Year in Review: Winning ways of brands in 2019

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on December 26, 2019 Published on December 26, 2019

Which advertising campaigns stood out and why

The year is closing with a #SwitchOff campaign from a smartphone brand. Ironical? Weren’t mobile phones all about staying connected, being in touch? So why is Vivo asking its consumers to disconnect in an emotive ad starring Aamir Khan and a sweet little boy whose expressions tug at your heart?

But perhaps it’s a fitting campaign to close a year where gadgets and devices intruded that much more into our lives, hurting relationships; where social media and e-commerce sites invaded our privacy; and where streaming platforms disrupted our viewing and sleeping patterns. It’s a time and world for brands to think and do things differently, go beyond their products and put themselves in the shoes of their customers, and Vivo did that admirably.

Customer centricity

A couple of other end-of-the-year campaigns showcased the customer-centricity approach that brands are taking these days. Mondelez India’s Madbury for Cadbury campaign that asks customers to create their own chocolate also ticked the personalisation box as well as the healthy snacking approach, taking forward two of the big themes that brands pursued this year. Meanwhile, PVR’s ‘Every Seat Holds a Story’ campaign puts the spotlight on the audience that goes to watch a movie, celebrating its patrons. Earlier in the month, the film exhibition brand also announced an accessible cinema programme making a theatre going experience possible for those with disabilities, showing rare sensitivity to inclusion.


Customer obsession, focus on health and well-being, personalisation and inclusiveness were the broad approaches that paid brands dividends this year though the personalisation piece could hit a roadblock next year when the Data Protection Bill tabled in Parliament is passed.

The bold and the brave

In a high-voltage year in advertising with campaigns that polarised — remember the Surf Excel ad during Holi that ignited debates on whether brands should steer away from taking controversial stands — to untalked about issues like menopause being talked about, it was a year when brands displayed braveness. Though the jury is out on this, studies indicate that showing ideological support to a cause may help brands break through the clutter.

With people getting more opinionated and voicing their thoughts fearlessly, the tendency to align with brands that articulate a similar viewpoint may be higher. It also takes forward the purpose-led marketing story. Brands that find their purpose and deliver on it win big. However, as with everything, overdoing things — such as jumping headlong into causes that are not aligned to brand values or coming up with creative campaigns geared to win awards — would be counter-productive.

Creative effectiveness

One of the eye-catching pieces of research this year was from IPA, which sifted through award-winning campaigns at festivals like Cannes and gauged their effectiveness. Would these be able to nudge customers towards buying? The conclusion: creatively awarded campaigns are now less effective than in 24 years of data analysis and no more effective than non-awarded campaigns. However, this is also more a statement on the judging process where campaigns with short-term goals were celebrated, leading to a misuse of creativity.

In a way, the rise and rise of digital has also led to this situation as we saw campaigns that leveraged technology just for the sake of technology, creating more gimmicky campaigns than meaningful ones. And while long-term goals are what brands should strive to meet, digital does necessitate constant and short-term engagement approaches.

Capturing moments

How comfortable brands have got with digital media was evident in the way moment marketing came into its own in 2019. Social media platforms lend themselves beautifully for brands to connect and engage with customers and smart brands showcased how to leverage opportunities. Perhaps the best example was the way brands ranging from Nature’s Basket to Indigo were quick to take advantage of the Rahul Bose price of bananas at JW Marriott video tweet and quickly edge in a little plug of their own. The maturing of moment marketing was also in evidence during IPL 2019 when several brands took advantage of winning play by their ambassadors.

The shift in influence

Influencer marketing budgets continued to rise and indications are most marketers will be allocating more resources in 2020.

However, this year also saw several questions being raised about the use of influencer marketing, ranging from why a brand should use it, to the definition of an influencer.

Should it be used for brand visibility or to drive sales, should follower count or content define the choice, and which should be the platforms and mode — Instagram, Twitter, video or text? Engagement rate became the metric rather than follower counts. However, the removal of likes by Instagram now makes the measurability of star campaigners all the more difficult.

Power of videos and stories


The power of storytelling got reinforced in many ways in 2019 — not least by digital platforms introducing more ways to share stories. The fact that an audio-led platform like music streaming app Gaana added a video stories feature to help performers and record labels connect more with listeners showed how important an engagement tool this has become. This was a year when several brands, including Flipkart and Zomato, added videos to their platform. Will it lead to people spending more time on their apps?

Gen Z and more

Looking ahead to 2020, Gen Z will be the focus of marketers. And digital is the way to engage with this generation, so expect digital strategies to rev up. Streaming platforms offer a means for marketers to engage with the new generation However the rise of OTT and connected TV also presents a challenge for marketers — placement of media becomes an even more tough proposition. Advertising will have to innovate to go with the new kind of viewing experience where people binge-watch. In 2020, brands may also face obstacles in their digital marketing strategy as data protection rules come into force and respect for consumer privacy becomes a big issue.

But the bigger challenge is overcoming the trust deficit that exists. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, only one-third of consumers trust the brands they buy or use.

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Published on December 26, 2019
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