10 great uses of illustration in branding campaigns

It's not often you see illustration used in brand campaigns these days. But for that very reason, it can be a great way to make your marketing stand out, capturing attention and eliciting an emotional response from the viewer.

From hand-drawn images to vector art (opens in new tab), the power of illustration cannot be underestimated when done well. So to inspire your own projects, we've brought together 10 examples that show just how illustration can be used in branding in creative and imaginative ways.

01. Oreo

This illustrated campaign infused Oreo with a sense of wonder

This illustrated campaign infused Oreo with a sense of wonder

To celebrate its 103rd birthday, sandwich cookie company Oreo wanted to update its brand but still convey a sense of childlike wonder. Via The Martin Agency (opens in new tab), Oreo commissioned 10 artists to create a character that embodied a single word. The only stipulation was that the character use the Oreo cookie wafer as the face/head.

The beautifully intricate example shown above was the work of Shotopop (opens in new tab), whose word was 'twist'. You can view the full campaign here (opens in new tab).

02. Penguin

Y&R China's campaign pokes fun at Penguin book jackets

Y&R China's campaign pokes fun at Penguin book jackets

Everyone loves classic Penguin covers. And this multi-award winning campaign for Penguin Group China draws wryly on that sense of nostalgia, to promote its range of audio books.

In each of the ads, commissioned by Y&R China (opens in new tab), a flipper-footed sound technician subtly invades the scene. The Moby Dick illustration shown above was created by Swiss artist Jared Muralt (opens in new tab), and you can see the full campaign here (opens in new tab).

03. Ram trucks

This retro ad for Ram trucks tugs on the emotional heartstrings

This retro ad for Ram trucks tugs on the emotional heartstrings

Selling automobiles is about engaging the emotions as much as anything else. So these print ads for Ram pickup trucks summon memories of the illustrative posters created in the 1930s and 1940s to awaken the public's taste for adventure.

The Richards Group (opens in new tab) commissioned Anderson Design Group (opens in new tab) (ADG) to create the poster art, inspired by the Art Deco-style WPA National Park posters created after the Great Depression to promote America's parks.

04. Faber-Castell

Redma Hoekstra's stunning illustrations show the versatility of Faber-Castell Aquarelle pencils

Redma Hoekstra's stunning illustrations show the versatility of Faber-Castell Aquarelle pencils

If you're going to advertise a drawing tool, why not show what it can do? Faber-Castell Aquarelle pencils can be used for normal drawing but also, as the slogan says, you can 'just add water' to make watercolour effects. This inventive campaign by Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong (opens in new tab) brings that concept to elegant visual life. Illustrated by Redma Hoekstra, and you can see the full campaign here (opens in new tab).

05. Kuoni

Malika Favre's bold, minimal illustrations gave Kuoni a brand new look

Malika Favre's bold, minimal illustrations gave Kuoni a brand new look

For its 2016 brochure design (opens in new tab), high-end travel operator Kuoni wanted to move away from photography. So, working with Altavia (opens in new tab), it commissioned a series of illustrations to depict some of the world's most desirable locations in an attention-grabbing way.

The brief for illustrator Malika Favre was to create a hero cover and a series of four complementary images for the different sections of the brochure. Favre's bold, minimal style gave Kuoni's brochure a look that really stands out as a premium product. You can see the full campaign here (opens in new tab).

06. Royal Ascot

This detailed artwork gives insights into the stories behind Royal Ascot

This detailed artwork gives insights into the stories behind Royal Ascot

San Francisco artist Lauren DiCioccio (opens in new tab) uses sewing and embroidery to create unique illustrations, and she was commissioned by Royal Ascot to create this stunning piece, 'Like Nothing Else', to promote its 2015 event. The 48x27 inch tapestry depicts carefully selected elements of the Royal Meeting and took around five weeks to create. You can see a time-lapse video of the creation process here (opens in new tab).

07. Schusev Museum of Architecture

There's more to Russia's famous buildings than meets the eye

There's more to Russia's famous buildings than meets the eye

This campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi Russia (opens in new tab) for the Schusev Museum of Architecture was based on the concept: 'Discover the Full Story'. Art directed by Polonski Yuri and produced by Carioca Studio (opens in new tab), the poster campaign focused on three symbolic buildings in the city: the main building of Lomonosov Moscow State University, St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre. 

Each illustration demonstrates that behind the familiar exterior hides a story and there is much more to be discovered. Find out more here (opens in new tab).

08. Mercedes

This bizarre ad draws on the emotional struggle between our logical and creative sides

This bizarre ad draws on the emotional struggle between our logical and creative sides

This unusual ad is the work of illustrators Gil Aviyam and Lena Guberman, commissioned by Y&R Interactive Tel Aviv (opens in new tab) to promote Mercedes cars. The concept is that like the brain, split between left and right hemispheres, the Mercedes Benz is a combination of opposites that together create technological innovation, inspiring design and passion.

09. Nike

Little Thunder celebrates Air Max in gloriously garish neon

Little Thunder celebrates Air Max in gloriously garish neon

Nike's has a long and glorious tradition of using illustration in advertising, and this campaign celebrating Air Max Sneakers is no exception. Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong (opens in new tab) created a series of ads with the help of local illustrators, each featuring a different Air Max sneaker model; this one was created by comic artist Little Thunder (opens in new tab).

10. Lexus

This fun campaign gave an automotive makeover to famous works of art

This fun campaign gave an automotive makeover to famous works of art

Wanting to convey the idea that every one of its cars is a masterpiece, Lexus commissioned this fun campaign to reinvent famous works of art in its own image. This example swaps bulbs for headlights to reinvent Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers painting. Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore (opens in new tab) masterminded this print ad campaign, which also parodied Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol, and was art directed by Ronojoy Ghosh.

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Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity (opens in new tab), published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, T3.com and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.