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The secrets behind some of the UK’s favourite brands

The secrets behind some of the UK’s favourite brands

Which brands are bringing the love in the UK? As part of our latest Brand Love Story 2021, we looked at the brands that won over consumers during the global lockdown - and how they did it.

In this blog, we take a look at the brands that stirred up the strongest emotions across the UK, to build those all important consumer connections.

Discover the world’s most loved brands

What is love?

Our Brand Love Story is back. And this time, we looked at the brands tackling the trends from the lockdown, and getting to the hearts of consumers.

Why brand love? It’s a tangible way of measuring the connections built between brands and consumers - based on social media metrics such as engagement, sentiment, and conversational analysis.

Plus, it can pay off for brands in a big way. Helping to build brand loyalty, customer advocacy, consumer trust, and enable you to charge premium prices. In the years following the COVID-19 pandemic, it’ll earn you a bigger share of a shrinking market.

The full report looks in detail at how we gauge brand love, the 50 most loved global brands, plus methods and tips you can start using right now to boost your brand.

Here’s the brands that got the UK all loved up in lockdown over the last year.

1. Cadbury

During lockdown, people turned to comfort food (70.4K mentions per month) to help them cope. For the UK, that meant enjoying Cadbury’s chocolate.

Why? Mostly, for nostalgia (One of our big social media trends for 2021). During turbulent times, consumers look to the past and the moments of joy there. By returning to their favourite confectionaries, they rekindle that joy, and shun the stress of lockdown.

Cadury helped feed this by releasing new products that reimagined or revived old favourites. The once limited Orange Twirl will now become part of the main product line after generating a lot of lockdown buzz, while news of the reimagined Mini Eggs Easter egg was one of the brand’s most engaging stories of the year (75.1K engagement).

The nature of the product - well-loved and easy to buy - also helped boost brand mentions, as people turned to favourite chocolates as gifts, rewards or prizes. Cadbury’s personalised products helped to encourage this.

As a beloved brand, Cadbury is the ideal gift. Which spirals into more positive sentiment and engagement. (NB Image analysis was used to discover this ‘hidden’ brand mention.)

2. Carlsberg

For Carlsberg, their sponsorship of Liverpool Football Club - the longest standing partnership in the Premier League - was vital for building brand love.

There were two reasons for this. First, with live sporting events being restricted, consumer behaviour and viewing habits changed. People went online to watch and engage with matches, which boosted mentions and videos from Liverpool matches online. With Carlsberg being a prominent sponsor, this meant more visual mentions for them too.

Secondly, Liverpool were clear winners of the 2019/2020 season. This boosted fan sentiment for the team, which boosted fan sentiment for the brand.

Carlsberg’s iconic strapline “if Carlsberg did...” has now ingratiated itself into UK banter - used when something is better than expected. 19.7% of brand mentions involved this phrase.

Carlsberg has fixed a firm association between the brand and football.

3. Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer is another brand gaining from the growth in comfort food. Wth 2 product lines boosting love - Percy Pig and Colin the Caterpillar.

Nostalgia is again a key part of this. In 2020, M&S celebrated 30 years of their much loved cake with National Colin the Caterpillar Day, and a much loved cake for multiple generations. Their new festive design for Christmas 2020 generated 8.9K mentions alone.

But the Percy Pig confectionary range wasn’t to be outdone, with a new Percy Pig Easter egg boosting the brand.

Employee advocacy is also big for boosting brand love. But for that to work, brand’s need happy workers. Marks & Spencer helped this by forgoing Boxing Day sales in 2020, to give their staff the day off. This action encouraged other UK brands to follow suit, with mentions of Boxing Day alongside Marks & Spencer generating 194.9K engagement.

Over 74K people watched this slightly surreal new Percy Pig toy announcement.

4. Waterstones

The lockdown brought a significant change in reading habits. Nielsen Book’s discovered 41% of people were reading more books since the start of the first lockdown. Escapism, entertainment, information - books were there to support people during lockdown.

No wonder the publishing industry saw a boost in sales in 2020. Waterstones saw particular success. Their diverse range of Book of the Month selections, encouraged this growing audience of readers. It also led to a constant stream of mentions from authors, publishers and readers.

Especially when it came to children. As parents looked for activities for stuck at home kids that avoided screen time, books sprang to the rescue. 7.9% of Waterstones’ mentions were related to children’s books.

Sometimes, the genuine personal connection between creator and community can be the driver for engagement, such as this post mentioning Waterstones.


Entertainment is also a key factor for LEGO - loved by housebound people of all ages. And as a much loved brand (they starred in our Brand Love Story 2020), it’s their existing fanbase that kept them high in the UK list this year. With huge amounts of user-generated content.

The creativity of the construction toy is central here, with people free to use the product as they see fit. From celebrity recreations, birdfeeders, epic architecture, each user is free to be as imaginative as possible. LEGO nurtures this creativity, through their LEGO Ideas page, allowing consumers to potentially see their ideas released as official products.

The brand also taps into nostalgia and fanbases, by creating a wide range of licensed products. This leads to a continually growing and engaged community for this much loved product.

LEGO was also versatile enough to be an essential learning aid during the lockdown.


IKEA is fast becoming a British institution. In ‘normal’ times, it’s the ideal day out, packed with meatballs and furniture. While many lockdown conversations were related to consumers missing the IKEA experience, and the changing regulations for store openings, it was actually IKEA’s sustainability commitment that created the most positive engagement.

In July, the announcement of their pea-protein based meatballs caused a spike in conversations. But this was nothing compared to the launch of their Buy Back initiative, with the company buying back unwanted IKEA furniture from consumers. Items are then resold or recycled.

This connects with a key consumer issue - protecting the environment for the future. Nearly 9% of all IKEA lockdown conversations involved sustainability. Demonstrating how important it is to consumers, and why they love IKEA when the brand tackles the issue.

IKEA’s sustainability commitment generates significant engagement for the brand’s social media channels.

7. Land Rover

Sustainable is also a big driver for Land Rover. A historic UK brand, their commitment to being an all-electric brand by 2025 was one of their biggest positive mention generators of the year.

Another reason for the brand’s success is their connection to the Royal Family. Although I wouldn’t describe them as influencers, brands connected with British royalty do attract a sense of aspiration - there is a certain affluent lifestyle that these associated brands portray.

That means that consumers don’t just see Land Rover as a product, but a part of an aspirational lifestyle. The increased mentions the Royal Family gained throughout 2020 helped increase the mentions for Land Rover, and this emotional connection with the brand.

Land Rover has built ties with the Royal Family over the last century. Helping the brand earn prestige whenever it is mentioned alongside them.

8. Waitrose

Waitrose is another brand where sustainability conversations are bringing in huge engagement from their audience, with the matter tackled in numerous ways. They stopped using glitter in their own brand Christmas products, and stopped the sale of children’s magazines that included disposable toys. With the intent of reducing the brand’s plastic impact on the environment.

Christmas was also an essential part of the brand’s consumer love. Since 2007, the John Lewis adverts have become a popular part of the festive build-up. In 2019, these ads were also linked to Waitrose.

These ads often use a variety of emotive engagers to connect with their audience, and in many consumers' minds, Christmas, John Lewis, and Waitrose come hand-in-hand. The most positive sentiment key driver for the brand was Christmas, with 11.4% of all mentions.

Waitrose captures the Christmas spirit, not just in their adverts, but also their actions.

9. Yorkshire Tea

Consumers no longer see brands as faceless corporations, but more as personalities that they can interact with. During lockdown, people turned to these trusted brands more for information - for a sense of normality during a complicated and consuming time. For Yorkshire Tea, their personal social media presence was what made them loved.

A mix of banter, user-interaction, and willingness to engage in topical issues is why Yorkshire Tea’s social media strategy worked so well. They focused less on brand promotion, and more about creating conversations and interactions - in an authentic, engaging format.

They also weren’t afraid of taking a stand on current issues. Their tweet in support of Black Lives Matter was their most engaging tweet during the lockdown, with over 100.6K engagement.

It was a strong message that was bound to antagonise some. But it definitely won them much brand love from many new fans. Even rival tea companies.

Taking a stand on important social issues, helps brands connect further with consumers.

10. Vodafone

Vodafone is the final brand hitting our list, and there’s several reasons combined that drive brand love.

Proactive PR helped the brand connect with news stories of the day, helping them gain vital brand mentions. From supporting homeschooling, to helping jobseekers with their new VOXI branded tariffs, these initiatives helped benefit the lives of their consumers.

The company also benefited from the rise in football mentions. As Manchester United’s shirt sponsor from 2000 to 2006, the brand was regularly included in historic mentions of the club, often boosted by a little bit of fan nostalgia.

Vodafone boosted their brand love, by connecting with the issues impacting society during lockdown.

Get that loving feeling

That’s just a sample of the world’s most loved brands. To discover more about the ones having global success, and how they’re doing it, download the full report below.

UK's favourite brands CTA to Brand Love Story 2021 - Download the report