5 Breakthrough Brands With Ingenious Marketing That Hit a New Level in 2017

From Away to HQ Trivia, these companies had a big year

These are the companies you just couldn't escape in 2017.
Sources: Getty Images, Halo Top, HQ, Away Travel, Fenty, Moon Pie

Ah, 2017. What a year! There were certainly some pretty massive brand flops, but on the other hand, many others took a stand and got political. There were also brands that had an all-around awesome year, even though the country certainly didn’t.

Below, Adweek highlights some of the year’s breakthrough brands with ingenious marketing strategies—those companies you just couldn’t escape in 2017.

1. HQ Trivia 

You might have noticed at the end of 2017, around 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. E.T., groups of friend or coworkers begin huddling in a circle, each person with a phone in hand, eyes glued to the screen. They weren’t scrolling through their Instagram feeds or being antisocial, but instead tuning in to play the hottest live trivia game show designed for a smartphone: HQ Trivia.

The show’s charismatic, rhyme-loving host, Scott Rogowsky, is a major draw for some players—but there’s also a chance to win cash each night. Participants answer 12 trivia questions. Answer all of them right, and you can win anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. If the game has more than one winner, that amount is split between all the winners. Sounds like something straight out of Black Mirror, but the app, launched by the creators of Vine, debuted in late 2017 to great fanfare; while the app has had a few bumps in the road, it’s still bringing in hundreds of thousands of players each night.

Why it’s a breakthrough brand: In a few short weeks, the live game show has attracted over 600,000 players in an evening. People are literally stopping everything (work, dinner, Netflix-bingeing) to tune in, making it a candidate to replace those classic TV game shows you’ve grown to know and love in the future.

2. Away

It’s been quite some time since a brand tried to revolutionize the way you pack for a trip. Sure, luggage brands have made adjustments to their bags—adjusting the size per airline regulations, or coming out with new colors—but as of 2017, Away has truly taken the lead in the category.

“Before we launched, luggage was an afterthought, even though it’s something you take on every trip,” Jen Rubio, creative director and co-founder of Away, said. “Our perfect suitcase—available in five sizes and eight evergreen colors—was the result of truly connecting with our customers and delivering an item that they had already told us they wanted.”

For tech-savvy travelers, the bags have USB charging ports (that are still airline-safe, despite new rules from some airlines that smart bags cannot be carried on board).

Why it’s a breakthrough brand: For an industry that hadn’t experienced a lot of disruption in quite some time, Away swooped in and answered all your travel luggage needs with a stylish, well-made and relatively affordable product. While the company has been around since 2015, this year was when it came to the forefront, when you really started to see the products in airports, in subway ads or on your Instagram feed.

3. Halo Top Creamery

Another brand that’s been around for a bit, but became a true sensation this year: Halo Top Creamery. Started in 2012, the company is now known for its low-calorie ice cream in various flavors. There’s birthday cake, red velvet, oatmeal cookie, pancakes and waffles, rainbow swirl and so many more—all clocking in between 240 and 360 calories a pint.

In 2017, Halo Top’s delightfully colorful packaging was pretty much everywhere, mainly because of its growing Instagram presence and its genius marketing. In September, the brand rolled out “Eat the Ice Cream,” a darkly comical spot directed by Mike Diva that had the whole internet buzzing. To date, the spot has nearly 800,000 views on YouTube.

Why it’s a breakthrough brand: This year, Halo Top’s marketing was fresh and unexpected—especially for an ice cream brand. Seriously, we’re still not over that wild ad—it even scored a spot on Adweek’s list of The 10 Best Ads of the Year. The storytelling is wacky, entertaining and engaging; plus, the brand’s sales increased by 2,500 percent from 2015 to 2016.

4. Fenty Beauty

Rihanna’s makeup line, Fenty Beauty, dropped in September; in just four months, it has become one of the most popular, sought-after brands of the year. (Sorry, Kylie.) The brand has already amassed over 2.5 million follower on Instagram.

The collection made headlines when it first hit shelves for a number of reasons. First, Fenty Beauty sells over 40 shades of foundation, including a lot of shades that cover darker skin tones. At the time of the launch, Rihanna’s line was regarded as one of the most inclusive beauty brands on the market.

Why it’s a breakthrough brand: After just one month in business, Rihanna’s beauty brand was valued at roughly $72 million in earned media. Plus, the ad campaign for the brand garnered extensive buzz on social and racked up nearly 650,000 YouTube views. For a newbie brand, that’s pretty impressive.

5. MoonPie

In 2017, there was a new sassy brand on Twitter for fans to admire and retweet all day, every day. That brand was MoonPie—the delicious treat made of marshmallow, chocolate and graham. You’ve probably heard the name MoonPie before, but this year was definitely a breakthrough one for the brand—mainly because of its Twitter presence. The brand recently tapped The Tombras Group as its agency of record to help spice up MoonPie’s Twitter presence.

In November, the brand tweeted “It’s as good a day as any to stick a MoonPie in the microwave, light a couple candles and scream into a soft pillow.” That tweet racked up 18,000 retweets and over 46,000 likes. That’s when MoonPie took to roasting anyone and everyone on Twitter in the best way possible. (Even Wendy’s social media, queen of savage brand Twitter, is a fan of MoonPie’s social media presence.)

Why it’s a breakthrough brand: Yes, MoonPie has been around for over a century, but the brand wasn’t necessarily at the forefront of the public’s mind (not including MoonPie fanatics, of course). After 100 years in business, the brand’s recent flexing of its social media chops with a hilarious and relevant tone is impressive while underscoring the value of social media.