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The best marketing campaigns in the UK in 2020

The best marketing campaigns in the UK in 2020

It’s that time of the year when we look back and reflect on some of the success of the year before. In this case, successful brand marketing campaigns. As we all know, 2020 was a difficult year, but many brands rose to the challenge, creating truly innovative and engaging campaigns that connected with their audiences. We saw this particularly in food and hospitality - two sectors that were especially impacted by the pandemic - so I’m going to take a look at some of the best marketing campaigns in the UK in 2020. 

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Just Eat: Snoop Dogg

Food delivery service, Just Eat, spent a lot of money to get Snoop Dogg involved in their campaign (£5.3 million apparently). But it was clearly money well spent, which is why it’s featuring as one of the best marketing campaigns in 2020.

Originally scheduled to launch in March 2020, the brand put the advert on hold as the country went into lockdown. One of the great successes of this campaign, though, was Just Eat’s ability to gauge the nation’s mood. Whilst many brands focussed on the trauma of the crisis well into April and May, offering sombre messages of comfort, Just Eat realised there was the need for more light-hearted content, and their ad campaign hit the jackpot.

Just Eat reaped the benefits of the campaign throughout the year, with consistent mentions around Snoop Dogg and the brand that continue even at the start of 2021. The campaign was boosted in December after Snoop Dogg released a Christmas version of the song in the ad.

Graph showing mentions of Just Eat and Snoop Dogg over 2020

Mentions of Just Eat with Snoop Dogg in 2020

According to a YouGov survey taken between July & October 2020, Just Eat became the 17th most famous digital service, coming ahead of Facebook Messenger, TripAdvisor and iTunes. 98% of those asked had heard of the brand. Whilst they remained behind their rival Deliveroo in terms of fame, their ad awareness score showed an increase of almost 8 points to 37.1, outpacing both Deliveroo (27.4 ad awareness score in November) and Uber Eats (18.5). The ad clearly had the impact the brand wanted.

Dark panel with Just Eat logo and stats around brand awareness and sentiment around Just Eat

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Leon: Feed NHS

We already touched on Leon’s Feed NHS campaign earlier in the year, as they were a brand we identified as responding quickly to the crisis and resonating with people. I think it’s worth revisiting the campaign almost a year on to see how it really emphasised Leon’s values as a brand.

A quick refresher of the campaign: at the start of the lockdown, Leon founder, John Vincent, partnered with Damien Lewis, Matt Lucas and Helen McCrory to raise money in order to feed the NHS hot and healthy meals everyday. The not-for-profit campaign not only supported essential health workers (creating positive sentiment towards the brand), but also had the added benefit of supporting all the restaurant chains and their suppliers, who got involved in producing the meals. By covering the operating costs, they were at least able to remain open and staffed, whilst giving back to the frontline workers.

As we look back at some of the hashtags associated with Leon over the year, we can see that #FeedNHS and #ThankYouNHS are two of the most prevalent, alongside references to COVID-19.

Theme cloud showing different hashtags relating to Leon

This theme cloud shows the hashtags associated with Leon and NHS

Whilst references to Leon and their NHS campaign peaked around March at the start of the initiative, there have been references to it throughout the year. We can see in the graph below when Leon is mentioned alongside the NHS, it contributes to a peak in overall mentions of the brand. It’s also contributed to increased positive sentiment towards the brand.

Bar chart comparing net sentiment and graph comparing mentions of Leon vs Leon and NHS

Mentions of Leon and NHS (pink) vs Leon (purple)

One of the reasons why this campaign worked so well for Leon is because it reflected some of the core values that already underpin the brand. Leon is known for being socially focused and ethically responsible, with an emphasis on sustainable sourcing of ingredients and naturally healthy convenience food. They even have a website dedicated to educating people in this. So when they launched this initiative, it felt like a genuine response from the brand. It wasn’t unexpected, and so consumers believed them and trusted in them. That’s why it ended up being one of the best marketing campaigns in the UK in 2020.

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Greggs: Veganuary vegan Steak Bake

From a healthy convenience food brand to a less-healthy one, Greggs managed to tap into one of the major sustainability trends at the start of 2020, and create a truly memorable marketing campaign to promote it.

In the last few years, in an attempt to support people in an increasingly popular New Year resolution, Veganuary has taken off. That is, going vegan for the month of January. Greggs saw this as the perfect opportunity to launch their vegan Steak Bake - the latest plant-based addition to their menu.

Given the number of major fast-food chains also incorporating plant-based menus, it’s becoming harder to stand out with the product alone. For that reason, Greggs took inspiration from the ‘drop culture’ of the fashion and lifestyle industries, to hype up the product before the launch. There were many references to this throughout the campaign, from the name - ‘Greggs x Vegan’ - to the language - ‘Exclusively designed for Greggs’ - to the product, which was served in shoebox style, limited edition packaging.

People went wild for it. The day before ‘the drop’ the flagship store in Newcastle was covered with the new branding, creating a sense of suspense and exclusivity. And it worked. People queued overnight to be one of the first to try it. With over 50K references to “Greggs” and “vegan” since its launch, and engagement of over 1.2 million, it’s clear that the campaign drove the message home. Net sentiment towards Greggs’ efforts to improve their sustainability credentials increased by 5% when compared to mentions of the brand alone.

Graph showing comparison between mentions of Greggs and vegan vs Greggs only

Mentions of Greggs and vegan (pink) vs Greggs (purple)

What makes this one of the best marketing campaigns of 2020, was Greggs ability to successfully take on the tactics of high-fashion brands, and replicate the same sort of hype for their new launch. This move was clearly satirical, but that seemed to resonate with and engage people, based on the use of laughing emojis when referencing Greggs’ vegan offering. The emojis also show that the message of sustainability was not lost, despite the hype of the product launch, with the use of planet, plant and green heart emojis.

Theme cloud showing the different emojis used in reference to Greggs and vegan

This theme cloud shows the range of emojis used in mentions of Greggs and vegan

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So these are just some of the best marketing campaigns in the UK in 2020, however there were many more brands creating successful social media campaigns, and many who took the opportunity to let their values shine. Whilst the global pandemic created challenges for many, it’s through this that true innovation happens. Because in times of crisis, there is often no other choice but to think differently, pivot and try something new. It’ll be interesting to see how far this shapes brand marketing in 2021.

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