What defines a great year for a brand? Sometimes, it involves creating opportunities for your company. Other times, you have to  gracefully respond to unfortunate situations. From slow cooker villainy to one very special free truck, here are the eight best brand moves of 2018, listed in chronological order:

 inline image

1. Burger King Gets Opinionated

Burger King's viral net neutrality ad in January was shocking--due to its effectiveness and the fact that it was made by Burger King. So was its July Pink Tax ad highlighting the cost disparity between products marketed for women and similar products marketed toward men. It's been winning the social media wars, too: Most recently, it unveiled the #WhopperDetour, where you can order a Whopper for $0.01 on the BK app if you're within 600 feet of a McDonald's. Getting out of your comfort zone can really work.

2. Crock-Pot Whips Out Its Crisis Plan

Crock-Pot--the consumer-products brand owned by Newell Brands--found itself in an unexpected role early in 2018: villain. After a slow cooker sparked a fire that killed Jack Pearson, a character in NBC's This Is Us, legions of fans of the show announced their intentions to throw out their Crock-Pots. The company responded quickly, empathetically, and factually across social media--sharing people's devastation over the Pearson's death while emphasizing both the character's predilection for slow-cooked food and the company's real-life quality control measures. It even got #CrockPotIsInnocent trending on Twitter, ultimately earning the brand more attention than if the TV show had never aired in the first place.

3. Lush Goes All-In on Transgender Rights 

In February, British cosmetics brand Lush went all out to promote transgender rights. It donated all sales of a limited edition pink-and-blue bath melt to advocacy groups, swapped its window displays with quotes from transgender employees for two weeks at its 250 North American stores. It also published a booklet for trans allies, and released a series of online films about trans issues. The bath melt sales raised $450,000 and 75,000 booklets were handed out in shops. When you take a stance, go big--or you'll find yourself going home.

 inline image

4. KFC Issues an Amusing Apology

Did you hear the one about KFC running out of chicken? No, seriously--in February, nearly 900 KFC restaurants in the U.K. ran out of chicken. If you find that funny, you'll also chuckle at the chain's response: a full-page ad in the London Evening Standard of an empty chicken bucket bearing the letters FCK. It's an effective use of non-offensive humor that can gain you fans (in a situation where you have a lot to lose).

5. Toyota Takes the High Road

When nurse Allyn Pierce got his opportunity to evacuate the deadly Camp Fire that leveled his town of Paradise, California, he made a fateful decision to instead head toward the hospital where he worked. He drove patients and staff to safety, torching his Toyota Tundra in the process. And when Toyota heard about it, the company quickly offered to replace his truck for free. A no-brainer for the car company.

6. Payless Launches Into Luxury, Sort Of 

In October, Los Angeles shoppers who entered the Palessi store thought they were buying designer shoes for up to $1,800. In reality, the shoes typically sell between $20 and $40 at discount footwear chain Payless. Organizing the prank was expensive--and those who overpaid were allowed to keep the shoes for free--but judging by the attention garnered, the stunt was worth it.

7. Ikea Goes to the Dogs--Literally

An Ikea in Catania, Italy, really went to the dogs in November when staffers opened the store's doors to local stray canines. The pups received food and attention from employees and customers alike. Some have even been adopted by customers. It would've been easy to keep the doors closed, but look at the value Ikea gets from promoting a wholesome image--not to mention the gratitude of some happy hounds.

8. Steph Curry Wins a Little Girl's Heart

Nine-year-old Riley Morrison saw that NBA star Steph Curry's Curry 5 shoes were available only in boys and men's sizes--so she wrote him a letter. His handwritten response was perfect: He'd gotten Under Armour to start making the shoes in girls sizes, Morrison would receive two new pairs of shoes, and she was invited to a game on International Women's Day in March. It was a genuine human interaction--and a great brand move for Curry.

EXPLORE MORE Best in Business COMPANIESRectangle