The best marketing campaigns of 2019: Part I

From chilled-out bulldogs and record-breaking vegan snacks, to probably not the best beer in the world and Alan Partridge’s ‘back at the BBC’ memo, here’s part one of Marketing Week’s campaigns of 2019.

Alan Partridge

BBC –  Alan Partridge returns

Ah Haaa! The BBC brought back Britain’s most inept radio host and full-time egomaniac Alan Partridge after 24 years in February – but with a twist.

Forgoing the usual Radio Times listings and TV promo that one might expect from the British Broadcasting Corporation, 20,000 BBC staff – “colleagues” – received a round-robin email from an as-ever obnoxious and entitled Alan Partridge, demanding they tune into his new show, This Time With Alan Partridge.

Subject lined: ‘Clearing the Air’, the email was not only clever for being written and delivered in a way that would give it some legs on social media (and without having to spend a penny), but it also mocked the BBC for things it was facing great scrutiny for at the time, as well as acknowledging Steve Coogan’s decision to take Alan Partridge from the Beeb to Sky in 2012.

Vote for your campaign of 2019: Round 1

“It’s time for a clean slate and no hard feelings,” Partridge wrote. “Because I love the BBC and I always have. While others might say it’s a smug anachronism full of braying, know-nothing chancers doling out fat commissions to their braying, know-nothing Oxbridge mates, I don’t. I think the BBC is great and watch its programmes avidly, regardless of their quality.”

It also included an equally-Partridge out-of-office response.

The opening episode brought in just shy of 6 million viewers. Perhaps more importantly, the PR exercise showed the BBC in a humourous, less conservative, light and no doubt earned it a few lols around the office and on social media. EH

Cadbury x Age UK – Donate your Words

Cadbury and Age UK joined forces in September to take up the fight against loneliness in later life. The campaign was devised in response to Age UK statistics, which found that 1.4 million older people say they struggle with loneliness and 225,000 often go a whole week without speaking to anyone.

To help understand what that kind of extreme loneliness feels like, TV presenter Sue Perkins committed to spend 30 hours in complete isolation, without speaking a word to anyone.

Having explored the impact of loneliness, Cadbury’s then turned the packaging of its Dairy Milk bar blank, donating 30p from every pack sold to Age UK. To support the on-pack campaign, Cadbury worked with creative agency VCCP on a series of emotive adverts designed to raise awareness of the loneliness crisis facing older people.

The donations will be used by Age UK to support older people through initiatives like its national advice line and telephone friendship service.

YouGov brand tracking data shows that Cadbury’s buzz scores increased significantly among those aged over-65 following the airing of the first advert and the campaign launch. Nationally, buzz scores increased by 2.3 points to 11 over the first two weeks of the campaign, with scores up 5.1 points to 8.9 among over-65s.

Awareness of Cadbury’s adverts also increased by 11% among over-65s, while nationally the brand’s attention scores rose by 3.7 points to 20.4 and word of mouth exposure was up two points to 17.8.

YouGov found a boost in awareness for both Cadbury and Age UK. Consumers not only noticed and discussed the advert, but their likelihood of purchasing Cadbury products increased by 4.6 points. CR

Carlsberg – Probably Not

Carlsberg 'probably not the best beer in the world'Carlsberg’s inversion of its ‘Probably the best beer in the world’ tag line earned respect from both within and outside the marketing world.

The genuinely brave move was a huge brand risk, putting its reputation on the line, and one that Carlsberg was all too aware of.

The brewer totally revamped its product, rebrewing it from “from head to hop”. It plastered “probably not the best beer in the world” across outdoor ads and social media, highlighting how it had prioritised “quantity over quality”. At the same time, Carlsberg introduced new packs and glassware aimed at reinforcing the changes and the pilsner’s new, more premium, positioning.

The campaign, devised by creative agency Fold7, was a declaration that Carlsberg had lost its way, an approach the brand was rightly nervous about, but that also showed how vital it is to be honest with consumers.

Speaking to Marketing Week shortly after the campaign launch Carlsberg UK’s director of marketing Lynsey Woods said the brand has been “overwhelmed” by the response from consumers so far.

“We were nervous [before the launch] because we haven’t done anything like this before,” Woods explained. “We hadn’t really lifted the lid and spoken so honestly, and I don’t think many brands do, but actually we’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response.”

It certainly drove conversation, with awareness of Carlsberg’s advertising among British consumers doubling to 10.5 on YouGov BrandIndex during the campaign’s first four months.

The brand turnaround will take a long time to come to fruition, but it certainly created a huge buzz across the beer world. MF

READ MORE: Carlsberg admits it probably isn’t the best beer in the world as it overhauls the brand and the brew

Churchill – Chur-chill

A CGI bulldog skateboarding down a street might not sound like an obvious ad campaign for an insurance brand, but that’s exactly what Churchill did as it overhauled its brand to make it more modern and relevant.

Head of marketing Lucy Brooksbank was honest in her critique of Churchill’s previous branding, admitting it “lacked any real distinctiveness” and was seen as “dated and old-fashioned”.

“Our audience’s relationship with the brand is only skin deep, heavily reliant on the love of the dog, but even his star was starting to fade,” she told Marketing Week at the time.

Some brands might have started over, but Churchill knew there was too much equity in its brand mascot to do away with him. Instead, it updated the familiar bulldog, turning him from nodding puppet into a skateboarding CGI masterpiece as part of a campaign created by Engine that aimed to show customers can “chill”, safe in the knowledge they are covered by Churchill’s policies.

Given that the aim of the campaign was to elicit an emotional response, early signs are the changes are paying off. According to data from market research agency System1, which scores ads based on the emotion they generate and the intensity of that emotional resonance, the Churchill campaign is in the top 5% of all ads.

It scored 4.6 out of five on its ranking, meaning it was an emotional hit and has the potential to create strong long-term growth for the brand.

Overhauling a beloved asset can be a risk and the data shows there was a small drop in brand fluency (how quickly people recognise the brand), but its central insight that insurance could feel relaxing has resonated.

“This is a big ‘oh yes’ for Churchill and has the potential to be the foundation of a whole new, long-running campaign,” says System1 head of marketing Tom Ewing. SV

READ MORE: Churchill gets a CGI makeover as brand looks to get its edge back

Gillette – The Best Men Can Be

Gillette sparked headlines around the world in January when it released a rallying call for men to do better.

The US campaign, devised by Grey New York, went viral causing the brand to be bombarded by both praise and abuse – with P&G’s GEO of global grooming, Gary Coombe, even receiving a threatening call from a shareholder.

The ad called on men to stop objectifying women and bullying people across different age brackets, featuring creative from some of its own old ads. The campaign caused shockwaves across the industry, with many quick to brand it a disaster and a lesson in fake purpose.

The brand revealed that much of the online criticism was a result of two alt-right groups in the US that used bots to post thousands of negative comments on the video in the first 24 hours after its release.

To manage the reaction, Coombe and his team had a crisis meeting every hour. The brand very nearly took the video down, but Coombe said that, eventually, sticking it out was worth it.

Within a week, the ad had 110 million views and 18 billion media impressions. Interest was so high that Gillette cancelled all of its planned media investment, resulting in a total media bill of $104 (£81) for the global campaign.

Coombe admitted that Gillette knew it had to go big or go home: “I don’t think we could come at this challenge incrementally, I don’t think we could do it carefully or softly; we needed something to transform the business and that was what we set out to do.”

In June, the brand reported figures which show that since the ad launched, 65% of consumers are more likely to purchase Gillette. Among millennials, that figure was even higher, with 84% of women and 76% of men aged under 35 saying they would be more likely to purchase from the brand. MF

READ MORE: Gillette boss: Alienating some consumers with #metoo campaign was a price worth paying

Greggs – Vegan Sausage Roll

Marketing Week’s Masters Brand of the Year, Greggs, made a splash in January with the launch of its vegan sausage roll.

In a bid to “own Veganuary”, Greggs went big on the unveiling of its vegan snack, pitching it as “next-generation sausage roll technology” in a parody of an Apple product launch, complete with slick branding and iPhone-style boxes to distribute the product to the media.

The campaign, devised in collaboration with Splendid Communications, struck a chord with everyone from vegan influencers to national broadcasters, including Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan. After Morgan tweeted his outrage at the launch of the vegan sausage roll, Greggs responded to his grumpy statement with a tweet that went viral.

The vegan sausage roll became Greggs’ fastest-selling new product over the past five years. In the seven weeks to 16 February 2019, the brand’s total sales grew by 14.1% and like-for-like sales increased by 9.6%, supported by the buzz around the launch of the vegan sausage roll.

It is estimated that the PR coverage reached 69% of UK adults more than 11 times, while organic Twitter reach for the campaign hit 24 million. The launch film alone was watched 8 million times.

During launch week, Greggs’ share of voice compared to competitors such as McDonald’s, KFC, Costa and Subway, peaked at 71%, its highest level to date and up from 17%. The Greggs social community grew by 23% and engagement in January 2019 outperformed all interactions during the whole of 2018.

Brand awareness reached its highest level since 2012, rising by 13%. Some 90% of consumers questioned said the launch of the vegan sausage roll had positively changed brand perceptions, while 80% said they would now shop with Greggs more. CR 

READ MORE: How Greggs got customers to see it with new eyes 

Heineken – Go Places 2.0

Heineken Go Places 2.0Heineken set the employer branding bar high when it launched ‘Go Places’ in 2016. The aim then was to “tell the world” it was more than just one brand and recruit a new generation of employees.

Three years later, Heineken wanted to “rejuvenate” the campaign with a new focus on showcasing employee stories and driving awareness and engagement. It features the stories of 33 Heineken employees – from Carlos who heads up Heineken’s ecommerce business The Sub, to Marcel trying to sell cider in South Africa – highlighting times when they have faced a challenge, but managed to turn it into an opportunity.

The campaign is centred around three pillars: authenticity, transparency and long-term management of the brand. The aim is to drive a consistent increase in the quality and quantity of job applications, not just an “inspirational spike”. Furthermore, the campaign was created through collaboration between marketing, HR and Heineken’s agency CloudFactory.

“As long as we keep selling Heineken beer to consumers we need a brand that manages that as well. That’s the mindset that keeps us always active with the Go Places brand,” says Heineken’s head of global talent acquisition, Benjamin Clark.

The campaign is about more than an ad, however. Heineken launched an interactive website and brought its global and local careers websites onto the same platform in a bid to improve its interviewing and hiring processes, as well as managing performance.

There was also an internal campaign that ran across Heineken’s internal collaboration tool Workplace by Facebook, designed to engender pride and turn employees into advocates. SV

READ MORE: Awareness, engagement, pride – How Heineken is ‘rejuvenating’ its employer branding strategy

HSBC – Together We Thrive

Nobody would have believed in the first few days of 2019 that this would be the year of the sound identity. Yet finance brands, in particular, have jumped on the need for an audio positioning to help distinguish their brand in a sea of clutter and in environments where there might not be a visual way to showcase their brand (voice search being the obvious example).

It was HSBC that kicked this all off with ‘Together We Thrive’, a bespoke musical piece composed of seven different edits created to be relevant in the 66 markets where it operates. Created by electronic music producer Jean-Michel Jarre, it includes pieces such as ‘stadium’ that will be used at events including its sponsorship of the rugby competition Hong Kong Sevens, and ‘in-flight’.

The most obvious place it will turn up is in the bank’s contact centre, while it has also been incorporated into HSBC’s apps and marketing, most obviously as a short snippet at the end of TV ads.

Mastercard too has introduced a sonic identity that will show up in its advertising, sponsorship or when customers make a transaction.

It would be easy to dismiss sound identities and musical logos (or mogos) as a marketing gimmick. Yet there is a sound strategy behind their increasing use, with American Express the latest brand to launch one.

Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar is clear that brands will increasingly need to think about how they register in situations consumers aren’t interacting visually. “Alexa, Google Home, smart speakers, you ask them something and then go ahead and buy it, and there is no visual real estate at all to showcase my brand. Then how do we register our presence? That is a huge challenge,” he says. SV

READ MORE: HSBC launches ‘sound identity’ in next phase of global brand refresh