Female world leaders and Black Lives Matter honored in Forrester’s 2020 Brand Spotlight
Female world leaders and the Black Lives Matter movement have joined TikTok, Walmart, Lululemon and White Claw as honorees in Forrester's Brand Spotlight 2020.
Forrester identified three characteristics that helped brands thrive despite the upheavals of 2020. TikTok and White Claw helped shape culture. Lululemon and Walmart made smart investments. Female leaders and the BLM movement are "brands" at the forefront of social change.
TikTok saw "astronomical" growth because of its relatability, Forrester found. Its rapid rate of adoption is attributed in part to "an immensely effective algorithm and highly relatable user-generated content"—in other words, memeability. White Claw found success by relying on user-generated content and becoming comfortable with organic conversations and less control over the message.
Walmart's investments both in dominating physical retail and developing strong online retail infrastructure including omnichannel fulfillment helped the brand stay relevant even as the pandemic hit, showing "big can be nimble" in switching to a more pickup and delivery focused world. And Lululemon's decision to move store associates into online roles to keep them employed earned the company praise. And its "focused" acquisition of Mirror produced an at-home fitness system able to sell Lululemon products--while helping both tap into a big work-from-home exercise market.
Forrester also included world female leaders and the BLM movement as part of a third category of brands that "blazed the trail for social change." The inclusions highlight a shift in power from the “proverbial smoke-filled board rooms of power and privilege” to calls from the community for diversity and inclusion. “While we commonly use “brand” as shorthand to refer to companies, named lines of businesses, and similar commercial enterprises, a brand is really about perceptions attached to any entity,” Forrester principal analyst Dipanjan Chatterjee wrote in the Dec. 8 report.
“I think we are all tired of saying unprecedented, but the shift in focus to the humanity of brand relationships with the adversity of the pandemic and the cruelty of systemic racism has been remarkable,“ Chatterjee wrote in an email. “I simply couldn’t ignore the overwhelming human impact of these non-traditional brands, and every conversation I had with brand experts only reinforced the case for inclusion.”
Female leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen reacted faster and more decisively to the pandemic than male counterparts, according to studies cited by Forrester, thereby burnishing the “brand” of female leadership.
The Black Lives Matter movement pushed more conventional brands including Citigroup and Nordstrom to be more equivocal in their support, even though Chatterjee notes the movement itself does not fit the traditional definition of a brand. “It’s a dispersed movement united by an idea, lacking uniform brand assets, centralized governance, or a brand czar to rule it all,” wrote Chatterjee. However, Forrester is seeing the "grassroots" nature of such movements as forcing companies to clearly take a stand.
These additions show the potency of communities and the need for brands to be “comfortable with weak control,” Forrester points out in its strategies for brands. “Power is shifting away from brands, but instead of dissipating, it is harnessed by communities,” wrote Chatterjee. White Claw, an alcoholic seltzer that is among the more “traditional” brands on the list, gained relevance through user-generated content rather than a more controlled, top-down approach.