Five Campaigns: Four Social Media Wins (and One Miss) in 2020

A roundup of ways that brands made connections on this shared medium during a most unusual year

Five Campaigns – Four Social Media Wins and One Miss in 2020 HEADER.png

In our last article on making the most of shared media, we discussed how to lean into this mediated channel of communication to spark dialogue with audiences.

On why the medium that’s often casually referred to as “social” is actually a powerful platform that’s partially owned by a brand’s audiences: “While it may be tempting to think of Shared as “social” and totally under brand control, there is a reason its categorized as Shared Media [in PESO] and not the more off-handed ‘social’ label. The first step toward leveraging Shared effectively is understanding that it’s a moderated medium.”

As a mediated, medium control platform, brands and their fans both control the conversation, together. Given the role of shared media in shaping narratives around a brand, hitting the right tone is crucial and knowing when and how to leverage your brand for something bigger helps build brand advocacy and affection. Nowhere was the vital role of shared/social media more evident than in 2020. In what was a most unusual year, we witnessed some brands launch campaigns early in the year that would require a pivot, while others tapped into national sentiment as we collectively experienced COVID.

Here is our roundup of the best four campaigns and one also-ran.

WIN: Zoom Virtual Background Contest

As we all settled into our new virtual lives, Zoom and other video conferencing services became an omnipresent part of our daily workflow. If we have to be in back-to-back virtual meetings throughout each work day, why not make those conference calls a little more fun? Social media marketing campaigns – especially one during the middle of a pandemic – have to carefully thread the needle to strike the right tone. The Zoom Virtual Background Contest was a creative way to engage with users and get them involved with the brand.

WIN: Netflix’s Wanna Talk About It? Campaign

Given that we haven’t lived through a pandemic before in our lifetimes, people across the globe were understandably stressed. Not only was the virus a scary unknown, but the impact of sheltering at home had many people navigating loneliness and anxiety. To help connect people to mental health resources, Netflix launched a celebrity-hosted Instagram Live series with real talk about mental health issues – a place to ask mental health experts questions and be among a supportive community experiencing a pandemic together.

WIN: Starbucks #WhatsYourName Campaign

In February of 2020, Starbucks launched the #WhatsYourName campaign – celebrating and welcoming every customer’s name at Starbucks. Inspired by the real-life experiences of people who were transitioning, the campaign’s only goal was to demonstrate the brand’s mission of inclusion. Requesting that users use the hashtag #WhatsYourName to post user-generated content, the brand truly embraced the shared aspect of shared media.

WIN: Airbnb’s Campaign to Support COVID-19 Responders

COVID-19 had brands across the globe wondering how to respond and how to help. The ones to successfully to live the mantra of “shift not silence” found even more meaning during these difficult days. And let’s face it: some brands were better positioned to help than others. Take Airbnb, for example. They had places to stay, but no customers, so what could they do with all those canceled reservations and empty rooms? House first-responders via free or subsidized lodging, a move that resulted in keeping business going while bringing more meaning to their brand.

MISS: The Death of Mr. Peanut (#RIPPeanut)

Why would a brand kill its beloved mascot? This one really had us scratching our heads. Mr. Peanut, the monocled top-hat wearing miniature nut has been at the heart of Planters’ advertising campaigns for more than 100 years. In seeking to go viral with stories of his death around last year’s Superbowl, the brand instead had people all across the Twitterverse asking “WHY?!” Mr. Peanut then came back to life as baby and grew up to be a modern emoji-like peanut, named Bart () Dateline: January 2021 Just as we went to publish, we were informed that Mr. Peanut has indeed announced his return. Stay tuned for more peanut news.

To learn more about the role of creative and advertising as part of a holistic brand experience or to speak to one of our industry experts, email us at or call (678) 412-6903.

Adrenaline is an experience design agency that creates and implements end-to-end branded experiences through creative and environmental design. We enhance our clients’ customer experiences across digital and physical channels, from their branding and advertising to design and technology in their spaces. After transforming an organization’s brand, Adrenaline extends it across all touchpoints — from employees to the market to in-store environments. And, we focus on serving industries that sell human experiences including financial, healthcare, sports and entertainment.

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