Defining Brand Relevance in 2020

Brands across sectors are being tested like never before amid a soft and, in some cases non-existent, sales environment. The impact is industry agnostic and, while some feel the pain more than others, many marketers are struggling to find the most appropriate way to communicate. But consumers are still paying attention and brands that sustain – and even increase – relevance over the coming weeks and months will be in position to reap the benefits as we emerge from crisis.

New research offers insight to how marketing leaders define and measure relevance, as well as challenges and solutions for ratcheting-up relevance. In early March, just as news about the coronavirus began to pervade our daily lives, 360PR+ engaged Engine Group (formerly Opinion Research Corp.) to survey 300 senior marketing executives, gauging their opinions of their and other brands’ relevance.

Adaptability is key

A dominating theme that surfaced from our research was adaptability. Respondents were clear that the ability to adapt, regardless of the circumstances, is undeniably critical to sustaining relevance. As one respondent stated: “the brand that is open to consistent change with the culture and environmental needs of the times is one that clearly demonstrates relevance.”

“Relatability,” “interest” and “awareness” are top terms associated with relevance

“Brands that have created relatable content and an experience that motivates customers to remain brand loyal are the ones winning the fight for relevance,” explained a marketing leader who participated in the research.


Marketers cited sales, customer feedback and reviews, and brand recall as the most important metrics for tracking brand relevance. Related to customer feedback, brands with annual revenue of over $50 million are more likely than smaller businesses to associate engagement with relevance and believe that permission to innovate is the greatest benefit of relevance.

Many marketers said that active listening to customers – on social media, for example – and better targeting are keys to increasing relevance in 2020. “The brands I consider most relevant are always seeking out the customer feedback and seeking ways to improve,” commented one marketing executive.

Another relevance-building strategy emphasized by Health & Wellness and Technology marketers we surveyed includes creating more content for their owned channels. We’ve seen brands in those two sectors and others do just that over the past month, providing increased access to their content and expertise, in some cases at no charge.  For example, America’s Test Kitchen took its paywall down for their Kids site, offering it premium content for free and providing a boost for our “cooking with kids” storytelling. And, furthering its mission to get more people on bikes amid retail stores being closed, Trek Bicycle launched free home delivery throughout the continental US for online bike orders.

Amid the backdrop of COVID, marketing doesn’t stop, but it must evolve. Now, more than ever, brands should be present in customers’ lives even if their business has dramatically shifted. Their relationship with loyal customers, and ultimately their relevance in the marketplace, depends on that. 

Erin Weinberg is General Manager of 360's New York office. Reach her at eweinberg@360pr.plus