This has been the year for brands.
This year, brands have embraced their role as corporate citizens, and shown their consumers that they cared about the same issues.
We’ve seen the impact of influencers pairing with brands and the impact of branded content. More publishers are investing in branded content studios, and the results for brands are promising. According to Marketing Land, social users who interacted with branded content saw a 69 percent lift in average unaided awareness and a 51 percent lift in purchase intent.
We expect brands to continue their exploration into the evolving frontier of content marketing. According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads.
So which brands have been notable in 2017 and deserving of our coveted Whippies?
Here are the categories that we judged brands by:
- Top brands on social
- Top brands in on data
- Top Instagram brands
- Top socially-active brands
- Top newcomers
- Top legacy brands
The top brands on social:
For a household-name brand, Wendys has made some bold moves this year. The brand’s Twitter has gone where other brands might have been wary to go before, sassing competitors and followers alike.
We’ve covered Wendys clap backs on the blog, and saw that social media users were delighted by the brand’s sassiness. The tweets have gone viral throughout the year. In our analysis, we saw that the brand’s stock prices correlated with a lift following a January tweet.
It’s almost not fair to include Disney on our list, but the brand’s conglomeration of so many other great brands makes Disney noteworthy. At the heart of the House of Mouse, storytelling remains of utmost importance. The brand has grown in the past few years to acquire Marvel, Star Wars, and now 21st Century Fox, among others.
Each gave Disney access to more pre-built fanbases, passionate fans ready to engage with content around their favorite characters and stories.
The lesson for other brands here is to find ways to tell a story about their brand or work, or the stories of the individuals that their brand is impacting. Check out our overview here.
We’ve noted General Electric’s enormous growth on the blog before. GE has gone all in on content, with an 827 percent increase in its engagements from January to October. GE’s focus on making science and innovation appealing to the social media audience has done remarkably well.
By making science and tech content that’s interesting and compelling, the brand does a much better job of connecting with social media users, vs. traditional advertising methods.
This post where GE partnered with “I f*cking love science” allowed the brand to reach a new audience already interested in GE’s niche, and tie in a pop culture reference (sonic screwdrivers) that would further resonate with them.
The top brands going all-in on data:
Is it any surprise that we geeked out over the brands that show off their data?
Netflix has been defined by its ability to master its data. It launched its first original show off of a gamble on data, which proved to be highly successful.
Netflix has carried its data over to social media outreach, providing witty insights into the binge-watching masses.
The brand does a great job of engaging and answering its followers with witty comments, showing off a bit of personality. The brand also makes tongue-in-cheek jokes about its own platform, primarily the dreaded and shameful “are you still watching?” prompt.
Spotify is another brand that translates its data into quippy social media posts.
Just take a look at its “End of Year” analysis of users’ listening habits. This isn’t the first time Spotify has done something like this, but it creates a timely, interactive, and highly shareable experience.
Spotify also uses its data to stay on trend with what users care about and what music and artists are trending. There has been its seasonal videos about music trends (RIP Gingerbread Ed Sheeran), and a “fake news” examination of lyrics.
Instagram is surprisingly the top brand on its own platform. Unlike MySpace’s Tom, users aren’t automatically required to follow Instagram. Despite this, its posts have regularly driven an average of 927,155 engagements per post (for content from January 1st, 2017 – December 1st, 2017).
Top brands embracing Instagram
Speaking of Instagram, the company recently announced that there are 25 million active business accounts on its platform. So which brands do we think are creating killer content on the platform?
When we looked at the most engaged brand audiences on Instagram, there were a few surprises. Hypebeast, a contemporary streetwear brand, had the most engaged audience behind the sports leagues.
Mercedes-Benz continues to be a brand that innovates on Instagram. The luxury brand isn’t afraid to break down traditional advertising boundaries, sharing visually stunning photos from fans, using emoji and hashtags, and pairing with relatable influencers.
Luxury brands are a natural fit for Instagram’s inspirational nature, but Mercedes-Benz is undoubtedly the leader among auto brands. Take a look at the brand’s engagements for September through November 2017:
Check out our report for more on how automotive brands are winning on Instagram.
When you’re a toy brand, how do you appeal to the ones buying the toys? If you’re Barbie, you evolve with your audience. On Instagram, Barbie has become incredibly savvy to what its Millennials followers care about.
With its BarbieStyle account, the brand creates content that addresses subjects like marriage equality, gender stereotypes, and body positivity. Other posts join in on pop culture moments or partner up with Millennial influencers.
We analyzed Barbie and how similar brands are creating engaging content in our recent toy brands report.
Top newcomer brands
1. Halo Top
Through giveaways, endless enthusiasm, and a passionate fanbase, Halo Top is just a fun brand on social. The brand is also willing to admit when it makes mistakes, or #HaloFlops. This led to some of its top engaged posts this year on Facebook and Instagram.
Plus, Halo Top is willing to experiment with sometimes controversial topics, as in its partnered post with Foodbeast.
We love seeing old brands learn new tricks. MoonPie, which was started in 1917 (100 years ago, no big deal obviously), still counts as a top newcomer brand in our rankings for its sass and tongue-in-cheek posts.
MoonPie’s tweets drive thousands of retweets and likes. The brand is highly active, answering followers and often teasing them, even going meta.
Glossier came out of nowhere, starting as an online-only startup. Fanatical beauty enthusiasts on social helped the brand achieve cult status.
Using relatable memes and approaching beauty with an authentic voice, Glossier is able to really resonate with the social media audience. Plus, Glossier listens to its fanbase — it used feedback from Instagram followers to create a new moisturizer.
Paying attention to what your users care about is key. We’ve talked about how well Reebok stays ahead of the curve with its reactive storytelling newsroom.
In 2017, Reebok became even more on the money.
When Elizabeth Warren was silenced in the U.S. Senate and the subsequent phrase, “Nevertheless She Persisted” went viral, Reebok’s global newsroom quickly mobilized. The brand turned around an actual t-shirt that connected the moment to the brand.
Our data showed a spike in social media engagements for Reebok:
While traditionally viewed as risky, these moments allow brands to show consumers that they care about what they care about.
Patagonia is another brand that got involved in politics this year. When Trump signed an order that reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah by nearly 2 million acres, Patagonia made a big move.
It replaced its homepage with a banner calling out the action.
Like Reebok, the company is on-brand. It can be risky to take a political stance, but rather than alienating consumers, Patagonia is showing its aligned with what its consumers are passionate about.
It doesn’t always have to be political. Shell’s commitment to efficient and clean energy on social connects it to something bigger than the brand. Oil companies often don’t get the best rep, so this philanthropic purpose is more amenable to social media users.
According to Shell, it’s called the #makethefuture campaign, and the brand has had a few famous faces help out.
This year, Shell switched from an 80 percent focus on traditional marketing to an 85 percent focus on digital media.
Legacy top brands
We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the brands that continue to do an incredible job on social media.
1. National Geographic
NatGeo continues to be the top brand (after Instagram itself) on Instagram. Captivating followers with micro-storytelling and captivating, out-of-the-ordinary visuals, the brand is one to keep an eye on.
Do we all just secretly want to be astronauts? Psychoanalysis aside, NASA does an amazing job of getting social media excited about space. From solar eclipses to interstellar discoveries, NASA’s social content is still out of this world.
3. Red Bull
Red Bull’s pivot from brand to media powerhouse continues to be inspiring. Far beyond just a beverage brand, Red Bull has associated its name with thrill-seekers and adventurers.
Want to learn more about how to create viral content? Check out our 2018 guide.