Breakthrough Brands 2020:

Fun, optimism and playfulness

From the evolution of Web 2.0 startups like Google and Facebook, who presented their innovations as friendly and utopic alternatives, comes a new class of startups who are further evolving this optimism into vibrant and playful brand personas. As brands have become living, breathing entities that are constantly engaging with their consumers in an ever-crowding landscape, personality and voice have become the most important ingredients marketing has to play with. These modern brands’ fun, upbeat personalities have been influenced by three major factors: (1) the need to be responsive and witty on social media, (2) a requirement to be authentic and speak as humans—not as corporate machines and (3) the positive zeitgeist of an (until recently) up-and-up economy.

A few of the brands on our list clearly illustrate this playfulness. In fact, social media conversation that involves the brands listed in this trend are 260% more positive, joyful, and playful than 750 other top brands. That alone demonstrates the value that these brands place on promoting positivity as a brand attribute. Impossible Foods, which made its name creating convincing plantbased meat substitutes, could have gone the serious, scientific route or portrayed the brand through soothing sustainability cues. Instead, they embraced a vibrant, colorful palate, organic illustrations, and a loud voice. 

Similarly, the oat milk company, Oatly, was designed to “jump out off the shelf” with a hyphenation in the middle of its logo and an exclamation point at the end, breaking all traditional design rules while making new ones up along the way. And speaking of milk, Milk Beauty pushes against the mainstream “no-makeup, I-woke-up-like-this” look by encouraging playful experimentation through tattoo pens and brightly colored makeup products, all in front of a backdrop of space-age packaging. CEO Mazdack Rassi says, “Our priority has always been and remains to be seen as a platform for creativity and self-expression for our community.”

In light of the developments of the past several months, the biggest question now is: will the trend towards jovial brands continue in a post-COVID era? Will brands pivot to reflect the slowing economy? Will earnest austerity and humbleness come back in mode—or will a little lightheartedness be in even greater demand?

Download the Breakthrough Brands 2020 report here.