Asos, Camelot, Channel 4, KFC and Tesco have been shortlisted for the Marketing Week Masters Brand of the Year award for 2021.
These five brands were chosen from a long list put together by the Marketing Week editorial team, which was assessed by our jury of senior marketers. Brands were selected based on performance, agility, marketing strategy and innovation over the past year.
The winner will be chosen based on a combination of a public vote and the views of our judging panel of senior marketing leaders. This year, our expert jury includes Waitrose customer director Martin George, NatWest Group CMO Margaret Jobling, L’Oréal UK and Ireland CMO Lex Bradshaw-Zanger and Claire Farrant, CMO of Lidl UK.
The winner will be revealed in October.
Voting is now closed.
The shortlist for Brand of the Year
In a year that shook fashion retail to its core, online retailer Asos successfully capitalised on the consumer shift towards ecommerce to deliver a record financial performance.
Despite early supply chain difficulties as the pandemic hit, which saw the brand remove its next-day delivery offer for seven weeks, Asos bounced back and effectively adapted its offering to focus on activewear and Face + Body products, a shift away from the “going out” clothes it has always been known for.
As such, over the half year to February 2021, Asos’s sales soared by 24% year on year to a record £1.9bn. Profits similarly increased by 253% to £106.4m, as the retailer’s active customer base grew by a further 1.5 million customers to 24.9 million globally, offsetting the fall in event-led reasons for people to shop during lockdown.
The retailer credited marketing’s role in driving its successful year, having raised its marketing spend by £40m compared to the same period last year in order to capitalise on the ecommerce shift.
On top of that, in February this year Asos jumped on the opportunity to acquire the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands from Arcadia, following the fashion group’s collapse into administration.
It was a smart move. While Asos had a much healthier brand, the likes of Topshop and Miss Selfridge brought with them perceptions of quality, which online retailers with a history in budget clothing lack. Plus, with a rich history spanning nearly 60 years, the Topshop brand has a legacy that Asos can use to its advantage.
The retailer has made an admirable effort to rapidly and smoothly integrate the new brands, relaunching them on the platform in late February alongside impactful social media campaigns. On launch day alone, the site saw a 226% increase in traffic, driving strong sales momentum across the brands.
As noted by Retail Economics’ CEO Richard Lim, Asos’s performance has been “mightily impressive” given the pressure that has been rippling through the apparel market.
On the acquisition of Arcadia’s brands, Lim added: “The pace of the integration was astonishing, relaunching the brand within three weeks of its acquisition showing the kind of agility that other retailers aspire to.”
Asos won the Marketing Week Masters Brand of the Year in 2018, but went on to struggle in 2019 as the business underwent major IT problems. However, with record sales in an incredibly tricky year and a smart acquisition, the brand has more than earned its place back on the shortlist.
National Lottery owner Camelot is a success story that highlights how a revamped marketing strategy targeted in the right spots can boost a brand’s health.
The company revealed it shifted away from heavy sales-driven marketing to a purposeful strategy in the past few years, in which it shows consumers how their money goes to fuelling charities and communities who need it the most, particularly during the current health crisis.
Most notably, Camelot revved up the messaging around The National Lottery’s £600m Covid-19 response, and another major campaign to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
All of this led to Camelot recording growth in key metrics of YouGov’s BrandIndex, such as buzz which grew from 5.5 to 9.2. Ad awareness increased from 27.7 to 29.6 and purchase consideration from 30.8 to 35.
Those metrics and others combined to give Camelot its highest ever overall BrandIndex score of 8.1 in 2020, surging from 1.9 in 2019, making it the second most improved brand last year, behind Netflix.
The National Lottery brand owner also took advantage of media offering “incredible value” to power its “play and purpose” message, as many brands pulled marketing during the middle of 2020, due to the pandemic.
More affordable media also enabled the brand to encourage consumers to switch to playing The National Lottery online or via the app, a vital change as retail sales accounts for 70% of ticket sales and burdened partners with non-vital shop visits.
Speaking at an event hosted by YouGov earlier this year, Camelot CMO Keith Moor said: “The organisation has been building a very definitive story about what the brand has delivered to society and the value players have delivered back to the communities we live in. And I think this is starting to pay dividends.
“It’s not just a series of activation-type promotions, where we talk about draws and games all the time. Actually, there’s a heavy investment in where the money goes, in terms of telling me what’s going on. I think it’s been a very conscious effort to do that and that’s what started to pay dividends.”
Channel 4 has been busy over the past year with a management reshuffle, recruiting a new marketing director and introducing a fresh corporate purpose.
Opting for a “clearer and simplified structure”, in January the broadcaster asked CMO Zaid Al-Qassab to head up an expanded marketing and viewer experience division, becoming one of six senior managers reporting directly to the CEO committee.
Several departments now feed into the enlarged marketing and viewer experience division, including the All 4 product team, content and corporate communications, and the newly-created audience integration team.
The expansion of Al-Qassab’s role called for the appointment in June of former Eurostar director of brand and customer experience Amber Kirby as marketing director. Based in Channel 4’s national HQ in Leeds, Kirby now leads the marketing division and is responsible for delivering brand strategy across the broadcaster’s network of channels.
The wider restructure is central to Channel 4 delivering its five-year Future4 strategy, launched in November. Devised to ensure the broadcaster “survives and thrives” in the digital age, the strategy aims to accelerate Channel 4’s push into digital and drive both online viewing and revenues.
The strategy comes complete with a new brand purpose to ‘create change through entertainment’. To achieve this, the broadcaster has promised to represent unheard, diverse voices, challenge with purpose and reinvent entertainment, looking at reaching audiences in new ways across TV, film, streaming and social media. This is all encapsulated in its recently launched ‘Altogether Different’ campaign.
Ahead of this, Channel 4 already reported in June “encouraging” early results from its push to increase representation across its programming, claiming an “uptick” in black and ethnic minority viewers over the past year. Currently, one in five people represented in the broadcaster’s top 100 shows are from an ethnic minority background, up from 14% in 2019.
Elsewhere, from an employee perspective Channel 4 broke new ground in April with the launch of its first pregnancy loss policy covering miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion. The policy offers two weeks leave on full pay, as well as paid leave for medical appointments, flexible working, medical support, counselling and a buddy scheme to support employees returning to work after a loss.
Devised by gender equality staff network 4Women, the policy supports women and men who have been affected, regardless of the nature of their loss or length of service, and recognises that pregnancy loss is not isolated to heterosexual couples.
KFC, aided and abetted by its long-term creative agency partner Mother, is currently on a run of ads with pitch perfect tone, a little swagger and excellent use of distinctive brand assets.
From the ‘RateMyKFC’ social activity that ran during the enforced shuttering of its chain and saw its followers share their attempts to recreate meals, to the ‘We have it from here’ campaign that gently ribbed these efforts while announcing its partial reopening. From the ads announcing its decision to temporarily drop its ‘Finger lickin’ good’ strapline in wake of the pandemic to the celebration of the relationship it has with its customers, its ads have stood out over the past year. They have stood out for not being afraid to lean into culture and for simply being there.
KFC invested in brand building when others retreated, seeing the relative inactivity of rivals as an opportunity to steal share of voice. Kate Wall, UK innovation director, told Marketing Week in August 2020: “To be spending on brand building right now is bold and brave, but it is absolutely what we’ve always done and we always see the results come in.”
Its advertising is only successful because the brand has a sense of itself and the proposition is right. And it has only been able to achieve that because of a rigorous brand diagnosis – understanding its history, its market and the customers in its target segments. Work that began in 2016 and found a “fading old man” of a brand that needed an overhaul is now coming to fruition. A marketing-led transformation that has seen the overhaul of its stores, menu and service.
The brand isn’t stopping there. Parent Yum! Brands acquired AI consumer data firm Kvantum last year and will use its tools to apply more scientific rigour to its decision making.
Yum! Brands CMO Ken Muench told Marketing Week: “It does something that very few people are able to do in any retail organisation, which is understand with an immense amount of detail, what every single type of product and media is able to do for us across the board.”
The effort is seeing results. Same store sales in the UK increased 16% in the first quarter of 2021, which compares with a 2% drop across its territories outside the US.
From hitting rock bottom in 2014 to winning the Marketing Week Masters’ Brand of the Year 2020, Tesco’s turnaround story has been a resounding success, and the past year has only seen that upwards trajectory continue.
In spite of the Covid-19 crisis, Tesco managed to grow sales, gain market share and strengthen its brand. Over the year ending February 2021, Tesco saw its group like-for-like sales grow 6.3% to a total of £53.4bn.
Profits took an expected hit as the supermarket took on the increased costs of the pandemic, heavily investing in online services and making its physical stores safe, but Tesco still managed to post a profit before tax of £825m.
Much of Tesco’s success over the past year has come as a result of the brand doubling down on improving its value proposition. The Aldi Price Match Promise has been extended to more than 500 product lines, while Clubcard Prices offers new rewards for customers.
Value has been a focal point for almost all major supermarkets over the past 12 months, including Sainsbury’s, M&S and Waitrose. However, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex tool, Tesco has done it best. The brand’s value perception rose from an average score of 20.3 during its 2019/20 financial year to 25.1 for 2020/21, the biggest jump across the market.
But value isn’t the only brand metric Tesco has strengthened over the past year. The supermarket’s impression, reputation and customer satisfaction scores have all moved forward at a faster rate than its competitors.
Tesco’s marketing campaigns over the past year have included ‘The Power to Lower Prices’, a campaign that aimed to push its Clubcard proposition, as well as new creatives for its ongoing ‘Food Love Stories’ campaign. The supermarket also encouraged consumers to enjoy themselves at the end of a tough year with its ‘No Naughty List’ Christmas ad.
New CEO Ken Murphy, who joined the business in October, claims that Tesco’s successes over the last 12 months has come by “simply focusing on doing the right thing for customers”.
Speaking on a call with press in April, he said: “We’ve strengthened our brand, improved customer satisfaction, bolstered our value and quality credentials in the eyes of the customer, and we’ve doubled the size of our online business. This all gives us a great platform to build from, even as we face into the uncertainty ahead.”