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

As January comes to a close, and likely some of those New Year resolutions that we vowed to stay committed to, let’s take some time to reflect on some of the greatest things to ever happen in the history of marketing… Or more like the history of marketing in 2020… We’ll start by awarding the top five some of the most emotional, the cutest, the most competitive, the funniest, and the most proactive marketing-related moments and campaigns that January gave us.

We Saw Brands and a Global Network Unite in Support of Australia & Its Affected Area. 

This month, Australia’s bushfire crisis showed us the power of and value in marketing a brand and running a campaign on a foundation of purpose and change. Although the Australian bushfire crisis began last summer, the fire forecast index, according to the Global Wildfire Information System, remained at an all-time high in January. As damage and fatalities grew, so did the media coverage and recognition… And so did the opportunity for brands to use their reach to make a change and to fight with positive purpose. Australia’s DDB Group, which includes clients like McDonald’s and Volkswagen Group, used their reach to fund “The Burnt Christmas Tree Campaign.” The campaign’s mission was to help people recover from disasters through the Australian Red Cross.

Upon scrolling through Instagram, you may have came across some viral pictures of plush koalas hanging, literally, around some of New York’s most iconic locations. This was the work behind a campaign called “Koalas of NYC,” which has raised $22,000 thus far and expanded its reach beyond New York and into London. New York’s network of servicemen, including firefighters and police officers, showed their support taking and spreading pictures with the plush toys to share on social media.

We Saw Baby Yoda Begin to Spread His Viral Influence Over Big Brands. 

The only photo captured of Build-a-Bear’s new plush Baby Yoda (so far).

Speaking of scrolling through Instagram, you probably found yourself falling into a rabbit hole of Baby Yoda memes that your feed is likely congested with or at least somewhat influenced by. Whether you like them or not, brands are racing to use this viral phenomenon as a new (and super adorable!) means of leverage. Who will be the first brand to win the race? While we saw only the beginning of Disney’s plan to release Baby Yoda merchandise, January gave us this answer. At the 2020 ICR Conference that took place on January 13-15th in Orlando, Build-a-Bear’s CEO, Sharon Price John, announced (after joking that Baby Yoda is trending “higher than all presidential candidates combined”) that it will be one of the first companies to release a plush of “The Child,” AKA Baby Yoda. The plush is expected to be released in in the next few months. In the meantime, we’ll just continue to fawn over his pictures and gifs.

We Became a Little More Confused (and Heated) as to Which Streaming Platform Will Win the War. 

Which is better? Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney+? Just when you thought another company wouldn’t dare enlist itself into the “streaming war” that has been taking place the past few months, think again. In January, NBC kick-started the marketing of its new streaming service, Peacock, which is set to launch on April 15. The kicker? NBC declared that the streaming service will be free (courtesy of some sponsored ads). Based on this unique pricing strategy, it’s pretty safe to say that the dynamic and intensity of competition between all of these industry leaders in this streaming war will change. In addition to marketing itself according to its cost strategy, we saw the emergence of a giant glowing peacock that invaded Rockefeller Center in January. The giant peacock was revealed at a special investors event for the streaming service. A quick switch from the Rockefeller Christmas tree to the Rockefeller… Peacock? Despite its short life, the peacock screamed photo-op and certainly got people, especially us, New Yorkers, thinking about the new competitor to some of our favorite streaming platforms.

And for all of my fellow super fans of The Office, yes, the platform will include it.

We Saw Phyllis From “The Office” Calm Angry Panera Bread Fans. 

While we are on the topic of The Office, let’s take a minute to recognize Panera’s smart and sneaky strategy for calming the anger behind the company’s decision to remove its French onion soup from its menu… And market its comeback. When Panera removed the popular soup from its menu in September, it didn’t seem to take into account the emotional effect it would have on many of their most loyal customers… Or should we calls them #1 fans? Did we mention that this item was on the menu for over twenty years? As “Panera stans” took their anger out in the form of tweets, their became a volume of comments big enough to bring the soup back, and market its comeback with the help of none other than Phyllis from The Office. In a one-minute video campaign of Phyllis Smith, in character as Phyllis Vance, the iconic Dunder Mifflin employee reads angry comments from “Panera stans” disgruntled over the removal of the soup. Comments went as far as calling the company a coward (ouch!), but Phyllis made light of the situation with this campaign and certainly got us talking.

And it worked! Whether you are a fan of Panera’s French onion soup or not, you’re thinking about it right? You’re going to watch the video now too, right?

We Saw Starbucks Make its First Real Step in Becoming More Sustainable.

In response to the backlash that Starbucks has been receiving concerning its lack of sustainable practices, including its reliance on single-use cups and little opportunity for in-store recycling, the company created a new opportunity for a “Chief Sustainability Officer” to start making change, starting in January. The position, which was filled by Michael Kobori, who served as the vice-
president of sustainability at Levi’s, will grant Starbucks more opportunity to make smarter and more eco-friendly decisions. Although Starbucks is making a big step in improving its responsibility, tangible results will take some time… And by “some” time we mean ten years. According to Starbucks’ Chief Executive, Kevin Johnson, 2030 will be the year that the coffee giant officially becomes “resource positive” by using more fresh water and storing more carbon than it releases. Until than, we’ll keep an eye out for more opportunities to recycle our beloved cups of coffee.


Now that we have awarded January’s top marketing moments, it’s time to look forward to seeing what competition, cuteness, controversy, emotion (and more) bring us in February. Tune back in to get our insight into the best marketing things to ever happen… Well, at least for next month.

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