February: The Five Greatest Things That Happened in the History of Marketing… This Month

Didn’t we just award the top five marketing moments in the history of January? Now that we are another month down (and how did that go by so fast?), let’s assess and award exactly what happened in the media, marketing and advertising worlds this month. Now, it’s time to award the most emotional, the nastiest (but perhaps genius), the most relatable, the most threatening, and the most controversial marketing and brand moments that February gave us. Let’s get started!

We saw brands, and ourselves, become more sensitive to the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

Last month, the world was shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, and seven others, due to a tragic helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. In February, however, we saw the impact that the shock and grief had on not only each of us as sensitive human beings, but on all of us as consumers of media and advertising strategies and business professionals. Takes Planters as an example. As an extension of the spoofed and sudden death of Mr. Peanut, who was shown dying in a car crash in a new commercial released in January, Planters had planned on releasing a second part of the clip, which would air his funeral, during the Super Bowl. The ironic parallels to the helicopter crash, and unfortunate timing of the release date, caused Planters to make the decision to cut its paid media spend on this commercial due to its insensitivity.

For this reason, February taught us that some of our favorite brands, such as Planters, prove that they can, and will, adapt their strategies according to unexpected events that may make viewers question the sensitivity and appropriateness of the material that they release. Planters certaintly made the right choice, and perhaps learned from the hits that its fellow big-name are haunted by as a result of insensitive or unthoughtful content released in the wake of celebrity deaths. Take bourbon company, Maker’s Mark, as an example. In the wake of Prince’s death, the brand released an image of its iconic red top turned purple, which was Prince’s signature color. Especially because Prince did not drink alcohol, controversy broke out that the company was using his death for promotional purposes only.

We saw one of our favorite fast-food brands actually try to outright disgust us with distasteful advertising (literally). 

Advertising in the fast-food industry used to mean taking measures as high as gluing the perfect amount of evenly spaced sesame seeds on a burger. When we take a look at a standard McDonald’s, Burger King or Taco Bell advertisement, vibrant and fun hues of red, purple and yellow attract our eye and, perhaps, make us want to indulge in one of their burgers. In February, however, we saw perhaps the first attempt by a fast-food giant, Burger King, to actually disgust us with moldy and gray burger advertisement.

There is, however, a hidden meaning in why Burger King would actually try to nauseate us other than simply catching our attention. The mission behind the moldy burger, however, is actually to bring attention to the fact that Burger King is in a phase of transition as it shifts away from artificial ingredients and preservatives and towards natural, real ingredients that have an organic lifecycle. It’s time to embrace our natural beauty, including the natural beauty in our… Food? I don’t know about you, but I can’t look away… As bad as I may want to. The real question is… Will viewers be able to see past the nasty imagery and consume the actual meaning and message of it?

Similarly, will we continue to see brands challenge the advertising norm, and finally improve ingredients that go into their products? Stay tuned! In the meantime, the European markets and select American markets can enjoy a Whopper free of preservatives. And if you happen to stumble into your Burger King with the hopes of indulging in one of these Whopper free preservatives, and don’t see it on the menu… Know that Burger King will have this on the menu of all of its American restaurants by the end of the year.

We celebrated Valentine’s Day… Or should we start calling it Independence Day?

Ah, February 14th. Some (taken) people love it, and some (single) people use it as a day dedicated to self-love and friendships. This month, however, not all of the new advertisements and campaigns that were released were hard on the eyes. Take Coors Light’s Valentine’s Day campaign from this year. The campaign was geared more towards those who use Valentine’s Day as a day dedicated to self-love and, in some cases, independence. What else would you want on a solo night of laying on your couch other than some sweatpants and a good show to binge on Netflix? Obviously, a dog to cuddle with and fill that empty space on your couch. Oh, and perhaps a beer. Coors Light addressed this in its Valentines Day campaign, which awarded the first 1,000 eligible smartphone users a $100 discount in adoption fees for dogs from a shelter. Smart move, Coors Light. After all, there is no love like a dog’s love. Unconditional.

Do you frequent the New York subway? If yes, maybe you saw Twitter’s “Love Twitter” Valentines Day campaign. The social media platform took a similar route in targeting those singles by plastering tweets made by real people that showcase some of
their worst date stories. We are talking stories that somehow find the time to make you cringe as you rush to make the train. This authentic, relatable campaign certainly marketed Twitter as a platform that there to support and help you vent about the good, the bad and the ugly.

We saw our favorite global brands begin to lose business over the increasing threat of Coronavirus. 

Speaking of adapting strategies according to unexpected events, or in this case, outbreaks, February marked the beginning of a halt to global businesses due to the increasing threat of Coronavirus. Among some of those effected include some of our favorites,
such as Apple, Disney, Starbucks and, of course, the airline companies. As we saw airline companies, such as Delta and American Airlines, suspend flights to and from China, we also saw Apple shut all of its stores and offices in China. As we saw Disney shut its Hong Kong and Shanghai themes parks down, we also saw Starbucks temporarily close over half of its Chinese locations. Although you may not see a “closed” sign in front of your local Starbucks or Apple store in midtown Manhattan (and hopefully you never will), the effects that these closings have on the global economy as a whole and investments became evident in February. According to a survey conducted by The American Chamber of Commerce, 87% of U.S. retailers, who also have operations in Shanghai, believe that the Coronavirus will have an impact on 2020 revenue, and 24% of U.S. retailers believe that revenue will decrease by at least 16%. The survey was conducted on February 7th.

As we saw businesses begin to second-guess the appropriateness and sensitivity of the content that they release in the wake of sudden deaths, we also saw them begin to make decisions in relation to the impact that the spread of the Coronavirus has on its supply chain and possible dependency on China. Amazon, however, is reaping the benefits due to changes in consumer shopping behavior in the U.S. as more and more people turn to the e-commerce giant to buy protection gear, such as hazmat suits. Oh, and did we mention that the hazmat suit sold out on Amazon in the beginning of February?

We got to see who finally won the bid for Forever 21. Was it Simon Property Group, Authentic Brands Group, or Brookfield Properties? 

Last September, we saw Forever 21, file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In February, however, we saw the fast-fashion giant revive itself thanks to Authentic Brands Group, who promises to keep 500 of its U.S. stores open. What’s that noise that you hear? Perhaps the shrills of young women, who are celebrating the fact that their mall will keep their local Forever 21. This call for celebration, however, is not the case in all scenarios. In February, we saw controversial debates (and no not just political debates), between those who believed Authentic Brands made the right move and those who maintain that it is a disaster. Despite these conflicting viewpoints, it is certainly clear that the Forever 21 name and property was a hot commodity as Authentic Brands Group fought to win the bidding war over Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners.

The next question is how effective the rebranding of Forever 21 by Authentic Brands Group will be. The group is already planning to leverage and expand upon its accessories lines in footwear, beauty, handbags, and jewelry. Everything but clothing, perhaps? Will Forever 21 start competing more with accessories brands, Claire’s or Icing by Claire’s? Whatever their rebranding plan is, let’s hope that they do this in a way that maintains its loyal customer base of young women and girls.

Speaking of retail, it will be interesting to see how vacant malls and their properties are transformed into becoming more “entertainment” and experiential hubs. Will your local mall add more restaurants, a movie theater, or a bowling alley?

And just like that, another monthly revelation awards ceremony is in the books. What will March bring us? We’ll just have to wait and find out.


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