The Best Marketing Campaigns of 2021 - Punch Creative
December 27, 2021

The Best Marketing Campaigns of 2021

What a year we’ve had… again! 2021 has been a year of ups and downs. We made it through yet another lockdown and saw the return of festivals and sporting events. The nation was convinced it was coming home and Taylor Swift gave us two new(ish) albums.

As the year draws to a close, Emma, our Head of Content rounds up the best marketing campaigns of 2021.

Best Social Media Campaign

#FreeCuthbert – Aldi

Image credit: Marketing Week

The UK supermarket chain knocked it out of the park when they turned a High Court case into the best reactive social media campaign the internet has ever seen. When Marks & Spencer took legal action against Aldi for a trademark violation the disruptor brand reacted with a single tweet that sparked the highly successful campaign #FreeCuthbert. 

‘This is not just any court case, this is…#freecuthbert’.

Within hours Aldi was trending on Twitter and making international headlines. This is the supermarket’s most popular news story to date. The campaign led to hundreds of pieces of user-generated content, many big-name brands jumping on the trend and even protests outside M&S stores. 

#FreeCuthbert contained the perfect amount of comedy and emotion to capture the hearts and minds of the public and tapped into the nation’s fondness for the underdog and desire to stand up to ‘The Man’.

The cherry on top came later when Aldi launched a limited range of Cuthbert the Caterpillar cakes for the Teenage Cancer Trust and encouraged other supermarkets to join the #CatterpillarsForCancer campaign. 

Best Partnership Campaign

Beanz on Bix – Weetabix and Heinz Beans

The cereal brand recognised that the more controversial their pairing suggestions the more conversation it generated on social media. The partnership with Heinz was a great move in a number of ways. 

Both brands are considered British household staples. Both have large social followings and receive high volumes of press mentions. But most importantly the pairing divided the nation. On the one hand, you had the “Ewww definitely nots” and on the other the “Hmmm why the hell nots”.

The partnership inspired many other brands to interact and engage driving the reach higher and higher. The partnership made the national headlines, Weetabix said its spontaneous brand awareness increased by 40% compared to last year and they experienced a 15% uplift in sales. Win, win, win.

Whilst Weetabix and Beans might have been the best partnership campaign of 2021 there is another weird and wonderful partnership that I think deserves a mention.

Terry’s Chocolate Orange Mayo

Image credit: Standard

Heinz once again participated in a headline-grabbing partnership, this time with synonymously festive brand Terry’s Chocolate Orange. The unlikely pairing once again made national news and sparked fierce debate on social media. The limited-edition product was sent to food journalists and bloggers to taste test and review with very mixed results fueling even more conversation.

Best Hospitality Marketing Campaign

Marbs vs Scarbs – Bike & Boot Inns

The best hospitality marketing campaign comes directly from the Punch studio for the quirky hotel group Bike & Boot. Taking advantage of the surge in demand for staycations this summer we created a multi-channel campaign that centred around a quiz that asked players to identify images of Scarborough and Marbella to position Scarborough as a desirable holiday destination. This tongue in cheek campaign combined humour and sales messages to drive direct bookings for the Scarborough hotel.

Utilising email marketing, social media marketing and PR the campaign generated huge amounts of conversations on social media, drove thousands of users to the booking engine and landed a mention in Forbes. 

The highlight of the campaign for me was when we utilised TripAdvisor reviews to highlight why Scarborough was a much better holiday destination than Marbella.

Best Print Advert

Visit your local pub – Tesco

Image credit: Campaign

This print ad captured the community spirit of lockdown and supported the shop local movement rather than selfishly competing with struggling businesses by pushing cheap beer offers. As restrictions eased in April this year the supermarket giant received praise in the press and across social media for encouraging people to visit their local pub, providing they felt safe enough to do so. The ad was widely shared across social media, newspapers, magazines and billboards. 

The simple creative combined with a simple call to action has secured Tesco the highly sought after title of “Best Print Ad” as judged by Emma Rogers.

Best PR Campaign

PJs Free Breakfast – Frankie and Benny’s

Image credit: LadBible

Frankie & Benny’s ‘PJs’ campaign, offered a free breakfast to anyone who turned up to one of the chain’s restaurants in their pyjamas. 

Breakfasts worth up to £10 each were given out to customers who shared a picture of their visit on Instagram tagging #PJsAtFrankies and @frankienbennys. The campaign was covered in more than 50 titles including LADbible, The Sun and the Daily Mirror. 

This campaign incentivized user-generated content and created a tonne of conversation on social media. Encouraging user-generated content is a strategy we employ with many of our clients and this campaign inspired us to get creative with it in 2022. For many of our clients, USG is one of the most valuable assets as it negates the need for expensive photo shoots and adds authenticity to the brand encouraging a connection with your audience. 

Best PR Stunt

PPE Wedding Dress – Hitched

Image credit: Hitched David Parry/PA

Wedding planning website, Hitched, celebrated Freedom day this year with an inspiring PR stunt. The company worked with Tom Silverwood, famous TV and Film costume designer, to upcycle 1,500 facemasks to create a stunning wedding dress.

This stunt served the dual purpose of increasing awareness for Hitched now that wedding ceremonies could resume and also drawing attention to the growing amount of single-use surgical masks that were heading to landfill.

Best Reactive Campaign

ITS COMING HOME – Specsavers

The opticians celebrated the good fortune of England in the Euro’s this year with a hilarious out of home ad campaign. This brilliant creative idea depicts an opticians eye chart with the letters of ITS COMING HOME decreasing in size. It’s an image we’re all familiar with from trips to the opticians and the addition of the most shouted phrase of the summer makes all viewers connect instantly with it.

I love this billboard because during a difficult year it was a symbol of what unites us as a nation and based on the number of social media shares I’d say I’m not the only one who feels this way. It’s a win for Specsavers, shame about England!

Best Social Purpose Campaign

Reverse Selfie – Dove

According to Dove, 80% of girls will have a distorted view of the way they look online by the age of 13! The Unilever owned brand took action with a hard-hitting campaign in April 2021. The brand wanted to tackle the issue of unrealistic beauty standards in a social media era.

The call to action on Instagram was “Stop Scrolling”. An incredibly appropriate channel choice as Instagram is arguably the platform that most perpetuates unrealistic beauty and lifestyle standards. 

The hard-hitting creative film and the accompanying content generated lots of conversation and spread an incredibly important message. 

My Personal Favourite

Red (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift

Finally, my favourite campaign of 2021. You could argue I’m a little bias as a lifelong Swifty but let me explain to you why TS is not only the greatest artist of our generation but also one of the greatest marketers.

Taylor Swift is in the process of re-recording her entire back catalogue; the most recent release was Red (Taylor’s Version). Re-releasing music is risky but thanks to a huge amount of new and additional content created by the artist, Red quickly became a sensation once again. 

She harnessed her celebrity connections like Dylan O’Brien, Blake Lively and Sadie Sink, wrote and directed a short film, made multiple high profile TV appearances and took social media by storm.

The campaign gained Taylor the number one spot in the UK chart, broke two Spotify records and resulted in a 669% increase of Google searches for Taylor’s signature red lipstick.

This campaign demonstrated the true power of tribal marketing. The album was first released in 2012 but the Swifty tribe ensured it remained culturally relevant almost 10 years later. Taylor Swift skillfully keeps her audience and fans constantly engaged with cryptic easter eggs across her social media, in her public appearances and in her song lyrics. The singer teaches us marketers the importance of fan loyalty and that the best way to retain loyalty is through authentically putting them at the heart of everything you do.

Here at Punch, we create brands, websites and campaigns to help you take your brand to the next level. Want to create campaigns that get people talking in 2022? Get in touch.