Winners, losers and those who dared to be different in 2019

The end of the year is a time for reflection, and for looking back at what we can learn from the brands that stood out in marketing in 2019.

In the grand tradition of the end of the year, we have been unashamedly looking back at the year gone and forward to the year ahead. As usual, we eschew hyperbolic predictions of tech takeovers, overstated shifts in consumer behaviour and specious claims of attitudinal swings in favour of sober analysis.

Our look back at 2019 has focused on the marketing moments – good and bad – of 2019. In the firm belief you can learn as much from what works as what doesn’t, we look at the successes and failures, pinnacles and pratfalls, uppers and downers of the final year of the decade. Although not quite matching the ebb and flow of politics in 2019, it has undoubtedly been an eventful year.

We also look at the campaigns of 2019 – not necessarily our pick of the best but curation of the most notable. Having said that, there is plenty you can learn from many of those selected. Regardless of the vertical where you ply your trade, the way some of those selected have pulled on various marketing levers should offer pause for thought.

Treat internal marketing as seriously as external

Customer experience is often touted as a key battleground for brands. This may be true. The focus, however, tends to be on technology and data management. It should be about people; about retaining and attracting the best and rallying them around a common purpose.

Heineken’s employer branding campaign is an example of how to celebrate success. Dubbed ‘Employee Stories’ and created by HR, agencies and marketing, it features 33 people employed across the brewer’s global operations and tells the tales of their triumphs.

In marketing and elsewhere, winning the war on talent is key to future success. The time and effort put in by Heineken should be an example to those anxious about their recruitment pipeline.

Make PR stunts meaningful

In the past, Paddy Power has been either a case study in excellence or mediocrity, depending on your view of good looks like. Its PR-hungry, often distasteful, campaigns could be seen as masterclasses in generating fame and salience or a spectacular own goal – I tend to lean toward the latter.

The bookmaker’s ‘Save Our Shirt’ campaign is a step up. A week-long hoax saw it unveil its sponsorship of Huddersfield Town’s kit, which featured an unsightly sash with prominent Paddy Power branding across the shirt. It inevitably met with anger and mockery. After allowing for a suitable period of derision, Paddy Power revealed its true intent – it would ‘unsponser’ the club by paying not to have its brand on the kit.

In marketing and elsewhere, winning the war on talent is key to future success.

With the seven-day tease, the brand had demonstrated it had the ability to garner coverage but the real salience was created by tapping into the disquiet many football fans feel about creeping commercialisation – and the saturation of football by betting firms. They managed to have their cake and ate it with relish.

Maximise your marketing budget

There’s a lot of stretching in brands’ use of social media. Countless examples of brands tapping into the zeitgeist, piggy backing on pop culture or trying to engage influencers.

Greggs’ launch of its vegan sausage roll was an example of adopting the right tone, while getting more for your money. You have probably read the story of its iPhone parody, and Piers Morgan baiting. If not, all is detailed here.

The campaign ticked all the marketing boxes – awareness, a huge share of voice and a spike in sales. This wasn’t just a cheap stunt that boosted quarter sales; it was punchy, honest and personable – entirely in keeping with the brand’s tone of voice. As a result, Greggs closes the year with the highest awareness and perception it has seen in seven years.

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