The Marketing Society Brand of the Year, supported by ITV and Marketing, is a much-coveted accolade. More than 12,000 votes were cast ahead of the annual dinner last Thursday (18 November), leaving the fate of the five brands topping the public poll to the 1200 guests, who took part in a live vote on the evening.
Picking a winner proved tough, particularly as the finalists were so diverse, from the eminently modern Giffgaff to brands with a long heritage, such as British Gas. When it came down to it, though, a mix of modern and traditional values won out, with John Lewis pipping the rest at the post.
'Never knowingly undersold' is one of the few straplines that has successfully stood the test of time. It still steers the brand effectively, guiding its marketing, evidenced by the fact that John Lewis' profits continue to rise and the brand regularly tops surveys on account of its good customer service. The retailer has benefited from sticking to this clear brand positioning, as well as a business model of employee ownership. It is much loved by the British public, to the extent that the BBC saw fit to dedicate an entire documentary to the company. This Britishness is a key part of its brand, too, shown by its decision to feature up-and-coming UK musician Ellie Goulding in its latest Christmas ads. All-in-all, a worthy winner.
Despite being more than 200 years old as a company, Aviva has shown it can move with the times. Its first global campaign, 'You are the big picture', in which the brand has displayed pictures of its customers on buildings, taps perfectly into the zeitgeist of consumers craving their five minutes of fame. It also provides fodder for social networkers online, which is why 40,000 photos were uploaded to the campaign's site in the first three weeks. Aviva is testament to the fact that financial marketing need not be dull.
Energy prices are often an emotive issue, but British Gas' current free-swimming campaign connects with the British public in way that credibly enhances the brand. Its pledge to take customers 'from paddling pool to podium' neatly underlines its British values and its support of the London 2012 Olympics. It is innovative marketing such as this, and other initiatives, including its 'Generation Green' programme for kids, that have led to the brand bolstering its books by 500,000 customers this year.
02-backed mobile phone service Giffgaff is a brand for our socially networked, people-powered times, perfectly in sync with the demands of the modern consumer. Its business model is pioneering in the mobile arena because it is a collaborative venture, run by its members - very 2010. While many brands pay lip service to the idea of involving their customers, this ethos sits at the heart of the Giffgaff brand, with members rewarded for various actions such as helping other customers with their technical problems.
The well-loved, quirky smoothie brand has weathered the recession and is back to fine form and growing again. Despite having Coca-Cola as a majority stakeholder the brand has shown no signs of transforming into an unrecognisable, overtly corporate brand. It has just begun its biggest marketing push to date for its Veg Pots, giving away 40,000 samples. Other recent marketing campaigns include its 'Buy one, get one bee' event and its tie-up with social movement We Are What We Do to create a limited-edition smoothie.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk