The Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year 2018 in association with Campaign, sponsored by IBM iX

See the shortlist of 20 brands that have demonstrated a brave approach to marketing this year.

We thank you for voting for your Brave Brand of the Year.

The winner was decided by live vote at The Marketing Society’s Annual Dinner on Wednesday 14 November.

Our Brand of the Year 2018 winner was: Bodyform. Congratulations!

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When an established publisher is seeing print sales haemorrhage it’s a bold move to eschew an 80-year heritage and overturn its business model. Apparently taking inspiration from its own Dennis the Menace character, Beano disrupted its own marketplace, creating a campaign that got into the heads of kids, boosted online penetration by 1500% and won the Brand Revitalisation category at The Marketing Society Excellence Awards 2018.
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It takes an unusually brave brand to deliberately provoke internet trolls. But that's just what Bodyform did with its global #Bloodnormal campaign. Smashing the convention of using blue liquid in ads to represent menstrual blood and replacing it with red, Bodyform inspired many and achieved its biggest cut-through ever. It also won a trio of awards at The Marketing Society Excellence Awards 2018, including the Grand Prix.
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If it ain't broke, don't fix it goes the saying. So, it's incredibly brave for a brand as commercially successful as BrewDog to ditch its "shock tactics" approach to marketing, embodied in stunts such as a parody porn site and a satirical swipe at gender-stereotyping with its Pink IPA. Instead, the brewer will pursue a more community-focused, responsible marketing strategy, with irreverence now directed at its beer rather than at social issues.
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Channel 4

Channel 4 exposed some of the hateful attitudes on social media, with a campaign that overlaid an entire ad break with the abusive comments that each ad had attracted. Partnering with brands including McCain, Mars and Nationwide, Channel 4 confronted the abusers head-on, exposing the nastiness of online hate.
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Harvey Nichols

What's in a name? For a retail brand, the moniker emblazoned across its storefront is synonymous with all it stands for. So, when Harvey Nichols changed its name to Holly Nichols, inviting suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst's granddaughter to smash its store windows, for the whole of September to celebrate women, it was undeniably a brave move.
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When a fast-food brand runs out of the key ingredient that is described in the signage on its restaurants, it could have spelt disaster but KFC used transparency, humour and a near-profane "FCK" apology to deal with its chicken shortfall. The campaign has gained industry-wide recognition, scooping numerous awards for its exemplary approach to crisis marketing.
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LADbible's "U OK M8?" is not just a brave campaign in and of itself, but a move by the publisher to inspire bravery in its young, male audience, getting them to open up about the taboo of mental health. Using content including video and tapping into its own vast community, the campaign has reached 26m people and sparked 823,000 engagements across social media.
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Utter the word "Lego" and the mind typically conjures up an image of a plastic brick. So, when the Danish toymaker announced plans to reformulate the literal essence of its product, replacing its traditional plastic with sugarcane plastic, it was a brave move. Its bid to roll out the bricks across most products by 2030 demonstrates a commitment to sustainability that transcends marketing and alters the whole business.
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Lloyds bank

While Britain's banks are steeped in notions of tradition, they are increasingly using marketing to reject outmoded ideas. None more so than Lloyds, which won Channel 4's Diversity in Advertising Award, earning £1m in airtime. Its use of celebrities such as Jeremy Paxman, Professor Green and Rachel Riley, members of the public and staff to pose the question "Who am I?" tackled misconceptions around non-visible disability.
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Maltesers continues to lead the vanguard in being unafraid to attract both praise and opprobrium. Following its "Look on the light side” campaign, 2018’s activity is "celebrating similarities". Ads have included "Powerpoint", about women going through menopause, and "Accountant", about a lesbian bemoaning the challenges of dating.  Maltesers does it with a lightness of touch that belies the weightiness of the issues it tackles. It also won a trio of awards at the Marketing Society Excellence Awards 2017.
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Advertising so often paints an idealised picture of life. So it’s both refreshing and brave when a brand chooses to celebrate the normal. McCain's "We are family" campaign kicked off in 2017 and sought to bridge the gulf between families as depicted in culture and those based in reality. Featuring real-life single mums and two-dad families, McCain has this year continued the theme, showing how love transcends race, disability and gender.
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Banks tend to differentiate themselves using marketing rather than product. But mobile-only bank Monzo took the bold step of disrupting the market itself. As well as simplifying typically abstruse products and ditching the plastic debit card for the smartphone, Monzo is also a force for good, demonstrated when its own fraud analysts spotted and publicly announced a Ticketmaster data breach.
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Nike is no stranger to controversy, so it's in character that 2018 has seen the brand attract its share of positive and negative publicity. It was forced into removing its "Nothing beats a Londoner" ad from YouTube, while across the Atlantic, the brand defied Donald Trump's claim that it would get "killed" for using NFL player Colin Kaepernick, boosting its market value by nearly $6bn.
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Paddy Power

Described by Campaign as the "scallywags of the betting world", Paddy Power is a brand that is nothing if not brave. 2018 has been no different to other years in its history. For the Fifa World Cup, it published a video of a polar bear spray-painted with a St George's cross, while it pledged to donate £10,000 to LGBT+ charities every time Russia scored. Paddy Power's ethos is one of mischief.
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The Skittles brand and product is defined by its array of bright colours. So removing its rainbow visual identity was an undeniably brave move. But it was also one that took a marketing idea and literally lent it to a worthy cause. With a modest spend, the brand gave its rainbow to LGBT+ festival organisers Pride, with PR, social, a video and rainbow-less packets of Skittles sold in Tesco. The campaign won the Bravest Brand category at The Marketing Society Excellence Awards 2018.
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Plastic bottles are the world's third most common polluter after cigarettes and food packaging. So Sky's £25m commitment to remove all single-use plastics from its operations, products and supply chain by 2020 is laudatory. It even turned the heart of the idea into a piece of marketing — allowing sports fans to redeem codes from 5,000 bottles Team Sky throws to the side of the road at the Tour de France.
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Tesco has transformed itself under the watch of CEO Dave Lewis, from a brand beset by controversies to one increasingly defined by transparency and honesty. It's an approach embodied by last year's campaign to cut the price of women's sanitary products by 5% following the government's decision to apply a “tampon tax”, and the launch of Jack’s — a discount chain going up against Aldi and Lidl.
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The British Army

If a brand as steeped in tradition as the Army is annoying the likes of the Daily Mail, then it's clearly doing something mould-breaking. Asking questions such as "Can I be gay?" and "What if I get emotional?" and featuring a praying Muslim recruit, "This is belonging" is an empowering, inclusive campaign that embraces diversity. For an institution historically associated with machismo, that’s a brave move.
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The Football Association

If footballing success was based on winning hearts and minds as opposed to goals, England would have triumphed at 2018’s Fifa World Cup. Topping the team's performance was Gareth Southgate. The FA's decision to appoint an unproven manager whose career was largely defined by a failed penalty in Euro ‘96 was nothing short of audacious. And it paid off.
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Ugly Drinks

In just two years since launch in 2017, London start-up Ugly Drinks has carved a niche into the UK's sugar-rich drinks market, disrupting with a brand committed to healthy, 100% natural, fruit-infused sparkling waters. Tapping into the consumer shift away from high calories and sweeteners, Ugly has secured retail deals in 3,500 stores and is taking the brand into the US.

Thank You for Voting

Join us on the night at our Annual Dinner for a live vote to decide the winner.