Monday, January 1, 2024

Top Ten Marketing Highlights of 2023

With 2023 now history, it's time for my annual “Top 10” marketing highlights post – incredible that this is my 14th post featuring annual marketing highlights.

What do you remember from the 2023 marketing reel? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will go down in history that was as memorable as Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad? Without further ado, let’s get to it!

With a nod and thank you to David Letterman for the format, here's my list:

NUMBER 10: During 2023, the Twitter brand continued to evolve under the ownership of Elon Musk, and in July, the transformation was the name to a single letter, X. Also, users no longer tweeted, but instead, posted. How can the new name be effective as a single letter? Will this Twitter/X name change become a timeless branding case study for marketing students like "Intel Inside" was? Unfortunately, for Musk, most media professionals constantly referred to the platform as "X, formerly Twitter."

NUMBER 9: In March, the annual Academy Awards took place, but the buzz was not about the awards, but instead, a famous part of the event preceding the show where the celebrities show off their fashion. Instead of a red carpet, a different color carpet was installed outside The Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. According to ABC7, "For the first time in six decades, Hollywood's biggest night is not rolling out the red carpet. The celebrated carpet will be a champagne color. We chose this beautiful sienna saffron color that evokes the sunset, because this is the sunset before the golden hour." I guess we cannot refer to the pre-event festivities as "walking the red carpet" anymore.

While stamps featuring King Charles III's face are now officially on sale to the British public, the new stamps feature a significant break from the past: None of the stamps include a crown. According to royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams, "His preference for a simple image is more contemporary. The Queen wore a diadem and the image of her was internationally recognized. In a different age, the King has wisely chosen a more human image." Even King Charles thinks about personal branding and his image. (April)

NUMBER 7: Promoted as Amazon's philanthropic arm and also a significant sub-brand, AmazonSmile launched in 2013 and was a way for users to donate a portion of their sales toward their favorite charities. The appealing tagline read: "You shop. Amazon gives. Support your favorite charity every time you shop." According to CNN, "Amazon will shut down its SMILE charity donation program on February 20, 2023, as the company cuts costs and rethinks its strategy. AmazonSmile donated a small percentage of sales made on eligible purchases to a charity that shoppers chose. In total, $500 million has been donated since the 2013 launch." Will you miss this easy way to donate to your favorite charity? I definitely will. (January)

NUMBER 6: Museums are now re-branding ancient Egyptian remains. According to CNN, "They are among the most popular exhibits in museums worldwide, with a name so resonant, that blockbuster films have been built on it. But some museums in Britain are now using words other than 'mummy' to describe their displays of ancient Egyptian human remains. Instead, they are adopting terms such as "mummified person" or the individual's name to emphasize that they were one living people." Who says words and language don't have power? (January)

In April, the barcode turned 50. According to CNN, "The barcode, the rectangle of thick and thin parallel lines seen on nearly every grocery product, package, piece of luggage, and prescription bottle is turning 50 years old. Since its inception, the Universal Product Code (UPC) has become the most prevalent tracking tool for products around the world. Billions of items are scanned everyday around the world, and the laser-powered technology behind UPC's has changed the retail industry in particular." The birthdate of the barcode is celebrated on April 3, 1973, because that was the day that the IBM version created by senior engineer George Laurer was approved as the industry standard. Laurer received no royalties. The first item scanned with a barcode was a package of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum for $1.39. Years later, the Smithsonian added a replica of the gum to its exhibition on the history of the barcode.

NUMBER 4: In September, the number 25 was significant because three well-known brands celebrated their 25th anniversaries.

How many of us remember Alta Vista, Ask Jeeves, or any of the other search engines that existed more than two decades ago? Well, Google survived and has even entered the English lexicon by becoming a verb. Many of us simply say "Google it," when we don't know something. Google is a great case study for marketing students.

When the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling first appeared, the fantasy and magical plot quickly became a favorite of both children and adults. While it's hard to believe that Harry Potter was first introduced in a book, due to the movies and theme parks created in his honor, the books were so beloved that they inspired both children and adults to embrace reading as a hobby.

Many of us signed up for movie DVD's via mail delivery in Netflix's early days. That service ended in September, however, Netflix has evolved into a TV channel alternative with its streaming service and award-winning content.

NUMBER 3: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) celebrated its 20th anniversary. According to the brand's website, "Since its introduction in 2003, the iconic beverage has had an influence on the coffee industry, pop culture, and everything in between. The Pumpkin Spice Latte is Starbucks most popular seasonal beverage - having sold hundreds of millions of PSL's - and is enjoyed by customers around the world. In 2022, Merriam-Webster officially added pumpkin spice to the dictionary, defined as a mixture of usually cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and often allspice that is commonly used in pumpkin pie." (August)

NUMBER 2: In July, people descended on theaters everywhere to watch the Barbie movie directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie. Here is one of the movie's stand-out moments: Gloria's (spoken by actress America Ferrera) moving monologue is one of the film's most powerful quotes. Gloria describes the unfair standards that females are subjected to in order to be viewed as desirable and liked by others. During the scene, Barbie has an emotional moment confessing how she feels that she is not good enough for anything. Gloria tells Barbie how she is so beautiful, and it kills Gloria that Barbie doesn't think she is good enough. Gloria continues by saying, "I'm just so tired of watching myself, and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us."

Related to the marketing buzz surrounding the Barbie movie that lasted for months leading up to the movie's release, including plot-less trailers and a plethora of merchandise ranging from clothing to shoes to nail polish to dog clothing to martini glasses to recliner lounges (just to name a few), was the power of the color pink plus the run on the actual color itself.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, "While building out the set for the new live-action Barbie movie, designers used so much of one particular shade of fluorescent fuchsia paint that they contributed to a global shortage," reported Chloe Malle for Architectural Digest. The bright pink hue used on the set was made by Rosco, a company headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, that manufactures entertainment-friendly products ranging from paint to projection equipment to flooring.

In other related Barbie movie and marketing news, another movie opened the same day, Openheimer, so a new term was created. According to Wikipedia, "Barbenheimer was a cultural phenomenon preceding and surrounding the simultaneous theatrical release of two films, Barbie and Oppenheimer, in July and August of 2023. The word is a portmanteau of the films' titles. The strong contrast between Barbie, a fantasy comedy by Greta Gerwig about the fashion doll Barbie, and Oppenheimer, an epic biographical thriller by Christopher Nolan about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, prompted a comedic response from Internet users, including memes and merchandise. Polygon described the two films as "extreme opposites," and Variety called the phenomenon "the movie event of the year." Due to the marketing buzz for both, movie-goers purchased tickets to attend both movies on the same day, something not seen with such interest in the past.

And finally, drum roll please...

NUMBER 1: The Hollywood TV and film industry came to a complete stop during 2023. Both the writers and actors were on strike for a good portion of the year. While both strikes were eventually settled, and both groups returned to work in October (writers) and November (actors), new shows and films were still a figment of the imagination as the year came to a close. From a marketing standpoint, all advertising for blockbuster films did not happen, and advertising for new and returning TV shows did not happen. This was a significant chunk of change that went unspent for ads and red carpet events. Can Hollywood recover? Only time will tell, but thankfully, we can expect to see ads and red carpet events promoting new shows and films in 2024.

What would you add to this list? Here's to 2024 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

Image Credits: Twitter/X, Barbie film, and Royal Mail via The Scotsman.

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