Sara Nettesheim
Sara is a Consumer Insights Analyst at Mintel, with a focus on producing social media research and infographics for reports.

Mintel is taking a look back at social media in 2020, with a focus on platform overview, noteworthy campaigns and brand initiatives, and platforms to watch in a three-part series.

Users and brands replaced in-person connections with digital experiences like interactive livestreams and virtual consultations. Here, we take a look at brand activations that stole the spotlight amid a global pandemic.

Planters causes a social media frenzy with Super Bowl ad…

Planters captured consumers’ attention with its Super Bowl LIV ad, which killed off the brand’s mascot Mr. Peanut only for him to be reborn as Baby Nut.

When combined, the brand’s easy-to-use hashtags for the campaign were used more than any other branded hashtags created for the Super Bowl. And by giving users a new hashtag (#BabyNut) when the ad aired, the brand ensured the conversation would continue.

Planters was ready for the conversations that ensued, effectively tapping into Twitter culture by replying to users and brands in its signature brand voice and utilizing memes. The brand earned engagement rates of over 300% with its efforts.

Digital assistance during COVID-19

Brands and social platforms used various digital tools to provide users with inspiration and connection during a time filled with uncertainty and isolation.

As parents around the country were faced with continuing their children’s education, YouTube launched its Learn@Home channel to provide users with supplementary educational resources.

Apéritif brand Haus used video conferencing platform Zoom and Instagram Live to host virtual happy hours for consumers looking for social connection while self-quarantining.

After seeing an all-time high in terms of platform activity due to socially isolated consumers, Pinterest debuted its new Today tab, which provided daily, curated inspiration to users looking to stay occupied at home.

L’Oréal Paris enlisted Eva Longoria to create at-home hair coloring content

L’Oréal Paris utilized one of its top assets, ambassador Eva Longoria, to show consumers how easy the brand’s at-home hair dye products are to use. In a move that felt relatable and authentic, Longoria shot and posted her own hair dyeing experience on her IGTV. Online mentions of L’Oréal Paris and hair coloring increased by 111% in the days following.

Though Longoria is a celebrity ambassador for L’Oréal Paris, the decision by the brand to utilize content created at home became more popular as social isolation continued. An increasing number of brands called upon their followers to submit user-generated content (UGC) as a way to source new content. Maternity brand Storq reached out to its Instagram community to participate in a virtual photoshoot for the launch of a new product.

Brands turned to gameplay with Animal Crossing

Source: Tatcha

After setting a digital sales record in its first quarter, Nintendo‘s Animal Crossing: New Horizons became the go-to game for consumers stuck at home. And with players of all ages, the game transformed into an unlikely conduit for brands to connect with consumers virtually. From fashion brands showing off their designs to virtual tourist destinations, a wide array of businesses turned to the game as a way to engage with consumers, debut new products, and spread brand awareness. Tatcha launched its new cleanser by creating its own Animal Crossing island and co-branded Alo Yoga virtual merchandise for players’ characters to sport within the game.

Brands team up to face COVID-19

Bumble + Airbnb
To help single consumers looking for love during the pandemic, Bumble and Airbnb joined forces to release a collection of online experiences meant to spice up the virtual dating experience.

Impossible Foods + Yelp
To help local diners regain their footing from the detrimental effects of quarantine, Impossible Foods exclusively debuted its latest product, Impossible Sausage, at the top 30 diners in America according to Yelp.

REI + West Elm
As consumers turned to the outdoors for safe socialization, REI and West Elm collaborated on a line of products designed to facilitate outdoor experiences in the backyard and beyond.

Dos Equis gains favor with socially distanced “Seis-Foot Cooler”

Source: Dos Equis

With consumers anxious both to enjoy summer and stay safe during the pandemic, Dos Equis created the “Seis-Foot Cooler,” a six-foot-long cooler designed to keep consumers socially distanced while enjoying a beer.

Fans flock to interactive TikTok experience by The Weeknd

The Weeknd partnered with TikTok to create a live, interactive broadcast dedicated to his latest album, After Hours. The Weeknd Experience featured performances by digital avatars of the artist and musical guest Doja Cat, and viewers had the ability to dictate the theme of the eye-catching XR environment via comments during the broadcast. Deemed a huge success by TikTok, the hashtag #TheWeekndEXP achieved 29.3k mentions and 20m engagements (likes, comments, shares) on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter between the initial airing of the experience on August 7 and rebroadcasts through August 10.

Brands prioritize the election

Source: American Eagle

American Eagle
American Eagle‘s partnership with HeadCount included voting information, social media shareables, and Instagram-friendly, customizable t-shirts.

Old Navy
In a partnership with Civic Alliance and Power the Polls, Old Navy compensated its employees who served as poll workers on Election Day with eight hours of pay.

As the election dominated media coverage, Mattel joined forces with She Should Run and debuted President and Vice President Barbie dolls to inspire young girls.

Check out ‘Platforms to watch’ in part three of this series!