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The Secrets to Building Brave Brands


Rob Drake


2 Jun 2024


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What makes a ‘brave brand’? Or a ‘brave marketer’? It’s a question we ask regularly – given we’re called ‘Brave Spark’, it’d be pretty strange if we didn’t.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few brave marketers and they all seem to exhibit a key trait, where courage is the deciding fact.

Simply, they can ignore the noise and follow their instincts.

‘Follow the strength of your convictions’ – it has some serious Jez Usbourne ‘life coach’ energy. “You gotta follow your dreams, case closed. Next!” But in a world where data and testing rule, no wonder we’ve seen a strategic and creative convergence in the past decade as brands have to play it safe to keep algorithms happy and deliverables modular.

There are the brands that are ok with that and good luck to them. It’s a sensible, safe approach. Tick off the KPIs and move from moment to moment. Rinse. Repeat.

Did any of us really get into this game to play it safe? So why, when we are inside the machine and have a chance to build something lasting and unique, that generates genuine human emotion, should we play it safe now?

Daring to be different requires a true mindset shift. It requires a sense of optimism. Brave marketers worry less about what’s going wrong and instead think about what can go right (another lesson that applies as much to life as it does to business – I’m really getting into this life coach thing aren’t I?).

Optimism is a key and nuanced word here. It’s very different to positivity – positivity is a trap, and blind positivity means you underestimate the impact of outside factors and that things can go wrong (often when you least expect it).

But when you’re optimistic, you combine your instincts with your experience. You’re curious to discover new ideas, new strategies and new inspiration, and change your mind when a new possible answer comes into play.

When you’re positive, you work on hope. When you’re optimistic, you chart realistic routes to radical outcomes. You’re not being so negative that you’ll refuse to try anything different, but you’re also not being so toxically positive that you’re setting yourself up for failure. Because you already think you know the answer. You won’t say no. And we know that there’s a lot of bravery in saying no.

All sounds easy, right? If it was, we wouldn’t be having these conversations, and we wouldn’t be assaulted by a sea of sameness that currently litters marketing channels left, right and centre.

So let’s celebrate those that do exhibit that bravery. Those marketers who clearly trust their instincts and conjure new, exciting, unique ideas. And see them through.

I asked some of the team at Brave Spark to pick out their favourites. Because you don’t need any more of my waffle. And because these guys live and breathe it every day. And I think the choices are rather good…


Capitalising on controversial topics to create brand awareness is brave, and Irn-Bru have never been afraid to embrace stereotypes or taboos in order make their audience laugh. I love how their ads explore a wide range of visual territories and storylines, and that they’re brave enough to shake things up to stay with the times and keep their reputation as bold, cheeky, and polarising.

- Margaux Dalgleish, Creative


Heinz show up consistently, confidently and are not only in culture but creating it. Whether that’s their super simple Out of Home that reflects the bottle shake (likely breaking so many brand guidelines!), or when Heinz didn’t make the cut as an official sponsor of 2022 FIFA World Cup, so they tracked down and sent someone called Thomas Heinz, who quickly became a walking human billboard and generated a reach of 9 million in only a few days. They’re distinctive, relatable and reactive in all the right places.

- Rebecca Vickery, Managing Director

Step One

An underwear brand aimed at stopping the dreaded chaffing – Step One zigs when everyone else zags. A lot of their advertising is deliberately pretty low-fi – it’s never glossy shots of underwear models, it’s ‘proper customers’ (read: larger blokes) from all over the world. Their partnerships are smart and the humour used in their campaigns is always spot on – whether that’s manifested in TV ads or, in particular, on social media.

- Alex Fielding, Executive Producer

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