2020 is a stressful mess. Now, brands are trying to capitalize on the dystopian year from hell.
- Reese's said its snarky ad campaign for its new Big Cups with Pretzels is symbolic of everyone in 2020 — "keeping it together on the outside, but we're salty on the inside."
- The candy brand joins a number of other companies that are crafting marketing based on how horrible and stressful 2020 has been.
- Other campaigns that acknowledge how bad this year is include Natural Lights' offer to build a "mobile dorm" as colleges go remote due to COVID and one of KFC's temporary slogans in the UK: "It's make you forget about 2020 good."
Everyone can agree that 2020 has been filled with stress and chaos. Now, brands are trying to capitalize on the year from hell.
This week, Reese's decided to launch its new Big Cups with Pretzels with a series of "salty" tweets.
"Yearning for the days when the world's biggest problem was that Reese's wasn't stuffed with pretzels," one reads.
"Spent the day sneering every time I heard 'the new normal' instead of 'the new Reese's.' Feeling pretty good about my time management skills," reads another.
—REESE'S (@reeses) September 21, 2020
Reese's explained that the new treat represents how people are feeling in 2020 — "keeping it together on the outside, but we're salty on the inside."
"Let's face it, we're all feeling a little bit salty this year," Ian Norton, Reese's senior director, said in a statement. "In true Reese's fashion, we channeled our feelings into sweet and salty deliciousness with new Reese's Big Cups with Pretzels."
There is plenty to feel 'salty' about in 2020
There is plenty to feel "salty" about, though perhaps a more accurate word for some would be "depressed" or "enraged."
The unemployment rate is at 8.4%, as roughly 12.6 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits. Millions of protesters have taken to the streets across America to rally against racism and police brutality since the killing of George Floyd on May 25. The US is a little over a month away from an election that President Trump has said he expects to "end up in the Supreme Court," while also refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses. More than 200,000 people in the US have died of COVID-19, and a widely available vaccine is still months away.
In March, brands were quick to update their marketing strategies to reflect the pandemic, as companies scrapped ads that showed people failing to social distance, hugging, or — in KFC's case — licking their fingers after eating fried chicken.
Many new advertisements early in the pandemic addressed the coronavirus head on. Budweiser and McDonald's were among the companies that ran ads celebrating first responders in April. But, as the pandemic stretches on, marketing has shifted to what executives call the "new normal."
Now things are just terrible in general
Brands are now building strategies that acknowledge the general hellishness of this year, without focusing specifically on the coronavirus.
The most obvious channel that brands have used to show that they "get" 2020 is social media, where companies tend to be more casual and strive towards relatability. Burger King, for example, has tweeted numerous times about how terrible and bizarre this year has been.
—Burger King (@BurgerKing) May 21, 2020
—Burger King (@BurgerKing) July 22, 2020
—Burger King (@BurgerKing) September 15, 2020
—Burger King (@BurgerKing) May 19, 2020
Other campaigns that play on how horrible 2020 is include Natural Lights' offer to build a "mobile dorm" as colleges go remote due to COVID and one of KFC's temporary slogans in the UK: "It's make you forget about 2020 good."
People's struggles are also playing into companies' strategies in more subtle ways. For example, Starbucks and Dunkin' launched their Pumpkin Spice products earlier than ever before this year. The decision seems to have been sparked in part by people's desperation for 2020 to end — or at least to have something to brighten their days as the year dragged on.
"While there is so much uncertainty heading into the fall, one thing our fans can count on is the return of pumpkin at Dunkin'," Dunkin's vice president of marketing strategy, Jill Nelson, said in a statement to USA TODAY. "We're excited to bring them one of the most anticipated flavors earlier than ever before."
Katherine Cullen, NRF's senior director of industry and consumer insights, told Business Insider that people are looking for anything that will distinguish one day from the rest. For example, Americans who plan to celebrate Halloween are spending more money on costumes, decorations, and candy than ever before, allotting more than $92 simply to break up the monotony of 2020.
"It's a way to have a little joy and share a little joy at a time when people are dealing with a lot of uncertainty," Cullen said.
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