Theme Of Most-Read Stories: Marketers Yearn For Redefined Purpose, New Ideas


I write a story every weekday for Marketing Daily, so it's easy to assume I know what our audience wants. But then, when I look back over my 10 most-read stories of the year, I'm almost always wrong.

This year, yet again, our smarty-pants readers clicked and shared in ways I didn't predict. Take brand purpose, a drum one could easily say has been beaten long enough. Yet the two most-read stories are all about purpose, especially as it reflects a company's evolving mission and willingness to reconnect with its audience in entirely new ways.

Bye-Bye, Billy Bookcase: IKEA Tests Buy-Backs, Reselling isn't just the most-read story I wrote this year. It's the best-read for all of Marketing Daily. Some of that, I'm sure, is due to the growing commitment of marketers to focus on sustainability in their own companies. And maybe a little of it is that IKEA is a beloved brand, and that bookcase was in everyone's first studio apartment.



But for all its goodwill, IKEA is also a brand that makes mountains of cheap furniture, which ultimately winds up in a landfill. Its efforts to own its role as part of the problem and become part of the solution are fascinating. That kind of change isn't easy, and it's not surprising that readers want to watch its transiton closely.

Another purpose pivot comes from my second-most read piece: “Old Navy Puts Magic (Johnson) To Work.” At first, it feels like a disconnect. Old Navy's target audience could well be the grandchildren of the 62-year-old retired basketball player.

But Magic doesn't just shoot hoops. He builds dreams. And the campaign, which focuses on his entrepreneurial know-how and positions Old Navy as a great place to launch a career, again shows how intricate a transition in purpose can be. And since this effort focuses on young people of color, disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, it strengthens Old Navy's bedrock purpose of inclusivity.

Speaking of age, readers also loved “Beauty Brand Laura Geller Invites Women To 'Get Old Together” (no. 5), about the cosmetic brand's gutsy decision to use the word "old" as a positive. Those ads star 56-year-old supermodel Paulina Porizkova, happy to have earned every bit of experience, confidence and wrinkle that's come her way.

Tom Brady, the Methuselah of the National Football League, also made my most-read list, “In New Eyewear Ad, Tom Brady Meets His Ancient Self(no. 10).

Brady, who also appeared in ads for Subway, Hertz and FTX, is a deeply polarizing figure. Yes, he is the most disliked player in the NFL. But even Joe Montana believes he's the greatest quarterback of all time, and in many places, he's the most admired. (Disclaimer: Brady is only ever referred to as the GOAT in my New England household.) I'm betting this story got so much attention because people love the idea that brands benefit when celebrities are willing to laugh at themselves.

Finally, readers are looking for new marketing ideas that go beyond a new ad campaign, finding ways to spark engagement and drive growth. Interest in stories like “Date Night? 'Shark Tank'? Lowe's Promos Get Creative (no. 6); “As Sales Sink, Wayfair Introduces New Ads, Video Commerce Content (no. 8) and “Old Spice Salutes Ancient B.O. In Netflix' The Witcher' Collab(no. 9) show that hunger for new approaches for their marketing toolkits.

The rest of the list: "First Forecasts: Holiday Spending To Increase 7+%" (no. 3); "Sorry, Chewy And Peloton: Your COVID Boom May Be Ending" (no. 4); and "Nike, Bra-less-ness, Gen Z's Undies: A Year Of Comfort And Ease"  (no. 7 -- and, in a meta touch, my top-10 story from 2020).

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