jumped on the notion of “getting back to normal”, Coca-Cola shakes things up in their Open Like Never Before ad. This ad features George The Poet who takes a different perspective on the pandemic, explaining that instead of getting “back to normal” to embrace a new normal where people can be more open with each other. This positive take triggers people’s emotions and encourages viewers to reflect deep within themselves on being better.

This successful ad is minimalistic, emotional, uses powerful yet subtle cinematic techniques (such as the video moving from widescreen to fullscreen to further emphasize their message), and tells a different story that promotes thought and action among viewers.


Google: Year in Search 2020


This powerful ad highlights the global human experience of 2020, drawing on our innate need to understand “why”. This year was tough for many with more than a pandemic affecting the daily lives of people around the world. This ad from Google is highly effective as it tells a powerful story throughout that stirs emotions in its viewers. Some of the biggest reasons why this ad is effective are because it is memorable, stands for values beyond the product, and demonstrates that their product fits into people’s lives to be there to answer their need to understand “why”.


Marketing Forecast for 2021

If we’ve learned anything from marketing in 2020, we know that nothing is certain. The pandemic remains to be a global health crisis, and consumers are expecting brands to be socially responsible. We’ve already seen a shift from the sombre messaging towards a more light-hearted approach in 2020, and we think this trend will carry over to 2021 as consumers are looking for a little joy and home in the media they consume.

Communication reflects the world around us, and so some prominent marketing trends we think will happen in 2021 include:

  • Demonstrating what companies can offer to their consumers
  • More of a focus on why a product or service is helpful
  • How organizations are prioritizing the health and safety of their staff and customers
  • How organizations are giving back to the frontline and essential workers
  • What companies are doing to stop the spread of COVID-19
  • More light-hearted messaging with a focus on what can be done to improve people’s experience


Your Business Marketing Strategy for 2021

Are you looking to boost your marketing strategy in 2021? Our Digital Marketing Specialists will work with you to understand your business and create a strategy that not only communicates your brand story but puts your business in front of your target audience. At AlphaKOR, we specialize in:

Contact us today to get started on your digital marketing journey.


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