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18 January 2021 / Opinion

Why brands who supercharge positivity will win in 2021

Sally Rushton / Director of Strategy and Planning

Blue Monday, characterised as the most depressing day of the year, seems to have lasted the entirety of 2020.  So, people have looked to their favourite brands to provide some much-needed positivity.  

In December we reflected on 21 positive things to take into the New Year, from home working and achieving a better life balance, to celebrating key workers. Yet, according to the latest data from McKinsey & Company, ongoing disruption and levels of pessimism are said to be at their highest point since the pandemic began. If that’s the case, do brands have a social responsibility to lead with inspirational, light-hearted and supportive content?

If brands truly want to make a positive impact on people, culture and society, then surely now, more than ever, “supercharging positivity” by spreading good news and supporting progressive changes in society should be a priority. So how can brands create positive change and make a credible and authentic contribution in these challenging times?

We look at what lessons can be learnt from the brands sharing, discussing and inspiring positivity to inform action in 2021.



The Top Doggs


Launching a feel-good campaign in the early days of the pandemic may have been risky move, but it was expertly done by Just Eat. The online food delivery service brought in rapper Snoop Dogg to create a fun remix of their original jingle. The key to their success was reading the public mood, tracking external events and using live customer research data as a critical sensor. In the end, they held off releasing the ad for 5 weeks and waited until the nation was in the mood for food. The results? Delivery orders in the UK grew by 387% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. The proof of the pudding is in the just eating.

No platform has managed to engage, uplift and win over the masses quite like TikTok. With 1 billion active monthly users and over 2.6 billion downloads worldwide, the meteoric rise of TikTok is a result of the raw, high-energy and carefree spirit of its creator community. Lead by a generation who are empowered to express themselves, TikTok offers the antithesis of what some believe social media has turned into – a daily source of pressure and insecurity for many people. As the rise of doomscrolling continues, TikTok has found a way to provide a much-needed breath of fresh air in the social media landscape.



TikTok isn’t the only brand swiping away the concept of doomscrolling. Inspired by Iceland, an Icelandic tourism site, unearthed that the average person scrolls through 22.7 metres of negative news on social media every day. They launched ‘Joyscrolling’ - an interactive website that encourages scrolling through the same amount of positive content including joy-inspiring Icelandic sights and sounds. The brand offers users a form of escapism away from the detrimental effect can have on our mental health, while reminding us of the possibilities waiting for us on the other side of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the saints at Leon food are campaigning to raise £1,000,000 for NHS Trusts to get hot, healthy meals to NHS teams on the front line. The FeedNHS movement raised £150,000 within the first four hours of launch. Leon has formed coalitions with restaurants such as Tortilla, Dishoom and Wasabi to help serve up the meals. The platform highlights the power of collaboration and rising above competitive interests to make a tangible difference in society. With 70% of consumers saying it’s important for brands to take a stand on social issues, Leon has truly chosen action over empty statements.



A little light relief goes a long way


During lockdown, KFC adopted a fun and light-hearted tone of voice by challenging fans to stay at home and recreate their iconic meals. The brand then took to Twitter with the hashtag #RateMyKFC to critique fans’ recreations. Living up to its claim as being more ‘Ramsey than Berry’, KFC successfully created side-splitting belly laughs and escapism through social media. In total the #RateMyKFC campaign garnered hundreds of tweets and an engagement rate of 101% among its followers; highlighting the brand's ability to engage, even when restaurants are closed.



With the boom of memes, Spotify’s Everywhere campaign uses the ‘Me, Also Me’ format to showcase how the streaming platform can provide “music for every mood”, including going through a breakup or finishing the housework. The feel-good out-of-home campaign took the internet by storm, with Spotify connecting with their audience through a language they speak every single day.


We can’t talk feel-good and not mention the recent success of Ocean Spray’s viral TikTok video. Featuring potato farmer Nathan Apodaca’s “carefree embrace of life”, he blissfully skateboarded to work whilst sipping his Ocean Spray beverage, singing along to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ after his truck broke down. The video resonated with more than 24.3 million viewers and resulted in Ocean Spray customer sales soaring. Ocean Spray employees and other TikTokkers followed suit by uploading remakes of his video and gifted Apodaca with a new truck. Proof that leveraging user-generated content can be one of the most authentic, relevant and trustworthy ways to promote positive brand associations and product messaging.



The takeout for 2021

With the events of 2020 inciting a new wave of brand activism and heightened consumer social and environmental consciousness, will we see a growing customer expectation in 2021 for brands to be a source of positivity? Brands have a prime opportunity to shine a little light during these dark times and as we’ve seen, this can manifest in many different and creative ways, from celebrating positive mindsets, to elevating authentic societal contributions and engaging in topical conversations to simply put a smile on our faces.

So come on mood lifters, give it your best shot – fortune favours the optimists!