Our monthly analysis of the top brand coverage usually reveals hundreds of stories with several varying narratives, and only every so often do we uncover a theme that’s responsible for multiple brands making headlines in a big way. December proved to be that exception, with the public’s attention turning to feel-good stories to wrap up the year, specifically with Walmart leading the way, with a little help from TikTok.
In mid-December a TikTok creator’s video of an 82-year-old Walmart employee went viral, resulting in almost $100k being raised through GoFundMe, allowing the man to retire. This wasn’t the first time social media users have helped to raise funds for older workers at Walmart, but this story in particular was widely covered by publishers and easily the top recurring narrative of last month.
Out of the top 250 brand stories in December, Walmart was the second most written about brand, making headlines 29 times (12% of the total). The story about the 82-year-old employee accounted for 11 of those articles and together earned over 213k engagements.
This story has continued into early January following the TikTok that went viral on Dec 17th. There have been 669 articles published about the Walmart employee, of which Global News’ piece was the most engaged, totaling 63k engagements.
Media interest seemed to slow down after news of the TikTok initially circulated, but it picked back up from Jan 4th to Jan 9th when more local US news outlets began reporting on it, and when BBC covered the story in the UK. This resulted in the two biggest spikes in public interest of the entire time period.
Let’s look at the other brands that made headlines in December.
Tesla coverage returned to the brand itself
Tesla is often the most written about brand in terms of the number of articles that mention it, but that’s often because the brand is so consistently tied to its CEO Elon Musk, so it can be hard to identify a clear narrative in a messy pile of coverage. In December, however, we saw stories shift to being more about Tesla itself.
A story about a man who had to cancel Christmas plans because his Tesla wouldn’t charge during the freezing weather resonated the most and was written about seven times, with Fox Business having the most engaged article (43k). Whether this coverage be positive or negative, it’s still more relevant to Tesla as a brand than when it sits next to Musk in a headline for something unrelated.
More brands gain interest for feel-good stories about employees
Once again UPS has found itself among the top brand coverage, this time earning the number one spot for the most engaged article in December’s top 250 brand stories. In recent months UPS has garnered significant interest online because of human interest stories catered around their employees, and last month was no different.
Local outlet Fox 19 in Cincinnati reported on a UPS driver who returned to a home he had delivered packages to in November in order to thank them for the snacks they would leave outside for him and other delivery drivers. This was a follow up story to the viral TikTok that captured the man’s excited reaction to first seeing the snacks. The story earned more than 74k engagements.
Amazon also made headlines for news about its employees, and in this case it was due to the company’s own appreciation feature that allows customers to help delivery drivers receive an extra $5 every time they say “Alexa, thank my driver.”
This was communicated through Amazon on its website, and then covered by several publishers. Out of the 24 articles written about Amazon in December, the story about driver appreciation was responsible for six of them, totaling 113k engagements.
At the end of the day — even amidst the millions of stories published online — we can still count on people showing interest in stories that are heartwarming, show generosity, and simply feel good. What should be noted, however, is the focus specifically on employees of major companies and how they’re treated that clearly speaks volumes to the public, and brands should continue to consider how employee appreciation affects their reputation.
You can read our November edition of the top brand stories in our blog here.