2023 marketing year in review: It’s been a good year for…

From a rise in brands positioning with competitors to B2B brand building going to the next level and women’s sport becoming ‘commercially sustainable’, 2023 has been a good year for shaking up the status quo.

Bringing back old assets

Like haircuts and fashion trends, it seems brand assets come back around. This year saw many brands digging back into their archives to resurrect distinctive assets from the past.

Morrisons, Direct Line, Tango, Branston and TGI Fridays were just some of the brands that chose to reinstate old assets this year. The motivation for this was very clear: truly distinctive assets are hard to come by.

When Morrisons and its agency Leo Burnett brought back the retired ‘More Reasons to Shop’ slogan and accompanying jingle, the supermarket told Marketing Week its research had found strong residual connections to the assets among consumers, despite them not being used since 2006.

Research suggests while marketers may cherish their own assets and campaigns, very few actually take hold in consumers’ minds. “If something really has taken hold in the public consciousness, I think there’s a lot of value in trying to delve into that,” Ryan Wallman, creative director and head of copy at agency Wellmark told Marketing Week in June.

At the same time, marketers are often accused of moving away from a campaign or platform too soon, with studies showing there is no such thing as advertising ‘wear-out’, something Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson has explored in more detail.

Being consistent can deliver strong rewards for businesses. The likes of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, or Marmite’s ‘Love it or hate it’, have been used year after year with consumers and continue to resonate well.

With the introduction of a new CMO or agency, brands can sometimes be tempted to move away from existing assets to “stamp their mark” on the organisation. Brands digging into their archives to resurrect old assets is a testament to how this can often be a mistake. The adage of, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, holds true. NC

Exclusive discounts for loyalty members

Source: Boots via The Pharm

A new model for retailer loyalty schemes gained traction this year. Traditionally, loyalty initiatives have seen consumers collect points that can then be exchanged for discounts or free items. But with people looking for more immediate rewards, heightened by rising inflation and the cost of living crisis, many brands introduced member-only discounts to provide consumers with more instant gratification this year.

Tesco started the trend when it first launched Clubcard Prices back in 2020 – and it has ramped up its member pricing offer this year and its communication of the initiative – but others are now hot on its heels. Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Co-op all introduced exclusive discounts for loyalty scheme members. And it has moved beyond grocery with retailers including Boots and Superdrug also introducing the mechanism.

Nominally, these are to offer more immediate savings to consumers; however, they also provide clear benefits for brands.

Investment in promotional pricing is a significant cost for retailers, and the schemes allow them to gatekeep these discounts to those who are registered. Loyalty members offer retailers significant value, particularly as many develop retail media offerings.

Knowing what brand of bread a shopper most frequently buys is of significant value both to a retailer and to any brand that might want to tap into its retail media offering.

While points may offer a long-term incentive for price-savvy shoppers to sign up for a loyalty scheme, the benefits of a member discount are immediately realisable. Getting 50p off a lunchtime meal deal because you hold a loyalty card is a lot more tangible than getting 50 points for buying it.

The challenge now is for retailers to demonstrate these schemes present real value to consumers. NC

Brand building in B2B

Addleshaw Goddard MW Awards 2023The revolution in B2B brand building continued apace in 2023. From the tentpole examples of Sage and Xero to fresh upstarts in unlikely sectors such as legal firm Addleshaw Goddard, B2B marketers continue to recognise what brand marketing can do for them. And, more importantly, are convincing senior stakeholders of its value as well.

One recurring theme for B2B marketing in 2023 was brands popping up in what would have been unlikely places just a few years ago. Xero became the lead sponsor for ITV’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup, a culmination of a journey that has seen the brand get more and more involved in the game since the Lionesses Euros triumph. More recently, Adobe got involved, partnering with The FA to sponsor the Women’s FA Cup.

But B2B brand building goes beyond just sponsorship. Having not seen the value in marketing for nearly 250 years, law firm Addleshaw Goddard’s new marketing team convinced senior leadership of the power of brand building, helping it win Marketing Team of the Year at the Marketing Week Awards. It launched a series of poetry events centred around the law, which helped it connect with hard to reach targets.

Meanwhile, Zendesk, Infosys, RS Group and Hiscox also shared with Marketing Week how they are ramping up investment in brand marketing. And if you’re looking for an example of a B2B marketing department putting itself right at the heart of the business then you need look no further than Apex Group. Its CMO Rosie Guest told Marketing Week how she has transformed its marketing efforts from “subservient” function to growth engine.

“They couldn’t get in front of their clients, nobody could get in front of their employees, and it was suddenly [understood] that marketing was able to do all of that,” Guest said. A fitting summation of what many B2B marketers are continuing to discover. JS

Collaborations and partnerships

Source: Evian/Balmain

While brand collaborations are nothing new it’s fair to say that 2023 has seen an explosion of them.

The big one – quite frankly the unavoidable one – was Barbie. Everyone wanted a piece of Barbie, one of the biggest movies of the year, and Mattel was more than happy to oblige. There were more than 100 brand collaborations in support of the film: from the logical fashion collabs with Gap, Zara, Asos and many more to the more out there such as the Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse on Airbnb to the deeply cursed Barbie Crocs.

But whether you wanted a Barbie Burger King or not, what is undeniable is that the film and its accompanying partnerships have had a galvanising effect on Mattel which saw sales of Barbie grow by 16% in its last quarter. Far from being a shotgun approach, Mattel’s global head of Barbie and dolls portfolio, Lisa McKnight, told Marketing Week it was, “very strategic… keeping a steady drumbeat leading up to the film”.

But Mattel wasn’t the only company throwing its weight behind brand collaborations. Heinz supercharged its burgeoning pasta sauce offer with a tie-up with Absolut Vodka. The limited-edition tomato vodka pasta sauce was a tremendous success, at one point becoming Heinz’s top-selling product and scooped more than 6.6 million TikTok views.

Coca-Cola and Jack Daniel’s finally launched their much-anticipated ready-to-drink offer – which became drinks manufacturer Brown-Forman’s most successful launch in its history. And Camden Town Brewery perhaps struck the oddest brand partnership of the year with HP Sauce for, naturally, a brown ale. There was also Burger King and Doritos, Durex and Diesel, ModiBodi and Puma, and Balmain and Evian.

Prinz Pinakatt summed it up best, however, when speaking about why Evian continues to pursue brand partnerships with high-end fashion brands. “Cross-brand collaborations are usually about borrowing equity,” he told Marketing Week. And as brand collaborations continue to grow in importance, it seems many marketers subscribe to the same thinking. JS

Women’s sport becoming ‘commercially sustainable’

2023 was the year women’s sport became “commercially sustainable“. This according to Nicky Stanton, head of commercial at DSM, speaking alongside England footballer Jess Carter at Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing this October. 

The UK is watching more women’s sport than ever before, according to data from the Women’s Sport Trust which shows the average time spent increased by 28% this year. This is coupled with growing brand interest – Adobe recently signed on as the Women’s FA Cup lead sponsor until 2026 – and more lucrative opportunities for athletes. 

In fact, women’s elite sports are expected to generate $1.28bn (£1.02bn) in revenue worldwide in 2024, according to Deloitte. If so, it’ll be the first time global annual revenue for women’s sport exceeds $1bn. 

Women’s football is the market leader, but other sports are also going from strength to strength, including cricket, rugby and netball. The England and Wales Cricket Board’s director of the women’s game Beth Barrett-Wild told Marketing Week there is a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ mentality for growing women’s sport. 

There has also been a shift this year in how female athletes are represented in advertising. While the focus used to be squarely on diversity and overcoming barriers, there now seems to be a positive tonal shift to highlighting the skill and athleticism of female players.

Talking about Sky Sports’ start of season campaign, marketing director Dave Stratton said: “One of the proudest things about this ad is people feeding that back, in terms of how great it is to see that we’re not just putting Emma Raducanu front and centre, but also footballers Lauren James and Ella Toone, cricketer Sophia Dunkley and F1’s Naomi Schiff all playing through.

While it has been a mammoth year for women’s sport, there is still a long way to go for it to achieve parity with male sport. But indisputably, 2023 has been the year that cemented women’s sport in the zeitgeist, particularly in terms of viewing figures and fan engagement. Hopefully, 2024 will be the year it translates into true commercial success for all involved. MI 

Positioning with

A brand positioning alongside another is a potentially risky strategy. Directly referencing a competitor could serve to bolster its position more and divert consumers’ attention away from your brand.

In the supermarket sector price matches have become particularly prevalent as the traditional ‘big four’ look to show consumers they offer the same value as the discounters on everyday products.

Sainsbury’s and Tesco have both credited the effectiveness of their Aldi Price Match initiatives for boosting value perceptions. Meanwhile, Tesco was ordered to stop using its Clubcard Prices logo as it too closely resembled that of Lidl. The judge said Tesco had “taken unfair advantage of the distinctive reputation” Lidl has for its lower prices, in a “passing off” offense.

While the big players are positioning themselves alongside the discounters to drive impressions of value, conversely, the discounters have been drawing parallels with more established brands to increase perceptions of quality.

Aldi has been cheekily positioning its own-label products with brands for years, with its ‘Like Brand, Only Cheaper…’ platform. Aldi reignited the caterpillar cake wars this year with its “Cuthbert Party” campaign. The rivalry between Cuthbert and Colin is a longstanding one, with M&S taking the discounter to the court in 2021 in a bid to “protect” its intellectual property. Aldi and M&S came to an agreement last year but the discounter took another swipe at its rival with the latest ad, which featured the end line ‘Aldi. Like M&S. Only cheaper’.

Asda was another brand to position itself with M&S, with its ‘Taste Match’ campaign. In a series of ads, the supermarket made quality claims, saying its products were taste tested and found to be “as tasty as” or “tastier than” the M&S equivalent. M&S CEO Stuart Machin called the campaign “strange” and dismissed it as “marketing gimmicks”.

Outside retail, the majority of BrewDog’s marketing for its Black Heart stout positioned it with its famous rival. “Toucan play that game”, said some of the brand’s marketing, alluding to the bird associated with the Guinness brand. “What if it’s better?” BrewDog also asked consumers. NC.