My Top Brands to Follow in 2021

Here we are…two weeks into 2021, and right out of the gate, we’re seeing brands jockeying to win market share and position themselves as brand leaders in the year ahead. The brands that will succeed will be bold, agile and most importantly, they’ll have a profound understanding of their target consumer.Last month, I joined 3TV’s “Good Morning Arizona” to discuss brands and influencers that were on fire in 2020. Brands like Crocs, Nike, Zoom, and TikTok outperformed their competitors with masterful creative, strategic campaigns. As an ad guy, I was blown away by how innovative and gutsy these brands were. That type of creativity challenges all of us in our industry to do better.

So, what brands am I watching this year? Knowing that this year could change as quickly as Quibi came and went, I’ll preface this by saying these are the brands I’m watching right now.

The Walt Disney Company
I’m watching Disney carefully, and not only because we work with Disney Baby and our sister agency, Nomadic, counts them as one of their largest clients. This global entertainment company pivoted so well during the pandemic, analysts expect DIS’ revenue to increase 6.1% in 2021, and 22.5% in 2022.

Last month, Disney announced its portfolio of direct-to-consumer services exceeded a total of 137 million global paid subscriptions, including 11.5 million ESPN+ subscribers, 38.8 million Hulu subscribers, and a staggering 86.8 million Disney+ subscribers since its launch in November 2019.

Penn National Gaming

Penn National Gaming owns, operates and has ownership interests in 41 gaming and racing properties in 19 states. They also operate casinos under the Argosy and Hollywood brands. When the pandemic hit, their stock slumped below $4, but in late December, their shares were up over 2,478 percent. That’s because of their innovative partnership with Barstool Sports.

I’m sure I’m not alone watching Penn. There’s a lot of talk about how casino operators will interact with sports betting platforms. Investors are also betting that the casino industry will bounce back in 2021. Our OH team in Phoenix and Las Vegas has produced kick-ass creative campaigns in the gaming and entertainment space for many years. We’re proud to represent Wynn Resorts, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, and Gila River Hotels & Casinos, and we’re already working on some exciting Q1 and Q2 promotions. I’ll be watching with interest when Disney launches Star in Europe and other international markets on February 23. Star is a new international general entertainment content brand that will be a fully integrated part of Disney+.

Centene Corporation

Centene Corporation, a Fortune 50 company, is the largest Medicaid Managed Care Organization in the country, the largest carrier on the Health Insurance Marketplace, and a national leader in managed long-term services and support.

But last January, Centene began a new chapter in their brand journey. With the acquisition of the health insurance company WellCare, Centene began to create a transformative healthcare enterprise.

This is a socially-responsible brand that is committed to providing healthcare programs that focus on the ‘whole person.’ And they certainly made that clear at the start of this year. On January 4, Centene announced that it signed a definitive agreement to acquire Magellan Health.

That announcement came just two weeks after Magellan Health announced the acquisition of a majority interest in Bayless Integrated Healthcare. Founded in 1982, Bayless is an integrated primary care and behavioral health practice based in the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area. We have been proud to represent Bayless with robust marketing campaigns, including an anthem video that highlights their commitment to bringing quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare to all.

I believe these recent acquisitions speak to the need to deliver better health outcomes to complex populations through the integration of physical and mental health care. Through our work with the Arizona Department of Health Services, we know that a focus on behavioral health will be extremely important in 2021 and beyond. The more that larger companies make this a priority, the more it will help to break down barriers and ensure everyone has access to care.

There’s no doubt that the events of 2020 have affected us forever. We’ll be redefining “normal” for years to come. But, the silver lining in our industry is that it’s forced us to become even more creative and nimble.

What brands are you watching this year?

About the Author: Scott Harkey is co-founder and managing partner of OH Partners, one of the Scott Harkeynation’s fastest-growing independent advertising agencies. The agency is turning heads of brands and holding companies alike with its passionate, agile work, focused strategy, innovative analytics and an unmatched company culture made up of collaborators and creative thinkers.

Scott’s genuine passion to grow and elevate OH Partners and the industry is reflected in his forward-thinking work and successful leadership. His experience in media, analytics, and traditional and digital marketing help him spearhead integration initiatives for international brands across a variety of verticals including CPG, luxury hospitality, gaming, entertainment and technology. Scott’s velocity, passion and problem-solving have positioned him as an indispensable partner while delivering profitable business outcomes.

Scott’s understanding of CMO, brand, and marketing trends is rooted in his enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the industry. He is at the forefront of the advertising industry as a member of the 4A’s Business Council and speaking nationally for ANA, Media Post, Media Life Magazine, Digital Marketer and others. Scott’s work has landed him on the Arizona Republic’s ’35 under 35 Entrepreneurs’ and the Phoenix Business Journal’s ’40 under 40′ lists. He was also named the Ad Person of the Year by the American Advertising Federation of Phoenix in 2018.

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