The 2020 Brands Hot List: The Companies and People That Boldly Stood Out in a Trying Year

Clorox, Airbnb and even Steak-umm made waves during the pandemic

AirBnb, Clorox and Steak-umm are winners in our new Hot List brands category. Airbnb, Clorox, Steak-umm

For the past several years, the Hot List winners have been divided into three sections: television, publishing and digital. But this tumultuous year called for an expanded approach, so we’ve added a fourth section to this year’s Hot List lineup: brands. Despite Covid-19’s challenges, these inaugural brand honorees have managed to boldly distinguish themselves in the most trying of times, whether through social media, podcasts, content strategies or performance marketing.


Brand of the Year

Clorox

Courtesy of Clorox

One million. That’s how many canisters of disinfecting wipes Clorox manufactures each day. Yet, that still isn’t enough as demand for the product has leaped 500% since the pandemic, making them difficult to find, even several months later. But throughout the coronavirus crisis, the brand has enhanced its stellar reputation as a germ killer through new partnerships with AMC Theatres, the NBA, Uber, United Airlines and the WNBA. In June, The Harris Poll revealed that U.S. consumers named Clorox one of the most essential companies during the pandemic. —Paul Hiebert


Hottest Brand Podcast

Robinhood’s Snacks Daily

The Robinhood finance app has made the world of stocks more accessible with its commission-free investing. Its podcast, Snacks Daily, furthers that mission by breaking down three of the day’s most-talked-about business stories in a bite-size format. True to its name, the episodes are just 15 minutes each. Listeners are embracing the snackable content, with 2 million tuning in monthly. The podcast is just one element of Robinhood’s Snacks franchise, which includes a newsletter and, coming soon, a video series. —Diana Pearl


Hottest Brand on Social

Steak-umm

In the pandemic’s earliest days, when confusion and panic reigned, an unlikely voice of reason and calm emerged: Steak-umm’s Twitter account. The frozen steak brand stepped out of the grocery store—way out—and began tweeting about more serious topics, such as misinformation, media literacy and the importance of due diligence when it comes to data. And the content resonated. Steak-umm’s initial thread received over 5 million organic impressions within a few days. —D.P.


Hottest Content Marketer

Alex Lewis, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Courtesy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

In nearly two years, Lewis has helped grow a vibrant team as Jeni’s social media specialist, keeping the ice cream company’s social feeds full of wit and storytelling (including an appealing photo essay explaining the origin of its Pluto Bleu flavor) to keep fans active and engaged. All the while, he’s maintained a distinct personality online befitting the Columbus, Ohio-based brand. —Sara Jerde


Hottest Content Strategy

Airbnb

Courtesy of Airbnb

Airbnb wasn’t unscathed by Covid-19’s brutal blow to the travel industry, but the short-term rental company—whose market the brand dominates—bounced back quicker than its competitors in the hospitality industry. The short-term rental market saw bookings jump 22% in June. Alongside a partnership with the National Park Foundation, Airbnb (which still intends to go public this year) continued to roll out the weird, once-in-a-lifetime stunts that grab headlines, offering users a shot at spending a night in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s mansion or a literal trip to Hell (a Halloween-inspired home in the Michigan town). —Ryan Barwick


Hottest Social Media Marketer

Adrian Molina, Aviation Gin

Teresa deWilde

While Ryan Reynolds might be the face of Aviation Gin, which he bought in 2018 and sold this year to Diageo, the brand’s online voice is Molina’s. The savvy marketer behind Aviation’s social media accounts has been with the spirit’s parent company, Davos Brands, for more than a decade but has flourished into an industry icon over the past year. To Molina, good content strategy requires patience and constant adaptation: “Innovating comes from listening, knowing your brand and changing perspective from what a competitor or your team may have done in the past.” —David Griner

This story first appeared in the Oct. 26, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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