The Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year 2020: the shortlist part two

The Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year 2020: the shortlist part two

Ten of the 20 shortlisted brands are highlighted below.

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.

Yesterday (26 October), Campaign revealed 10 of the shortlisted brands and explained the new criteria for this unprecedented year. Today, it's the turn of the next 10.

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.

Vote for your Brave Brand of the Year here


Nationwide exemplifies the notion of brand bravery. Whether that’s by confronting online hate or boycotting Facebook over the platform’s apparent refusal to condemn hate speech. Fronted by CMO and Marketing Society 2020 Bravest Marketing Leader of the Year, Sara Bennison, Nationwide donated media spend to Shelter and reunited with Channel 4 for an ad break highlighting the abuse faced by customer-facing staff. Defying tropes, April’s “Voices” work envisaged a progressive and enlightened future beyond coronavirus, at a time when most people’s vision was mired in a seemingly interminable present. 


After decades of telling consumers to “Just do it”, Nike made the brave decision to mess with its brand heritage, inverting its own slogan in a bid to combat racism and support racial equality. “For once, don’t do it”, the sportswear label told consumers. Never one to cower from saying the right thing, however political, Nike’s tribute to late basketball player Kobe Bryant, saw Kendrick Lamar telling the world to “be better”.

Pret A Manger

Remaining agile during unprecedented times is clearly not going to be easy, especially when you’re forced into axing about a third of your workforce. But Pret has maintained a nimble approach to business, adapting to challenging times, while also donating food and drink to the NHS and homeless. Its YourPret Barista subscription service is a case in point, charging consumers £20 a month for up to five drinks a day. The scheme has paid off, garnering 16,500 sign-ups by 3pm on the day of launch.


Tesco’s new chief executive Ken Murphy, said recently that store experience is far more valuable in shaping brand perceptions than advertising. His words are reflected in the supermarket’s approach during lockdown, when it more than doubled its delivery capacity to accommodate 1.5 million online orders every week, serving about 670,000 vulnerable customers. In July, research from the Internet Advertising Bureau UK and YouGov named it as the brand that made the most positive contribution during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Tesco dealt effectively with some controversy over featuring halal meat in its “Food love stories” ads, with the Advertising Standards Authority seeing no reason for investigation. 


Both in the run-up to and during the pandemic, TikTok has experienced massive growth in the UK, with reach among adults more than doubling, from 5.4 million in January to 12.9 million in April. It is also now courting brands more emphatically, launching its TikTok for Business platform, while it has recently called for a social-media coalition to address the spread of harmful content and in October launched a campaign supporting Black History Month, celebrating cultural roots and black artists in a content and outdoor campaign.

Time Out

When the whole premise of your content hinges on going out on the town and a global pandemic strikes, you could be forgiven for giving up. Not Time Out though, which in response to lockdown in March, neatly side-stepped the issue by renaming itself “Time In” and continuing to attract advertisers. Its efforts to innovate, such as a tie-up with Instagram for a virtual festival supporting small businesses owned by BAME individuals, women and the LGBT+ community, speak emphatically of a brand that never shies away from existential challenges.

Top Cuvée

When north London restaurant Top Cuvée was forced to close its doors to business in March, after a moment’s deliberation, its founders decided to “pivot”, reinventing the business as an online store. Using the restaurant as a base, and Instagram Stories to spread the word, the business biked same-day deliveries of wines, cocktails, craft beers and shucked oysters to people at home or chilling in the park. Shop Cuvée proved such a success as a concept that the brand is opening a permanent physical site in addition to its now re-opened restaurant.

University of the Arts London

University of the Arts London – Europe’s largest specialist art and design university, with more than 19,000 students – had its hand forced in February, when the looming prospect of lockdown meant it had to cancel its annual fashion show. Rather than leave it at that, the university created an online platform and hosted 50 virtual events in July. The UAL Graduate Showcase was created with IBM and hosted the final collections of graduating students from all its six colleges.

Virgin Media

With lockdown looming, Virgin Media realised the importance of its services and that its customers required a much-needed dose of certainty in uncertain times. Users were given free minutes and increased data allowances, while NHS and key workers were prioritised and extra channels were added to its TV offering, all at no extra charge. In March, the company launched a heartfelt campaign, “Stay home, stay safe, stay connected”. It featured video-diary snippets made by people sharing their lockdown experiences, including footage of neighbours clapping for the NHS. It also hooked up with ITV to run an at-home version of its V Festival, with acts Olly Murs, Anne-Marie and Dizzee Rascal headlining.

The Zoological Society of London

Approaching Sir David Attenborough to front a TV ad was a bold move but one that proved quite the coup for the Zoological Society of London, which had been forced to close its London and Whipsnade zoos due to lockdown. Using existing assets, ZSL brought the veteran natural historian onboard to front ”Don’t let ZSL go extinct”, outlining the organisation’s contributions to animal conservation during the past two centuries. It’s a great example of a campaign born of desperation but executed with anything but.

Vote for your Brave Brand of the Year here

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