Voting for the ‘Brand of the Year’ at the 2018 Marketing Week Masters awards is closing at 4pm on Friday, 6 July so this is the last change to pick your winner.
Up for the award this year are Asos, The Guardian, Harry’s, Heineken, Ikea, KFC, Lloyds Bank, Quorn and Wetherspoons.
The Brand of the Year will be chosen by a combination of your votes, the thoughts of our stellar panel of judges and insight from YouGov’s BrandIndex tool.
To vote, go to the bottom of the article. Voting will be open until 25 June. The Masters winners will be unveiled on 9 October in a ceremony at Tobacco Dock in London.
And if you are unsure which brand to vote for, here are some of the reasons they are on the shortlist:
Asos continues to impress on just about every measure imaginable. Despite being part of a category under constant economic pressures – fashion retail – Asos has posted stellar financial numbers this year. While its offering has impressed consumers enough to grow sales and profits, it is not resting on its laurels but constantly innovating, pioneering the field of social commerce.
Instagram could make or break retail brands as a sales channel, Asos admits, but it is in the vanguard of testing the platform’s potential. It is doing the same with advertising, launching social campaigns that have succeeded in boosting both recall and awareness.
The Guardian has undergone major changes over the past year. In January, the news organisation made the move to tabloid format, ostensibly in a bid to cut costs. But it used the opportunity to totally redesign the brand – updating its logo, changing its masthead and changing the look and feel of the newspaper, website and content. To promote that, it launched its biggest marketing push for seven years with the ‘Space for…..’ campaign, aiming to highlight its place as a global news organisation and rearticulate its values.
The rebrand is the latest move by The Guardian to rethink its brand, business model and the role it plays in the media space. It is well on its way to convincing 900,000 people to pay for its content (the official current figure is 800,000) as it transitions to become a “supporter-led organisation” and meet the goal of its owner, Guardian News and Media, to break even by 2019.
It has a unique take on getting readers to pay, eschewing a paywall model to ensure its journalism remains as widely read as possible. It has instead launched what it calls “native ad units that use the voice of editorial” to ask readers if they would consider making some sort of payment to support the content they are reading.
The business results suggest it is on track to reach its goal. GNM reported a £19m loss in the year to the end of March, half the £38m it recorded in the previous financial year. That loss is 25% better than its target, due in part to better than expected revenue growth. The figures mean GNM has cut losses to a third of the £57m it reported when the drive to reshape the business began, as it enters the final year of its turnaround plan.
Razor brand Harry’s burst into the UK market last June, beating Unilever-owned Dollar Shave Club’s to launch on this side of the Atlantic.
The brand, which aims to disrupt the shaving market, offers consumers a cheaper alternative to their usual razors and other shaving products, by signing them up to a subscription, taking full advantage of consumers’ growing appetite for online services. However, consumers can also buy products individually.
Harry’s is reportedly the fast-growing competitor to established razor brands, such as Gillette, in the $2.4bn (£1.8bn) shaving industry, and it recently raised $112m of financing that it plans to spend on developing brands beyond male grooming, taking its total funding up to $474m.
Launched in the US in 2013, the brand was founded by friends Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider, who is no stranger to disrupting markets, having launched eyewear retailer Warby Parker. At the time of launch in the UK, Harry’s had three million customers in the US alone and, as a trans-Atlantic loyalty push, the brand encouraged its US consumers to invite their UK friends to sign up for early access once Harry’s launched in Britain.
Harry’s has also taken its responsibility as a modern men’s brand one step further by launching a campaign to tackle the harmful stereotypes around what it means to be a man. Matt Hiscock, UK general manager, told Marketing Week at the time of launch: “Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK and we want to encourage guys to talk more. We really wanted to promote this progressive masculinity.”
Harry’s also partners with UK charity Campaign Against Living Miserably, and in another move that shows it “cares more about people than we do about selling razors”, it donates 1% of its revenue to help reduce the suicide rate among men.
After such a big year last year, winning creative marketer of the year at Cannes Lions and upping sales, you might expect Heineken to rest on its laurels, but in fact the alcohol giant did the opposite. This year saw Heineken position itself as a brand with purpose, attempt innovative ads and essentially invest a lot of faith and money into marketing.
The beer brand was commended for its ‘Open Your World’ advert, which saw two people with starkly opposing views sit down and have a beer, including a transphobic man and trans woman. It was a first for Heineken to focus on controversy but the risk has seemingly paid off, as the ad set social media alight with many praising the brand for tackling difficult issues.
Plus, it launched Heineken 0.0 last March and committed to spending 25% of its overall marketing budget on no-alcohol beer. The world’s second-biggest beer company has never shy about its goal to become the first, and this year has proved it’s prepared to put its money where its mouth is and invest in innovative marketing.
Ikea has gone from strength-to-strength in the furniture retail market, through its effort to digitally transform the company and challenge competitors by championing diversity.
For example, Ikea has successfully used consumer-facing digital technology in a sympathetic way in its new small-format, inner city stores, suggesting competitors could learn from the flat-pack pioneer.
More than 20 small-scale Ikea city stores have opened since 2015 across Europe, Canada and Japan, where customers can order a delivery or click-and-collect on a touchscreen, as well as booking assembly services via the recently acquired TaskRabbit. Meanwhile, VR also helps to turn kitchen plans to life – a feature the company introduced in 2016.
Also, Ikea’s Place AR app, which was rolled out in September last year, allows consumers to place virtual but realistic furniture into their homes.
KFC ran the most complained about ad of 2017, and suffered a barrage of negative headlines this year after it was forced to shut shops because of a shortage of chicken, yet its response makes it of the standouts of the last 18 months.
The chicken shop chain took out a full-page ad in The Metro and Sun newspapers to apologise, using an irreverent tone that led to the ad being shared and discussed for days after. The Mother-created ad showed an empty KFC bucket with the letters switched round to spell “FCK”.
Commentators including Marketing Week’s own Mark Ritson said the rapid strategic response not only ensured it overcame any negative press over temporary store closures but that the brand benefited long-term from increased awareness and a boost in consumer demand. Ritson added: “It has not gone overboard with apologies and hand-wringing and a reminder that it is here to fix the world. This is a brand speaking in a voice this is exactly in line with brand positioning and with the audience it is targeting.”
As Britain’s biggest bank, with 30 million customers in the UK, Lloyds has realised it has the power and influence to extend beyond its traditional banking duties and play a positive role in British society.
Its push to build a diverse and inclusive bank has already won it LGBT equality charity Stonewall’s employer of the year award – and 2018 saw it add Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising award to its roster as well, for a campaign that wanted to get people talking about mental health.
On top of that, in February parent company Lloyds Banking Group became the first FTSE 100 firm to set an ethnic diversity target for its senior roles, aiming to increase the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees from 5.6% to 8% by 2020.
It also committed £1m in additional funding for credit unions, which play a vital role for more than 1.9 million people in the UK. It is fast carving itself out an image as a brand looking to challenge the status quo – and to be known for more than just a black horse.
On track to become a billion-dollar business by 2027, Quorn achieved its strongest ever year of growth in 2017, as global sales rocketed to £205m thanks to the rapid rise in vegan and ‘flexitarian’ lifestyles.
The meat substitute brand notched up 16% global growth across 20 markets in 2017, including growth of 27% in Europe, 35% in the US and 35% in Australia.
Quorn, which counts 83% of its consumers as meat reducers, has tapped into the popularity of movements like #MeatFreeMonday and Veganuary by repositioning itself as a healthy, plant-based protein source for everyday life. Shaking off its tag as a brand solely aimed at vegetarians has helped Quorn attract a wave of flexitarian fans.
The brand also opts for heavyweight, mass market marketing to drive reach. In September Quorn’s TV campaign promoting its meat-free nuggets drove a 30% increase in base sales, according to head of brand marketing UK and international, Alex Glen.
Quorn’s celebrity athlete endorsement strategy also contributed to a 14% increase in brand growth last year, as the company chose to amplify its healthy eating strategy by enlisting gold medal winning British Olympians Adam Peaty and Kate Richardson-Walsh as brand ambassadors.
The pub-chain is not known for its marketing prowess but in the last 12 months has made several big calls that show it is tune with its audience.
Parent company JD Wetherspoon’s no-frills, low-cost beer and food offer is definitely resonating – like-for-like sales increased by 6% in its last financial year in a difficult environment, helping boost pre-tax profit by 20%. However, it was elsewhere it caught the eye.
Its decision to delete its entire email database of nearly 700 ,000 customers to minimise the risk of any data breaches showed customer empathy, and an eye for PR.
It followed up in April with the announcement that it was closing its social media accounts because they were distracting staff and lacking in engagement. Despite the negative response of many in the industry, the move was praised by others, who said it was entirely in keeping with its target market or its brand objectives.
Marketing Week will take the result of this vote and combine it with the views of our esteemed judging panel and insight from YouGov Profiles and YouGov BrandIndex in order to determine the winning brand.
The result of all Marketing Week Masters Awards will be revealed at a glittering ceremony taking place on the evening of Tuesday, 9 October 2018 at Tobacco Dock. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.