10 Marketers Who Guided Their Brands With Resilience and Ingenuity When It Mattered Most

Adweek’s 2021 Brand Genius honorees include leaders from Petco and Peloton to TikTok and Roblox

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Even with the post-9/11 recession and 2008’s economic meltdown in the rearview mirror, few economic calamities matched the speed and dread that accompanied the coronavirus. Last year, as service-sector businesses shuttered and layoffs spread like brushfire, America’s GDP took a nauseating tumble of 3.5%. The first half of this year saw a rebound in consumer spending, but not until multiple quarters of profit had vanished into the ether. The last 18 months, in other words, were hardly the sort of period most brands (unless they’re Amazon) would have viewed as an opportunity. And yet, time and again, marketers have proven that few things can foster resilience and creativity quite like a crisis. In this section, you’ll meet 10 of them who proved it. They’re the 2021 recipients of Adweek’s Brand Genius awards—our annual spotlight, now into its third decade, on the best work in marketing and brand-building. Adweek’s editors are also pleased to recognize this year’s Brand Visionary, the award inaugurated in 2012 to recognize a career’s worth of entrepreneurial achievement. Chief content officer Lisa Granatstein flew to L.A. to sit down with the inimitable Jennifer Lopez to talk about her oft-overlooked business ventures away from the camera and the microphone. With this issue, then, Adweek salutes its entire Brand Genius class of 2021, and looks to better times ahead. —Robert Klara

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This story first appeared in the Sept. 20, 2021, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.