We asked a few marketing giants what their biggest nightmare was. Second only to a massive and disturbing scandal, the most common answer was social media campaign failure. It sucks when posts receive little to no attention. But a few “lucky” businesses keep seeing appreciable success every time they post or tweet. And it’s not uncommon for their content to go “viral.” Following are 11 of the best social media campaigns ever. Hopefully, you’ll encounter an idea here that helps you catapult your campaign to results you’ll love.
1: Airbnb: We’re Here Campaign
The company launched the “We Are Here campaign” in 2016, adding serious momentum to Trips. Trips is a platform that immerses people into exciting experiences from all over the world.
The campaign had people from around the world participating live via one-day live feed on Facebook. People from at least 13 countries virtually visited different exciting places and engaged in lots of amazing experiences.
Participants could, for example, surf in Los Angeles or immerse themselves in a Paris’ performance. Or they could interact with Venezuelan cooking in Miami. Others “instantly flew” to Seoul, landing right in the middle of a live street dance.
The campaign was hugely successful, earning Airbnb 6,200,000 views! More than 20 percent of the participants were millennials — the demographic the campaign specifically targeted. Millennials value experiences and relationships over material things. And Airbnb leveraged that knowledge to the max.
2: Purdue: Day of Giving Campaign
Colleges need to raise funds from time to time, and Purdue University is no exception. The school became famous overnight when their single-day fundraising garnered a whopping $37.6 million.
The Day of Giving launched in 2014. The campaign has been enormously successful, netting Purdue 18,663 donations from 58 countries in 2018 alone. It succeeded mainly because former students gave it overwhelming support. People naturally want to support ideas they feel they own. Purdue knew that, and made them feel that it was 100% their project.
3: McDonalds: Lovin’ the Super Bowl Campaign
Rarely do brands stand out for tweeting about other company’s ads. But that’s what McDonalds precisely did during 2015’s Super Bowl, and won big. The company cobbled together a string of tweets that mentioned an ad that various brands strived to promote.
The Golden Arches ended each message by asking people to retweet and win whatever the company in question promoted. Another notable thing about the campaign was that each message contained the word “lovin.” “Helping” others sometimes can surprisingly end up advancing your interests.
4: Sevenly’s 7-Day Giving Campaigns
America’s Most Social small business so successfully blends purpose with profit. Right from the start, the founders identified faith-based communities on social and started engaging with them.
Sevenly carries about 60 apparel items (made in-house) including t-shirts, bags, jewelry, and hats. It then promotes them on social. Each week the company organizes a giving campaign that focuses on a specific social issue that needs attention. With each sale, the company raises $7 for charity. Luckily, their “tribe” — mostly Christians — doesn’t disappoint.
So, what makes Sevenly unique? The company gives more money than its net profit! They’ve sold thousands of products and given away millions of dollars. As Seth Godin so aptly elaborates in his book, finding a tribe and keeping them engaged works.
5: Nintendo: Launching Nintendo Switch
Marketing the Switch is undoubtedly Nintendo’s (so far) most spectacular marketing campaign. The uninspiring name “Wii U” is what Nintendo would still be using had they not discovered “Switch.”
“Switch” certainly sounds smarter. The name is short and memorable. As the name suggests, the user can Switch Nintendo’s system from console mode to handheld mode.
So, how has the company leveraged social media to elevate itself? One recent spot prepared for the German market had a guy using the Switch in the toilet. The message was crystal clear. It’s that people were using the Nintendo Switch everywhere!
As you’d expect, truckloads of people shared the video, boosting the company’s online visibility enormously. Unfortunately, Youtube later deactivated the account associated with the video.
Sometimes creating viral social media content doesn’t require tons of creativity. It just takes plain common sense.
6: Applebee’s: Fantographer Campaign
The campaign launched in 2014 and drew in thousands of new followers and tons of engagement. The company relied exclusively on so-called food porn photos. Nothing naughty, check it out.
The restaurant chain encourages customers to take photos of themselves or their meals as they enjoy their delicacies. The company then publishes the best pics on Instagram. Applebee’s also promotes the photos via Twitter and Facebook ads, giving them quite some push.
However, the Fantographer campaign seems to have made Applebee’s’ regular customers feel somewhat alienated. Maybe that’s why the business recently brought in new leadership that re-introduced an earlier highly effective campaign.
The “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood” campaign resurfaced in 2018, transporting Applebee’s back to its core values. Small wonder the sales and traffic seen in Q3 were the best the company had seen in 14 years!
Replacing a business’ tribe isn’t easy. It’s best to stick with the current and never let them leave.
7: Red Bull: Stratos Campaign (2012)
When Red Bull was founded more than 3 decades ago, they carried a product whose market didn’t exist yet. The company learned — as everyone soon learns — that traditional advertising can be prohibitively expensive.
Red Bull had to invent an unconventional way of popularizing its energy drink. And it did. In the early days, they’d let college students enjoy their energy drink for free. Soon, these youngsters started talking. As a result, the brand took off. In 2019, Forbes ranked Red Bull at position 71 on its list of 100 most valuable brands on the planet.
Red Bull learned one thing: word of mouth advertising works like a charm. Most of the growth the company’s seen has resulted from its consistently creative social media marketing campaigns. Red Bulls’ main account boasts 48,200,000+ followers and about the same number of likes!
Interestingly, Red Bull rarely talks about its products. Instead, the company keeps posting about well-known, energetic athletes. Other times the company posts stunning pictures of adrenalin-packed stunts that require tons of energy. Every post subtly communicates just one idea: Energy. Nuff said.
Stratos Generated 52,000,000 Views!
Stratos didn’t look like a marketing campaign. Still, the company’s sales shot to stratospheric levels. The campaign was all about Felix Baumgartner, a skydiver. Baumgartner made a never-before-seen 24-mile freefall jump, mesmerizing the whole world. The pressure suit he wore prominently displayed the name Red Bull.
The event was shown in 80 TV stations in 50 countries. It was also streamed live, garnering 52, 000,000 views. No other webcast had received that many views by then. And that got everyone talking about Red Bull as they gulped down cans of liquid energy.
Unfortunately, not everyone has million-dollar budgets to spend on dangerous stunts. But a couple gift cards could help you create enough buzz to jumpstart your social media campaign.
8: Starbucks: Unicorn Frappuccino
Magenta seems to repel many older folks. But for some reason, this unusual mix appeals immensely to millennials. It’s therefore not surprising that Starbucks chose this color combo for their “majestic” Unicorn Frappuccino.
The drink isn’t particularly healthy. However, that didn’t stop millennials from buying tons of it when Starbucks introduced the drink early 2017. They couldn’t wait to grab this “color-changing, flavor-changing, and potentially life-changing” concoction.
How did Starbucks do it? They kept saying the wonder drink would be available for a limited time. The campaign garnered over 150,000 Instagram posts and significantly increased sales. Creating artificial scarcity works. Why not try tinkering with the idea and see how it goes.
9: Dove’s Self-Esteem Campaign
While everyone else focuses on skin-deep beauty, Dove wants people to value inner beauty more. That’s why the company paid a bunch of researchers to study self-esteem. The findings helped them to intelligently educate people on the subject.
Naturally, everyone feels included because Dove makes them believe they are beautiful inside.
It’s hardly surprising that the 15+ year old campaign continues to crank out impressive results. One 2015 survey recognized Dove as one of the 21st century’s top 100 campaigns.
10: Gillette: “The Best Men Can Be” Campaign
The campaign happened mainly on Twitter and Youtube. The razor brand created a video whose main aim was to tackle toxic masculinity. The campaign encouraged men start questioning the age-old notion, “Boys will be boys.” Gillette seemed to suggest that the idea resulted in bad behavior in men. That’s taking a tough stand. In most cases taking a stand on controversial issues can reflect on a brand. But Gillette took the risk, and it paid off.
As you might imagine, the video drew a ton of controversy. In fact, it was largely polarizing. Lots of men took to Twitter to encourage others to boycott Gillette’s products. The campaign flopped, right?
Quite the contrary, more than 30 million people have viewed the video as of July 29, 2019. During the campaign, the company announced it’d donate $3 million to men-focused nonprofits over the next three years. Maybe that nipped all negativity toward the brand in the bud.
11: Coca-Cola: Share-a-Coke Campaign
Launched in 2011 in Australia, the whole campaign hinges on the idea of sharing and happiness. Coca-Cola devised the idea of putting popular first names on bottles, and that made people want to buy them.
People got excited when they saw their name on Coke Zero, Zero Sugar, Coca Life, and other Coca-Cola brands. They could also get names that encouraged sharing. Names such as “family,” “Buddy,” and “BFF.” Fans could also request to have specific names put on virtual bottles which they then shared on social media.
Few campaigns stay fresh for long. However, Coke’s Campaign is still as vibrant in 2019 as it was at launch. Just not getting the same feedback as earlier on. To sustain interest in their campaigns, the company carries out regular tweaks every year to reflect a particular theme.
In 2016, for instance, the company replaced people’s first names with names of popular lyrics. Lyrics such as “You belong with me,” and “Lean on Me.”
Coca-Cola always finds a way to make its products a part of its customers’ life. That’s why it wins. Can you do the same? You can.
What Are You Waiting for?
You’ve seen how different brands successfully created and executed their social media campaigns. Good news: you, too, can do it. Sure, you’re in a different business that sells to a different bunch of customers. So, keep your eyes peeled. You might spot an idea that’ll make a light bulb go off in your head. Then, mold it into a winning social media campaign.
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