What makes an online marketing campaign truly exceptional?
In a sea of digital ads competing for our attention, only a select few manage to captivate audiences and drive real results. These campaigns don’t rely solely on big budgets – rather, their success stems from ingenious strategy, pinpoint execution, and that undefinable creative spark.
In this article, we’ll spotlight three of the most inventive recent online marketing efforts and analyze what made them click. From Burger King’s devilishly clever Google Home integration to Volkswagen’s cinematically emotional farewell spot for the iconic Beetle, we’ll uncover the strategic masterstrokes as well as the artful flair behind campaigns that won hearts, changed minds, and left indelible impressions.
We’ll also touch on an intriguing modern phenomenon: are brands now intentionally engineering publicity stunts that seem like failures, knowing that the ensuing buzz will amplify their message? Tesla’s shattering Cybertruck demo and Starbucks’ name-mangling scandal come to mind. Did these companies secretly want the gaffes to go viral? We’ll explore some theories around branding mistakes…that might not have been mistakes after all.
If you want to better understand what sets truly inspired online marketing campaigns apart, both in strategy and in execution, read on. We’re breaking down the crucial ingredients – from targeting the perfect audience to deploying the latest digital platforms to injecting that spark of creativity – that alchemize an ad from forgettable to exceptional. Let’s dive in!
The ‘OK Google’ Campaign by Burger King
Burger King demonstrated an ingenious use of emerging technology with its 2017 “OK Google” campaign, which cleverly leveraged voice search optimization to promote the Whopper burger. The fast food giant created a 15-second video ad that was designed to trigger Google’s voice assistant on Android phones and Google Home smart speakers.
In the ad, an actor says, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” This prompt causes Google devices to read off the first sentence of the Whopper’s Wikipedia page, which Burger King edited to include tantalizing burger descriptions. The ad immediately went viral as viewers shared the funny and clever spot.
Burger King’s understanding of voice search capabilities allowed it to essentially hijack Google’s own systems for its branding goals. The integration of new technology with smart audience targeting made the ad a standout.
But the story didn’t end there. As the ad continued to spread, Google disabled its voice function specifically for the Whopper prompt. This attempt to foil Burger King’s strategy backfired and generated even more publicity. Burger King received an estimated $15 million in free global media impressions.
The “OK Google” campaign was praised for its nimbly subversive use of emerging tech. It showed how brands that understand and leverage new digital platforms can create buzz and consumer connection. Perhaps no company was more surprised at the ad’s impact than Google itself – by trying to quash the viral prompt, the tech giant inadvertently gave Burger King bonus media exposure.
Burger King cleverly used voice search optimization and Google’s own systems to promote the Whopper in a viral 2017 ad.
Editing the Whopper’s Wikipedia page to include delicious burger descriptions enabled Burger King-friendly audio reads via Google devices.
The ad demonstrated the marketing potential in new technologies like voice assistants and search.
When Google disabled its assistant’s Whopper feature due to the ad’s popularity, Burger King won bonus publicity.
The “OK Google” campaign was acclaimed for its creative application of technology. It showed that brands which spot emerging digital capabilities early, and use them inventively, can execute online marketing programs with standout success.
Volkswagen Bids Farewell to an Icon
In 2019, Volkswagen launched an emotionally resonant online video campaign bidding farewell to the iconic Beetle after over eight decades of production. This masterfully executed branding effort, titled “The Last Mile”, exemplified how performance marketing objectives can work in tandem with brand building.
The nearly two-minute long ad is a poignant tribute to the indelible legacy of the Beetle. It depicts real-life owners driving their cherished vehicles one last time before leaving them at a hangar, as the Beatles song “Let It Be” plays gently in the background. The spot concludes with the text “Thank you. #VWFarewellsBug”.
This elegantly simple creative deeply connected with its audience by celebrating the rich lifetime of memories and meaning that the Beetle carried. Viewers overwhelmingly praised the ad’s heartfelt approach to commemorating an auto industry legend.
But “The Last Mile” was more than just a branding play. While certainly focused on establishing an emotional bond, this campaign also presented an opportunity to retarget engaged consumers for future conversion efforts.
Volkswagen could potentially have captured contact info from viewers who actively shared or engaged with the video. Those leads could then be nurtured into the sales funnel via email drip campaigns highlighting new models.
The brand could also have re-exposed warm leads to test drive offers or deals after allowing some time for the poignancy of “The Last Mile” to settle in.
In this way, Volkswagen exemplified how advanced branding initiatives and performance marketing can actually reinforce one another. By generating such goodwill amongst its core audience, Volkswagen paved the way for subsequent direct response programs.
Volkswagen’s online tribute video to the iconic Beetle forged an emotional connection with audiences.
“The Last Mile” demonstrated how branding campaigns can establish consumer rapport and trust.
Volkswagen could have retargeted engaged viewers in later conversion funnel efforts.
Performance marketing works best when augmented by compelling brand building.
With “The Last Mile”, Volkswagen struck the right chord in saying goodbye to an automotive icon that had endured over generations. This campaign highlighted how innovative online video creative can make audiences more receptive to future conversion messaging. Branding and performance marketing joined together can pack an online marketing punch.
Verizon Turns a Drab Topic into an Engaging Hit
The telecom industry is not typically known for its enthralling advertising. Campaigns often drone on about offerings like data plans or network coverage maps – hardly the stuff of creative brilliance. Yet in 2019, Verizon managed to make waves with an online video that playfully called out a major pain point for consumers in a memorable fashion.
The 60-second spot opens on a book cover for the fictitious novel “The Other Charges”, billed as a “page turner” about the “struggles” of a couple trying to decipher cryptic fees on their cable bill. As the tension builds, Verizon interjects with its competitive differentiation – no annual contracts, hidden costs or data caps with its home internet service.
This clever creative effectively captured viewer attention upfront before conveying its core message about price transparency. Some key aspects that made it impactful:
The novel concept was unexpected and intriguing – Using a mock mystery storyline allowed Verizon to call out a frustration for cable customers in an engaging, lighthearted way.
It reflected a common consumer irritation – Hidden fees are an all-too-familiar nuisance that the ad’s dramatization humorously exposed.
The message aligned with Verizon’s brand position – Emphasizing no surprise charges or data caps reinforced Verizon’s desired reputation for simplicity and fair pricing.
The format kept audiences watching – Following an unfolding story scene compelled viewers to stay tuned to see how the narrative resolved.
With this lively video, Verizon demonstrated that even staid product attributes like price can become interesting creative fodder in the right hands. The campaign broke through the telecom advertising clutter while underscoring the brand’s transparency.
Most importantly, it held attention in those decisive opening moments – when most online viewers either engage or tune out. “The Other Charges” proved creativity and relevance can overcome perceived boringness. Brands in any category should take notes on connecting with audiences through inventive content plays.
Creative Minds Drive Memorable Campaigns
The campaigns highlighted demonstrate that innovation and strategic thinking can transform even the most basic marketing efforts into something special.
While the examples covered various objectives – whether raising brand awareness, improving search visibility, or conveying a unique brand position – some common threads stand out:
Leveraging technology in clever ways – From triggering voice searches to using music and visuals for emotional impact, these campaigns effectively capitalized on digital media formats.
Tapping into customer pain points or passions – The most compelling creative often taps into real consumer insights in an unexpected fashion.
Generating buzzworthy earned media – Ingenious ideas sparked organic sharing and press coverage, amplifying the campaign reach.
Advancing brand positioning – The creative aligned with how brands wanted to be perceived – Burger King as clever, Volkswagen as nostalgic and enduring, Verizon as transparent.
Prioritizing early attention – Grabbing viewers in the first seconds before minds wander proved essential for online video ads.
Marketers aiming to connect with audiences can derive inspiration from studying those at the forefront of their craft. While risky, pursuing inventive concepts versus safe cookie-cutter content more often bears fruit. Memorable ideas that capture share of heart and mind remain the holy grail. Brands willing to empower creative risk-takers position themselves for standout work that delivers, as the highlighted cases have shown.
Now comes the true test for other marketers to push boundaries with their own imaginative campaigns. The examples only hint at the untapped potential at their fingertips.
Greetings! I’m Jack, founder of Scythos – where I’ve helped over 50 brands transform into unforgettable identities and stunning digital presences. As a brand strategist and creative consultant, I have over a decade of experience taking brands from wallflowers to the centre of attention.
Looking to get your branding noticed and your business thriving? Reach out anytime to brainstorm creative strategies for making your brand impossible to ignore. I love collaborating with passionate entrepreneurs to conceptualize innovative ways to connect with their audiences.
Whether you need help with a logo, website, content or entire rebrand – let’s chat! I’m always eager to share my ideas, creative concepts and expertise to help brands reach the next level. Together, we can make sure your business gets seen and heard. Follow along on social or send me a message to get the conversation started!