The Brands the World Couldn't Stop Talking About in 2020

Last updated: 01-02-2021

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The Brands the World Couldn't Stop Talking About in 2020

It’s been quite a year.

Though that phrase is tossed around every year, in 2020, it strikes a deeper chord. These past 12 months were dominated by the coronavirus pandemic—an episode that will continue into 2021, and with it, altered plans for everything from global events to how we shop for groceries.

Still, even amid all the chatter—and this year, there was plenty—certain brands managed to stand out and rise to the top of the cultural conversation. From those who went public to those who changed how we communicate to those who stood up for racial justice, brands certainly kept things interesting in 2020.

We’re recapping the brands that did just that with Adweek’s Top 10 most buzzed about brands of 2020, below.

When looking back on 2020, there are a few cultural moments that signal the start of the pandemic—and the shutdown of the NBA season on March 11 is definitely one of them. Since then, the league has stayed in the headlines: For its “bubble” strategy that allowed teams to complete the season without any outbreaks of Covid-19, for the strike that left courts empty and saw the league promising to take greater action on social and racial justice. Part of that promise included the use of arenas as voting locations, which put the league at the center of the 2020 election, too.

May 2020 be remembered as the year consumers really, really started to care about cleanliness. When the pandemic took hold in March, consumers were similarly gripped with a desire to get their hands on disinfectant of any sort—and Clorox’s famed wipes were at the top of the list. Since then, the brand has struggled to keep the product in stock, despite ramping up production. And the Clorox seal of approval has become one of the most coveted for brand partners, leading to partnerships with United and AMC Theatres.

2020 brought nearly every event online, from weddings to conferences to everyday work meetings. And despite the competition—there are a lot of video chatting services out there, after all—Zoom emerged as the undisputed consumer choice. Zoom became so entrenched in the lives of average Americans that it went from just a platform to a verb in and of itself—how many times have you been asked “Should we Zoom?” this year?—and most of all, the default way that people communicate.

Talk about a fortuitous business model. Peloton’s approach to at-home business was already taking off in 2019—it made our list of most-talked about brands last year, too—thanks in part to a buzzy-for-the-wrong-reasons holiday spot. But this year, as gyms closed their doors, Peloton came to save the day. By September, the company had seen its sales increase by 172%. It’s ending the year on a high note, too, with the announcement it’s acquiring Precor, a competitor.

It was a good year to be an essential retailer. Both Walmart and Amazon had banner years and continued to set the standard for retail innovation. Amazon opened its first Fresh grocery store with smart shopping carts, launched prescription delivery and a hand-scanning payment option and hired 100,000 more workers to deal with pandemic demand. Walmart launched a Prime competitor, Walmart+, as well as partnering with Shopify to debut a third-party marketplace. There were bumps: Amazon faced worker walkouts after internal comments about fired employee Chris Smalls were made public, and the response to Walmart+ was lukewarm. But still, if 2020 is any indication, when it comes to retail, we’re living in Amazon and Walmart’s decade.


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