The best marketing campaigns of 2021: Part 2

From Tesco and KFC to Weetabix and Moonpig, the Marketing Week team chooses the second set of eight campaigns that make up our best of 2021.

KFC – ‘Your Chicken Could Never’

KFC has enjoyed a stellar – if eventful – 18 months, which has seen the brand close its 500 restaurants across the UK and Ireland and halt its six-decade old ‘It’s Finger Lickin’ Good’ slogan in response to Covid, as part of its first global campaign.

Deeming it “the most inappropriate brand slogan of the moment”, KFC CMO Jack Hinchliffe admitted that, creatively, pausing the slogan was always going to be more interesting than bringing it back. The question was, how could it reinstate its Finger Lickin’ strapline without the brand appearing to pass judgement on the state of the pandemic or look like it was making a corporate statement?

Enter ‘Your Chicken Could Never’.  The comeback campaign – set to the dulcet tones of Barry White – brought the slogan back in a way that enabled the brand to celebrate the lengths its fans had gone to to show their love for KFC. Developed through the brand’s longstanding relationship with creative agency Mother, the ad shows fans getting tattoos of Colonel Sanders riding a drumstick, proposing over a bucket meal and begging the taxi driver to take them to a KFC drive-thru.

This creative idea recalled the first ad the chicken chain put out after the March 2020 lockdown, which took the brand “full circle”. Back then KFC marked the reopening of its restaurants with a campaign celebrating fan devotion, using images of DIY creations from its #RateMyKFC social push.

While Your Chicken Could Never calls out fan love, it was seen as important to strike a balance between heroing their loyalty and appealing to the nation as a whole. Hinchliffe said that while the campaign was about celebrating the “precious” bond the chicken chain has with its fans, the advert also positioned KFC as a brand for the entire nation, even those people for whom it is “just one brand of many”.

The creative strategy at KFC is paying off on many fronts. The UK business contributed 6% of KFC’s total global sales during the second quarter, according to the latest results from parent company Yum! Brands, up 248% on the same period last year. The brand was also awarded the accolade of Marketing Week Masters 2021 Brand of the Year, as well as the awards for Brand Innovation, and PR and Brand Storytelling.

Furthermore, the creativity of campaigns such as Your Chicken Could Never are having a halo effect when it comes to talent. Recruitment for a marketing director to replace Hinchliffe following his promotion has attracted a “phenomenal” level of talent, which the KFC CMO does not believe the brand would have attracted even five years ago. CR

Moonpig – ‘The Moonpiglets’

Moonpig is a brand on a mission. The online card and gifting company has experienced a surge in sales since the UK first went into lockdown in March 2020. App downloads tripled amid “significant demand” across all departments, as new products were introduced.

By February 2021, Moonpig had listed on the London Stock Exchange with a £1.2bn valuation, while the period ahead of Valentine’s Day proved to be the company’s strongest week of trading for 20 years.

Set against this backdrop of rapid growth, the business decided it was time to bring back its pig mascot, retired in 2017. A literal take on the Moonpig brand name, the previous logo featured a space pig floating in an astronaut’s helmet. The pig was cut in a wider refresh designed to raise awareness of the brand’s status as a gift retailer.

However, ever since joining the business in July 2019, CMO Kristof Fahy believed it was an error to eliminate the mascot. He instantly saw the pig as sitting alongside the company’s unique name, strong pink colour and jingle as “incredible brand assets”.

After reviving the Moonpig jingle and reinstating the pink brand colour, Fahy described the return of the pig as the “final piece of the puzzle”.

The idea was not to recreate 2017’s space pig, but to develop a family of moonpiglets in collaboration with creative agency Creature. Dressed in a variety of costumes from a juicy avocado to a superhero, the pigs were unveiled in March via a multichannel campaign spanning TV, outdoor and digital.

The intention from the start was for the moonpiglets to “lead the charge”, sitting front and centre of the brand’s communications. Fahy said he is excited by the piglets’ ability to span a variety of products and occasions, with room for them to evolve with the seasons and trends.

Take Christmas. Consumers can now shop themes from the festive ad, which features the pigs clad in reindeer, Christmas tree, Santa and Christmas pudding outfits.

The belief at Moonpig is that many marketers underestimate the power of brand mascots. Not only are they instantly recognisable and a shortcut to brand recognition, Fahy insists there is an “aura around them” that adds layers on both a rational and emotional level.

Describing it as a “transformational year”, Moonpig delivered 50.9 million orders in the 12 months to 30 April, as revenue surged by 113% to £368.2m. Characterising the revival of its mascot as an investment in brand building, the business now plans to “prioritise additional investments in marketing” in a bid to fuel long-term growth. CR

NatWest – ‘Tomorrow Begins Today’

A notable campaign should communicate a functional and emotional benefit. One intended to be long term should also articulate the brand’s purpose. Not the cause it supports or its stand on societal issues but what part it plays in people’s lives and why that matters.

If you are one of the UK’s biggest and best known retail banking brands, you have a potential part and place, and undoubted purpose, but articulating why you matter in an increasingly competitive and less apathetic market is a big challenge.

This is what NatWest took on this year with the launch of ‘Tomorrow Begins Today’. The “creative platform”, created in partnership with The&Partnership, has been seen in several iterations – all of which strive to communicate two things – how customers can take control of their own finances and how NatWest can help them.

It’s meant to empower both customers and colleagues. CMO Margaret Jobling told Marketing Week in March: “It’s a call to action. And it’s a rallying cry for our people, because it’s all about what you can do today to help your customers across all touch points.”

The campaign was born from an extensive brand diagnosis. An exercise that began after the tainted Royal Bank of Scotland brand was replaced by NatWest. Led by Jobling, the root and branch review looked at what its customers needed, how its products and services matched up, and how its brand was perceived as a solution to financial needs.

The product – Tomorrow Begins Today – looks to address what was found – that there is a lack of understanding on what tools will help people take control of their finances and awareness of the support available to them.

Jobling added: “It’s a brilliant opportunity for NatWest. It’s the small things that make a difference, and the brand plays a role within that to remove obstacles and give customers access to the right tools, and to play a real motivational role. We’re a cheerleader, and the campaign is a manifestation of all that.”

According to the System1’s FaceTrace emotional measurement tool, the campaign’s first iteration in March had an above average ‘star rating’ for the sector, a measure of the potential impact on long-term growth. Meanwhile, YouGov’s BrandIndex shows the campaign was effective in reaching younger consumers, a stated aim of the campaign, with awareness of its advertising among those aged 18 to 34 and 35 to 49 climbing more steeply after each execution in the year. RP 

Tesco – ‘Pop to Your Local If You Can’

Supermarkets undoubtedly took on extra costs over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they were at least able to stay open throughout, providing consumers with essentials such as food, hand sanitiser and toilet paper. It was a very different story for the restaurant and hospitality industry, which was almost entirely shuttered for much of last year and the beginning of 2021.

So when restrictions began to ease in April, Tesco launched one of the most memorable print advertising campaigns of the year, giving up the opportunity to promote its own brand to encourage consumers to head back to to their local pub instead.

Created by ad agency BBH, ‘Pop To Your Local If You Can’ reads: “Pubs have had it tough this year. That’s why, for once, instead of telling you about our fantastic deals, we’re using this space to ask you to support them instead (as long as you feel safe to do so). Because right now, every little helps.”

The campaign ran across national newspapers and digital outdoor billboards, as well as on social media, with media planned and bought by MediaCom.

According to The Works, a monthly study of creative effectiveness produced using Kantar Marketplace data, the unusually benevolent ad scored in the top 2% of all ads in the UK for distinctiveness. It also ranked in the top 15% for being actively engaging and evoked a “feel-good factor” in the top 30%.

And despite asking consumers to engage with other businesses, the prominent integration of established brand cues combined with Tesco’s signature colours and the twist to its ‘Every Little Helps’ strapline meant consumers overwhelmingly recognised the ad as being from the supermarket, meaning it was also effective for the Tesco brand.

Indeed, through social listening the brand saw its net sentiment score increase, with 79% of sentiment in reaction to the ad positive – even among customers of rival supermarkets.

While there were many brands which tried to promote messages of hope and community over the last year, Tesco has an existing brand narrative around helpfulness which it maintained throughout the pandemic. This gave the supermarket permission to make such a bold statement without looking inauthentic, and is a key reason why the ad was such a success. MJ

The best marketing campaigns of 2021: Part 1

TikTok – ‘Where Fans Play’

Despite inking its sponsorship deal for Euro 2020 just four months before the tournament kicked off, TikTok was determined to go all-out to cement its reputation as a home for football fandom.

The first “digital entertainment platform” to sponsor a UEFA tournament, TikTok secured broadcast sponsorship rights entitling it to exposure during live matches across all European broadcast channels.

The size of audience TikTok tapped into was significant. Euro 2020 attracted a live match cumulative audience of 5.2 billion. The average live match audience was more than 100 million, while the final between England and Italy attracted an average live audience of 328 million. In the UK alone, the Euro 2020 final was the nation’s most-watched TV event for 24 years.

TikTok was ready for the influx of TV viewers, releasing a television campaign under its ‘Where Fans Play’ banner in May, splicing together content from the platform with vintage Euros footage set to New Order’s Blue Monday.

As part of the deal the brand worked with UEFA on a range of in-app features, including augmented reality effects, hashtag challenges, livestreams and sounds. This included the rollout of the #EqualGame AR effect in support of UEFA’s anti-racism pledge, which enabled users to unlock the TikTok equality badge for their page.

In addition, the partnership saw UEFA give TikTok access to its extensive library of historical assets to develop content. This footage also appeared on the newly launched UEFA Euro 2020 TikTok account, which featured exclusive behind-the-scenes content.

The social platform regarded the sponsorship as an opportunity to position itself as a home for football fans to enjoy a “new type of experience”, as well as driving awareness with different audiences. The campaign activity focused on changing the perception of TikTok as simply the home of “funny videos”, to positioning it as a “true hub for sport”.

The concept behind Where Fans Play was to open up the “unseen side of sports”. This approach included the England, Wales and Scotland national teams using TikTok’s Q&A function to share details of their pre-match preparations, while the BBC tailored its coverage on the platform, using footage of the best goals with reaction from the coaches and players.

TikTok itself launched a challenge with former England winger John Barnes to recreate his iconic rap from the 1990 World Cup anthem World in Motion, with New Order sharing their favourite submissions on the platform.

Crucially, TikTok was able to take the lessons learned from the Euros sponsorship and bounce straight into its activity around the summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, encouraging the sports stars to share everything from the highs and lows of competition, to the realities of life in the athletes’ village.

Since TikTok announced its Euros sponsorship, views of #football on the platform have more than trebled to 265 billion. There were 7.5 billion interactions with Euros content across social media, with the top post on the official UEFA Euro 2020 TikTok account generating 59 million views.

Furthermore, from a total business perspective the social media platform hit 1 billion users in September and increased its brand value by 158% to $43.516m (£32.34m) in 2021, according Kantar BrandZ, which ranked TikTok 45th in its global top 100 (up from 79 in 2020). CR

UK government – Vaccine roll-out

It’s safe to say the government’s handling of the Covid crisis has not been perfect. In many cases far from it. But one thing it has done well is encourage the UK public to get vaccinated.

The vaccine roll-out began at the end of 2020, starting with older and vulnerable people, and by February the UK had administered more doses per 100 people than any other nation of comparable size, according to Our World in Data.

By April more than 33.5 million people had been given their first dose in the UK, 63.5% of the total population of adults. At this time the government expanded the vaccination programme to younger people. It launched the vaccine programme’s first national campaign urging under-50s to get jabbed, with a TV campaign showcasing the collective effort of NHS staff and volunteers across the UK and highlighting the role the vaccine has been playing in preventing infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

It was supported by radio, digital, social and out-of-home and also urged those who had already received their first dose to get booked in for their second vaccine when invited.

The ad, which played out to a cover of ‘What a Difference a Day Makes’, also encouraged people to get their facts about the vaccines from trusted sources such as and their GP to help prevent the spread of misinformation.

The campaign was supported by a number of organisations across sectors including hospitality, media, retail, manufacturing and construction. Royal Mail added a special postmark to stamped mail in May, for example, while Google and YouTube featured vaccine messaging on their channels, and LinkedIn provided free advertising space to help get vaccine messaging in front of UK businesses.

With the Omicron variant now emerging it’s clear the pandemic is far from over, but as of 25 November, 80.4% of the UK population has been doubled vaccinated, while 29.2% have now received the booster jab. LT

Volvo – Electric drive

Swedish car brand Volvo brought some much-needed sales action to the UK automotive sector in 2021 with its push to establish new ownership models and revitalised products.

In a market where overall sales saw a massive slump, with customers kept at home by lockdowns and a looming ban on traditional petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles, Volvo saw its highest growth in market share for three decades.

Rather than being a conventional marketing campaign, the car maker’s approach was a fundamental rethink of the entire process of selling its products. From a push into direct to consumer (DTC) sales and the introduction of subscription models with its Care by Volvo offer, to announcing that future electric vehicles (EVS) would only be sold online, Volvo began to change the way it reached customers.

Key to the strategy was making the cars easy to access. Customers signing up for a subscription could set up one monthly payment that included all the running costs of their car, including insurance. “We want to offer our customers peace of mind and a care-free way of having a Volvo,” said Lex Kerssemakers, head of global commercial operations at the brand.

The forward-looking message is reflected in both consumer-facing communications and in B2B material. Volvo also positioned itself as a trusted partner for companies looking to move their fleets towards electrification.

The brand, established in 1927, has fully embraced an electric future with a plan to make EVS count for half of its new car sales by 2025 before offering an entirely electric range by 2030. A less transactional role is envisaged for physical dealerships – which will remain important as a service and collection touchpoint – and a strong investment in customer service is part of the mix.

The result has been uptake from new customers, with 93% of Care by Volvo customers being new to the brand. MV

Weetabix – ‘Beanz on Bix’

WeetabixSome things just don’t mesh well. Oil and water. Knowledge and Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow. But when Weetabix brought together its wheat biscuits and Heinz baked beans people were utterly outraged. 

The cereal brand was keen to drive brand engagement and demonstrate the versatility of Weetabix, while also supporting its long-running ‘Any-Which-Way-a-Bix’ on social.

Working with agency Frank, the brand discovered ‘Weetabix ‘n’ tingz’ was generating a lot of discussion on social platforms, and the weirder the combination the better. Keen to spark a lively conversation, Weetabix started coming up with combinations that would get people talking. It thought about pairing its product with Marmite and Innocent Drinks but it was Heinz baked beans that took the wheat-based biscuit and so ‘Beanz on Bix’ was born.

The cereal brand posted a picture of Weetabix covered in Heinz baked beans on Twitter, which instantly drew furore from passionate breakfast eaters and mocking replies from brands, including Specsavers, Ford UK and the NHS, which all gave their opinion on the tongue-in-cheek social post.

The tweet was even discussed on Good Morning Britain and This Morning and referenced in the House of Commons.

The campaign, which cost less than £5,000 to execute, came as a result of the business creating a culture of bold thinking, setting up “brave spaces” for its employees to talk through “any hare-brained idea” they might have with a member of the leadership team, according to head of marketing Gareth Turner.

Beans on Bix became one of the most talked about brand campaigns of the year. The post has been retweeted 37,000 times, quoted 68,800 times and received 131,000 likes.

As a result, Weetabix said its spontaneous brand awareness up by 40% compared to last year. Plus the brand saw a 15% increase in sales on Valentine’s weekend as eager customers looked to recreate the breakfast idea. It also picked up the 2021 Marketing Week Masters award for Best Use of a Small Budget. MP

The best marketing campaigns of 2021: Part 1