2024 Startups 100 | Marketing shortlist and award winner

Check out the top UK startups that are using clever ways to catch the gaze of customers and supercharge brand exposure.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:

Whether it's on our social media feeds, or on the high street, the huge number of marketing campaigns that consumers are constantly being exposed to can be overwhelming. 

It can be even more anxiety-inducing for new businesses trying to find creative ways to stand out from the crowd and reach their target audience. Those that manage to do it well establish strong customer relationships that are conducive to growth. Others risk falling behind.

This year, we’re launching the very first Startups 100 Marketing award, to celebrate the startups that demonstrate the most creative and effective method for building early-stage brand awareness

Intelligent marketing can be the key to growth hacking and establishing a business as a reputable challenger brand. All the big enterprises once had successful marketing campaigns that gave them a fast pass to the major league – and our shortlist of businesses demonstrate similar potential. 

Our guest judge knows outstanding marketing when he sees it. Finn Lagun is co-founder and CMO of the artisanal pasta brand Pasta Evangelists, a seasoned regular in the Startups-100. Through compelling storytelling that transports its customers to Italy, the brand has grown to become a household name amongst UK consumers in just eight years.

Read on to find out who he picked as his winner, and what he had to say about the clever marketing approaches of our five nominees.

Introducing Startups 100 guest judge, Finn Lagun!

As co-founder of the artisanal pasta brand, Finn is passionate about crafting compelling storytelling through marketing and transporting customers to Italy one bite at a time. Pasta Evangelists has made the Startups 100 Index three times, making Finn the ideal entrepreneur to judge our new Marketing Award.

WINNER – Fussy

2024 Startups 100 | Winner of the Marketing award

To recognise the startup that demonstrates the most creative and effective method for building early-stage brand awareness.

Learn more about Fussy

Fussy is a sustainable deodorant that is on a mission to ban single-use plastic from the bathroom so that both the planet and armpits don’t stink. It has claimed the marketing crown thanks to its purpose-driven marketing, as well as out-of-the-box campaigns. After a successful appearance on Dragons’ Den, Fussy collaborated with Deborah Meaden to compose a Christmas song, using armpit fart noises as instruments (we did say it was out-of-the box). 

Fussy claimed the top spot because of its daring approach. Following loud criticism of the carbon impact of its main rival, Unilever, the brand made headlines after it left an olive tree outside the Unilever HQ as an apology. The bold move established it as a challenger brand and has landed the great-smelling products in the aisles of Tesco, Wholefoods, and Ocado.

What did Finn Lagun have to say?

“The sheer daring to take on an organisation as big and powerful as Unilever – this could’ve gotten Fussy into deep waters, and that’s what growth hacking is all about. It has not only appeared on Dragon’s Den, but has also leveraged this thereafter in its marketing to great effect. I like to call this ‘brand piggybacking’ – when a smaller challenger brand aligns itself with a bigger partner to benefit from its wider halo effect.”

SHORTLISTED – Bold Bean Co

Bold Bean Co, an F&B brand that makes tasty premium-tasting bean jars, made the shortlist because of the effectiveness of its organic content and brand credentials. In an effort to change the way we view a staid category like beans, Bold Bean Co has focused on sharing what it coined ‘beanspo’, recipe video content that shares tasty ways to cook the product rather than investing in paid advertising

With over 70k followers across TikTok and Instagram, Bold Bean Co collaborates with chefs and content creators to share recipes with its budding bean community. This helps to build its brand awareness, while also giving customers added value. Winner winner, bean dinner.

What did Finn Lagun have to say?

“Bold Bean Co is an extremely fresh, vibrant and fun take on a previously downtrodden and underloved ingredient. It is Gen Z friendly and has strong social engagement – my compliments to Amelia and Ed for managing to make beans aspirational enough to register this way.” 

SHORTLISTED – JUBEL

Jubel is a challenger brand disrupting the drinks industry with its refreshing beer product that uniquely combines fruit cider with the seasonality of a crisp lager. 

Earlier this year, JUBEL launched its Where’s Wally campaign to celebrate being sold in over 500 Tescos – customers had to try and find the character Wally in stores to be in with a chance to win £5,000. The brand also made headlines after pulling an anti-Brew Dog stunt, wherein it encouraged rugby fans to chuck cans of BrewDog into a toilet.

Impressively, versus a beer industry average of 83% male consumers, 50% of JUBEL’s consumers are female; a testament to its efforts to position itself as a more diverse and inclusive beer product in a male-centric market.

What did Finn Lagun have to say?

“In a crowded market, it was thoughtful of the JUBEL team to take a step back to identify an untapped market within beer – female consumers. Identifying this gap in the market was an important step in creating space for early-stage awareness generation and cut through. It’s also great and daring to give BrewDog a taste of its own medicine: this could have backfired, given BrewDog’s propensity for confrontation!’

SHORTLISTED – PerfectTed

At first glance, PerfectTed is just another energy drink. But during competitor analysis, founder Marisa says she felt there were few options that appealed to her as a woman. Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar, all appeared pretty hyper-masculine in their approach. Sensing that creating something that would resonate with more people and be more accessible, PerfectTed’s clever narrative hinges on creating an inclusive caffeinated drink for those with anxiety and ADHD – without the crashes and the jitters. 

Notable campaigns include the Hardest Geezer Meal Deal Challenge, in partnership with Russ Cook. Wanting to support his mission to be the first man to run the full length of Africa, the PerfectTed founders flew to Angola to meet Cook and give him the ‘ideal’ energetic meal deal complete with a PerfectTed can. 

What did Finn Lagun have to say?

Lagun praised how deploying creativity to create interesting, stand out branding can help generate intrigue around the brand, albeit with limited resources at the early stage. “It’s great to apply to Dragons’ Den and raise awareness in this way,” he adds. “We did the same at Pasta Evangelists!”

SHORTLISTED – THIS™

THIS founders

Establishing itself as a leader in the plant-based meat market, THIS™ has made our shortlist because of its guerilla marketing efforts that have seen it become the best known meat substitute on the market. Rather than focusing on sustainability and ethical messaging, the company places humour at the forefront, ensuring it is appealing to meat-eaters, not just preaching to nicher vegan audiences. 

To achieve this, THIS has performed a series of stunts, tricking over 7,000 people into thinking they are eating meat – from high-profile influencers to an entire Italian food show. It also ‘sponsored’ the town of Quorn in Leicestershire as a dig against their meat free rival Quorn, and released a bacon-scented perfume to horrify and intrigue consumers in equal amounts. 

What did Finn Lagun have to say?

“THIS has done a great job of its overall marketing,” Lagun notes. He commends the brand for adopting a disruptive brand tone in its messaging.

What does our shortlist say about the future for startup marketing?

We’ve highlighted five businesses that are rejuvenating the marketing space by thinking creatively and doing something different to competitors. So what learnings can fellow startup owners take away from this year’s shortlist?

“An online presence remains extremely important, and perhaps increasingly important,” Lagun notes. “In terms of community and social media marketing – as Gen Z’s purchasing power grows, it’s important brands are able to communicate directly with their audiences.”

Still, Lagun cautions that marketing teams must move away from the assumption that they can simply conquer ecommerce to succeed. In his view, digital acquisition has peaked. Amid evolving consumer habits and high CPAs, strategic thinking is now required to grab consumer attention.

“More than ever, brands are having to leverage creativity and, in some cases, sheer chutzpah to grow their business,” he highlights. 

In some ways, marketing is going back to its origins. Big budgets and audiences are no longer enough – it’s all about the ingenuity and psychology of what makes customers do a double take.

“Brands that listen to customers will get the best responses from them,” Lagun concludes.

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).
Back to Top