Campaign readers are invited to vote for the brand they believe has shown the bravest and boldest approach to marketing over the past year.
The Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year 2020, in partnership with Campaign and sponsored by IBM iX, is a celebration of those brands that have taken risks and overturned conventions in a challenging environment.
Clearly, this year’s shortlist paints a somewhat different picture to previous years – with Covid-19’s impact on consumers and the businesses of brands the dominant factor of 2020. Accordingly, our new criteria for those that have performed above and beyond include the agility and pace at which brands have reacted, how they have capitalised on the power of digital, the originality of campaigns and how togetherness and inclusivity have become crucial to marketing comms.
You can now help whittle down the 20 chosen brands to a list of five finalists. Those finalists will then be put to a live vote at the virtual Evening of Celebrations, Connections and Conversations on 25 November.
Sophie Devonshire, chief executive of The Marketing Society, said: "Our Brave Brand of the Year Award feels more fitting than ever in 2020 as marketers have had to take courageous risks (both creative and commercial) and to do that at speed and in the face of uncertainty.
“Getting to this shortlist was no mean feat. We were particularly interested to see the agility and pace at which brands reacted, how they supported and served their customer and diversified to adapt to changing customer needs. With the help of a panel of brilliant marketing leaders, we have identified some standout stories this year of true marketing excellence. I can't wait to see who Campaign readers will vote for."
Read about the first tranche of 10 brands below and look out for the next 10 tomorrow.
Aldi became the first UK supermarket to use TV advertising to curb panic buying, a campaign named by Kantar as “the most effective” of lockdown. The ad assured shoppers that Aldi was “trying our best” to supply “low-priced, quality food” and to help key workers. Aldi’s compassionate (and business savvy) response – including donating to Age UK, auctioning brand mascots to support NHS charities and launching fixed-price emergency packages for the vulnerable – has translated into income too, with sales up 10% on last year.
BrewDog is brave, often cheeky. But during Covid-19, its marketing has been exemplary. When shop shelves were being depleted of hand sanitiser, the brewer stepped into the fray, shifting its production lines to produce a “Punk Sanitiser”, which it gave away for free. Not content with fighting the spread of the virus itself, it sought to combat loneliness with the opening of virtual bars, fostering a sense of community via the likes of home-brewing masterclasses, pub quizzes and comedy.
Back in the halcyon days of the late 1990s, Budweiser’s “Whassup?” ad became a sort of proto-meme, referenced in popular culture and winning awards. In April 2020, Budweiser resurrected and remixed the ad for a generation “in quarantine, having a Bud”. It was a move that didn’t jar – the original riffed on friendship, while the latest reinforced the importance of mates during trying times, with the endline: “Buds support buds. Check on yours.” This was reinforced with a June ad that showed a puppy reunited with its horse friends accompanied by possibly the most feelgood track of all time, Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now.
As a food brand, making your product look less than appetising is typically a no-go. But that’s just what Burger King did in its “Mouldy Whopper” ad, in which its flagship burger literally decays, highlighting Burger King’s commitment to remove artificial preservatives by the end of 2020. Less divisively, this May saw Burger King create giant crowns that people could wear to help with social distancing and the next month it sent out hundreds of free Whoppers across the UK, encouraging people to share within their communities. Burger King also actively saluted frontline and “couch potatriots” with its very-much tongue-in-cheek-with-a-serious-point “Stay home of the Whopper”.
In February, Coca-Cola announced it was suspending its marketing spend, and focusing instead on empathy. It was no mere lip service, with Coke donating $120m to organisations to help support Covid relief efforts, providing frontline workers with drinks and donating ad space, including at London’s Piccadilly Lights, to charity partners. But as lockdown restrictions were relaxed, Coke did not revert to type. On the contrary, its “Open like never before” ad fronted by George the Poet asked “Who says we have to go back to normal?”, urging consumers to “keep social distance from bad energy”.
The delivery sector was clearly an area of business that would benefit from lockdown. But that didn’t mean Deliveroo would rest on its laurels and reap the benefits. On the contrary, the brand went out of its way to support its consumers, its restaurant partners and the hospitality sector as a whole. This was demonstrated by its March pledge to give away 500,000 meals to NHS workers. It hit the target in June, before promising to give away another 100,000. It also partnered with Visa to offer financial packages to new partners and advice on how restaurants could convert to delivery-only, as well as running February’s “Ride to find” campaign that played poignantly on the issue of missing kids and its partnership with charity Missing People.
Ikea has perfected the art of creating ads that are cool and weird in equal measure. It’s a style epitomised by the Swedish retailer’s summer 2020 “Conquer the great indoors” ad featuring a partially anamorphic lion ruling over the wilds of the household. That ad was followed up with an edgy and witty campaign promoting sleep as a source of energy based on a prequel to Aesop’s famous story The Tortoise and the Hare, and accompanied to the tones of British rapper Roots Manuva. Stylish and standout.
Today’s ITV is a more progressive force than ever before. The channel continues to win plaudits for its socially-conscious marketing. It has taken a brave stance on racism, emphatically supporting dance act Diversity after receiving complaints around their Black Lives Matter-themed performance on Britain’s Got Talent. It is also investing in media and entertainment businesses targeting 16- to 34-year-olds, joined up with the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to promote TV’s ability to unite people and kicked off mental health week. And, in March, the emotive “Apart. But never alone” launched, with celebs and their families, including Gordon Ramsay and Davina McCall, checking up on their loved ones while respecting lockdown regulations.
Sometimes it takes guts just to hold out. Which is what Just Eat did with its new campaign in which rapper Snoop Dogg creates a new version of the brand’s jingle. Rather than run it, Just Eat decided to wait until the UK’s social climate improved once lockdown rules were relaxed. In the meantime, the brand supported ITV’s “Britain get talking”, with customers thanking restaurant partners for delivering meals during lockdown, offering 25% off for NHS workers. Since then, Just Eat has been connecting with younger audiences through collaborations with TikTok influencers and the launch of Instagram stickers.
After “Night workers” in March, an ad that depicted those awake when the world is sleeping (from nurses and firefighters, to McDonald’s staff), McDonald’s went uber-celebratory in the summer when it announced with great fanfare – and Mark Morrison’s 1996 hit Return of the Mack – that it was returning to business on Britain’s high streets. It stood out from the recent more sober, virtuous messaging. McDonald’s joyful ad depicted an excited public anticipating and then relishing their favourite McDonald’s order, the Big Mac.