From Sonu Sood’s kindness to Kangana Ranaut’s noise, from Tanishq’s controversy to Zomato taking a stand: 2020 saw it all

Plan 2020: We all believed that in 2020, the world would change, we would know a lot about the past, and the future would call us with open arms. 2020 was supposed to be the year when we rewrote our own future and set a new agenda.

2020 may not have lived up to its latent promise, but did give us lessons of enormous importance. Some of these lessons are from the pandemic, but some are a result of mere evolution of time.

The Year of One

Actor Sonu Sood made it the year to remember by selflessly doing what the entire official machinery of India struggled to do. When the whole country behaved as deer caught in light, Sood stood up with a clear action plan. He never waited for help from either the Government or the NGOs, and acted with whatever he had. We may have imagined that 2020 would be the year of single person affirmative action, but he made it happen, and left us with one key lesson: It’s easy to be good and even one person can make a big difference.

While Sood was making a big difference, actor Kangana Ranaut was making a noise of her own kind. For a long time, brands copied her stance, created content around what she was saying, and lauded her for taking on what many felt were powerful adversaries. Her own following on social media soared. That was until she met singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh, and her entire social media edifice crumbled. The epic Twitter war between the two left her in tatters. Dosanjh was both clever and humble, and that made it very difficult for a very abrasive Kangana Ranaut to fight this out.

The big lesson of 2020 is that there is immense power in singularity and in times of pandemic, that power has only got multiplied.

The Year of Outrage

This is the year when brands like Zomato, Swiggy and Tanishq became the target of trolls. These brands were in the august company of the Prime Minister of India, who also was the target of trolls this year. In a surprising twist, the trolls discovered and activated the dislike button on YouTube. Such was the outrage that for a while, comments were disabled on the platform on a few videos of the PM.

Though it was Tanishq that bore the brunt not once, but twice, and it buckled under the onslaught both times, both Zomato and Swiggy did not react to the boycott call and allowed their tweets/posts to stay on the platforms.

The issue is not about outrage, but about how the brands handle the outrage. The trolls targeted not only the brands, but also the people and their religion. The attacks were vicious and relentless.

The jury is out on how the brands could have handled it. Was Tanishq right in withdrawing the ads? Was Swiggy brave to ignore the trolls and carry on with life? Or should Tanishq have made it a law and order issue and worked with law enforcement? Today, when even the PMO’s handle is not immune from abuse, brands do have their backs pushed to the corner.

Lessons of 2020

This was supposed to be the year of wisdom, and there are lessons that the year is leaving us with.

Lesson one is about conviction. The more you are convinced about the cause, the more you will find people who will make a common cause with you.

Lesson two is about conviction too, if in today’s world there is something you want to do, then stick to it and make the world vibe with you. The digital footprints are forever, and if as a brand you have released something, it will live forever.

There is a bigger lesson then these two. The biggest being that the pandemic has made us think differently about everything and 2021 will see many new insights.

(The author is Co-founder and CSO, Bang in the Middle)

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