Brand & Advertising

If 2020 was a brand...

Written by Pim van Helten on 23, Deth 2020

The end of the year is near. Like many other marketers, we too were brainstorming topics for writing an article that marks the end of an era. 

The usual year-end articles like, “Brand strategies for 2021”, “Digital marketing trends in 2021”, or “Trends in branding for 2021”, have millions of hits on Google. Your news feed is probably already filled with trends. So, in true 2020 fashion, we crossed the usual ideas off the list and started over.

We bet no one anticipated the turmoil 2020 would bring to the table. When the world experiences the collective and multi-dimensional change we encountered, those of us who create brand stories for a living are left to wonder: If 2020 was a brand, what would it look, sound, and be like?

2020 was unique (to say the least)

The year began with bushfires raging across Australia. Then, the assassination of an Iranian general almost led to World War III. Donald Trump’s impeachment trial began. Kobe Bryant's helicopter crashed. The UK left the EU. And that was only January.

COVID-19 emerged, borders closed, and cities locked down. The economy plummeted. George Floyd’s death sparked worldwide Black Lives Matter protests. An unbelievable explosion in Beirut left hundreds of thousands homeless. 

We became increasingly polarized. 

And yet, we still found ways to come together. Strangers ran errands for neighbors they had never met and stood on balconies applauding essential workers. Whatever your beliefs about COVID-19, you reconnected with family, friends, and your community.

We stayed put. We spent extra hours of quality time with loved ones. In the absence of traffic jams and long commutes, wildlife reclaimed their space and the atmosphere began to heal.

We stood up. When Black Lives Matter became a movement, individuals of all ages, races, genders, and colors united. We showed up to vote in droves.

We changed. Remote working was institutionalized overnight. Companies implemented tools and products that will benefit their clients, employees, and the world for years to come. 

2020 revealed some core values

Underneath the surface, there was good to be found in 2020. We fought for one another and grew stronger. We stood firmly in our convictions. We did not allow ourselves to collapse or splinter.

Whether we realized it or not, our collective actions this year uncovered important core habits and values. The qualities that truly defined 2020 were:

  • Persuasion
    We believed in our cause, stood up, and never gave up, no matter what side you were on.
  • Transformation
    So much changed so fast, leaving us no other option but to adapt. And we did, at the speed of light.
  • Resilience
    We found unbelievable reserves of strength within ourselves.
  • Purity
    2020 showed us what was right and wrong in so many aspects of our lives. The naked truth was harsh and uncomfortable, but we needed to see the good, the bad, and the ugly to pave the way for change.


2020: personified

Translating your brand fundamentals into a set of human characteristics makes it easier to understand and interact with your target audience. It makes a brand relatable, not only to consumers, but towards employees or even third parties, like the designers and developers that shape a customer’s journey. 

At DPDK, this process starts with forming a personality archetype based on the works of Carl Jung. If applied to 2020, this brand personality would be somewhere between an alienating Sage and a furiously mad Rebel. We would call 2020:

The Unsparing Iconoclast


UK  /ʌnˈspeə.rɪŋ/ US  /ʌnˈsper.ɪŋ/

“Showing no kindness and no wish to hide the unpleasant truth.”


UK  /aɪˈkɒn.ə.klæst/ US  /aɪˈkɑː.nə.klæst/

 “A person who strongly opposes generally accepted beliefs and traditions.”

A little bit about the Unsparing Iconoclast

The Unsparing Iconoclast is someone who does things others believe to be impossible, without much compromise or compassion. She attacks convention and the status quo. She is the first to brazenly charge into battle. 

Granted, the Unsparing Iconoclast can seem like a destructive force. But she really represents transformation. She forces us out of our ordinary state of affairs - and that’s a good thing. For any brand or organization, working from a place of comfort will ultimately inhibit growth, and may even cost you customers. 

2020’s Unsparing Iconoclast should be seen as a wakeup call, and a useful one at that.

The Unsparing Iconoclast can and should spark creativity, change, innovation, and the start of an entirely new era. Because what’s the alternative? Tinkering with the aspects of our businesses and our society that have long since been broken.

If you’re met with resistance, push through - it probably means you’re headed in the right direction. 

Fundamentally, the Unsparing Iconoclast is

… brutally honest and transparent

… devoted to his/her cause

… uncompromisingly reliable

… a passionate leader

The Unsparing Iconoclast dislikes

… to follow, to feel unfocussed, to compromise, being sidelined, & keeping his/her mouth shut

The people & brands of 2020

Greta Thunberg

She is not here to inspire you. “I don’t want your hope,” the 16-year-old climate activist said in a speech at the World Economic Forum. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” A true iconoclast in the making.


Lush Cosmetics has been promoting animal welfare and environmentally sustainable practices since its inception. They ran a shocking animal testing awareness campaign, promoted recycling initiatives, and removed eggs from their products to make them all vegan. 

In 2018, Lush launched its controversial SpyCops campaign, where the brand urged the government to investigate police officers for human rights violations against activists. Despite a wave of public criticism, the brand stood by the campaign, only pulling it when their store owners were threatened. 

Lush closed its UK social media channels in 2019, stating, “We are tired of fighting with algorithms and do not want to pay to appear in news feeds. We don't want to limit ourselves to holding conversations in one place, we want social to be placed back in the hands of our communities - from our founders to our friends.” At the time, LushUK had 202,000 Twitter followers and 569,000 on Instagram, and 423,000 likes on Facebook. 

2020 has a voice

2020 might have been the most vocal year in history. When 2020 speaks, it is:

  • 100% unsugarcoated
  • Well-argued
  • Crystal clear
  • Authoritative
  • Confident
  • Devoted

2020 in one sentence

2020 meant different things to different people. Depending on your perspective, 2020 could be offensive, confirming, inclusive, privileged, pretentious, chique, egotistic, or an eye-opener. This past year deserves a tagline that is a little uncomfortable and can be interpreted the way you see you fit. 2020’s tagline:



                                                     We’re coming for you.


See you in 2021!

Do you also want to create a unique and memorable brand for your customers? Whether you're overhauling your brand or giving your strategy a quick refresh, it has never been easier to start than with our new branding guide. Get all the tips, insights and success stories to get your creativity flowing and help you build a strong brand here!

Pim van Helten

Pim van Helten


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