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Dissecting Iceland’s creatively brave campaign

Iceland’s heartbreaking campaign highlighting the damage done by palm oil deforestation may have been banned, but it went viral nonetheless. It was a creatively brave campaign for the brand and we’re dissecting it.

Dissecting Iceland’s creatively brave campaign

Iceland’s recent advert blew our minds (and after we wiped away our tears, we blew our own noses). Not only was it not selling any products or showing off a new festive campaign for the holidays, but it took a pretty hard political stance on deforestation for palm oil.

It was such a clear stance, in fact, that the advert was banned. Family-friendly Iceland, banned? What kind of world are we living in?

Before you go any further, watch the advert for yourself if you haven’t already. Keep tissues close by. You’ve been warned.

Wiped your eyes? Okay, let’s dissect this creatively brave advert using our favourite SOSTAC methodology or, at least the ‘SOST’ part of it, and dissect the brand’s situation, objectives, strategy, and tactics.

What is Iceland’s situation?

For starters, Iceland is the UK’s smallest supermarket with only 2.1% of the market share compared to the giants like Tesco (27.4%), Sainsbury’s (15.2%), and Asda (15.2%) or even the smaller competitors like Lidl (5.5%) and Waitrose (5%).

Without doubt, they won’t be stealing the market share anytime soon, so it appears that the brand is aiming to lead the way for retail in sustainability, such as pledging to remove plastic from their own-brand products by 2023 with their #TooCoolForPlastic campaign.

By being seen as a socially-responsible brand, Iceland might be hoping to capture more of those purpose-driven shoppers.

What might their objectives have been?

With a campaign such as this, there were likely multiple objectives.

The main objective may have been to raise awareness, both of the brand and the deforestation caused by palm oil plantations. It’s quite clearly done that, having been discussed everywhere since the advert was banned, including national television:

Good Morning Britain

This Morning

Sky News:

Following this would have been additional objectives, such as improving brand image and increasing product sales. These objectives are harder for us to measure from the outside, but I’d imagine that this campaign was highly successful at both.

What was their overall strategy?

In order to lead the way in sustainability, especially in an area that they’d never previously made any ground, Iceland’s strategy was to partner with an authority on the issue. That’s why they joined forces with Greenpeace, putting renewed strength behind a palm oil advert that had previously been banned.

Along with this, Iceland had to make a change. It’d be a bit hypocritical otherwise, right?

They removed all own-brand products using palm oil as an ingredient and replaced them with palm-oil-free alternatives, urging the public to have a #NoPalmOilChristmas.

It’s worth noting that other brand products with palm oil still remain on their shelves, but the brand has been very honest about the fact that this is still necessary while the demand is there, and that they hope to be able to provide customers with the choice to buy an alternative.

What tactics were used to achieve this?

The main tactic used for #NoPalmOilChristmas is clearly the advert which has blown up since being banned (as they probably believed it would since the advert was also banned back when Greenpeace tried to run it themselves a few years back).

But they didn’t stop there.

Following the popularity and controversy of the banned advert was a PR stunt in London, where an animatronic Orangutan wandered the streets to remind people of what we’d be losing if we continued along this path of rainforest destruction.

They then went one step further – quite a few steps further, actually – as they sent their Managing Director to witness the destruction for himself in a visit to Borneo:

So, whether you’re cynical about the motives behind Iceland’s latest Christmas campaign or not, it’s hard to deny just how much effort they’ve put behind driving this important issue forward for supermarkets, and hopefully the world.


It can’t be denied that the advert has done wonders for Iceland’s brand awareness, spreading across the globe after its banning with words like “brave”, “conscientious”, and “honest” going along with it. But it’s done so much more.

Iceland’s brand image has never been stronger, with Krupali Cescau, head of planning at brand agency Amplify, saying that:

“Iceland’s tripled the views it had from its 2017 ad just on YouTube, and the people you’ve got looking at it are now vocal advocates of a store they might never have considered before.”

Remember how we said in a previous article that people want their purchases to make a difference and for the brands they connect with to have a purpose? Here it is in action.

This advert has put an important issue back in conversation. While palm oil isn’t even the main cause of deforestation, Iceland have chosen this as their starting point to address these issues and we expect to see other brands do the same…

If you’re interested in dissecting Iceland even further, there’s plenty more information on their environmental initiatives over on their Environment page.

Interested in seeing a few more campaigns dissected? Make sure to give this article a share and let us know over on Facebook or Twitter.

Feeling guilty?

In case this advert has brought to light the damage that our usage of palm oil is having, as it did for me, here’s a list of everyday products which include palm oil, meaning you know what to avoid or change when you go shopping.


Ryan Noble – digital content marketing manager

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