Drawing New Inspiration From Last Year’s Top Marketing Campaigns

At the start of a new year we like to look back to consider where we've been and make a plan for the months to come. I wanted to take a look back at some of the creative and inspiring work that has come from public relations and marketing professional in 2013. In my opinion, these days a campaign must be integrated to be truly great, so many of these have elements of public relations, marketing, social media and advertising. But however you define them, these campaigns inspired and moved us. Or they made us laugh. We were in awe of some. Whatever the reaction, these campaigns got us talking this past year.

(To make my rankings slightly less subjective, I ranked them by the number of search results on Google.)

o-dove-real-beauty-sketches-facebook Samsung The Smart Phone Line

#13. The Smart Phone Line by Samsung

For the launch of the Galaxy S4 in New Zealand, Samsung worked with Colenso BBDO to create a digital queue where fans could jump up in the line by sharing about the phone in social media. The lucky fan who worked his/her way to the front of the line would win a free Galaxy S4. The virtual line was even projected on a large screen in Auckland and showed the avatars under umbrellas during the rain and curling up in sleeping bags at night. People could come watch the line and see the fans sharing in real time. 12,000 people joined the line in the two weeks leading to the launch. Those fans shared 85,000 stories which reached over 15 million people organically. Since the launch, Samsungs market share has grown 12%. The stats are strong; especially considering this campaign was only in New Zealand which has a population of 4.4 million.

Why it Worked

What was great about this campaign is it got the fans to launch the new phone. Samsung identified 36 key features of the device. Thats far too many to highlight in a commercial or any public relations materials. But if you release those features to fans over a couple weeks, they can help tell your story for you. Fans will share the features that they care about the most, which will also give some good consumer feedback for Samsung.

Fruit of the Loom Fresh Gigs

#12. Fruit of the Loom's Fresh Gigs

In the fall of 2013, Fruit of the Loom sent LinkedIn messages to users who announced a new job on the professional networking site. The message offered a pair of new underwear to celebrate the new job. The message read: Were all excited for you about the new gig. To show this, were hooking you up with a complimentary pair of Fruit of the Loom. Because great-fitting underwear can help you start your workday in a great mood. The campaign, which was thought up by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, started October 15th and ran for five weeks. Each week, Fruit of the Loom messaged 5,000 eligible LinkedIn users to offer them some fresh undies.

Why it Worked

Crispin Porter + Bogusky did their homework. They talked with consumers, even visited some in their homes, and talked about the impact underwear can have one the day. Other research shows this is true. According to a 2010 phone survey by Consumer Reports, 47% of women feel self-assured at work and socially when wearing a nice pair of underwear. Also, this campaign was just wild enough to get people talking and increase buzz. While many brands are tapping Facebook and Twitter for marketing, not many have used LinkedIn yet. Since it is a professionally focused social channel, this quirky campaign congratulating users on their new job is a great way to get attention.

Belize to Breaking Bad

#11. Belize Tourism to Breaking Bad

(Spoiler alert if you havent watched the final season of Breaking Bad!)

What do you do when your country is used as a euphemism for murder? Well, if youre the Belize Tourism Board, you take it in stride and turn it into a PR win. When Saul suggested Walt send Hank on a trip to Belize, the country couldve been insulted or even just let it go. Instead, they jumped on twitter to send several tweets about the episode and some directly to the actors. Then the tourism board created an invitation to the cast inviting them to on their own trip to Belize after the series ended. The letter was sent to the New York Times and made the rounds on the internet.

Why it Worked

Breaking Bad was insanely popular, and many brands wanted to get in on that fame. However, most of the time it was poorly done. The Belize Tourism Board did a great job taking something that couldve been a negative and turned it around. They had fun with it and didnt take themselves too seriously. It was timely and connected well to the popular series.

Share a Coke

#10. Coca-Cola's Share a Coke

While this campaign actually started in Australia in 2011, it went global in 2013. The simple concept of putting popular names on Coca-Cola bottles exploded in countries worldwide. Some countries, like China, did their own take on the campaign. China used nicknames instead of common first names. The UK released Coca-Cola products with 150 of the UKs most popular names replacing the usual branding in early 2013. Fans around the world captured pictures of their names and friends names on the Coca-Cola bottles and shared them on social media. As a result, Coca-Cola has seen the Facebook community grow by 3.5% in the UK and 6.8% globally. Also, the hashtag #shareacoke was used 29,000 times on Twitter.

Why it Worked

By personalizing Coca-Cola products, it got people excited to seek out their own name or their friends names. People lined up to use the vending machines that let fans to create their own personalized Coca-Cola bottle. This campaign was fully integrated and encouraged fans to create their own user generated content. Giving consumers a unique and personalized experience makes them are eager to share with their friends.

Jell-O Fun My Life

#9. Fun My Life by Jell-O

Since Twitter began users have gone there to tell the world about their problems, often adding the hashtag #FML (f@#$ my life). But Jell-O decided to turn it around and have it mean something very different. The brand tweeted, It's time someone answered these #FML tweets. Because Fun My Life moments should be taken seriously. Jell-O then responded to #FML tweets with sympathy and coupons for free Jell-O products. Jell-O isnt the first to turn around a common Twitter hashtag. Water is Life did a very successful campaign in 2012 hijacking the #FirstWorldProblems hashtag. The Water is Life campaign put complaints in perspective, but the Jell-O Fun My Life campaign just looks to brighten users day. Nothing like some jiggly Jell-O or yummy pudding to turn your day around!

Why it Worked

There are some who will argue with me and say it didnt work. Many thought the campaign was a terrible idea and tied a family brand to a not-so-family-friendly phrase. While that is true, they did get a lot of people talking about the campaign because it was creative and edgy. And when you take to social media to complain, sometimes someone listening and offering you a little treat is all you need. One thing that couldve made this campaign even more effective wouldve been better community managers. Some of the responses were canned and repeated over and over. It wouldve been better to personalize the responses more to each #FML tweet.

#8 Adobe Photoshop Live - Street Retouch Prank

Adobe took to the streets to promote Creative Days events across EMEA in the summer of 2013. Adobe enlisted the help of Erik Johansson to prank people at the bus stop and put them into the digital ad in real time. Johansson sat in a van across from the bus stop and quickly put his Photoshop skills to work while unsuspecting people watched as they became part of the ad. The YouTube video of the prank has nearly 20 million views.

Why it Worked

When promoting something like Creative Days, of course you want to take a creative approach. It was also real-time, which gets people talking. But even if you werent able to be at the bus stop, the video is creative and fun. People wanted to share it with their friends, which helps increase the buzz even more. While this was a specific promotion for Adobes Creative Days, it serves as a great promotion for Photoshop as well.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches

#7. Real Beauty Sketches by Dove

Dove brought in Gil Zamora, a Forensic Composite Artist, to draw women how they describe themselves. Then he drew them how they were described by a complete stranger. The women were much harder on themselves when they described how they looked. The women then saw the two drawings next to each other and were able to compare how they saw themselves with what a stranger saw. The videos end with the line, You are more beautiful than you think. This campaign certainly hit an emotional chord with many people. The main YouTube video had more than 61 million views and all together the campaign garnered more than 114 million views. It has been viewed in more than 110 countries in 25 different languages on 33 of Doves YouTube channels.

Why it Worked

This topic is certainly an emotional one and this campaign does a great job of eliciting a strong emotional reaction. It has a positive message that people want to hear and they want to share with others. But Dove did even more to make sure this campaign was a success. It's important to lay the groundwork before you release a video and they knew this. Dove worked with YouTube and Unruly on a distribution and seeding strategy for the launch of the campaign. They also did a lot of PR outreach gaining coverage in The Today Show, Huffington Post and Mashable. In fact, the campaign has had over 4 billion PR and blogger impressions.

Uber Kittens

#6. I Can Has Uber KITTENS

If there is a way to win the internet, it is with puppies or kittens. In celebration of National Cat Day, Uber partnered with Cheezeburger to bring kittens to the world! (Well, at least New York City, San Francisco and Seattle) For one day only, the on-demand car service became an on-demand kitten service. Users could request to have 15 minutes of playtime with the furry friends, as well as some tasty cupcakes and an Uberiffic Cat Pack. All the kittens were adoptable, so if users fell in love they could keep the kitten for good. The $20 fee was all donated to local animal shelters. The promotion was such a huge hit; there was even a kitten shortage in all three cities. While the Sorry, all Kittens are currently being snuggled. was a cute message, it was sad when you saw it for the 40th time when trying to order up some kitten loves. But Uber thought of that, too. For users who tried for kittens and werent able to get them, Uber gave users a $20 credit toward future rides.

Simply Measured Uber Kittens
Data on Uber Kittens from SimplyMeasured.com

Why it Worked

It's KITTENS! But really, it was an adorable promotion that had a feel-good aspect. Not only do the lucky people get to cuddle kittens, but they are donating to a worthy cause. For users who werent lucky enough to get time with the kittens, like me, there was the $20 credit. That certainly takes away the sting from missing out.

Van Damme Epic Splits

#5. Volvo's Epic Splits

Volvo has made a series of videos with ambitious stunts to show of the features of Volvo trucks. In one a hamster steers the truck while it goes up a hill with a cliff and in another a woman highlines between two moving trucks. The most popular stunt was Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits while standing on the side mirrors of two different Volvo trucks while they both moved backwards. The video has nearly 67 million views and is now the move viewed automotive commercial on YouTube ever.

Why it Worked

All of the Volvo stunts are pretty incredible, and they all have a respectable number of views, but the star power of Jean-Claude Van Damme increased the reach and buzz around this particular stunt. Volvo also released some videos showing the director explaining the stunt to Van Damme. People love seeing the back story, especially for something this extraordinary.

Batkid data from Simply Measured
Data on the shares of Batkid from SimplyMeasured.com

#4. Make-a-Wish's Batkid

This event was about making an incredible experience for 5 year old Miles Scott and granting his wish to be a super hero, not a PR campaign for Make-a-Wish Foundation. But what makes it even more special is it accomplished both those things brilliantly. On November 5, 2013, all eyes were on San Francisco as they turned the city into Gotham for the 5 year old caped crusader. Scott is battling Leukemia and wished to be Batman. The agency Clever Girls Collective helped spread this incredible story through social media and community involvement. There were over 1.7 billion social impressions and #SFBatkid was trending on Twitter. Celebrities including Val Kilmer, Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, Britney Spears and even the President sent encouragement through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. President Obama used the opportunity to send his first vine saying, Way to go, Miles. Way to save Gotham!

Why it Worked

Whats even better than kittens? Cute little kids. Especially when they have a story that tugs at your heart like this one. Make-a-Wish has granted wishes like this before, like Electron Boy in Seattle a few years ago, but none gained the attention that Batkid did. Much of that is owed to Clever Girls Collective for including San Francisco and the internet at large in this special day. They established a hashtag for people to follow along and easily share virtually from anywhere. They also encouraged local citizens to join a massive celebration at Town Hall as the Mayor gave Scott the key to the city. With a story like this, you dont need to do much for it to spread, but you do need to invite others to be part of it.

Ron Burgundy co-anchors news

#3. Ron Burgundy Interviews

The much anticipated sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy came out at the end of 2013, after A LOT of buzz. The lead character, Ron Burgundy, was everywhere. But this wasnt just your typical movie build-up with the actor appearing on late night shows and showing a few clips. Will Ferrell showed up as Ron Burgundy at events, conducting interviews and even in commercials. Burgundy co-anchored a Bismarck, ND newscast, covered Canadas Olympic curling trials in Winnipeg and authored a blog on the Huffington Post. He showed up at the University of North Carolina and interviewed head basketball coach, Roy Williams and interviewed Peyton Manning on ESPN. There is even a video of his colleagues including Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer and Chris Cuomo, talking about the great Ron Burgundy.

Why it Worked

Will Ferrell is the best and really commits to this character. The best part of this campaign was when Ron Burgundy showed up in unexpected places. I mean, I cant imagine tuning in to my local news and having Ron Burgundy as the co-anchor. Fantastic! Every appearance fit the character and was entertaining both to the people there and for those who saw it online.

Dumb Ways to Die

#2. Australian Metro's Dumb Ways to Die

Cute cartoon characters signing about the stupid things you could do that might kill you may not sound like a great campaign, but it was actually quite brilliant. McCann Melbourne created the Dumb Ways to Die campaign with Australian Metro to get the message out about train safety, albeit in an offbeat and humorous manner. Within the first 24 hours of release, the song reached the top 10 chart on iTunes. Since the catchy song first gained popularity, they have even created mobile games for iPhone and Android devices. When you die in the game, you can even share how you died on your social channels. Most importantly, the goal of the campaign seems to have been achieved. 14 million people said they would be safer around trains because of the campaign and Metro Trains reported a 21% reduction in accidents and deaths.

Why it Worked

When delivery safety tips that everyone thinks they already know it's helpful to be a bit different and memorable. Many airlines are also trying this tactic with preflight safety videos like Virgin Americas fun new musical version. Also, the Dumb Ways to Die campaign was integrated across advertising, PR and social media which makes it more connected and helps to spread the message.

WestJet Christmas Miracle

#1. WestJet Christmas Miracle

The Canadian airline, WestJet, played Santa this Christmas. WestJet set up a high-tech Santa in Toronto and Hamilton airports to ask travelers headed to Calgary what they wanted for Christmas. While they flew, the WestJet elves got to work making miracles happen. When the 250 passengers arrived at baggage claim in Calgary, they were surprised with the presents they wished for. The video is heartwarming and exactly the type of thing people love to share during the holidays. That has definitely helped the video garner more than 34 million views.

Why it Worked

This campaign was personal, emotional and heartwarming. It's a fantastic story and one that makes people feel good. People want to spread those warm fuzzy feelings, especially at Christmas time, so this is a perfect story to share.

There were so many fantastic public relations (and advertising, social media and marketing) campaigns in 2013. Im impressed with the brands that did something different and took a risk. Not all risks will succeed for brands, but if you never take a chance youll never stand out.

What campaigns did you love this year? What would you add to this list?

About the Author: Karianne Stinson

Karianne Stinson is Account Director at the new digital content creation agency, Mediabrands Publishing. Prior to Mediabrands Publishing, Karianne was Manager of Social Strategy and Planning with Seattle-based social marketing agency, Spring Creek Group. Karianne helps global and local brands create interesting content, manage their online presence, and grow their social communities.


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