As another year comes to a close, brands large and small are likely working hard on finalizing their 2014 marketing plans and looking forward to a year filled with new and creative tactics to grab the attention of their audiences. In doing so, they also may be looking back at the past year for inspiration and insight into what made the most buzz worthy advertising and marketing campaigns of 2013 so successful. It’s not only a fun exercise, but a useful one too, provided you take the time to analyze each of those campaigns to determine why they made an impact on consumers and how that impact might translate to your specific industry and/or audience.
The following are a few of my favorite social media campaigns of 2013, along with a bit of insight into why they resonated with audiences and what companies of all sizes can learn from their success.
Honda Starts Something Special.
As part of its ongoing “Honda Loves You Back” efforts — a series of feel-good surprises orchestrated over the past few years to show gratitude to loyal customers — Honda introduced the “Start Something Special” tagline throughout its advertising in August 2013. Not long after, the company launched an accompanying social media campaign centered around a video-driven website, Hondastories.com, which aggregates user-created videos shared across Honda’s social platforms, including Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Vine. Videos feature Honda owners sharing their personal brand stories.
Honda kicked off the campaign with the launch of a long-form online video (http://bit.ly/1ccA3lv) that features a newlywed couple, with a large family tree filled with Honda drivers, who are given several big surprises on their wedding day after asking their local Honda dealership to loan them three CR-Vs for their bridal party transportation. When eight vehicles arrive outside the church, the couple is shocked to find out that they are filled with special and personal gifts from Honda to assist them as they “start something special” in their new married life. From a surprise performance by a band they saw on their very first date to a few special family members flown in from overseas, each surprise is more impressive than the last as the video drives home Honda’s message that, “Our owners love us. We love them back.” Additional campaign components include the #StartSomething hashtag and a television campaign that started with a “Thank You” spot featuring photos and videos of Honda fans and families showing their brand appreciation.
There are many reasons this campaign saw a good deal of interest in 2013, not the least of which is its focus on user-generated video content, which is becoming more popular with each passing day. On a more basic level, because the campaign is tied so closely to the overall brand message, each component comes across as authentic and genuine — two important qualities that are essential in a successful marketing campaign. A key takeaway here is to remember that before coming up with a campaign tagline or outlining tactics, you must be sure to find the one key differentiator that makes your brand unique and commit to communicating that with your overall messaging. If your message is truly connected to your brand, it will resonate with your audience.
Oreo Owns Real-Time Marketing.
If you were watching the Super Bowl in February 2013, you may have been one of the millions of viewers who turned to Twitter to find out what exactly was happening at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Of the long list of popular name brands that quickly churned out blackout-themed branded content on social media to take advantage of the sudden influx of activity, one stood out as the most creative and entertaining. Oreo’s cheeky and now iconic “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet was accompanied by a simple image of an Oreo cookie surrounded by a radiating light on a black background, and was retweeted nearly 16,000 times and almost unanimously touted as the winner of advertising’s (and football’s) biggest night. While that may not have been the beginning of the brand’s commitment to a real-time digital marketing strategy, it was certainly a moment that caught the world’s attention and caused consumers to start paying more attention to the 100-year-old Kraft Food cookie company across multiple social media platforms.
This came on the heels of its successful and award-winning 2012 “Daily Twist” campaign that included daily creative iterations of the cookie tied to significant milestones on each specific date, in celebration of their centennial year. From the fun and quirky Shark Week and Elvis Week Oreos to the more polarizing Gay Pride Month tribute — every single post was thoughtful, creative and most importantly, a conversation starter. The campaign was an immense success, increasing the brand’s fan interaction by 110 percent per social media post, defined as any combination of shares, likes or follows.
To capitalize on that success, and keep the conversation going, Oreo unveiled the “Wonderfilled” campaign in May 2013 that focused on sharing humorous scenarios in which an Oreo cookie would turn negative situations into positive ones. The first television advertisement imagined what would have happened had the Three Little Pigs offered the Big Bad Wolf an Oreo, and other campaign creative followed suit by throwing Oreos into well-known tales and stories in a playful way. The campaign also included a robust social media presence including witty and timely pieces of creative shared across all platforms that took the Wonderfilled theme and applied it to relevant cultural news and situations. It also included a custom song penned by a popular indie musician and reinterpreted throughout the run of the campaign by additional artists across multiple genres. Finally, to launch the campaign, Oreo tapped hundreds of college a capella singers to perform the Wonderfilled song in cities across the nation and shared videos of the events via Vine clips on Twitter.
The key to Oreo’s great success in 2013 was the brand’s unwavering commitment to relevancy through creativity. Not only did its marketing team work quickly to integrate current events and ideas into its creative, but Oreo also did so without ever straying from its core brand message. Because its posts were timely and on message, the posts resonated (loudly!) with the audience, compelling them to get in on the conversation. Remember that your followers on social media are likely being bombarded by marketing messages each time they log on, and that your updates need to feel fresh, current and in line with your brand in order to shine through the clutter. Also, when appropriate, a little humor goes a long way!
Lowe’s Offers Quick Fixes.
The second largest home improvement retailer in the world has admitted to struggling in the past with how to effectively communicate with consumers given the fairly complicated nature of its messaging. For example, when Lowe’s customers visit a retail location, they are typically looking for a variety of products, often across a wide range of independent brands, to help them complete a project of their own choosing. The goal of Lowe’s marketing efforts has traditionally been to find a way to let those customers know they are a trustworthy, reliable resource that can help them complete those DIY projects with efficiency and confidence.
With the introduction of Vine, a new social media platform acquired by Twitter in early 2013, Lowe’s seemed to have found a new and successful way to get that message across through its “Lowe’s Fix in Six” campaign, a series of brief, clever how-to videos that give DIY tips within the six-second time limit imposed on all Vine videos. From a video on how to prevent a painting mishap by covering a doorknob in foil and how to clean a showerhead using only vinegar and a plastic bag, to timely tips on keeping Halloween jack-o-lanterns from getting moldy with a bleach-based spray, each video shares a DIY tip in a concise and attractive way. Videos were collected on a Lowe’s Tumblr (http://lowesfixinsix.tumblr.com/) and shared on all brand social media platforms. By taking advantage of the spring home improvement season to get in front of consumers with an ongoing series of educational yet succinct tips, Lowe’s was able to further its brand message in a new and innovative way.
Like Lowe’s, many brands began testing Vine not long after it hit the social media scene in the beginning of the year. While most brands struggled to achieve high levels of engagement, Lowe’s was seen as one of the first consumer brands to use Vine to achieve marketing success, likely because the video format is a perfect match for how-to content. Only one week after launch, the campaign had generated nearly 28,000 mentions across social media and it continued to create buzz in the following weeks and months, ultimately leading Lowe’s to expand beyond its initial plans for only a dozen videos. The key to the success of the Fix in Six campaign lies in the useful, universal nature of the content. By offering quick and useful tips for a huge audience to quickly digest, Lowe’s increased its brand awareness and built upon the “Never Stop Learning” core brand message.
Although the campaigns mentioned likely cost millions of dollars to execute, the core principals that led to their success can be applied to marketers working within a vast range of budget parameters. When a business, large or small, stays true to its brand message and challenges itself to find a unique and valuable way to communicate that message to the masses, success is certainly achievable and almost inevitable.
The author is Missy Henriksen, executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance and vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more information about PPMA, visit www.NPMApestworld.org/PPMA.