The Hill We Prime – Amazon, Google, IKEA and Brand Purpose in 2021
Author: Chris Hogue
January 26, 2021
A week has passed since the 2021 presidential inauguration of Joe Biden, which saw the historic start of a new era for many reasons. Set against the backdrop of a global pandemic, social unrest and recent political uncertainty, the world watched as events unfolded in Washington D.C.
A moment such as this transcends politics and the United States. It becomes part of the global internet and social media-driven news cycle, dictating and reflecting wider trends in society, economics, business and celebrity culture.
And, while the internet and social media churn is a place for noise, debate, ridicule and gossip, Google can provide a gauge to measure what the public are most interested in, a birds-eye view of the different angles and storylines from an event such as this. Likewise, how leading brands and influencers played their part in the inauguration can highlight key trends to look out for in the months ahead.
A Poignant Poet
Unsurprisingly, ‘poet laureate’ topped Google on January 20.. America has a new icon in Amanda Gorman who, at 22, became the youngest person to deliver a poem at a U.S. presidential inauguration. Her stunning performance of “The Hill We Climb” was iconic – a poignant symbol of the direction the Biden administration is championing, addressing issues of oppression, feminism, race, and sustainability.
Gorman’s outfit was equally iconic. The yellow coat and red satin headband, curated to symbolize light and shine, were both Prada, and both became instant hot property. Luxury marketplace Lyst claimed there was a 1300% increase in searches for ‘yellow coats’ following the event, while the headband sold out on various outlets.
And Gorman’s commercial impact didn’t stop there. Her three books flew to the top of bestseller lists, despite not being published yet. Pre-orders for her two books “The Hill We Climb: Poems,” and “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem” went to the top of the Amazon bestsellers the evening of the inauguration, and a special edition “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country,” was made available for pre-order as well, taking third spot.
Influencers With Real Influence
Make no mistake, this is a landmark moment for a new kind of style icon, as we look past celebrities to purpose-driven individuals. We know today’s younger consumers look to brands to have ‘purpose.’ Heritage, quality, even celebrity stardust is no longer enough. These are influencers with the most real kind of influence. Gorman’s Instagram following shot from 50,000 to 3million overnight.
The Biden administration has already taken steps to directly address social injustice, immigration and climate change. A clear direction ahead has been forged and brands have taken note. In comparison, previously where Colin Kaepernick has been supported by Nike in his activism, he brought political controversy to the NFL.
Expect a more united bond between administration, brands and influencers moving forward. It’s no coincidence, for example, that Tag Heuer announced its partnership with Naomi Osaka on the day of the inauguration. The tennis star transcended her sport throughout 2020, raising awareness of social injustice by wearing facemasks displaying the names of victims of police brutality.
Beauty Brands Take Centre Stage
Lady Gaga – second-highest Google search trend on inauguration day – provided another iconic moment with her National Anthem performance, gold microphone and eye-catching outfit. In the absence of major awards ceremonies, film premieres and music concerts recently, fashion and beauty brands were seemingly queuing up to position themselves as part of 2021’s showpiece event.
Enter Amazon again. The behemoth’s presence as part of the inauguration hype could be found here, too. Other than Marc Jacobs Beauty’s Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara, Gaga went with a look comprised of Haus Laboratories – the singer’s vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics brand – launched exclusively on Amazon.
Michelle Obama’s also garnered attention for her bold inauguration makeup, with a statement look that honored the occasion with a variety of beauty products, celebrating Black-owned cosmetic brands such as Pat McGrath and Fenty Beauty, alongside the likes of LiveArea client Anastasia Beverly Hills and Glossier.
A major historic global event would not be complete these days without a subject for riducule by meme. Taking two spots in Google’s top 5 on inauguration day, enter Bernie Sanders, snapped looking less than enthralled in his Siberia-ready jacket and hand-sewn mitts. While Amanda Gorman, Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama amongst others made headlines for their glamour, Sanders became an internet sensation in a different way.
The politician was photoshopped into everything from Game of Thrones, Glee and Star Wars to Edward Hopper paintings, the famous Lunch atop a Skyscraper photograph and even atop Mike Pence’s head.
Alongside Prada coats and head bands, the homemade mittens became another must-have fashion accessory of the inauguration. However, those looking to imitate Sanders’ look were disappointed as the second grade teacher who made the mittens, despite thousands of requests, had none for sale. She did, however, point consumers in the direction of Etsy, where small businesses and craftspeople can hope to cash in on a spike in mitten demand.
IKEA – no stranger to this kind of responsive marketing – sensed an opportunity and were quick to roll out its own Sanders-centric campaign. The Swedish retailer’s tongue-in-cheek use of the unlikely fashion icon encourages customers to ’get the look’, promoting its own fold-up seats and mittens.
While it’s understandable for brands to be cautious or even skittish – see male grooming brand Axe panicking into speaking out against the U.S. Capitol riots after a deodorant can was found in the aftermath – there is an opportunity for brands to communicate effectively alongside the news cycle.
In fact, eighty-four percent of U.S. consumers feel that advertising next to news content increases brand trust. Engagement with the news is also higher than ever, creating a larger potential audience. The key is delivering long-term, authentic engagement with societal issues, not a short-term PR attempt. Prada, for example, has been partnering with Amanda Gorman since a Milan Fashion Week 2019, showing an authentic connection between brand and ambassador.
Chris Hogue is head of Strategy & Product at LiveArea.