Most Meaningful: Looking Back at 2019
Peter Panda | Director of Animal Stuff

There is a continuum of unique issues, scandals, campaigns technological advances and more that impact branding, social media, public relations, overall reputation and marketing communications.

Whether it’s the remaking of a brand as Wieden + Kennedy did with Old Spice, the impact of the Facebook + Cambridge Analytica scandal on data collection and privacy, the technological impact of Facebook live streaming, addressing health crisis’ through marketing – the list is seemingly endless and dovetails with everyday life.

Each year there are countless new opportunities to learn from these advances or challenges, and here – in no particular order – is a collection of ones cited by Elasticity’s team as ones they found Most Meaningful.

  • Culture wars: The acceleration of the culture wars has continued to foment division, driving creative, campaign choices and inevitable social media push back such as in the cases of Gillette and Nike.
  • Artificial intelligence: AI is reshaping marketing as we know it. Generally used for leveraging technology to improve the customer journey, it can also be used to boost the return on investment of marketing campaigns by using big data analytics, machine learning and other processes to gain insight into target audiences. With these insights, you can create more effective customer touch points, and whether you’re engaging in email marketing or providing customer support, AI eliminates much of the guesswork involved in customer interactions.
  • Streaming: This has been the year online streaming began to snowball into something entirely different. As huge brands like Apple, Disney and Google launched efforts to provide niche content, the market around that content and advertising for it continues to get further fragmented. We’ve seen the social networks become self-selecting echo chambers of ideas and issues and it seems that the rest of what used to be mass media is doing the same. I’ll venture that we’ll look back in 2029 and marvel at just how close we come to those sci-fi movies that are able to show specific marketing content in public places that use your name and are, like a carefully curated Facebook feed or Netflix queue, based completely upon your previously viewed content, interests and algorithms. .
  • The opioid crisis: Beyond the veracity and dire seriousness of the opioid crisis, the State of South Dakota’s “Meth, We’re On It,” campaign was perhaps the most talked-about marketing effort of 2019. And yet, while it was talked about for all the wrong reasons – as consumers and advertising media broadly lampooned it – it sparked deeper, important conversations about the growing crisis and what’s needed to address it.

  • Transparency: The transparency efforts by social media platforms – particularly for political campaigns or organizations – has made our lives very difficult and the rollout has been very clunky. However, the platforms’ efforts in working to tame the wild west of social media and take responsibility for the influence their platforms wield to the world, has been a noble service to users.
  • Truth + Facebook: Yes, social media platforms have done a great deal to address transparency. However, the conversation about Facebook’s role in checking the veracity of ads – specifically political – has been extremely important.  If Facebook is going to censor content, why is it not holding political ads to the same standard?  Where do they draw the line as to what they will and will not restrict?  Doesn’t this essentially encourage using any means necessary – including lies – to win an election? Indeed it does.
  • Baby Yoda: It’s easy to laugh at Baby Yoda from “The Mandalorian,” but the character and social impact is worth a deeper dive. Baby Yoda’s character, its attributes associated and how the general public is using the character are all indicative of how people on social media communicate with one another. Less focus is being placed on how meaningful the content you create is, and more focus is shifted into “now how can I say this in a meme?” It stems from how tense the current social media landscape as political content divides opinions and makes social media usage an emotionally draining experience. More people are looking for ways to not only create escapist content to distract from all of the heavier subject matter, but also look for ways that unify audiences, rather than focusing on the other issues that are more intensely dividing people. Baby Yoda is the Alliance’s one last hope. Very full circle.
  • Erosion of trust in the media: Majority of Americans no longer trust the media to be truthful, and this is close to an all-time low. You can bet that the next all-time low will occur in 2020, as it seems to drop each election cycle. On one side, Trump is seen as the boogie man, and on the other, the media have dug this hole themselves.
  • Netflix + Twitter: Large and small brands alike jumped on an opportunity to gain exposure from engaging with Netflix through Twitter, creating tremendous buzz for each brand that engaged in the Twitter thread. If you were previously unknown but responded on the thread with something funny, then you probably gained a larger following. Yet another example of the impact of virality in social media and the impact it can have on brands.

  • Sports + movements: Whether you agree with the politics of it or not, the manner in which sports celebrities – in particular, Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe – have driven movements. Each case has demonstrated evidence that the connectivity between brands and movements can enhance relevance and drive behaviors in today’s digital landscape.
  • The furthering of ADHD culture: This one had to come last, just to ensure you were still paying attention. But technology is continuing the thin our collective ability to pay attention – to anything – and as a result we are having to become more minimalistic, shorten videos, reduce the complexity of infographics and be more direct in our online and offline communications between brands and audiences.
  • The Crüe: The announcement of the Mötley Crüe reunion tour is like their third farewell tour. Sadly, well, sad.

It was an eventful year and these are a small sampling of the issues, advances and challenges cited by our team from 2019. What did you see in the past year that caught your eye?

Peter Panda
Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist. In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time. With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.
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