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The Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year 2019 in association with Campaign and sponsored by IBM iX
The Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year is back for another year, recognising the brands that took risks and stood out from the competition. Our shortlist includes those who responded to a considerable challenge with a brilliant solution, excelled with their marketing creativity or pushed boundaries.
The winner will be decided with a live vote at our Diamond Anniversary Dinner at City Central in London on 27 November.
Virgin Atlantic pulls off the trick of mixing glamour with empowerment. This year saw it reinvest in TV against a backdrop of a depressed marketplace with an ad using real cabin crew. The airline holds such value in marketing that the chief executive gave two caveats when discussing business-wide cuts this year – marketing was sacrosanct.
From banning junk food ads to targeting drivers with "When your foot goes down the risks go up" (for pedestrians), TfL's somewhat combative stance in its marketing has sparked condemnation. But TfL is nothing if not unapologetically emotive in its advertising, with its messaging built around life-saving and progressive ideals.
2019 marked the return of Cancer Research UK's controversial campaign linking obesity to cancer. Accusations of "fat-shaming" don't appear to have scared the charity off, with the message as emphatic as ever. Striking ads resembling cigarette packets take no prisoners and send a message that the government needs to do more to curb consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
The broadcaster is tireless in its campaigning around causes such as diversity, gender identity and disability – to name a few. It's this very stance that attracts sometimes vitriolic reaction. In true Channel 4 style, it turned the hatred on its head with "Complaints welcome”, an ad in which actors and presenters read out hateful comments made about them.
Tech-start up Elvie set out to smash taboos. Its animated ads for pelvic floor trainer featured characters Bobo and Bladder and were surreal, funny and on the nose. Elvie's breast pump marketing is also bonkers, including a stunt that dotted the London skyline with gigantic inflatable breast blimps.
Once renowned for its testosterone-fuelled ads, Gillette has recently adopted a more touchy-feely approach to its marketing. This year's "The best a man can be" campaign called on men to stand up to bullying, sexism and harassment. It attracted condemnation from social media users and commentators, with posts such as “virtue-signalling PC guff” only reinforcing its message.
Greggs has disrupted that most ancient of businesses – the bakery – with innovative products and witty marketing. From creating vegan sausage rolls to elevating their brand image with Apple-style product marketing. It even issued a riposte to overpriced Valentine's Day offerings in the form of a more grounded experience – a four-course candle-lit dining experience in its shops.
Iceland has committed to become 100% plastics-free on own-labelling in five years, under the tutelage of environmentalist boss Richard Walker. It has also defied the judgements of bodies such as Clearcast. The industry regulator rejected Iceland's repurposing of a Greenpeace ad. Unperturbed the supermarket scored a PR-winning goal and drove up brand consideration.
After KFC turned last year's chicken shortage "FCK"-up into a PR coup, the fast-food chain continues to use its marketing to provoke, but with a nod and a wink. This March saw the launch of a multiplatform campaign making light of the fried chicken restaurants that imitate its name and products. "Guys, we're flattered", KFC said.
Lucozade Sport's support of England's Lionesses ahead of the Fifa (NOTE CAMPAIGN STYLE) Women's World Cup shone a light on some of the prejudices that women's football has had to face. And it did so with aplomb – a rewrite of the classic football song Three Lions sung by the players themselves.
The British Army turned stereotypes on its head with this year's recruitment drive. Aimed at young outsiders, millennials and “snowflakes”, it shone a light of the virtues of individuals demeaned by their peers. An obnoxious supermarket worker harangues and complains about a co-worker, a dad bemoans his son's video game habit. ”This is belonging" is a moving yet honest campaign.
The Macallan’s first global ad campaign “Make The Call” bravely defied category conventions. The ad uses a powerful visual metaphor to tell the story of a man, brave enough to take a calculated risk and make a bold leap into the unknown in pursuit of his goal.
How do you follow up award-winning, empowering but highly divisive "Dream crazy"? By dreaming "crazier". The follow-up in early 2019 is an ad narrated by tennis champion Serena Williams. It took aim at sexist commentary that describes impassioned sportswomen and its impact was empowering, and infuriated the so-called alt-right.
Tackling online hate head-on is not typically the recommended course for brands. But Nationwide continues to fly in the face of social media rancour. After inviting a number of brands to unite for #TogetherAgainstHate, the building society is listening to customers, having launched a number of products including later-life policies for older borrowers, and keeping branches open.