2020: Still a Year of Storytelling

In a year full of upheaval and confusion, C&EN BrandLab held steady in its ability to tell powerful stories about science and its critical place in society. And so like years before, we’re recapping our favorite projects, and the clients with whom we developed close relationships during a tumultuous time. 

Early in the year, before the pandemic threw best-laid plans for a loop, C&EN BrandLab launched a social media campaign, sponsored by Pfizer. The campaign started in February with a call for nominations for accomplished women in chemistry at different career stages, workplaces, and countries. The call drew over 425 nominations of women scientists. Then, C&EN BrandLab used the month of March, Women’s History Month, to celebrate women from the nominations over the course of the month.

Women in chemistry

As the celebration of women chemists continued in March, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic tightened its grip on the globe. A wave of canceled in-person events led marketers to quickly shift budgets to other ways to collect market-qualified leads and raise brand awareness. C&EN BrandLab, as a custom content studio, had already been creating solutions like these for years, and began working with a variety of new clients to  help marketers get in front of scientists digitally, with whitepapers, ebooks, native advertising pieces and interactive quizzes.

It wasn’t just our advertisers who had interest in these solutions.  People started to search for more ways to keep abreast with information from their homes, and that included scientists and researchers. As lockdowns increased, C&EN BrandLab saw a rise in demand for white papers and ebooks: Downloads of these products increased 24% in 2020 over the average number of downloads the year before.

One such popular set was the work C&EN BrandLab did for the United Soybean Board. Spurring automotive innovation with soyThe client’s goal was to raise awareness about the different ways soy plants get used to make chemicals. C&EN BrandLab came up with three interesting lead generation pieces that would generate quality contacts for USB in specific areas of chemistry: An e-book called “Spurring automotive innovation with soy” which focused on soy-based chemicals used in vehicles and on roads; one whitepaper on soy-based surfactants (which got downloaded more than 1000 times within the first month of publication); and another topical whitepaper on soy-based plastics and their environmentally-friendly benefits. 

C&EN BrandLab also worked with the National Corn Growers Association, which was an exciting new partnership for the team. NCGA wanted to generate awareness about corn as industrial feedstock and was eager to collaborate with the studio to trigger interest among scientists around corn as a source for chemicals. Corn quizAfter a series of conversations, we decided to create an interactive quiz and an infographic. The focus of these two pieces was on three main attributes of corn as a source of chemicals: sustainability, affordability, and renewability. The infographic featured surprising uses for corn chemicals in the dietary supplement industry, while the quiz provided an engaging overview of corn as a chemical feedstock.

Recruiters at universities and companies were hard hit by the pandemic, too. Without being able to meet potential hires and recruits face to face, Nanjing University turned to custom content to help with their efforts. To celebrate their chemistry department’s 100th anniversary , C&EN BrandLab developed a print and digital native article about the history and future of the institution’s scientific endeavors. In partnership with the Journal of the American Chemical Society, C&EN BrandLab also developed and promoted a page highlighting original peer-reviewed research published by Nanjing’s scientists. This type of collaboration was an exciting first for our team, and highlights a way that universities can use the power of ACS Publications to celebrate their research.

It wasn’t all new clients this year though: C&EN BrandLab continued its 3-year partnership with W. R. Grace & Co.’s LUDOX colloidal silica division as well. One of the pieces the studio created for Grace was an infographic on how colloidal silica shows up in various places around a home, a place this year that became intimately familiar to everyone. It was a relevant and timely campaign, presented in a digital-first format that instantly pulled in our readers’ attention.

Looking Ahead to Another Year in Storytelling

Despite the chaos that was 2020, we continued with our belief and commitment to compelling and engaging storytelling. In a lot of ways, it’s more important now than ever. We already know we’ll be starting next year with new stories to tell (stay tuned for those!). 

As we look to the new year with hope that things will get better, we can’t wait to share our creative and informative stories with you and the rest of our audience.


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