Big Question: What are the best marketing campaigns you've seen?

In our last Big Question, we highlighted some of the more common PR and marketing mistakes people (even the pros!) make time and time again.

It was almost too easy.

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to jump on the soapbox and shine a spotlight on marketing mishaps we’ve all, hopefully, learned from and moved on.

Let’s hope coming up with a list of the best marketing campaigns is just as easy!

We’ve all seen some amazing campaigns and tactics.

Sometimes they’re simple.

Last time, I referred to Yotpo’s email-based, user-generated content/review process.

It’s not a campaign, per se, but it is an amazing tool and tactic.

By making the mail-after-purchase campaign mobile first and frictionless (i.e., no need to leave the email to rate or write a product review), it changes the way we look at and engage with email, product reviews, and user-generated content.

There are many great marketing campaigns that have caught our eyes and ears over the years.

So let’s hear them!

This week’s The Big Question asks:

What are some of the best marketing campaigns or tactics you’ve seen or used?

We didn’t set very strict criteria around this week’s Big Question.

Like my Yotpo example, submissions could come in the form of a great idea, product, or actual campaign.

So, out of the gate…

Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane?

It’s a plane!

The first submission comes courtesy of Danyell Taylor who gives us an airline campaign as one of the best in her book.

(You have to admit, Danyell, discussions around airlines usually dwell on their mistakes, as opposed to their marketing wins, no?)

Southwest Airlines: As more airline companies charge for more fees, Southwest is very tongue-and-cheek in its approach to the competition.

Posters about TransFarency or personalized napkins (in flight) with slogans such as, “We don’t play games with your fees,” on with a tic-tac-toe game board. 

So each time an email with a discount fare comes through my account, I pay attention.

I also love the in-flight experience that backs up the advertising of being a fun-loving airline focused on customer service.

Elmo Loves You

Carly Martinetti is a sucker for out-of-work muppets.

Have you heard of Enhancv? They are a smart resume building tool and always impress me with their marketing tactics. 

For example, they created a mock resume for Barack Obama when he left office. They made one for Elmo when Trump declared war on PBS. They also made ones for Game of Thrones characters before the season ended, that I got a kick out of.

I thought it was a great way to promote their resume creation tool!

Best Marketing Campaigns: Simple Yet Effective

Gene Caballero recognizes that simple and heartfelt tactics can go a long way.

Surprising our customers with unexpected acts of kindness is something that has helped keep our customers loyal.

We send dog bones out to our homeowners who have pets, along with a thank you card. Not only is this very cheap, but it lets our customers know that we are listening and that we care. We follow-up with an email asking if they received the gift along with a link to our Yelp page.

This simple act has gotten us media mentions, word-of-mouth, and even a mention on the radio.

Katie Wolitarsky shares an example that reminds us of the value that lives in our own backyard:

A client of ours was approaching their 100-years-in-business anniversary, and while thinking about the opportunities to share this milestone, we started to think about other local businesses that had been around just as long or longer. 

Our content strategist researched and found nothing like this existed, so he developed an interactive, online guide showcasing local companies who had been in business the longest.

Focusing efforts on local media relations, print and online media picked up the story immediately. After it ran, our office phone was ringing for weeks with other local businesses who wanted to be on the list.

This interactive content led to local businesses calling and congratulating our efforts in getting noticed and resulted in a request to pitch our company’s digital marketing services.

Don’t Forget Email!

Just like my Yotpo example, I’m pretty sure many in this industry have received some amazing email marketing campaigns (amidst throngs of terrible ones, true, but still…).

While not always the flashiest or the best written, they are timely, on target, and effective.

From Shelby Larson:

The most effective marketing tactic that has been used on me, hands down, are the ‘abandoned cart’ emails. I have shopping carts all around the internet filled with items that I’ll get eventually.

Those emails serve as a reminder that I created those carts and the photos in the email make me want those items all over again.

If you send a discount code along with that email, I’m pretty much 100 percent sold.

Good Storytelling Beats All

A crack team of PR and marketing professionals can come up with the best marketing campaigns.

But sometimes you need to tell a story that resonates with your audience, one which makes them take notice, and gets them asking the right questions.

Karen Wilson sees the value in a good story:

One of my clients runs a wellness clinic (physiotherapy, chiro, massage, personal training, etc.) and she has a group of therapists who all genuinely like and respect each other.

It’s quite an amazing group, given that some of the disciplines are typically pitted against each other.

They are really open about their culture by posting #cliniclife stories pretty regularly. They use these stories to reinforce the market they’re targeting as well, by sharing some of their fitness accomplishments.

A key component of learning how to tell a good story?

According to Paige Arnof-Fenn: Listening.

My best tactic is to go on a Listening Tour! Politicians do it all the time, and it is great for business, too. 

Make a list of movers and shakers, people you admire, and prospects. Ask a few smart, open-ended questions then sit back and take notice. They will be more than happy to tell you what is on their mind. If you listen to what they share with you, there will be plenty of opportunities to help them.

I did it when business slowed, and picked up several new clients, but you can do it anytime. It is a great way to connect and a lot of fun. 

Start listening with no strings attached; you’ll be amazed what you find. I had no idea what to expect and got a lot of new work as a result.

I did my listening tour the old fashioned way by sending out emails and picking up the phone, brought a pad and pen, asked a few open-ended questions, and then shut up and started taking notes.

And the Winner? Unicorn Poop.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Unicorn. Poop.

You can all thank Shea Drake for this one.

I might be biased because I love unicorns, but you also can’t deny that Squatty Potty did something that, by all accounts, should not have worked.

  • Cheesy costumes were worn by a cheesy guy in a cheesy setting. This guy is dressed like someone from a Shakespearean play, it shouldn’t have worked, and yet somehow it does.
  • Talking about bathroom habits of people. We see a unicorn pooping. It’s pooping out rainbow ice cream, but still, it’s pooping. Yet it doesn’t thoroughly disgust me, or the 32 million others who’ve watched like it should.
  • It’s legitimately informational. So many infomercials that explain how the product works in detail are boring. Yet somehow, this unicorn and this Shakespearean guy are anything but.

I first saw it on Facebook, where ads are hit and miss, generally speaking. But this one isn’t disruptive; it looks like something people would share organically (and they did!). It was a lesson that, no matter your industry, you can make an amazing ad.

The Moral of the Story?

You never can tell what’s going to resonate with your audience, or an audience you didn’t even know you could reach.

Looking through the submissions (I have the best job! Thanks to everyone, for taking time to submit.), I see transparency, timeliness, simplicity, smart delivery, storytelling, and, of course, humor.

All great components that can lead to amazing PR and marketing campaigns.

The lesson?

Don’t overthink it (I can sense Laura Petrolino and Gini Dietrich stifling their laughter).

Up Next: Reaching Your Potential

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, solopreneur, or you work for a large organization or a small business, it is critical to invest in yourself and your career.

Maybe that’s going back to school, paying for a LinkedIn Premium Membership, taking online courses, hiring a career coach, or joining the PR Dream Team.

Sometimes your organization may be willing to foot the bill to help you achieve your lifelong learning goals, or perhaps that’s something you have to invest in yourself.

Either way, identifying the most effective channels to spend professional development dollars isn’t easy.

The next Big Question is about reaching your potential:

What are the best ways to invest in your career?

You can answer here, in our free Slack community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

Mike Connell

Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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