The Greatest Ever Marketing Campaigns
The world of marketing is filled with creative people coming up with ideas that push the boundaries of imagination. The greatest marketing campaigns work on an emotional level, creating an emotional connection between the audience and brand. In some cases, it’s simply a matter of using humour, while in others, the campaign’s messaging causes the audience to associate the brand with some positive outcome that they desire.
To inspire your creativity, I’ve reviewed some of the best marketing campaigns of all time, including a few old classics. I hope this will get your creative juices flowing and remind you of what successful campaigns are made of.
Coca-Cola Christmas Campaigns
Coca-Cola has launched many of the most famous marketing campaigns in history. In 1971, they launched the iconic “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” campaign. This ad was designed to show people around the world what a small gesture can do for others. The slogan quickly grew into a global phenomenon.
Other campaigns such as “It’s Beautiful, It’s Refreshing,” have all been instrumental in branding Coca-Cola as a must-have beverage. However, perhaps the most memorable among Coke’s campaigns are their Christmas ads which have been viewed by millions of people around the world and widely are considered one of the greatest marketing campaigns of all time.
These ads were first created in 1948 and featured Santa Claus along with a Coca-Cola delivery man delivering presents to children on Christmas Eve. The Christmas campaigns have been so successful because they have consistently tapped into the emotions of Christmas. For example, their “Christmas cheer” campaign in 2012 showed different groups of people coming together to celebrate Christmas, creating a feeling of happy nostalgia about Christmas.
Additionally, they released a series of TV ads that feature children singing festive songs, which trigger that heart-warming festive feeling in their viewers, perhaps reminding them of their own childhood Christmas experiences. Ultimately, these ads make people feel happy and excited about Christmas, which boosts sales.
The Coca-Cola Christmas ad has continued to inspire other marketers and companies, and continues to be one of the most successful ad campaigns in history. It shows how advertisers can use simple and relatable messages to connect with consumers on an emotional level and create a memorable brand experience.
Compare the Meerkat
Insurance price comparison website comparethemarket.com launched their famous ‘meerkat’ campaign in 2009. Ads featuring the Russian aristocratic talking meerkat known as Aleksandr Orvol and his sidekick, Sergei, have been showed on British TV for more than a decade, making the two characters household names. The campaign even made its way to Australia when the company launched there in 2013.
The original ads portray Orvol as the owner of a website called comparethemeerkat.com. He expresses his frustration about people getting confused between the two websites and explains that he has created a campaign to make people aware of the difference. A real companion website was created – comparethemeerkat.com – which features biographies of the two main meerkats along with Orlov’s family members.
The campaign didn’t just stop at ads and the companion website – their strategy extended to a line of merchandise and a book featuring Orlov which was released in 2010. In the following years, other promotions were introduced, including discounts on cinema tickets and restaurants in the UK.
What I love about this is that it was based on good old fashioned insight. Customers surveyed weren’t remembering the word “Market” and so “Meerkat” was born. This led to them distributing toys and becoming one of the leading importers of toys to the UK, second only to Disney. The meerkat campaign was so successful because it was creative, novel, light-hearted, humourous, and engaging. The creators formed an entire world around these fictional characters and added new characters throughout the years to keep things interesting.
Nike: ‘Just Do It’
Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, launched in the late 1980s, is a great example of how to use motivational marketing to inspire people to take action. The tagline “Just Do It” has become a popular slogan that inspires people to go beyond their limits and achieve greater things in their lives. Nike is able to inspire people to take action by making them feel like they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it.
In the beginning, the campaign involved athletes (professional and amateur) who shared their achievements, such as an 80 year old runner who runs 17 miles each morning. This inspired viewers to accomplish great things, and thousands of people sent in stories about their “just do it” moments – from sports, to careers, to health goals, people told their stories about the times they took the plunge and just went for it.
It’s no wonder that this campaign is so successful and the tagline continues to represent the brand to this day. By inspiring and motivating people – as well as associating themselves with personal accomplishment – Nike has created a powerful connection between itself and its customers. They’re almost like an invisible mentor, spurring people on to achieve their dreams.
Carlsberg: “Probably the Best”
Haircuts, taxis, nightclubs, kickabouts, supermarkets – you name it; if Carlsberg did it, it would probably be the best in the world. We’re all familiar with these ads that began many years ago.
One example is the flatmate ad – a man is being shown around a property, with the most ideal flatmates one could hope for, including professional chefs. He’s shown to his room – the ‘box room’, which is a large, luxury bedroom with a balcony overlooking a football stadium. As usual, the narrator says the classic line at the end: “Carlsberg don’t do flatmates, but if they did, they’d probably be the best flatmates in the world.” At the same time, the slogan, “probably the best beer in the world” is displayed on screen next to the logo.
By extension, the “probably the best poster in the world” campaign in London received global attention. A billboard featuring the phrase above was fitted with a tap from which the public could pour themselves a beer for free. The campaign lasted for one day only but its impact was significant.
In 2019, a campaign using a variation of their famous line won them the tile of Marketing Week’s ‘best marketing campaign of the year’. The campaign was created in order to reverse declining sales, which it did.
Honda: The Power of Dreams
In the late 1990s, Honda saw a decline in sales in European market. The “Power of Dreams” campaign was created to reverse the trend as well a change their overall image from being purely functional to something more aspirational.
The Power of Dreams campaign was released in 2002 and involved ads on TV, radio, billboards, and direct mail. They also campaigned at motor shows and dealerships, and even used beermats and traffic cones to promote their message.
Honda’s cog advert features the slogan at the end, and lead to a significant increase in sales. The slogan was based on the Japanese saying, “Yume No Chikara”, which means to “see” one’s dreams. An ad by the same name was later released, and another titled “The Impossible Dream”. The Impossible Dream features a man on the open road, driving a range of open-top vehicles (included boats and planes) through stunning landscapes – one of the ultimate expressions of freedom. The voiceover at the end states, “What good is dreaming it if you don’t actually do it?”
By focusing on “dreamers”, Honda is able to appeal to a wide range of consumers, all of whom share a desire for the freedom to achieve their goals. Like Nike, instilling inspiration in their audience helps the company to create an emotional connection with them. In additional, by portraying its product as a vehicle that can take anyone anywhere, this campaign also emphasizes Honda’s value proposition that its products are reliable and durable enough for anyone to use. The campaign has continued for many years.
The Marlboro Man
The Marlboro Man was an advertising campaign devised by the American tobacco company, Philip Morris & Co. The campaign, which launched in 1954, used the image of a rugged looking man to sell cigarettes. He also embodied manliness and independence, qualities that appealed to many people at the time. While the original Marlboro Man had a mustache and a pipe, later versions of the character did not have such overt characteristics and were more generic in appearance.
The campaign was launched in order to sell their new filtered cigarettes which were developed in response to new evidence on the negative consequences of smoking. The Marlboro Man’s strong and rugged persona gave men of the time permission to smoke a weaker cigarette without worrying about being considered weak and unmanly. Despite the growing insight into the negative effects of smoking, the campaign stuck around for decades. I don’t condone smoking but the advert did a great job in it’s market and at it’s time.
The Milky Bar Kid
The Milky Bar Kid adverts started appearing on screens in 1961. The Milky Bar kid has always been portrayed dressed as a cowboy, and the early ads emphasized the quality of the milk in their chocolate. The Milky Bar became Nestle’s bestselling confectionary product and the ads continued throughout the years. Later, various new Milky Bar-themed products were introduced, such as Milky Bar Buttons.
Children viewing this ad would identify with the Milky Bar Kid who is portrayed as popular among his peers, thanks to the classic line, “the Milky Bars are on me!”. The ad also appeals to nostalgia in two ways for any adults viewing it. First, the idea of dressing up as a cowboy appeals to the inner child for many of us. Second, people old enough to remember some of the previous Milky Bar Kid adverts may be transported back to their childhood when the watch the ads, and associate buying a Milky Bar with positive feelings from the past.
Levi’s Launderette Ad
Levi’s Launderette ad was launched in the UK on Boxing Day, 1985. The ad features model, Nick Kamen, entering a launderette, stripping down into his boxers, putting his clothes in the wash, then nonchalantly sitting down beside the fully-dressed customers. Two women are seen giggling as he gets undressed, while other onlookers can’t believe what they’re seeing.
The company was struggling to compete with other fashion brands at the time and they wanted to re-vamp their branding to appeal to a younger audience. It certainly worked – they state that sales soared by a staggering 800% after the ad’s launch.
Why was it effective? Perhaps male consumers imagined themselves in Kamen’s position, getting all that attention and admiration. There were no doubt many female fans of the ad, and the use of Marvin Gaye’s iconic hit “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” as the backing track certainly made it even more memorable.
I hope you enjoyed this run down of some of the greatest marketing campaigns the world has ever seen, that have remained in the public awareness for decades. All of these campaigns lead to huge increases in sales, and you can get the same outcomes for your own business, by applying the fundamental principle of appealing to your audience’s emotions and deeper desires, such as Honda’s appeal to freedom and achieving one’s dreams.
Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to take a risk – the meerkat campaign certainly must have sounded “out there” when the idea was first presented, but it has more than paid off for the company.
If you’re looking for help building your marketing strategy, reach out to me here – my team and I will be happy to help.