A Year in Review: The Brand Perspective 2021

  • Marketing Team
  • BIMA
  • Jan 5, 2022

At the end of the year, it’s always good to reflect on what worked and what missed the mark as we plan for the year ahead. Last month, we convened a panel of brand marketing leaders to do just that. Read our recap below of the advice from Kay Pancheri, VP Brand Marketing at Life is Good®, Inga Stenta, Head of US Marketing at Reebok, and Yvonne Cain, SVP Group Media Director at Mediahub Worldwide on what worked in 2021, where they would like to push their digital media strategies for 2022, what areas they will be investing, and which trends they foresee.

Consumers Want to Buy from Brands That Take a Stand & Are Authentic 

The pandemic has caused an examination of what’s important and shifted the way consumers expect to interact with brands. Authenticity is more important than ever. In fact, 60% of consumers want to buy from brands that take a stand. As Kay noted: “brand purpose and values need to be lived through the brand and not just on paper for the marketing team to point to every once in a while. Consumers are more likely to call BS when marketing is done to check a values box.” Inga adds that building authentic relationships is often done through influencers and direct relationships with consumers, giving them the personalized experience they expect, even as the landscape moves away from cookies. 

As consumers yearn for optimism and positivity in this new world, doing good and making societal impacts are not just temporary trends. At Reebok, they re-launched their Human Rights Awards for the first time in over a decade to help celebrate the people making an impact in the fight against racism. Reebok is living out its brand value that “life is not a spectator sport” by taking a stand on a human movement and equal rights for all. They also launched a “Courting Greatness” campaign this past year that used mobile AR tools to create virtual basketball environments, and then rebuilt physical courts and provided footwear instead of individual product drops. This was a way to marry the story behind the product and give back to the community – letting the brand value enable a movement. Similarly, the Life is Good® brand states that if you focus on the good, more good will come, and it provides consumers with the tools to do just that. 

Customer Journeys Are Being Re-Mapped to Meet Consumer Demands 

Brands are taking a more consumer-centric approach, both in terms of playing into what consumers need at the current moment and saving them time by making it easier for them to find exactly what they want. Both Life is Good® and Reebok are using AI tools to re-map customer journeys and populate merchandise on their sites in a way that’s easier for consumers to navigate to what they want to see. Life is Good® has also shortened the window for new graphics to be introduced, from months to days, in order to quickly push out graphics that draft off current cultural trends.  

Leveraging data at every turn to determine how your brand is performing (from content to products) is critical. 

Brand Advocates and Authentic Conversations Are Worth a Lot More Than Ads 

Brands should utilize people in the community who are already advocates and understand that you do not necessarily have to use paid advertising, you just need to be consistent. Kay Pancheri describes how Patagonia is known for being a champion of societal good and avoiding waste. They authentically bring this to life in their business by replacing products for consumers and are genuine with what they offer. They don’t need to advertise; this is their brand manifesto and it is known to consumers. 

Other brands, like Spindrift, have tapped TikTok to transparently connect with consumers and play into cultural moments through on-camera conversations. For Life is Good®, leveraging the unlikely optimist (The Grinch) as an influencer for optimism was a strategy used on TikTok to showcase new product offerings. This is another way to connect with consumers in an authentic way that doesn’t feel like an advertisement. 

Geico is known for helping consumers save 15% or more on car insurance. Although they use paid advertising to get that message out, it is consistent, something that is clearly communicated, and consumers are regularly reminded of. Brands should pick “their thing.” Make sure you are clear on what makes your brand unique and that it is relevant to your growth audience. 

Brands Should Think About Their Employees as Consumers 

As brands work to navigate remote and hybrid workforces, and the difficulties that have come with the “Great Resignation,” mental health and the value of community have come to the forefront this year. As a brand, you need to consider the emotional health and wellness of your employees in the same way you consider the emotional triggers that attract consumers to your brand, ensuring that you are being transparent, honest, and delivering emotionally to your employees in 2022.

It is more important than ever, especially with remote workforces, to create opportunities for employees to feel like they are growing and understand that their value is appreciated. 

Planning a year in advance is difficult. At the end of the day, things change fast, and brands must adapt quickly. Through the pandemic, remote work, supply chain challenges, and changing consumer patterns (like an increase in “cutting the cord” with cable in favor of streaming TV services), the brands that have become nimble and flexible to adapt to changing challenges have been the ones to thrive. One thing that will never change, however, is the need to understand what consumers want, and adding value to them in the six or less seconds brands have to make an impact. 


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