2021 – Time to reflect and reset brands

Fiona Field says brands should focus firmly on being one thing and avoid trying to provide consumers with a host of offers

As we happily say goodbye to 2020 and usher in 2021 for many of us it is a chance to assess and reset. After all, we are in the business of behaviour change but what if instead of creating a list of resolutions, you had to pick just one thing to achieve in 2021? For many brands there are multiple tasks on the marketing calendar and often what gets prioritised is not what’s important, but what is urgent.

The Eisenhower Matrix derived from President Eisenhower, who said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent.” Apply this to marketing today and with so much change and so many priorities to consider, it is no wonder that what is truly important gets put to the back of the queue, with the urgent being prioritised.

So, what if this year you had to pick just one thing instead of many? Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, who co-wrote The One Thing, said we need to think small. If everyone has the same number of hours, how can we get more done for less? The authors say that successful people make getting to the heart of things the core of their approach in giving it the best chance of winning. To do so, focus on less.

Where low fares are a high priority: Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary once told the Daily Telegraph: “Highlighters and Post-Its are the biggest waste of money ever invented. We use our own biros and I tell the staff not to buy them, just to pick them up from hotels, legal offices, wherever. That’s what I do.”

There is much to consider as we start a new year and hopefully turn the page on a remarkable period in history. But what does that look like in marketing terms? Brands that narrow their focus and make one thing their priority have the power to set themselves apart. Take for example Lush; a food brand that is purity-obsessed. Its creator made this feature their number one priority from the get-go.


Every product is handmade, with no packaging (or naked as they would call it), 100 per cent vegetarian and using the freshest ingredients. Nothing else would simply do. Patagonia too followed a similar course whose purpose is to produce the best products and cause no unnecessary harm. True to form, Patagonia famously ran ads with the incredible message ‘Don’t buy this jacket’.

They talked about the environmental costs of the company’s best-selling fleece jackets and instead asked customers to opt for a used Patagonia product. The focus on this one great thing resulted in a brand that walked the walk, all the way to over one billion dollars in sales. Or, let’s consider an example closer to home – a brand whose boss thrives on controversy and makes no apology for it.

While we now take a €39.99 euro flight to Paris for granted, when Ryanair was launched the company obsessed about one thing: low fares, above all else. It permeated through the entire company and they quickly became famous for price, so much so that staff at one point were encouraged to “steal pens” as opposed to buying them, which prompted Michael O’Leary to issue a statement.

The never shy or discreet O’Leary told the Daily Telegraph: “Highlighters and Post-Its are the biggest waste of money ever invented. We use our own biros and I tell the staff not to buy them, just to pick them up from hotels, legal offices, wherever. That’s what I do.” It wasn’t too long before Ryanair became the largest airline in the world and despite its critics it continues to thrive.


Creativity might be the superpower, but consistency will win the race. We want people to act but to do that brands must be memorable and become famous for one thing, not many. ‘Red Bull Gives You Wings’ needs no explaining. Clarity of proposition and follow through will make brands memorable and authentic. A brand will never reach its goals by trying to be all things to all people.

Outside of the Star Wars fans, few brands will achieve obsessive fandom. On the other hand, if your brand purpose can make its way out of the marketing department and invade every aspect of the company from the factory floor employee to the CEO, being famous for one thing might be a better way to get everyone on the same page to grow market share and try to be a success long-term.

At best, brands are simply a collection of fleeting moments, ever-changing and over in seconds. They are the equivalent of a relay where passing the baton from one athlete to another is the linkage. The stronger the linkage the faster your brand can run. Remember, €1.7bn was put into savings accounts last October alone. There it is; the one great opportunity for brands all over Ireland.

So, what’s yours for 2021?

Fiona Field is deputy managing director at Mediaworks and board director of IAPI






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