2020: How "Just do it" became "Don't do it”

The year 2020 will be remembered by all of us. A large part of the population has never spend - or rather had to spend - so much time within their own walls as they did this year. On the one hand, this doubled the number of Tiktok users in Germany alone, but the amount of complex political and social conflicts also resulted in a further consolidation of the influence of search engines and social media channels as information and entertainment media.

The year 2020 will be remembered by all of us. A large part of the population has never spend - or rather had to spend - so much time within their own walls as they did this year. On the one hand, this doubled the number of Tiktok users in Germany alone, but the amount of complex political and social conflicts also resulted in a further consolidation of the influence of search engines and social media channels as information and entertainment media.  

As every year, Google recently published the most popular search terms that topped the list within individual countries and worldwide. In addition to the expected keywords "coronavirus" or "Covid-19", the world was particularly interested in social conflicts and how they can be overcome. For example, the search term "becoming anti-racist" was googled more often in 2020 than "becoming a millionaire." 

The decisive factor for this was without question the worldwide "Black Lives Matter" movement, or BLM for short. The video, in which the African-American George Floyd dies as a result of violent police action, shocked millions and also sparked discussions in Germany about police violence and everyday racism. 

This debate was long overdue, which becomes obvious when taking a look at the fourth place for the most searched 'where' question in Germany: "Where is Hanau?" Further, given the number of conflicts and disasters, such as the forest fires in Australia, last year more people than ever were interested in the profession "caregiver" and the question "How can I help?"

Social criticism as a PR tool? 

Altruism and anti-racism work sparked the interest of the world. And as usual, companies tried to integrate these social changes into their company communication. Easier said than done, as a campaign against racism must not only be based on good marketing, but on internal company conviction. Starbucks, among others, had to learn this the hard way. 

The U.S. company ordered its employees to wear badges as a sign of solidarity with the BLM movement. However, when this action resulted in criticism and threats on social media, Starbucks abruptly stopped it. A half-hearted idea ended up damaging the company's image. 

Nike went a different way: The sports brand, which already showed solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and his kneeling protests during the American national anthem in 2018, delivered a simple but impressive statement: "Just do it" became "Don't do it." Despite calls for boycotts, Nike stood by the message, asking customers to do just one thing: for once, don't close your eyes and keep your mouth shut. 

Topics with more negative political or social connotations have long been considered a no-go in communications work. However, integration can have positive effects on the brand image and the principles communicated to the outside world, provided that it is not just a spontaneous marketing decision but a message that the entire company stands behind. 

photo rights @ Aaron Fulkerson