The Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year 2019: see the shortlist

Campaign readers can vote for their favourite brand.

Last chance to vote for the Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year 2019

Vote for the Brave Brand of the Year here

Campaign readers are invited to vote for the brand they believe has demonstrated the bravest approach to marketing over the past year.

The Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year 2019, in association with Campaign and sponsored by IBM iX, celebrates those that have taken risks in a challenging environment.

A shortlist of 20 brands, which appears here, has been announced, and it is down to Campaign readers to whittle it down to five finalists. Those finalists will then be put to a live vote at The Marketing Society’s Diamond Anniversary Dinner on Wednesday 27 November.

Gemma Greaves, chief executive of The Marketing Society, said: "Our brave agenda and evolved purpose – to empower brave leaders – continue to underpin everything we do at The Marketing Society.

"Our world is changing rapidly and finding brave solutions to marketing challenges is more important than ever. So, this year, for our Brave Brand of the Year award, we looked not only for effectiveness and marketing excellence, but also brands that took creative risks and outshone the rest in a competitive environment. Our shortlist was hotly contested by senior industry players and I can’t wait to see whom our members and readers of Campaign vote for."

Vote for the Brave Brand of the Year here

Last year Bodyform followed up 2017’s "Blood normal" with "Viva la vulva". Martina Poulopati, global brand communications manager for feminine care at Essity, told Campaign how her team continues to overcome resistance from many quarters, internally and externally. But it’s paying off: addressing insecurities women have about their bodies, and growing sales.

The British Army turned stereotypes on their head with a recruitment drive this year. Aimed at young outsiders, millennials and "snowflakes", it shone a light on the virtues of individuals demeaned by their peers. Executions include an obnoxious supermarket worker haranguing a co-worker and a dad bemoaning his son’s video-game habit. "This is belonging" is a moving, yet honest, campaign.

From withdrawing its Whopper from sale to persuade people to visit McDonald‘s and support the latter‘s partnership with Save the Children, to ceasing plastic-toy giveaways with its kids’ meals, Burger King has found a conscience. It pays to be brave, according to marketing director Katie Evans, who recently told Campaign: "We can’t afford to churn out predictable campaigns – we need to be ballsy."

This year marked the return of Cancer Research UK’s controversial campaign linking obesity to cancer. Accusations of "fat-shaming" don’t appear to have scared the charity off, with the message as emphatic as ever. Striking ads resembling cigarette packets take no prisoners and send a message that the government needs to do more to curb the consumption of foods high in fat, sugar or salt.

Carlsberg’s longstanding claim that it was "probably the best lager in the world" was increasingly hard to square with the poor reputation of its product in the UK. It therefore took the bold decision not only to overhaul the recipe (rebranding it as "Carlsberg Danish Pilsner") but also face up to reality with an ad campaign that admitted it was "Probably (not) the best beer in the world. So we’ve changed it."

The broadcaster is tireless in its campaigning around causes such as diversity, gender identity and disability – to name a few. It’s this very stance that attracts sometimes vitriolic reaction. So, in true Channel 4 style, it turned the hatred in on itself with "Complaints welcome", an ad in which actors and presenters read out hateful comments made about them.

Tech start-up Elvie set out to smash taboos. Its animated ads for a pelvic floor trainer featured characters Bobo and Bladder and were surreal, funny and on the nose. Elvie’s breastpump marketing is also bonkers, including a stunt that dotted the London skyline with gigantic inflatable breast blimps.

Once renowned for its testosterone-fuelled ads, Gillette has recently adopted a more touchy-feely approach to its marketing. This year’s "The best a man can be" campaign called on men to stand up to bullying, sexism and harassment. It attracted condemnation from social-media users and commentators, with posts such as "virtue-signalling PC guff" serving only to reinforce its message.

Greggs has disrupted that most ancient of businesses – the bakery – with innovative products and witty marketing. Its activity has ranged from creating vegan sausage rolls to elevating its brand image with Apple-style product marketing. It even issued a riposte to overpriced Valentine’s Day offerings in the form of a more grounded experience – a candlelit, four-course dinner in its branches.

HSBC’s globalism is pertinent at a time when political posturing is becoming increasingly isolationist. That it manages to balance globalism and localism is to be lauded. The brand’s "We are not an island" campaign is a case in point, with its celebration of the positive impact of overseas cultures on our own here in the UK.

Iceland has committed to become 100% plastics-free on its own-label brands in five years, under the tutelage of environmentalist boss Richard Walker. It has also faced the judgments of bodies such as Clearcast. The industry regulator rejected Iceland’s repurposing of a Greenpeace ad last Christmas. Unperturbed, the supermarket scored a PR-winning goal and drove up brand consideration.

After KFC turned last year’s chicken shortage "FCK"-up into a PR coup, the fast-food chain continues to use its marketing to provoke, but with a nod and a wink. This March brought the launch of a multiplatform campaign making light of the fried-chicken restaurants that imitate its name and products. "Guys, we’re flattered," KFC said.

It’s not your typical bank that acknowledges the emotional havoc financial pressures can wreak - but Lloyds’ follow-up to 2018’s "Get the inside out" sought to break the taboo of the "M-word" (money) by showing families talking about the "touchy subject" they’d "prefer to keep private".

Lucozade Sport’s support of England’s Lionesses ahead of the Fifa Women’s World Cup shone a light on some of the prejudices that women’s football has had to face. And it did so with aplomb – a reworking of the classic football song Three Lions was sung by the players themselves.

Tackling online hate head-on is not typically the recommended course for brands. But Nationwide continues to fly in the face of social-media rancour. After inviting several brands to unite for #TogetherAgainstHate, the building society is listening to customers, having added products, such as later-life policies for older borrowers, and keeping branches open.

How do you follow up award-winning, empowering but highly divisive "Dream crazy"? By dreaming "crazier". The ad, which broke in early 2019, is narrated by tennis player Serena Williams. It takes aim at the sexist commentary used to describe impassioned sportswomen. Its impact was empowering, and infuriated the so-called alt-right.

The Macallan’s first global ad campaign "Make the call" bravely defied category conventions. The spot for the whisky brand featured an Icarus-type character who sprouts wings and, after apparently plummeting to his demise, soars majestically up and out of shot. But it was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for promoting dangerous behaviour. 

From banning junk-food ads to targeting drivers with "When your foot goes down, the risks go up" (for pedestrians), Transport for London’s somewhat combative stance in its marketing has sparked condemnation. But TfL is nothing if not unapologetically emotive in its advertising, with its messaging built around life-saving and progressive ideals.

Virgin Atlantic pulls off the trick of mixing glamour with empowerment. This year it reinvested in TV against a backdrop of a depressed marketplace, with an ad using real cabin crew. The airline sets such store by marketing that its chief executive gave a caveat when discussing business-wide cuts this year – marketing was sacrosanct.

60 years
To mark The Marketing Society’s 60th anniversary, 60 Iconic Brands have been chosen to celebrate six glorious decades of marketing. Now, we want you to vote for your favourite.
To check out the list and vote, visit https://brands.marketingsociety.com/top-60-brands/
A live vote will take place at The Marketing Society’s Diamond Anniversary Dinner on 27 November to decide the winner. Call 020 8973 1700 for details.