The 5 best campaigns of 2012
By Karen Geier
In our last article, we listed some of the worst marketing activations of 2012.
We live in an increasingly fragmented world where we are so bombarded by mass communication messages, we tend to tune out a lot, or be naturally skeptical of any new information.
Being a marketer today is an exercise in deftly maneuvering around the public’s natural defences, but also in knowing who’s ready to hear you message, and how to deliver it.
These companies and organizations went a step beyond telling a story and made incredibly memorable campaigns.
It’s no surprise this amazing idea came from Japan, home of all things kawaii, and cutting-edge technology. Omote 3D is a thre- dimensional photo booth which scans the subjects’ bodies, and makes miniature figurines of them instead of a regular photograph. Designboom has a great description of the process and some great images of the finished product. This unique idea, with many great possibilities for marketers (souvenirs from a corporate party, unique keepsakes at amusement parks, events for baby products: mothers can have a miniature made of themselves with their baby) is the very definition of a surprise-and-delight campaign.
What to leverage:
Don’t be shy of technology. Look to emerging technologies and maker culture for your brand. Interactivity in real world situations is the ultimate surprise and delight trend for 2013.
Felix Baumgartner for Red Bull
How do you take a brand known for crazy events (Flugtag, anyone?) and make an event which surpasses “event TV” – which, aside from benefits and increasingly boring awards shows, doesn’t really exist anymore? – the answer is Red Bull Stratos.
Many articles have been written about the “content marketing” angle of Red Bull Stratos: that millions of tweets, videos, and Facebook posts were generated, but the real story of Felix’s journey is that it has reignited the fascination and wonder of the space program, while actively contributing research to that same program. Content is great, but this is like brand charity on steroids.
What to leverage:
Try to find that kernel of interest within your brand advocates, and try to find ways to contribute to that community. Charity is admirable, but brands who give to charity are increasingly battling scrutiny from savvy customers with differing political opinions. Giving back to a scientific or artistic endeavour is going to be a big trend in 2013.
UNICEF on Pinterest: I love any activation which uses a medium for its desired purpose but takes it into another direction. I also cannot stand celebrity-based or glossy charity pitches. UNICEF this year created Pinterest boards showing the most coveted items for the rest of the world: clean water, a safe place to sleep, and new shoes topped the board for Ami Musa, a composite character created by the charity.
Pinterest is often overcome with pure expressions of greed with boards featuring shoes retailing for at least $1000, party and vacation boards for the 1% and jewelery which would make Elizabeth Taylor blush. But Pinterest is also home to “quote boards” and “soul inspiration” meaning that they psychographics of some of these same Pinners leaves room to accept a story about how most of the world lives: a subsistence lifestyle, where hand-painted shoes take a backseat to a cup of grain.
The campaign was a huge success, going viral, making major news outlets, and generally making Pinners put their desires into the correct perspective. It’s a charity appeal which doesn’t need any Oscar nominees or cutesy bodily terms to gain acceptance.
What to leverage:
Charities all have great stories to tell, and great appeals to make. With hundreds of thousands of worthy charities to choose from, it’s imperative to find a defined psychographic group and talk to them in their own language, where they live. Don’t be afraid of niche social media to help spread your story.
Dumb Ways to Die: This video was the first viral hit after Gagnam Style to take over the web. If you haven’t seen it, you might not have a Facebook account. Another great example of creativity in social media for the non-profit space, the video depicts incredibly adorable cartoon characters meeting their hilarious demise. Backed by an infectious song, this video quickly rose to more than 34 million views on Youtube or eight times the population of Melbourne, Australia, where this song was used to increase Metro Train safety.
Non profits and charities often eschew humour for fear of offending the public, but Dumb Ways to Die leverages the idea of depersonalization: When we watch an anthropomorphic blob running for its life whilst on fire, we process the message, but we don’t feel an emotional punch in the gut, which can backfire.
What to leverage:
Humour is the king of all storytelling media. When done right, it teaches where impassioned appeals fail. This is a tricky area to manoeuvre, and you should hire professionals to help bring out the humorous truths for your brand, but when it’s done right, it’s unstoppable.
Forward 2012: Just by reading the headline “Forward 2012,” you probably know this entry is about Barack Obama’s campaign. Whether your political affiliations align with his is immaterial. The Obama campaign went from strength in 2008 to an even more integrated, incredibly dynamic (a photo of an empty chair with the caption “This seat’s taken” was posted within an hour of Clint Eastwood’s baffling rant at the RNC this year.) and tech-savvy (partaking in Google Hangouts, Reddit’s Ask Me Anything, and consistently posting memes to the official campaign Flickr, Facebook and Twitter accounts.)
Barack’s online campaign advisers simply understood the pulse and the news cycle on the web, and they beat the Romney campaign to smithereens in the process. Building allies online also had a halo effect: False photo ops and events perpetuated by Romney and Ryan such as Sandy relief and a soup kitchen visit, respectively, were roundly debunked by online readers, lending more independent negative press to those campaigns. Once these stories were uncovered, the Romney campaign didn’t respond, and looked even guiltier by association. As these events snowballed, the credibility and support online for Romney evaporated, helped by Romney himself, in several well-publicized gaffes.
Obama grasped the changing landscape of campaigning and won the presidency on a tightly integrated and highly responsive social media steamroller.
What to leverage:
If your brand is planning for a war against the competition, you should hire and invest heavily in social media. You don’t need the first mover advantage, but you do need the fastest mover advantage, and when your opponent gives you an opening, you should leverage it, with humour, at every opportunity.
2013 is shaping up to be a year where “real life” and “the web” blur the lines more and more. If you can be responsive, and look for unique ways to tell your brand’s story in 2013, you can eat your competitors’ lunch.
Karen Geier is the Co-Founder of Shyndyg.com. Previously she was a digital marketing executive, most recently with Ogilvy. Karen previously headed up social media strategy for Canadian start up Kobo, and has consulted for start ups and Fortune 500 companies. She writes about start-ups on Huffington Post Canada.