A successful marketing campaign can truly turn around a business’s fortunes, creating both short-term returns as well as long-term brand awareness.
Over the course of history, campaigns have gone down in the public consciousness for their memorability, their honesty, their success, and their innovation. Some have been in-your-face, while others have been subtle yet effective.
However, for all brands and agencies, the risk of failure is ever-present. While a selection of past marketing campaigns have delivered significant results, a great marketing campaign requires research, ambition, risk-taking, honesty and a true understanding of the audience. Otherwise, it can lead to failures similar to the likes of Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad, or Walkers’ ill-considered selfie social media campaign which was hijacked by trolls.
But the best marketing campaigns have lasting impact. An element of chance will always play a part in a campaign landing at exactly the right time, but there have been some real successes over the years which have truly delivered for brands. Let’s take a look at a few.
1. Nike: Just Do It
This brand campaign appears in every round-up of great campaigns, and for good reason. Nike had sales of $800 million in 1988, when the simple slogan was introduced - this reached £2 billion 10 years later. In the same time-frame, the brand grew its market share for sports shoes in North America from 18% to 43%.
Just Do It has been described as “universal and intensely personal”, and really reinforced people’s approach to fitness, leisure and wellbeing. It was dreamt up at Nike’s agency Wieden+Kennedy by agency founder Dan Wieden. And it’s still in widespread use today - not to mention copied, parodied, and imitated.
2. Orange - The Future’s Bright
“The future’s bright, the future’s Orange” came along as part of the launch campaign of mobile network Orange in 1994, which was delivered by WCRS, and was ultimately quietly removed from service around 2008. Ultimately, with this tagline Orange went from a challenger start-up criticised for taking on existing networks, to a global name with an instantly recognisable brand.
Within two years of launching Orange become the youngest company by that time to enter the FTSE100, with a £2.4 billion valuation, and by 1997 hit its 1 millionth customer. Ultimately, Orange merged with T-Mobile to create EE in 2010, withdrawing Orange tariffs in 2015. Service for UK customers was completely ended in 2019.
3. Burger King & Stevenage FC
2019 saw Burger King take one of its most unexpected steps by partnering with League Two football club Stevenage. The Miami-headquartered fast food chain and the Hertfordshire club seemed like unlikely partners. The two-year agreement included Burger King being the shirt sponsor, accompanied by some innovative activations.
Being the shirt sponsor meant BK’s logo appeared on Fifa 2020, which as one of the most popular video games, gave the chain great reach. They then launched the Stevenage Challenge, encouraging players to play as Stevenage and upload videos completing challenges to social media - with the campaign running worldwide.
Within two years, Stevenage was the most-played team on the game, and replica shirt sales had quadrupled. Through a comparatively low-cost sponsorship, Burger King’s brand was seen by tens of millions of gamers around the world, and did good in the process.
4. Coca-Cola: Share A Coke
This successful brand campaign involved Coca-Cola actually removing its brand logo from drinks bottles, and replacing it with a selection of names to encourage consumers to buy Cokes for one another, and even use the drink as a way to tell someone you’re thinking of them.
This aligned Coca-Cola with friendship and thoughtfulness; some became items people wanted to collect and keep, while others had nicknames like ‘better half’ and ‘sidekick’ for those names that couldn’t be found. After a 10-year slow decline in consumption of Coca-Cola, the Share A Coke campaign reversed this trend and saw sales grow by 2% in the USA. Consumption in young adults went up by 7%, and Coke’s market share grew by 4%, demonstrating how influential personalisation can be.
5. Greggs: Vegan Sausage Roll
To coincide with Veganuary 2019, Greggs made a move which continues to resonate. It launched the vegan sausage roll, filled with Quorn instead of pork, and took to social media to introduce the product. Anticipating divided opinion, the launch became unmissable due to the conversation around it, which included criticism from Piers Morgan and a snappy response from Greggs, who tweeted “Oh hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you”.
Non-vegans committed to buying them, people went to see what the fuss was about, and Greggs ultimately came out with an enviable profile. The following year, it turned another popular product, the steak bake, vegan. Financially, Greggs gave staff a £7 million bonus as a result, having seen a 50% profit increase due to the product launch and campaign.
6. KFC: FCK
This piece of crisis communications turned around what could have been a very difficult period for KFC, when the chain experienced a chicken shortage. Along with its agency Mother and in the face of media and social criticism, the brand took out a full-page ad in UK newspapers featuring some clever copywriting.
It was a risky approach to face up to the issue in this humorous fashion, and ultimately helped KFC recover in terms of reputation. YouGov BrandIndex showed that its overall score measuring value and reputation returned from a low of -10.6 to -5.3, with an impression score recovering to what it was before the shortage, while purchase consideration grew.