The Common Thread of AdAge’s Top Performing Marketers in 2021

AdAge’s recently released 2021 Marketers of the Year awards are a treasure trove of hot marketing trends – some worth emulating, others maybe less so. The list highlights some big brands that are doing bold things, and several fads and industry trends are evident throughout. Target’s innovative use of “shop-in-shops” to partner with loyalty-driven brands like Ulta and Disney reflects the trend for brands to invest in quality shopping. “experiences” as a form of differentiation; Kraft Heinz’s repositioning away from “apologetic” messages about product attributes highlights the growth of brand campaigns that focus on high conceptual emotional benefits; and L’Oréal’s redefinition of its 50-year-old “You’re Worth It” campaign for the post-MeToo woman of the 21st century is exemplary of the reinvention of the brand’s value proposition in a time marked by change. social.

But more pervasive (and relevant) than any of these trends on AdAge’s “best of” list, there’s a common thread that’s crucial for your brand to pay attention in 2022.

The brands that led the charge in 2021 had one thing in common: inspiring authentic conversations with customers by putting real personalities at the forefront of their brand presence.

In 2022, digital conversations will be the key to conversion more than ever. Converse Digital has been ringing that bell since… well, since the beginning (which is kind of the reason we picked the name we went with). The brands that AdAge has named as having performed best over the past year all understand this reality and have taken steps to invest in building a more “human” brand persona to engage audiences. in meaningful conversations around their brand.

To be clear: this is not the same as Wendy’s Twitter personality fashion and her endless imitations. The common thread in the marketing of each of these brands is a focus on real people talking about a product or engaging with the real humans who make that product a reality – or, as the kids say of Generation Z, more “authenticity”. It turns out that the most interesting thing for people is other people, and each of the three brands we’ve highlighted below in the AdAge roundup acted on this key learning in their own way:

Three brands that successfully leverage customer engagement by personalizing their brand presence

Pinterest: In a year when social media giants like Facebook and Twitter were often in the hot seat for their role in spreading negativity online, Pinterest spent the year “reflecting on its role as a hub of inspiration and recommendation” with great effect. In particular, Pinterest cracked the code in 2021 on driving quality user engagement in their app at a time when data privacy concerns are making social media users more reluctant than ever to give up any kind of personal details. A new Pinterest innovation in 2021, “Create Your Take,” allowed celebrities like Jennifer Lopez to share Halloween costume ideas and then prompt users to pin their “take” on the costume. i.e. to create mood boards made up of instantly buyable links to real products. By inviting users into a creative and collaborative “conversation” on the app, Pinterest created a digital shopping experience that was both personal and communal: a call to action that felt more like a discussion about holiday fashion than a 15% discount voucher.

JLo’s Halloween Inspo via

NFL: Although America’s dominant sports media franchise by a significant margin, the National Football League nonetheless saw a worrying steady decline in its population of 12-24 year olds at the end of 2018 – the kind of trend that rings alarm bells over loss of relevance in a crucial market for future growth. . Over the next three years, the brand shifted its marketing to a more “helmetless” approach, putting “more emphasis on player personality” – in other words, bringing the human faces of sport to the fore. foreground. This means hiring new brand partners such as esports teams, allowing NFL players to participate in video game matches that show interest beyond football. Heavy investment in programs such as “My Cause My Cleats” has also given the NFL significant content to highlight players’ personal lives outside of football and give sports fans a real “person” to hang out with. connect, beyond a jersey number on the domain. To that end, the league has also invested in local content creators assigned to each team, who not only capture the on-field action, but off-field activity as well. All of these strategies combined allow the NFL to feature players who feel less like “players” and more like “people” — people who fans are excited to see playing football. And, by the way, fans are more excited now: the campaign reversed the trend seen in 2018, and the NFL recorded its best viewership numbers in 2021 since the 90s.

Kansas City QB Patrick Mahommes with his personalized “My Cause My Cleats” via

FaZe-Clan: The world of esports has always been interactive in its roots – by nature, the team-based gaming industry has grown largely through streaming, which is heavily forum-like in its makeup. But, breaking its “athletes” out of the gaming community into the mainstream presented a challenge. AdAge states that through their brand partnership efforts and integrating team players into other avenues beyond gaming, FaZe Clan “got really mainstream this year.” This was largely due to an intentional integrated marketing campaign to push the boundaries of what the “general public” might consider a “player” and, importantly, to invite them to participate as well. Welcoming “celebrity” players like NFL quarterback Kyler Murray or James Bond star Daniel Craig bridges the gap between the gaming community and the rest of us. The brand does not see itself as a games company but as a “youth culture company”. By rebranding people who play games as people with interests outside of video games, FaZe Clan has created a lot more interest in their gaming product. The delicate dance of putting a niche community in the spotlight the ramp pays off, in large part because the company highlights the real people behind the controllers, rather than the gaming experience itself.

FaZe Clan players with athletes Bronny James and Kyler Murray on the cover of Sports Illustrated via

007 Daniel Craig hanging out with FaZe Clan streaming via

So what about my brand?

The most exciting potential that emerges from these three examples of brands investing heavily in storytelling the most personal side of their brand story is the iterative potential for other brands. Each leveraged a different piece of their DNA to achieve the goal, but the common thread remained the same. This bodes well for a consumer trend in 2022, because it means smart brands like mine and yours can do the same, in their own way.

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