The Best Marketing Campaigns of All Time

Marketing is vital for any business and, if executed effectively, has the power to transform a balance sheet, boost visibility exponentially, and grow a brand. Below, we have a look at some of the all-time greatest marketing campaigns – and what we can learn from them.

Nike – Just Do It

Running via print, television, and the internet, this campaign remains iconic, and the slogan is now completely affiliated with the brand. 

During the 1980s, Reebok’s footwear was consistently outselling Nike, which was predominantly catering to the marathon-running market. However, when a fitness craze erupted towards the end of the decade, Nike’s marketing department knew that jumping on it could give them the chance to outpace (get it?) their rivals. The Just Do It campaign was born as a result and had a staggering effect: Nike sales stood at around $88 million in 1988 – ten years later, in the wake of Just Do It, they exceeded $9.2 billion, making this marketing campaign one of the most spectacularly successful of all time.

There are several reasons that the slogan and the associated marketing strategy worked so well: everyone can relate to that feeling of not wanting to do something or being fearful of our chances of success, but pushing ourselves to step outside of our comfort zone and do it anyway – that it’s possible to go beyond our limits.

The Nike campaign can teach businesses and marketers a valuable lesson: that if you can offer a solution to your target customers in a way that connects with them emotionally, you’ve got a powerful ad campaign on your hands. And keeping a slogan short and sweet is a good idea, too.

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Always – #LikeaGirl

This ad campaign went viral in 2015 and was so powerful that it’s now become part of contemporary culture. The commercial ran at the Super Bowl and was subsequently shared millions of times around the world; its message cleverly flipped the saying, ‘like a girl’ – often used as a derogative – on its head. The ad was inspiring, motivational, and poignant, and the hashtag is still frequently used on social media today. 

The Always campaign shows that tapping into an issue that’s of direct relevance to your audience – and one that they feel passionate about – can have a massive impact. Taking a stand regarding a core issue may seem risky, but if done with care, it has the power to not just boost sales, but to make the world a better place, too.

In terms of emotional resonance, especially in campaigns such as this one, music is of fundamental importance and can make or break an ad; have a look here for information on music for commercial use if you’re in the process of putting together a marketing drive, to get some ideas on what could work for your promotion. 

Coke – Share a Coke

It can be tricky to know where to go next in terms of marketing when you’re already one of the biggest brands in the world. But Coke pulled it off in 2011 with the Share a Coke campaign. This clever marketing trick began in Australia, where Coca-Cola personalized its bottles with the 150 most popular names in the country at that time. Other countries have now introduced personalized bottles, and customers can also order custom bottles via Coke’s website, which feature, for example, college logos or nicknames.

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Many other brands have followed in the brand’s wake by running marketing campaigns around personalization, but Coke has remained at the top of this particular tree – which just goes to show that, however high a business rises, there’s always scope for innovative advertising to take it higher still.

The lesson of this campaign? Combining a sense of individual ownership of your brand with the novelty factor can make for an extremely potent marketing mix.

Volkswagen – Think Small

And finally – this campaign from Volkswagen dates back to the 1960s and is still widely considered to be the gold standard of advertising by marketers.

The campaign had its work cut out for it: it was designed as an attempt to alter perceptions about both a product and a group of people: it addressed the propensity, at the time, of its American audience to buy big American cars. Unlike other ads from the decade, though, the Think Small strategy didn’t try to disguise the credentials of the cars it was trying to sell; instead, it was open and honest with its audience, telling them that, sure, these cars were small, but this fact made for some serious plus points.

The takeaway? Sometimes honesty is the best policy – especially when it’s unexpected – and can get your potential new customers on your side.

So, there you have it: four of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time. What all of them have in common is the effectiveness with which they engaged with their audience, entering into the world of the person watching or reading, and identifying with their views, problems, and experiences.  This emotional connection builds trust in a brand and is one of the most powerful elements of all effective advertising strategies.

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