The Whippie Awards: Best Brands on social in 2019

December 31, 2019

Written by Katherine K. Ellis
Best Brands on Social in 2019
As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take a look at which brands excelled in their social strategy this year. Several brands dealt with the fallout of intense crises and we kept hearing more about making authenticity a focus in the wake of them, but looking back, there are a few brands who created great work on social and showcased their ability to connect with their audiences. Let’s dive in. 

We looked for standouts in these categories:

  • Best Brand Utilizing Data
  • Best Brand on Instagram
  • Best Brand on Twitter
  • Best Socially-conscious Brand
  • Best Legacy Brand
  • Most Inclusive Brand
  • Best Activation on a Viral Moment

Netflix: What We Watched

First up: Data. While everyone looks forward to Spotify Wrapped and Google’s year end video inevitably tugs at heartstrings, another brand used viewing data to show us what we watched this year. Netflix has been very busy in 2019, releasing on average more than one new show or movie every, single, day, on the platform. They kicked off their year end review with this video, and took to Twitter to show lists of what was the most popular by location.

They focused on shows or movies released this year and listed the top ten most streamed series or movies by genre. While many people have joked via social media that they’d never want to face the amount of minutes they lost to watching Netflix, this is a fresh way to showcase what went well for the brand this year.

Barbie: Influencer of the year

Next, we took a look at which brand was able to dial into Instagram. Mattel received nearly 2 million engagements to earned media in the span of a few days for its release of a gender neutral doll in September, and though the Barbie brand is 60 years old, its Instagram account for the household name is worth a follow.

Engagements to articles about Barbie and Mattel in 2019

Boasting 2.1 million followers (more than the official @barbie brand account’s 1.6 million) @barbiestyle is an ingenious ploy to place Barbie in situations that real life influencers create every day. It’s by no means a new account, but this year, its cultural references and incredibly timely posts land it a Whippie.

@barbiestyle's genius activation on the Art Basel banana

What makes this work so well is the direct parallel between what their audience sees and follows on Instagram. The account is tapped into photography trends, street style and whatever is trending on the platform. People who don’t even buy Barbies anymore follow the account because it looks just like the influencers whose lives they want to see. It’s a lesson in authenticity (we heard that word a lot this year) and a fresh way for the brand to stay alive in the minds of those who have aged out of buying the product.

OREO: Santa’s favorite cookie

As far as Twitter goes, food companies still reign supreme. This year OREO takes the cake with its witty responses and holiday campaign. They launched an OREO cookie kit to rival Gingerbread houses that racked up over 1.8 million engagements on social.

Engagements to OREO content in 2019

They went further on Twitter, adding Sour Patch Kids to Santa’s naughty list and coming up with alternative ways to use frosted cookies since Santa deserves OREOs, the brand proved it could keep up with Twitter trends in a genuine way.

Adidas x Parley: Save the oceans

Our socially-conscious brand pick this year produced a collaboration with Parley to save the oceans. Adidas created a shoe to not only support your running habits, but also utilized recycled plastic to create the model. While the partnership has existed since 2015, they released the evolved ALPHAEDGE 4D this year on June 8, World Oceans day. It’s imperative to espouse your brand’s values clearly, and Adidas certainly did that. With consumers caring more and more about what it means to wear or buy the products brands produce, this was a win for the company.

Adidas x Parley ALPHAEDGE 4D

Cadbury: Families Reunited

This year’s legacy brand award goes to one that’s been around for oh, just a cool 195 years. Cadbury has fully adopted a digital strategy and utilized YouTube in particular to highlight emotional stories of parents trying to reconnect with their children. With the only product placement in the 20 minute videos being a few seconds at the end promoting Cadbury’s Heroes, miniature versions of their popular chocolates, the ongoing series focuses on the connection between parent and child. The highly-produced videos focus heavily on the human element, making it feel much more about the people and familial relationships, a huge success for the brand.

Microsoft: “We all win”

As far as inclusion goes, this year’s winner made a huge impression at the Super Bowl, reminding people why video games can provide a much needed connection. Microsoft’s ad for its adaptive Xbox controller showcased kids who love video games, and were able to feel just like any other child when they play.

What made this particular commercial so successful was that the brand didn’t just pick a social issue for the sake of having one, they saw a gap in those who were able to play games and solved the problem with innovative technology available to them. Their tagline “When everyone plays, we all win” is not only an amazing sentiment that will resonate for years to come, but perfectly outlines their priority in pouring resources into this inclusive product.

Aviation Gin: The gift that doesn’t give back

Finally one of my personal favorite categories this year, activations on viral social media moments. As an incredibly risky move, there are only two ways it can go: highly celebrated, or openly mocked for being disingenuous. Luckily, our final award winner activated within days on a social media faff from another company.

Peloton’s holiday ad was absolutely ripped apart on social media for several reasons, but Twitter had a field day with the woman’s nervous faces as she for some reason filmed herself using the bike her husband gifted her. In true Ryan Reynolds form, Aviation Gin whipped up a counter commercial days later, casting the same actress, presumably divorced from the husband that forced her to workout for a year. Acclaim was swift and positive, with Aviation Gin’s engagement skyrocketing as a result.

Aviation Gin's engagements to content in 2019

A comedic activation like this one can do wonders for your earned media but what made this particular ad so incredible was its timing. Within 36 hours they had contacted the actress and filmed, cut, and edited the ad. Having a willing and open team ready to try things swiftly can have a high payoff, as we saw with Aviation Gin. Cheers to more innovation and quick thinking in 2020.

Looking ahead

Taking a page out of the 2019 winners’ books, we can see that authenticity, human connection and innovation for social causes are taking center stage for companies new and old. Whether it’s trying new platforms for campaigns or rethinking your content strategy, a new decade is the perfect time to revamp your thinking.

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Katherine K. Ellis

Katherine is a Content Strategist for NewsWhip working at the confluence of journalism and marketing.

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