With 2017 now out of the blind-spot but still clearly visible in the rear-view mirror, it’s that time again when the driving gloves come off, and we reflect on the best brands of the past year.
Looking back at the previous rankings, in a year of political upheaval, Amazon topped Mustard’s 2016 best brand listing. It was a year that was also dominated by strong performing health, fitness and wellbeing brands.
Uber topped the original “best brand” rankings back in 2015. It’s been an eventful time since for Uber, with the loss of licences in cities including London, Sheffield and York meaning they now slip outside of the top 30.
Some brands have displayed much better staying power – the likes of Aldi, Google, Netflix and Spotify have consistently featured towards the top of our lists.
But who were the best brands of 2017?
There were many contenders again this year, so we have decided to publish a top 30, which has also allowed us to look across a broader mix of sectors. As a result we see local brands going toe-to-toe with international brands, we see start-ups mixing it with established brands. We even see an increase in warmth towards financial services brands (even the banking sector!), 10 years on from the crash and reputational carnage.
Overall, however, our 2017 best brand rankings point towards a further shift towards brands delivering seamless digital experiences, with many of the brands in the top 10 being as famous for their smartphone access and apps as for anything else.
Editor’s note – great to see apps as popular as ever with the launch of Mustard’s Pickles app for real-time qualitative research!
Here is the Mustard Top 30 brand rankings, with our thoughts on the secrets behind their successes.
Relatively new to the market, since 2016, Chip has gone from an unknown savings app to having ambitions of becoming a standalone bank. Its proposition is simple: connect Chip to your current account, and Chip works out how much you can save every few days, and automatically takes a small amount and puts it into a savings account. Not surprisingly, Chip is aimed at Millennials, those who are earning, but are usually deep into their overdraft, paying off student loans, and struggling to put any money aside. Although a number of microsavings apps launched around the same time into the marketplace, Chip really went from strength to strength .We are excited to see where they take Chip next.
That’s a dying platform brand isn’t it? Nobody uses Facebook anymore do they?… well they hit 2bn active monthly users in Q2 2017 (up 200million YoY). That means two out of three people in the world who CAN use Facebook (e.g. excluding China) DO use Facebook. Crazy.
In a year that also saw other banks such as Lloyds appear on the Mustard best brands “long list”, there is evidence of reputations improving and campaigns hitting the mark with consumers. For Barclays in particular, personalised offers, rapid customer service delivered by knowledgeable staff and its commitment to combatting fraudulent activities are all considered positive brand attributes.
Have seen huge profits increase above projections. Paypal does seem to be everywhere now and that makes buying stuff so much easier (which we both love and hate at the same time!). Impulse buying has never been so easy…
26th Whole Earth
Cemented itself as the number 1 peanut butter brand in the UK, proving that natural and healthy can be number one! Whole Earth has also developed a strong reputation for product innovation, all of which will have contributed towards peanut butter usurping jam as the nation’s favourite toast topping!
Increasingly even the Apple advocates in the offices are even now proclaiming the Samsung cameras as far superior. That, and their phones seem to have stopped exploding.
Has had success with campaigns designed to alleviate any lingering concerns regarding product quality. Lidl has developed a strong reputation for its drinks offer in particular within team Mustard. The Hortus gin is second to none according to some of our G&T drinking friends.
Sales increased by 48%, a growing international presence and profitable. And great products!
For all its problems, you can’t ignore a business that has built the biggest factory in the world, leads the world in battery technology and is run by one of the world’s more entrepreneurial and innovative individuals. This brand will surely get bigger and noisier in 2018.
Leon Restaurants featured in the most recent Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 (the self-proclaimed “Oscars” of fast growing companies). Leon is certainly “on trend” according to Mintel’s 5 food & drink trends for 2018, and their growth is testament to this.
Who made the coveted top 20?
20th Yorkshire Tea
This is not a result of a pro-Yorkshire coup from our resident Leeds and Sheffield contingent, Yorkshire Tea is also one of Marketing Week’s brands of the year. Their “core” range is a favourite of tea obsessed team Mustard, and we are also advocates of their new product innovations such as Bedtime Brew. Yorkshire Tea also delivered some great campaigns featuring Michael Parkinson, The Kaiser Chiefs and the Brownlee Brothers.
Having started off small, Boohoo has gone global and is one of the most illustrious Manchester brands. Mustard has its advocates for the fast and purse-friendly fashion offered by Boohoo. And we’re not alone. It was reported last year that Boohoo’s profits were up 97% from the previous year. The brand continue to lead in its effective use of social media and technology – in particular its user friendly app and the vast network of influencers across Instagram
18th Game of Thrones
It’s a huge global success. It’s got the most ballsy characters and plot lines, jaw – dropping cinematography, amazing locations (with a positive impact on tourism in Northern Ireland as evidence of this) and an instantly recognisable theme tune. Has a TV series ever had such a distinctive and recognisable brand?
Veganism is now very big news and is getting bigger. In the space of a year we’ve seen all the major coffee shops offering a plethora of dairy free milks (gone are the days of settling for soy milk, if they stocked it all), Ben and Jerry’s core flavours available in vegan-friendly options, and Starbucks stocking Jackfruit wraps (a fruit with the texture of pulled pork which used to be an absolute nightmare to try and get your hands on). The key to their success has been its use of social channels, using down to earth celebrity advocates, and highlighting both health and environmental benefits through clever and omnipresent campaigning (I mean how can you miss their adverts while on the tram or at a bus stop?). Just taking a look at supermarket shelves and restaurant menus this January shows how far veganism has come, even since this time last year, and a huge part of this is due to Veganuary (and also the partnerships they have developed with other leading brands in the food sector). Veganuary has (in part) taken veganism from an extreme lifestyle choice that had your friends and family dreading you attending anything where food may be served, to something that doesn’t so much raise an eyebrow on your most hardened meat eating relative. Bravo.
Primark once again proves that rumours of the demise of the high street have been greatly exaggerated. Whilst the likes of Debenhams have struggled with the continued migration of shoppers from bricks and mortar to jpegs and urls, Primark has carved its own identity. As a result it has seen growth across clothes, homeware, childrenswear and beauty products, and has opened its biggest ever high street store, which is one of the biggest stores in the UK full stop.
15th Fever Tree
Has continued to grow and established itself as the premium tonic water brand through excellent brand marketing. Consumers are now making more considering decisions about what “T” to put with their “G”, and competitors have had to re-think how they position and market their own tonic waters.
With minimalism an ongoing trend in the world of home interiors (and the Mustard office!), IKEA hit the nail on the head this year with its collaboration with the founders of trendy Danish design company HAY. In terms of creative marketing the brand had a successful year once again. Highlights included the tongue in cheek response to Balenciaga’s $2000 take on the iconic IKEA blue bag, and the peregrine falcon sculpture created for the Sheffield store opening, structured entirely from IKEA Allen wrenches. Ikea is still scandi-cool in our book / catalogue.
It was the fastest-growing asset in the world in 2017 and its value grew from below $1,000 this year to a record above $5,800.
Despite recent reports of poor trading and store closures, in today’s world of experiential brands (if a brand is built more by what it does than what it says), then M&S still retain position of a top-brand amongst its customers and advocates. Whilst Aldi remains the most popular retailer brand on You Gov’s brandindex, for some M&S has the experience “nailed”. And if you “shop savvy”, they say you really don’t end up spending much more either.
Bodyform made waves in 2017 by ditching the idea that only a mysterious blue fluid poured out of a school lab glass beaker can be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of sanitary towels. It was a brave move and although it received a mixed reaction, it has definitely made it hard for other brands to stick with the ‘woman wearing white, playing tennis, having a lovely time’ trope so kudos to them for changing the narrative for everyone in the market.
Into the top 10…
10th Blue Planet II
Improving on Planet Earth II’s placing of 15th in the 2016 rankings. Possibly the best environmental show ever, and now award-winning. The show itself has a clear and distinctive brand “promise”. It has built awareness on climate change and man-made changes to the environment in a very cinematic, artistic and impactful way (in particular problems associated with plastic in the oceans). Blue Planet II touched many of us in the Mustard office.
Disney continues to have an excellent decade (partially as a result of buying everyone else), but facilitated also by its strong brand. With Marvel and Star Wars helping to provide Disney’s second consecutive year of earning $6 billion dollars in the worldwide box office (the first company ever to do so), as well as its recent acquisition of Fox, their inimitable dominance in Hollywood shows no sign of stopping.
8th Aldi (down 1 place)
Aldi is now firmly mainstream, and they continue to do well, appearing in several “top brand” listings. Aldi’s product range and quality has continued to improve (the Mustard team advocates its wine in particular!).
7th Spotify (down 1 place)
Spotify is another mainstay of our top brands listings. Brands such as Spotify have completely changed the way we listen to music, and have perfectly tapped into the Personalisation trend.
Even if there is some local bias here – we don’t care. Manchester, as a city and as a brand, triumphed in the face of the most tragic adversity in 2017. The #welovemanchester campaign gained so much traction and support, both financially and non-financially for the city and victims of the terrorist attack in a short space of time. There are now Manchester worker bees emblazoned across the city and a feeling of solidarity which doesn’t seem to be shifting.
5th Google (a “non-mover”)
It is perhaps unsurprising that google is again one of our top brands for 2017. Every year google has pushed out some innovation or new product that has made waves and 2017 was no different. This year saw the release of the Pixel 2, officially the phone with the best camera (sorry Samsung!), and whilst Alexa home assistants have spread far and wide, Google Home actually works, so that’s an advantage. Mustard is even considering getting a Google Home Mini for the office, “Okay google, play Abba!”.
2017 was the year that WhatsApp pushed the humble SMS message into a corner. Who would have thought a concept as simple as WhatsApp would make such a big impact? Many Mustardites now have 95% of their conversations though Whatsapp and the ‘text message’ app has, for some, become obsolete. We’re all getting busier and catching up with friends becomes harder and harder. Being able to have group conversations allows people to stay in touch with friends easily and simultaneously.
3rd Instagram (another “non-mover”)
Another mainstay of the rankings, Instagram has both its long-time fans and also recent converts within the Mustard office. Some people are moving away from the “politics” of other social media platforms, using Instagram to keep up to date with friends, see what celebs are up to, follow special interests, gather inspiration and to see beautiful photography (often food).
It’s an increasingly popular app for “killing time”, giving us a wonderful escape from the busy commuter trains. ‘Influencers’ are increasingly using Instagram to promote products, meaning its purpose has become more clearly defined and its role has become even more crucial.
But mostly it’s cats, so many cats.
2nd Amazon (down 1 place)
Amazon is off top-spot, but it is clearly still firmly established as a heavyweight brand.
As a brand, it is synonymous with game changing service. Buying anything you could possible imagine from the comfort of your own home and getting it delivered the next day?! It’s amazing and a lifesaver for Christmas presents and last minute wedding items. Many say their prime memberships have paid for themselves several times over.
Amazon also retains strong brand association with innovation. Amazon has been very successful at working with third parties to build support for fridges, thermostats, satnavs etc. Audible gives its users hours of listening pleasure to its audiobooks. Some draw the line at them coming into houses to deliver things, that may be one innovation too far… Coupled with Amazon’s successful black Friday and promotion of the Echo device, the result is that Alexa has become synonymous with voice controlled home assistants. Even if, in the opinion of some of the team, it’s not the best.
Yes, there are always questions raised about the treatment of workers, how it’s shutting down the high street, etc. but there is no doubting its brand strength!
Think FOMO, think Netflix. It is the most positively talked about brand among millennials, according to YouGov. It is the top earning non-game app of 2017. A 29% increase in additional subscribers, beating forecasts by 1 million. Estimated number of UK subscribers is now 5.7 million, having grown by around 400,000 across the festive period alone. Netflix can deservedly chill at the top of our brand rankings for 2017.
Netflix has been a trailblazer for completely changing the way we watch TV, and have perfectly tapped into the Personalisation trend. Mustard team members have subscribed in droves, and have watched it more in 2017 than ever before – for many it has become the go-to TV platform.
The quality of the programmes (particular mentions for The Crown, Sinner and Stranger Things) has stood up against the enormous hype that have accompanied these new series. Beyond the big shows, we love it because you can watch amazing TV series / movies / comedy shows / documentaries from around the world, as well as more mainstream content for people that prefer that sort of thing.
We would love to know how your perceptions of the best brands of 2017 compare against our list. Get in touch and joint the debate!
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