Most-read of 2020: Magazine

The most popular stories from our print edition include features on companies like Bell, Telus, Sobeys and Knix, plus how brands are adapting to a gender-fluid future.


As we do every year around this time, strategy is counting down the biggest stories from the past 12 months. Today, we are looking at the most popular stories and features from the pages of our magazine (and if you like what you’re reading, you can always subscribe here). Be sure to also check out the year’s most-read stories from our bi-weekly Shopper Marketing Report newsletter.

Sobeys’ grocery delivery mic drop

Sobeys gave marketing and branding a leading role in the organization over the last three years or so, and a profile of the company after being chosen as one of 2020′s Brands of the Year got into all the ways that has paid off.

The fruits of parent company Empire’s brand-building labour could be seen across the country as SVP of marketing Sandra Sanderson “sharpened the edges” of its roster of stores since joining in late 2018. That’s especially true for FreshCo, which is in the midst of an expansion, especially in Western Canada where the expected growth in demand for discount grocery has continued unabated. The company has also made Compliments and other private label brands a major part of its newest three-year growth plan.

On the marketing front this year, Sobeys also leaned much more into the concept of “family” and the support they provide each other, from its biggest-ever CSR initiative to its holiday campaign. And for anyone living in and around the Greater Toronto Area, ads promoting the new Voila by Sobeys delivery service were inescapable this summer.

How Bell just got better

If you think Bell has its hands in a lot of different businesses now, this look back at its 140-year history is a reminder of all the different ways the company has shaped the lives of Canadians (remember Sympatico? Solo Mobile? Frank and Gordon, the Bell Beavers?). But the other thing that comes through is how, since 2008, it has made efforts to stretch its lines of business across phone, mobile, cable TV, internet, media, sports and home security into as a single, unified brand.

Long Live Telus and Its Critters

For a brand that is so well known for ads featuring cute baby animals, it might be surprising that Telus’ driving principle throughout its history is creating “better human outcomes.” But that principle can be seen in the ways Telus has expanded its business recently, stretching the definitions of what it means to be a telco in Canada by pushing into healthcare, agriculture and connected home services, all areas that have digital technology and data as their backbone these days.

Knix finds its voice

A lot of brands claim to be customer-centric, but one look at Knix’s website, store or ads shows that the intimates brand is downright customer-obsessed.

Another 2020 Brand of the Year, this feature got into how founder Joanna Griffiths built Knix into the kind of brand that has been showcasing people of every skin tone, age, body shape and size (which is especially relevant in a year when many other brands were taking a hard look at how to make their advertising more inclusive). During the pandemic, Knix moved its annual warehouse sale online, which resulted in a big sales boost, and it also incorporated things like sustainability and pushing back against period stigma into its messaging.

Are brands ready for a gender-fluid future?

For almost as long as the marketing discipline has existed, one of the key ways brands have broken down and understood their audiences is by gender. But society’s understanding of gender is becoming more fluid, especially as Gen Z, which has grown up with this idea as the norm, comes of age and a more progressive view of identity enters the mainstream.

Our cover story from January dove into how companies are responding to this, be it cosmetics brands that have understood this paradigm shift for years, retailers who are targeting consumers based on mindset instead of traditional demographic divisions and, overall, all the efforts being made to ensure all consumers feel represented and spoken to.


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