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Greggs won Marketing Week’s Brand of the Year award, powered by YouGov, but it was a close fight, with all five on the shortlist having a strong case based on data and impressive strategies.

The best brands understand their purpose, are constantly innovating and create fantastic customer experiences that consumers talk about.

At the Festival of Marketing (FoM), members of the Marketing Week Masters judging panel revealed the merits of the brands shortlisted for Brand of the Year, powered by YouGov.

The panel examined Greggs, Netflix, Ikea, Nationwide and Cadbury, which contested the award eventually won by Greggs at the Masters ceremony on 2 October. Pete Markey, TSB’s chief marketing officer and one of the Masters judges, said the panel rewarded Greggs for being “clever and edgy”, understanding its audience, being innovative and having well-placed offers.

“The brand got into the public’s consciousness because it was being talked about in the media as well as developing a good customer experience,” he said. “It is not afraid to push the boundaries of where the brand is going.”

Head of data products at YouGov, Amelia Brophy, explained how the research company’s data was used as the basis for determining which brands should make the shortlist. YouGov tracks both short-term metrics, such as buzz and ad awareness, and long-term ones including recommendation and satisfaction, on a daily basis through its BrandIndex tool.

She said there was a time last year when one in five consumers could remember seeing a Greggs advert in the past week. The company harnessed interest in its brand by launching a vegan sausage roll to tie in with the Veganuary campaign. Greggs saw a 9.6% rise in sales in the seven weeks to 16 February 2019 as the vegan sausage roll received extensive media coverage.

The panel also discussed the brand success of Netflix which Brophy said had successfully increased its number of customers and those thinking about signing up, particularly among the over-55s. It was exceeding customer expectations.

Sonia Sudhakar, Masters judge and director of marketing for Guardian News and Media, said Netflix is thriving because it is content-driven. She cited its success in attracting the fans of TV series that had a cult following, such as Breaking Bad and Black Mirror.

“Netflix has played a blinder in many ways by focusing on hero content,” she said. “This includes documentaries that appeal to older people who are not so used to watching media in a different way. It also uses data effectively to create the best customer experience.”

Despite being a 72-year-old heritage brand, Ikea – another of those shortlisted – is alert to changing consumer needs around the customer experience and sustainability. According to YouGov, it outperforms most brands around the buzz it creates and its record on sustainability aligns with many people’s concerns in 2019.

Toby Horry, brand and content director at travel firm TUI and another member of the Masters judging panel, said Ikea has a clarity of purpose, is stylish, affordable and not afraid to take risks. Like Greggs, it gets media attention for its marketing and advertising. For example, it created rooms from The Simpsons TV show featuring Ikea furniture.

“The challenge it faces is how to serve online sales,” said Horry. “We are seeing micro-shops appearing in the high street where people can then get items delivered. Another example of Ikea’s great customer experience.”

Nationwide’s ‘Voices’ campaign brought to life by spoken word poets living and working across the UK was also praised by the FoM panel. ‘Voices’ had a significant impact on Nationwide’s brand consideration, with one fifth of all bank account switches going to the building society.

YouGov’s Brophy said customers agreed with the sentiments the brand was expressing and Nationwide benefited from strong customer loyalty.

Markey said Nationwide had got its mojo back and understood its purpose and role in people’s lives.

Also on the Brand of the Year shortlist was Cadbury, which at the beginning of 2018 replaced its ‘Free the Joy’ strapline with ‘There’s a glass and a half in everyone’ to connect more with consumers. This led to a six-point increase in brand consideration, according to YouGov’s data.

“We were surprised to see it on the list but it is there because it is doing things better than its competitors,” said Brophy. “It has a successful dual strategy of serving its traditional customer base well while also being innovative to bring in new audiences.”

This article originally appeared on marketingweek.com.

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