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The best content marketing examples of 2020

Sophie Thompson
31st December 2020

2020 has been quite the year, hasn’t it? And as we end it at a time that frankly, couldn’t come quick enough, it’s only fair that we take a look back at some of the amazing stuff that happened among our new way of life.

Remote working became the norm for many, a presidential campaign rocked the US, and the reality of Coronavirus affected us all. In the world of marketing, brands and local businesses alike have had to adapt accordingly, and we’ve found that many brands are leaning towards more empathetic and community-driven messaging.

There’s no escaping the fact that brands also turned their attention to the current situation when it came to planning their social media content. In 2020, users were scrolling social media for an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day (thanks stay-at-home order!), so tailoring the content to those affected by it with caution was the biggest trend.

As we move into 2021 and hopefully look forward to resuming normality, let’s reflect on some of the best content marketing examples of 2020...

KFC: Chicken is back

User-generated content can be powerful. And no one proved that better this year than KFC. Their chicken is back campaign was a series set to welcome the re-opening of their drive-thru lanes following a global shut-down due to the pandemic.

During the period of time that they were closed, they collected videos and photos that KFC fans had been posting across social media of them recreating some of the iconic dishes at home while they weren’t able to go out and get them.

Then, in the run-up to the grand reopening, both the brand’s TV adverts and social media platforms were made up of those clips to get people excited for its return, with the slogan: “We’ll take it from here.” The video was super emotive and powerful tongue-in-cheek clip, and put a funny spin on the messaging about just how much we’d all missed chicken.

Burger King: The moldy whopper

Burger King have had a number of major wins throughout this year, but the biggest stand-out was definitely their moldy whopper campaign.

They’ve recently been making big shifts including introducing a vegan burger, and are now tackling the more health-conscious among us by removing all artificial flavors and preservatives from their food.

It is quite a science-y concept, however, they managed to illustrate perfectly using their key product: The Whopper.

If you go on YouTube, there are hundreds upon hundreds of videos out there on “What McDonald’s looks like after 30 days” - and usually, it’s trying to illustrate the point that the food contains so many chemicals that it doesn’t react to being left out.

Putting their own spin on this and rivalling their main competitor, Burger King decided to film their new version of the Whopper burger for 34 days. Over a very quick amount of time, you can see the burger getting moldier and moldier, which in hindsight is gross, but illustrates the point well for any sceptics about the quality of the food, and why they should choose them over McDonald’s.

It was a risky move, and it really paid off, and the original video of the decaying burger now has over 2.3million views on YouTube.

Starbucks: Every name's a story

Every coffee drinker is familiar with the process of going to Starbucks and being asked for a name to write on the cup (which usually ends up being wrong anyway!).

Having this as one of their main talking points when it comes to online conversations, Starbucks this year decided to create a marketing campaign around it, but also use it for a good cause - and in this case, it won them a pretty prestigious award.

It’s been revealed that only 0.3% of advertising contain a transgender person, and at a time when tackling diversity and equality issues is rife, Starbucks used the opportunity to center their messaging around gender identity.

In the short film, which was crowned with a Channel 4 Diversity Award, we see the heartwarming story of James, a transgender boy, using his new name in public for the first time.

The story is inspired by the real-life experiences of Starbucks customers who find their stores to be a safe place of acceptance and get to be their true selves.

We get to witness the incredible moment James tells the barista his name, and has it called out once his drink is ready - the first major step towards self-acceptance.

This campaign is so amazing because not only does it tie together real-world issues and the messaging of Starbucks, but it’s opening up topics to many new audiences and generations that may not have previously understood it.

Take a look for yourself...

The campaign had a great response across social media, with many mentioning that it was the first time they’d ever seen themselves represented by such a large company in their marketing.

Apple: #TheAtHomeSeries

Apple’s Shot On iPhone campaign has been a huge part of its marketing across social media, billboards and TV for a long time now. It’s totally made up of powerful user-generated content, using the best photos shot using only an iPhone.

However, given the current crisis with COVID-19 and lack of travel-tales readily available from users in 2020, Apple decided to give the campaign a little quarantine-friendly rebrand.

Introducing: #TheAtHomeSeries.

The concept is essentially the same, except instead of encouraging users to go out into the world and take their best shots, it was all about snapping your best photos from home, for a chance to be featured across Apple’s social media channels.

Each week, Apple released a ‘brief’ of the type of content they were looking for, and users needed to share on their own socials and hashtag #TheAtHomeSeries #ShotOniPhone to be seen. They’d then pick the best examples of content that week, and share them across their social channels.

Embedded content:

Not only was this a great way of getting a preview inside people’s lives in lockdown, but it was a smart move from Apple, taking an already well-known campaign and adapting it. It also means they don’t have to pay for their content as it’s provided entirely by their audience.

And it’s fair to say it’s a success. To this day, #ShotOniPhone has over 15 million tagged photos and videos on Instagram.

Procter & Gamble: Distance Dance

There’s one app that has taken the world by storm in 2020: TikTok. and while we spent lockdown learning dances and posting clips to the app, many brands have also jumped on the trend and created accounts.

While monetization wasn’t initially an option on the app, a major campaign that was launched (successfully) was Procter & Gamble’s Distance Dance.

TikTok is all about community, and in a year when community is needed more than ever, the consumer goods company took the opportunity and ran with it.

The platform’s biggest creator, Charli D’Amelio (103 million followers), was enlisted to help engage a younger audience, and help create what would become the Distance Dance.

The dance, set to the song “Big Up’s” is to encourage younger people to stay safe, stay home and look after each other, as the lyrics suggest: “inhale, exhale, breathe slowly”.

Procter & Gamble also vowed to donate to Feeding America for the first 3 million duet videos.

The original video of Charli’s now has over 6.7 million likes, and the videos under the hashtag #DistanceDance have had over 17.6B views collectively - proof that influencer culture is still very much alive, and this is the platform to watch for 2021.

Watch some of the dances for yourself here:

It’s safe to say that 2020’s content marketing has been handled well by brands, keeping their content tasteful, yet still tapping into the year’s events.

Next year, we can expect even more user-generated content-led campaigns, as well as the introduction of more taboo subjects in messaging in a bid to bring the risque to the mainstream. We’ve seen that dversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups is slowly becoming a large part of key brand ethics, and 2021 will be bigger than ever with brands quickly adapting to extreme situations and creating content in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Be sure to download our FREE key dates calendar to stay on top of what’s coming up.

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