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Marketing Campaigns to Learn From

by Sandra Wilkins


We love analyzing marketing campaigns. 

From those that make us howl in laughter, that evoke profound thought, that inspire great actions, to those that are so egregiously terrible that we cringe in our seats and wonder how the heck a company could think this campaign was ever going to be a hit – we love any opportunity to talk about the successes and plights of popular marketing campaigns.

And although the overall purpose of a marketing campaign is to inspire an action from people (what we marketers refer to as the ever-sought-after conversion), sometimes companies go the extra mile (or fail miserably) attempting to make their campaign mean something great to the people that do and will buy from them or donate to their cause.

Let’s look at a few campaigns that succeeded in their overall purpose simply by doing an aspect of marketing really well.

Marketing Triumphs

 Best use of social media participation: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was derived by the ALS Association and Co-Founder Anthony Senerchia in order to raise awareness about this motor neuron disease in the best way possible. By spreading the word and taking advantage of the “challenge” trend via social media, the ALS Association was able to garner sizable engagement and donations simply by challenging people to dump a bucket of ice water on their heads and then challenge their friends to do the same.

Needless to say this challenge spread like wildfire, so much so that even celebrities took part in the festivities by not only acceping challenges, but selflessly donating, as well. 

 Best use of multimedia: Dumb Ways to Die 

I don’t know about anyone else but when Metro Trains Melbourne started their Dumb Ways to Die campaign, I replayed their video obsessively (much to the dismay of the people around me) and even downloaded their app to indulge further by playing the games – I was shamelessly entertained.

This campaign displays one of the best uses of multimedia I’ve seen in a while featuring the cutest animated characters facing horrific demises due to serious lacks in judgment. And the only requirement to partaking in the immense amount of fun is to “solemnly swear not to do dumb stuff around trains”.

 Best use of sentiment: Pandora – the Unique Collection

Released about a month before Mother’s Day this year, Pandora Jewelry made an extremely heart-felt video about the diversities and uniqueness of mothers. They featured six women and displayed the true power of motherhood by blindfolding their children and asking them to identify their respective mothers only by touch and smell.

All of the children shown were able to identify their mothers. And if this didn’t pull at a heartstring and force you to call your mother and tell her how amazing she is – you don’t know how to feel.

Best use of video story: The Scarecrow by Chipotle

I remember when I saw this video for the first time. At the time, I recently watched a few documentaries about what’s really in the food we buy and this video resonated with me regarding how processed and unhealthy mainstream food can be. 

The story line features the scarecrow and his discovery of how the only food available was overly processed. This prompts him to create a delicious all-natural alternative that everyone loves – the Chipotle brand. I think ultimately Chipotle did a great job spreading awareness about what’s really in the food we eat and have since supplemented their campaign with an interactive game that offers an awesome prize. 

Best use of celebrity endorsement: Beats by Dre

Beats by Dre, a trendy, studio-quality brand of headphones, ear buds, and speakers has the best use celebrity endorsement I’ve seen for a product that isn’t athletic wear or an athletic performance enhancer. The most engaging aspect of the Beats by Dre marketing campaign is their instagram account that features the use of their product by athletes and celebrities in all areas of entertainment. 

Best use of blogging: Newscred

Most of the campaigns in this post have been primarily B2C campaigns. I think there’s still the misconception that B2B marketing can’t be as “sexy” as B2C – hopefully B2B marketers start realizing that although content marketing is extremely successful in the B2B realm, they need to start thinking abstractly as to how they can go the extra mile with pushing engaging content.

One company that does go the extra mile with the blogging aspect of content marketing is Newscred. I’m an avid reader of their blog and they seriously have an amazing grasp of how successful blogging can be. With their beautiful blog design and the perfect combination of original and licensed content, they’re never at a loss of extremely engaging pieces to read. Awesome job, Newscred!  


Marketing Fails

Now that we’ve praised the companies that are crushing the marketing scene, it’s worth mentioning companies that didn’t quite get the response they were looking for. Here are your marketing fails:

 Victoria’s Secret  – The ‘Perfect Body’ Campaign


Well, if your purpose was to alienate your customers who aren’t a size 2 with 9% body fat and then insinuate that their bodies aren’t perfect, thus causing an uproar heard around the country – then yes, this is a win for you, Victoria’s Secret.

We all know that this wasn’t Victoria’s Secret’s intended message. But when you market in an industry as delicate as women’s undergarments and lingerie (and when the industry’s purpose is ultimately to make women feel confident in themselves), you have to take extra precautions to ensure that every aspect of marketing is just right, from the overall concept right down to the online advertising copy.

U2’s forced album download

Yes, we love your music and your philanthropic ways, U2, but we must draw the line at a forced iTunes download.

This is a topic that marketers have to face more often now, the concept of technological privacy and how a simple marketing campaign can turn into a serious breach of someone’s private property. Where do we as marketers draw the line? Yes, the U2 and iTunes teams thought that instantly making the album available for everyone was being courteous and innovative, but iTunes users maintain the right to download (or not download) whatever they want to their personal devices. As technology and marketing develop at the current lightening pace, this will hardly be the last time we hear of this issue.

Hi @tim_cook my iPhone has a virus called “U2” how do I uninstall it? — Owen Williams (@ow) September 11, 2014

 Walmart’s “Fat Girl” Costumes

There seriously are no words for this fail. Shame on you, Wal-Mart.

And there you have it, the best and worst of campaigns in the marketing world. Have a favorite success or extreme failure that wasn’t mentioned above? Add it to the comments below.

Content marketing rules. And as shown by many of the companies above, if you have compelling content that entices people to click through to your website, subscribe, or give their contact info to stay informed of your company, you’re on the way to seeing real results that affect the bottom line.

If you want to know if content marketing is right for your company, click the image below for our flowchart to find out.

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