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2020 has been a year none of us could have predicted. It has been a year of turbulence, but also a year filled with moments that we will remember forever. Which brands have thrived and which have had to learn some lessons from communication and branding?

Companies have shone the spotlight on how they have handled the events of this year. Those who prioritized the health of staff and customers were praised, those who delayed the action had to hurry to change their message to avoid a media storm.

Do you remember March? When companies started to close their doors, a smart person created a crowdsourcing spreadsheet who named, humiliated and praised companies that were responding well, and not so well, to government lockdown orders. It should be noted that the comments are alleged and not verified, as many comments were from workers. It’s also now obsolete – the likes of H&M have been ashamed to keep stores open but quickly closed, for example.

Still, it’s not difficult to do your own research and find out which brands have thrived and which ones have had to improve their reputation this year.

Which companies have been successful and which have learned a lot of lessons in 2020?

Drum roll please …

Winner: Burger King

The fast food giant’s handling has been my favorite in 2020, and not just because I love their chili bites.

We’re all working hard to help small businesses this year, and that includes the Whopper Company. Burger King has made the difficult decision to temporarily close all 517 restaurants in the UK and Northern Ireland until it comes up with a plan to safely reopen for delivery and take out. However, it wasn’t its quick shutdown that led it to win my list of the best brands of 2020 – it’s the publicity.

Helping small businesses is something we’ve all tried to do this year, and conglomerates are often ashamed of dominating the food and beverage industry. So, in November, when the second lockdown was announced, Burger King shocked consumers by telling customers to order from McDonald’s – it’s the arch enemy and its rival. And recently, before Christmas, he promoted independent restaurants to Level 3, naming various restaurants that customers might not have heard of.

It’s a fantastic way to use your power, and it won’t go against Burger King – the brand awareness, anyone?

Credit: Burger King

Loser: Sports Direct

It’s hard for a company to get all the press dominance, but Sports Direct pulled it off in March. It initially announced it would remain open during the first nationwide lockdown in March, saying it was an essential store – despite selling online.

When it finally closed thanks to increasing pressure from staff and customers, it then increased the prices of the items on its website by almost double. This led to company boss Mike Ashley apologizing for his actions after being called in by Cabinet Minister Michael Gove.

Winner: Royal Mail

In what has been a crazy year for the postal service, we have to commend the Royal Mail for continuing to operate as normally (as possible) in 2020.

But one of the other notable events of the year was the Black Lives Matter protests in the UK, which took place a few months before Black History Month. In October, four Royal Mail letterboxes were painted black to honor black Britons, such as Lenny Henry and footballer Walter Tull, who was also the first black officer in the army to command troops in a regular unit .

Some brands have struggled with their Black Lives Matter messaging, but we really liked the touch of Royal Mail.

Credit: BBC

Loser: government

From the cyber skills retraining program that was heralded with the infamous «  Fatima  » commercial that sparked hundreds of memes in reaction, to the argument and subsequent flipping of A-grade ratings in August, the strategy of British government communication has often felt very deaf.

The start of the pandemic started with the simple and easy to follow message ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’. But then it started to get complicated. So many times this year the government has been criticized for its unclear messages – “get out, but don’t get out” – anyone? In fact, it’s a great lesson for all of us about the importance of a clear message.

Credit: Gov.uk

Winner: Marcus Rashford

Finishing the year as Marcus Rashford, MBE, the 23-year-old Manchester United footballer has had quite a year. In early 2020, he set out to tackle food poverty among schoolchildren, using Twitter as his primary means of communication. And boy, it worked – his open letter to MPs on June 15 asking MPs to reinstate the food stamp program during the summer recess worked.

His down-to-earth posts and the retweet of all the small businesses helping feed the kids this October semester saw him become the poster boy to end child poverty, ending the year with the special award from the expert panel to sports personality of the year.

Credit: Manchester United

Loser: Oh Polly

Oh, Polly. In April, the fashion company launched a competition for frontline workers. However, one of the prizes was the chance to participate in a “virtual cocktail party” while wearing one of her new outfits.

The winner was working a 12 hour shift that day, so he was unable to attend the party. When she asked if she could have the dress anyway, according to her award, Oh Polly told her, “Sadly the price was to join our group, so sorry you couldn’t join us baby and we hope that you can join us in other competitions.

Unsurprisingly, Oh Polly apologized for the misunderstanding, after the tweet complaining about the competition went viral on Twitter, with more than 50,000 likes. Lesson? Gifts for key workers are a great idea, but make sure they can at least accept the price!

Winner: Brewdog

It seems strange to me to include a company which recorded a loss of £ 8.1million in September, due to the pandemic. Still, Brewdog has had a corker from a marketing campaign. It closed all of its pubs in March, but instead of using its distilleries to sit empty, it reduced its beer production to use this area to produce free hand sanitizer for hospitals and charities. local.

He also created a new beer – aptly named Lockdown lager, and hosted a series of ‘virtual pubs’ for people to log on for online tasting sessions and pub quizzes, to get a feel for life. pub from their living room. And when the company had to lay off 4% of its staff, the two co-founders gave up their entire salary for 2020, and the COO took a 50% a pay cut to pay for the voluntary dismissal process.

Credit: Brewdog

Loser: Philip Green

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Empire was forced to issue an apology in September, after making the decision to pay just 300 people who were fired from their jobs at head office. Of course, when the decision went to the press after the Unite union threatened legal action, the company said it had a bad decision and the board changed the policy to ensure that all employees receive their full salary.

Later that year, Arcadia fell into administration, raising concerns that some members will at least lose ten% future pension payments after the news. What does this have to do with communications? Well, as a retail analyst said last year, « There has been an avalanche of bad publicity around Green » for years, and he has been accused of harassment and racial abuse. in a report published in The telegraph. These claims started to tarnish the brand, which COVID-19 inevitably made worse.

Winner: Google

Promise, we’re not biased … but Google created a COVID-19 fund that allowed its temporary staff and suppliers to take paid sick leave if they needed to come back in March.

In recognition of also struggling SMEs, the company has given its small and medium-sized businesses a total of $ 340 million in advertising credits, through the end of 2020, which can be used for future advertising spending.

We won’t mention the great Google Blackout December 14 …

Looking forward to

It’s been a crazy year, and even for those who have failed at communication at times, it’s still a learning curve. I firmly believe that failure is only a bad thing if you repeat the same failure twice, who knows what 2021 has in store for us, but I hope brands have learned that simple and clear communication is the key. key. This year more than ever, we appreciate brands that treat their employees well, because the way they treat their health can have a ripple effect on the rest of the audience. And remember, if you treat your employees badly, it’s only a matter of hours before it hits the press.

If you need help with your digital PR, please do not hesitate to contact us.


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