TikTok tops our annual list of the top performing brands of the year

The 10 brands that comprise Ad Age’s 2020 Marketers of the Year list didn’t just survive the pandemic, they thrived.

The list is topped by TikTok, which emerged as a major pop culture force and must-stop for an increasing number of brands, including several on our list. That includes cosmetics upstart e.l.f., which had the foresight to jump on the platform back in late 2019 with its 15-second “Eyes Lips Face” song, and has since amassed 10 billion views for its TikTok content. Other new economy brands making the list include meditation app Calm, whose Election Day marketing set a new standard for timely product placement. Online marketplace Etsy smartly tapped into trends like DIY and customizable goods, including, yes, masks.

But breakthrough marketing in 2020 was not confined to plucky startups. Stalwarts like State Farm, which is nearly 100-years-old,also cracked the list, thanks to a reinvention strategy that included putting a new spin on its iconic “Like a good neighbor” tagline. McDonald’s, No. 2 on our list, found ways to reach new audiences, including with its wildly successful Travis Scott collaboration.

The list—chosen by a team of Ad Age reporters and editors based on factors that include business results driven by breakthrough advertising and smart strategic thinking–is full of brand marketing lessons, including from an unlikely source: Conservative anti-Trump PAC The Lincoln Project, whose go-for-broke attitude shows that fearlessness is a key ingredient for great creative. “We’re not unemotional about this stuff,” TLP cofounder Rick Wilson told us. “We’re passionate about this stuff.”

No. 1: TikTok

No. 2: McDonald’s

No. 3: Lowe’s

No. 4: The Lincoln Project

No. 5: Etsy

No. 6: Calm

No. 7: e.l.f.

No. 8: Lego

No. 9: Adobe

No. 10: State Farm