2016 year in review: It’s been a good year for…

From Tesco’s comeback to Team GB striking gold at the Rio Olympics, here are five of the biggest marketing success stories from 2016.

On-demand services

It seems convenience has become king, as brands move towards providing consumers with on-demand services at the click of a button. Uber expanded into food delivery with its UberEATS launch in June, allowing consumers to order food in a similar manner to hailing an Uber car. Deliveroo, perhaps worried about its new competitor, unveiled a rebrand soon after with a more minimalist logo and colourful staff uniforms.

The two brands have tough times ahead with their employment practices under the microscope, yet the consumer appetite for instant gratification remains. In August, Amazon introduced its Dash service to the UK, partnering with Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Nestlé to allow consumers to order and receive products within a day simply by pressing a button.

The online giant is also offering a cloud-based Amazon Dash replenishment service, allowing brands to enable their connected devices to automatically reorder physical goods from Amazon, for example a washing machine that reorders laundry detergent or a printer that reorders ink.

Since launching in the US last year, Amazon Dash has seen continued growth. The number of brands available on Dash in the US expanded four times faster in 2016 compared with 2015, proving the appeal of one-click shopping.

Carling, never one to pass up a good publicity opportunity, quickly released its own ‘beer button’, allowing consumers to replenish their beer supplies. But the brand refuses to label it a gimmick. Molson Coors customer marketing director Alpesh Mistry said: “The Carling Beer Button is designed to tackle the increasing problem of brand visibility online and drive both brand and retailer loyalty.”

Team GB

team gb

Despite the doping scandals surrounding the Rio Olympics and issues with the accommodation for athletes, Team GB had its best ever Games, winning 67 medals, two more than it managed at London 2016.

The team finished in second place in the medals table at both the Olympics and Paralympics, the former marking the first time Team GB had finished ahead of China.

Prior to the games, Team GB’s head of marketing Leah Davis said it was turning the traditional sponsorship model on its head and instead forging collaborative brand partnerships with Samsung, Coca-Cola and Visa to name a few.

“The heyday of sponsorship where you splash a logo and pay a fee is over, and that’s no bad thing,” she explained. “This is forcing sponsors to be creative, considered and insightful, working together to produce better content.”

The team also succeeded in pushing its brand out to fans through storytelling on social sites with a digital strategy executed via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. The aim, according to Davis, was to present Team GB as a “modern British brand that is approachable, cheerful and elite without being elitist”.

According to Mark England, director of sports services at Team GB, social media also played an important part in building team morale among the athletes.

Speaking at The Marketing Society’s Global 3.57 event, he said the fact Team GB stayed in the same accommodation and did not post negative updates about the conditions kept the team together. The athletes could see themselves as a wider team, not just restricted to their own sport. That was boosted by athletes remaining after their competitions were complete to cheer each other on from the sidelines and through social media.

The Underdog

Leicester city

For better or worse 2016 has been the year of the underdog. From Leicester City winning the Premier League in May to Brexit and US celebrity tycoon Donald Trump securing major political wins, 2016 was the year to make the impossible happen. A year that turned even the most controversial of candidates into the next US President.

In Leicester’s City’s case, the odds were stacked against them. At 5000-1 and with a new manager, Claudio Ranieri, who had been sacked from his last position, their chances of winning the Premier League were slim.

However, as Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson highlighted, Ranieri’s guidance with a “clear diagnosis and distinctive strategic plan” led the team to triumph. Following the win, the club’s brand value soared 132%, while Nissan said it would focus its sponsorship for 2017’s UEFA Champions League around the club.

The year of the underdog also led to political unrest and a desire for change in both the UK and US.

June saw the UK vote to leave the EU, as the nation favoured a campaign to ‘take control’, while in November the US backed Trump, the property mogul known for the US version of the TV show The Apprentice, to be President.

Both campaigns highlighted how the UK and the US had become disillusioned with their governments, favouring dramatic change above all else, so much so the US voted in a candidate with no political experience. In particular, Trump’s campaign was a victory for emotion-led marketing.

Tesco

tesco food

Having suffered a record £6.4bn pre-tax loss, 2015 was a year to forget for Tesco. “Tesco has lost its purpose in the minds of consumers and it’s unlikely we will see it regain the dominant position it once held anytime soon,” was the damning assessment of Robin George, insight associate director at Added Value. And let’s not forget that high-profile accounting scandal, which still hangs over the retailer.

But if in 2015 Tesco fought for its future, then in 2016 it reminded critics why it should never be written off.

Chief executive Dave Lewis’s relentless focus on improving customer experience permeates throughout the business. And with three consecutive quarters of sales growth, the UK’s biggest supermarket found its mojo in 2016.

Aside from Morrisons, which is also winning back lost ground, Tesco’s fortunes are the reverse of its rivals’; Asda is fighting for relevance and Sainsbury’s has seen stuttering sales despite the high-profile acquisition of Home Retail Group. And it is not a coincidence Tesco’s return to form has coincided with slowing growth for both Aldi and Lidl.

Whereas Lewis once spoke of the challenge of winning back customers lost to the German discounters, he now speaks of consumers returning en masse to Tesco to do their weekly shop. By cutting pointless product ranges and putting more staff on the shop floor, Lewis has made a visit to Tesco feel less like a chore.

If it can make its marketing more entertaining and less predictable, 2017 could be an even stronger year.

Dollar Shave Club and subscription services

dollar shave club

In a marketplace filled with disruptive startups, FMCG giants such as Unilever and P&G face ever growing pressure to keep up. This year, it seems an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ mindset was key to their strategies.

In July, Unilever acquired online-only subscription service Dollar Shave Club for a rumoured $1bn (£760m). The startup delivers razors direct to customers for a fixed monthly price and has rapidly disrupted the shaving market, still dominated by P&G‘s Gillette brand.

Dollar Shave Club holds 54% of the online shaving marketing in the US, according to Euromonitor, and 5% of the total shaving market. By comparison, Gillette’s share of the online market is 21%, while its overall share dropped from 71% in 2010 to 59% in 2015.

To win back market share P&G introduced its own subscription service for Gillette. It also launched a subscription service for its Tide Pods laundry brand, as it looks to stop other markets being disrupted by online upstarts.

Going down a subscription route might seem unusual but it makes financial sense. Adopting a direct-to-consumer model provides Unilever and P&G with a lot of data and consumer insight.

By moving from selling individual products through a third-party retailer to going direct to consumers, they also become consumer services companies and build relationships, ensuring more loyal customers and secure revenues in the long term.

“You don’t have to go through retailers anymore and you can cross-sell loads of your products and bundle them. You’re not just selling shaving, but personal care,” explains Nick Liddell, director of consulting at branding agency The Clearing.

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