The Marketing Society to recognise risk-takers

The Marketing Society has repositioned its Brand of the Year award to reward risk-takers.

Twenty brands have been shortlisted for The Marketing Society Brave Brand of the Year, in association with Campaign.

An online vote will narrow down the list to five finalists (see voting details below). 

Those five finalists will be put to a live poll to decide the winner at The Marketing Society's Annual Dinner on 15 November.

Gemma Greaves, chief executive of The Marketing Society, said: "This year, in line with our agenda, we’re looking at Brand of the Year through a brave lens as we wanted to reward those brands who are taking risks in a challenging environment.

"So, our 2017 shortlist contains a mix of disruptors who are shaking up the status quo and established companies who are taking brave decisions." 

To vote, visit by 5pm on 27 October. 

Marketing Society Brand of the Year shortlist


Airbnb could be forgiven for resting on its laurels with over 200 million guests across 191 countries and 65,000 cities. This year, the $30bn sharing economy start-up moved beyond its couch-surfing roots to sell experiences with Airbnb Trips. Co-founder Brian Chesky says it’s another way that technology is bringing people together in real life, beyond screens.


Amazon’s ambition and dominance shows no sign of abating. The online bookstore, now "online everything" e-tailer, is opening bricks and mortar stores and bought Whole Foods market for $13.4bn (£10.2bn). Meanwhile, Amazon’s surprise hit Echo alongside its trusty Artificial Intelligence assistant, Alexa is deepening the brand’s role in customers’ daily lives.


It’s been a tough year for auntie. Forced by the government to publish salaries, it faced calls for equal pay. But in a year of fake news, the BBC is critical. As Radio 4’s Nick Robinson tweeted, "Do not adjust your set. Normal service means you will hear people you disagree with saying things you don’t like (that’s our job)."

Burger King

The fast-food brand gave us the perfect print ad for the social media age. "Burning stores" created by ad agency David Miami showed actual photos of stores on fire with the line, "Flame grilled since 1954." It was a risky smart strategy by Burger King that captures this year’s zeitgeist.

Direct Line

Thanks to a brave idea and some big changes, Direct Line has become a classic turnaround brand. The insurance company was the well-deserved winner of The Marketing Society Excellence Awards 2017 for building marketing capabilities. Inspiring and empowering the marketing team led to double-digit growth in new business in 2016 and reversed revenue decline.

Doisy & Dam

There’s a new kid in town - punching above its weight, persuading retailers like Sainsbury’s to make room on their shelves for a premium chocolate bar with superfood ingredients. This year, Doisy & Dam joined the B-Corp pledging to make a positive impact on the world and hold itself accountable to social and environmental standards.


The rapid growth of premium mixer brand, Fever-Tree shows no sign of slowing with overall revenues climbing 77% to £71.9m in the first half of 2017. By consciously embracing its luxury status, Fever-Tree has changed the way drinkers order their gin and tonic, with as much attention paid to the mixer as the alcohol.


It takes a brave brand to dip its toes in the murky waters of opposing politics. Heineken’s "Worlds apart" campaign embraced this with a real life social experiment asking strangers with different views to assemble flatpack furniture together and then discuss their differences over a beer. It was a polarising campaign but it got everyone talking.


The world’s local bank has been making bold strides. A new app empowers customers to see all their accounts from different providers on one screen and an interactive campaign helps them select a personalised credit card. HSBC boosted its diversity credentials this year by allowing UK transgender customers to use Mx instead of Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms.


Instagram feels like Facebook’s next Facebook, in that it feels the way Facebook used to feel in 2009. With over 800 million users and 500 million people checking in daily, that’s more than Snapchat’s 173 million daily active users. It should be commended for incorporating features like stories initially developed by its rival.

John Lewis

It’s tough on the high street, but that isn’t stopping John Lewis from innovating. This year, it was the first UK retailer to test 360-video advertising on Facebook and the first high street chain to scrap separate clothing lines for boys and girls. It won the finance director’s prize at The Marketing Society Awards for Excellence 2017.


It’s not easy being brave when you’re a 100+-year-old global company. But Maltesers' risky decision to embrace diversity, by celebrating stories of people living with disability, created the brand’s most successful campaign in a decade. Maltesers won a hat-trick at The Marketing Society Excellence Awards in 2017. Diversity sells.

The New York Times

Thank god for The New York Times cutting through fake news and trigger-happy-tweeting presidents to alleviate public anxiety. Without the paper’s investigative muscle the dimensions of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election would not have been revealed. Meanwhile, the 165-year-old paper is looking to lessons from Netflix and Spotify to build its digital subscriber base.

Rapha Bikes

It took more than 200 meetings for Simon Mottram to secure funding for his premium cycling brand, Rapha. Thirteen years later, it has stores ("clubhouses") as far afield as Seoul and Chicago and a global cycling club with over 9,000 members. The global market for cycling paraphernalia is worth $47bn, five times that of golf.


Seedlip has carved out a brand new space. As a premium non-alcoholic spirit brewed from botanicals and served with tonic water, it could be mistaken for a craft gin. Moreover, it taps into a new awareness on drinking. No surprise that Diageo took a minority stake last year.


It is rare to disrupt a global market to the extent that Tesla has with the car industry. The electric-car maker delivered over 47,000 high-end Model S and Model X cars in the first half of this year, up 50% from last year. Meanwhile, there are 500,000 pre-orders for its more affordable Model 3.

The Guardian

The Guardian newspaper is not the only news organisation battling challenging market conditions. However, resilience has seen losses cut by one third to £45m. A decision to move to a tabloid format from 2018 and initiatives including a paid membership scheme, which has added 230,000 paying members since 2016, are helping financial recovery.

Time to Change

2017 is the year that mental health gained a whole new level of exposure and awareness. This is thanks, in part, to Time to Change, which is transforming the way the corporate world tackles this critical issue – challenging the stigma of mental health and encouraging people to be more open about how they feel.

Tough Mudder

The business of getting dirty is booming. It’s not an easy sell – run a 10-12 mile obstacle course through the mud – but it’s working for Tough Mudder. This year the endurance brand will host 30 events across 11 countries on four continents for over 3 million participants. And 20,000 of them have tattoos of the company logo.


Challenger brand Vitality is overturning the rules of the health insurance market, rewarding customers for healthy living. Since being crowned best new brand in The Marketing Society Excellence Awards 2016, Vitality has secured ambassador Jessica Ennis-Hill for another three years and increased its number of healthy living events.