The Best and Worst Marketing Campaigns of 2018

The Best and Worst Marketing Campaigns of 2018 Parallax Image

Christmas can be the busiest time in a professional marketer’s life. With the hype of Christmas adverts reaching near hysteria, frantic Xmas shoppers causing a surge in online traffic and the underlying pressure to get your festive messaging right, it can be pretty stressful. Christmas also signifies the end of the year, and as things come to an end, there’s always an element of reflection.

In just a few weeks’ time we’ll be rolling in 2019 and making marketing plans for the first quarter of that year, with the festive season of 2018 left as a not-too-distant memory. Before we get swept up in celebrations with our nearest and dearest and preparations for the new year, we thought we’d take a little look at some of the best and worst marketing campaigns of 2018. Here are some brilliant adverts which really hit the mark with us this year… and some which just didn’t. At all.

Best Marketing Campaigns of 2018

Nike x Colin Kaepernick

When big brands use their sway and influence to create a stance, big things can happen. That’s why Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ advert with Colin Kaepernick simply had to make our shortlist.

While the advert in itself comes with a ton of controversy, with most notably Donald Trump tweeting his disapproval of Kaepernick, it was executed perfectly, backed with thorough support from the brand and resulted in a positive uplift in sales and social interaction for the brand.

Colin Kaepernick had gained much attention for refusing to stand up ‘taking a knee’, for the American national anthem to protest racial injustice throughout the country.

The advertisement shows a close-up of his face, with the motto ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.’ Nike consistently argues that it’s proud of the campaign, supporting the plight against racism which is so important this year and every year.

Nike saw a $6billion increase in overall value since the airing of the advert on Labor Day, which proves that if you pick a side, say it with conviction and connect with your audience, you don’t need to sit on the fence when it comes to marketing.


When fast-food chain KFC was forced to temporarily shut hundreds of restaurants because it has run out of chicken, the brand could have been faced with one of the biggest marketing fails of all time.

A chicken chain running out of chicken seems like the perfect storm for social media users to have a field day with, but KFC and its clever marketing team took fate into their own hands and launched a marketing campaign worthy of any best of 2018 list.

Rearranging its letters to spell FCK, KFC launched a hilarious print ad apologising for its mess up with a sincere apology at the heart. The combination of a genuine conversation with its customers and a tongue-in-cheek play on words saw the brand go from strength to strength and recover any damage.

Q3 of 2018 saw KFC up 1% in sales, having recovered from a 9% and 6% drop in the first and second quarters, while its impression share shot up to pre-chicken shortage levels

Channel 4 Together Against Hate

In September, Channel 4 teamed up with McCain, Malteser’s and McCain’s to create an incredible and thought-provoking advertisement which aired in the break of Gogglebox, encouraging us to stand #TogetherAgainstHate.

The companies gathered real actors who had worked in their advertisements and had sadly received hateful abuse on social media, showcasing their original adverts with some of the vitriolic abuse which had been sent laid on top of the advertisement.

Combining to take on racism, homophobia and anti-disabled abuse, these brands took a stance together, and by showcasing the abuse directly next to the recipient, managed to really send home the message that the subjects of such online abuse are real people too.

All of the brands publicly supported the campaign on their social media channels, generating millions of impressions and raising huge public support against online hate.

Worst Marketing Campaigns of 2018

Brewdog Beer for Girls

Brewdog tried to take on gender inequality by branding a ‘Beer for Girls’, complete with pink packaging, which was sold to women for a lower price than men.

The brand claimed the advertisement was a sarcastic take to show their support for gender equality, but that sarcastic messaging got a little lost at the concept stage, with the end result creating a product that looked quite sexist and a little patronising to women.

It’s important to remember here that while your messaging may be crystal clear in a complete campaign, if your advertisement is taken out of context - does your message still stand?

It seems like many social media users were highly confused. With the product literally called ‘Beer for Girls’, the advert without context totally lost the messaging, and instead left many consumers with a sour taste.

Heineken Chance the Rapper

Heineken got into hot water this year after an advertisement for its light beer was branded ‘terribly racist’ by rap sensation Chance the Rapper.

The advertisement shows a bottle of Heineken’s light beer sliding past several dark-skinned people, before stopping at a light-skin woman, with the tagline ‘sometimes lighter is better’ - so it’s not difficult to see how this messaging was perceived negatively.

Chance the Rapper argued that he thought brands were putting out deliberately racist content to get more views and interaction, and Heineken responded by removing the advert and claiming they ‘missed the mark’.

Its messaging alone is a little controversial, but when the visual advertisement alongside it comes into play, it seems like this particular advert shouldn’t have ever left the cutting room.

It is, however, a great argument for having a fantastic and diverse marketing team who could hopefully help your brand spot potential errors like this and avoid being called out on social media by successful artists.


What we can take away from 2018 is that it isn’t impossible to align your brand with a political or social stance, as long as you consider your customers in the messaging, create something that isn’t offensive and stand by your messaging. It is possible to create a social media storm if your marketing is incredibly sexist, and it’s so important to really think about what the perception of your advert could be before you launch.

We’ve seen some incredible brands step up to the plate this year, and some sadly fall short, but we’re sure 2019 will be full of more amazing marketing campaigns that’ll fill us all with inspiration to revolutionise the marketing of our own companies - and hopefully a few fails we can giggle at too! 

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