Iconic marketing campaigns and why they worked

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen some incredibly creative marketing campaigns that have managed to incite national debates, have a global reach, and completely turn around company profits.

If you’re thinking about launching a new marketing strategy for your business, why not check over these past success stories to inspire your campaign and make sure it works for your brand?

The Absolut Bottle campaign

To kick-start our look over the most iconic campaigns, we’ll start with an excellent example of how simple ideas are often the most profitable. Fundamentally, Absolut’s ‘Absolut Bottle’ campaign consisted of outdoor banners, billboards and ads portraying an Absolut bottle outline in various real images. This included a Christmas advert depicting a woman carrying stacks of gifts in a bottle formation (tagline: ‘Absolut 24th’) and an aerial shot of NYC’s Central Park shown with an added section at the top to create a bottle neck and cap shape (tagline: ‘Absolut Manhattan’).

Proving profitable for the brand for around half a century, Absolut’s fortunes were transformed on the back of this campaign. Before it, the brand had less than 3% of the vodka market in the US and by the end, its name was on the label of half of all the country’s imported vodka.

Using this idea in your marketing campaign

How can your products play a part in your next campaign? See how you can incorporate the feel, look and shape of them into your strategy and utilise large outdoor banners and billboards to capitalise on colours, textures and silhouettes.

The Think Small campaign

During the 1960s, sales for Volkswagen were low compared to American motor companies. US consumers wanted big cars that looked like they could keep you safe on busy highways — so how did Volkswagen ever manage to promote its compact Beetle model? By playing into the audience’s hands. Volkswagen created banners and newspaper ads with lots of white space to highlight the compact feature of its vehicles. So, when other car brands were packing their ads from border to border with copy, colour and imagery; Volkswagen stood apart from the crowd and was noticed for its ingenuity and honesty — its cars were small, and that’s what it told you.

Using this idea in your marketing campaign

The moral of the story is to highlight your products’ features and don’t lie to your consumer about what they’ll get if they buy from you. After all, it’s these key features that make your products or services different. Advertising is believed by many to put an unrealistic spin on reality to sell its customer a dream, so any brand that focuses on honesty is sure to achieve credibility.

The Real Beauty campaign

If you have the time to dig into an issue, this could also bring you limitless success in marketing — just take a look at Dove. The personal care brand launched an amazing marketing strategy in 2004, consisting of a series of outdoor ads designed around a social experiment. Essentially, a sketch artist — who’d been trained by the FBI — was asked to draw two images of a woman: the first as she described herself and the second as a stranger described her. The outcome was that these images looked completely different, and Dove combined this result with the statistic that a mere 4% of women find themselves attractive to create a hugely successful marketing campaign that truly resonated with its audience.

But Dove didn’t stop there. It took these images and brought them to its audience, releasing a series of banners and billboards portraying regular women next to contradictory checkboxes for the viewer to choose between (e.g. ‘wrinkled or wonderful’ and ‘fat or fit’). This strategy incited a debate about female beauty standards that went viral across digital media. Insightful, inspiring and sensitive, Dove’s advertising strategy aimed to encourage women to see themselves in a different light, and to date, Dove’s Real Beauty campaign has been seen in around 110 countries.

Using this idea in your marketing campaign

How do social or personal issues affect your target consumers? Is there anything you know concerns them more than other sections of society? Think about these points before thinking of your next marketing idea. Dove focused on a real problem concerning its key demographic and turned it into something positive, which not only helped women feel better about themselves, but also reflected positively on the brand.

The Just Do It campaign

As for Nike, this sportswear brand came up with a near flawless slogan and has made a success of it for around 30 years. In 1988, people at Nike were searching for something that would grab attention, and came up with the tagline ‘Just Do It’. This famous slogan was soon seen on banners and billboards everywhere. Why? Because it was clear, concise and emotive. Can’t be bothered to run? Just do it. Don’t think you can handle an hour at the gym? Just do it. Within ten years of its launch, the campaign had boosted Nike sales from $800 million to $9.2 billion — all due to a tagline thought up in around 20 minutes.

Using this idea in your marketing campaign

If you want Nike-inspired success, come up with a solid slogan that summarises your brand and speaks directly to your audience. ‘Just Do It’ was seen on various banners depicting a range of sports people performing multiple exercises. However, it is the tagline, not the video or image, that people remember from the campaign. Make the most of print advertising — like banners, posters and billboards — to ensure your slogan stays around longer (i.e. rather than using a pop-up ad online).

The Got Milk? campaign

Got Milk? was aimed at encouraging milk consumption among current milk drinkers, rather than attracting new ones, which makes this an interesting campaign to dissect. The Got Milk? campaign consisted of images depicting celebrities with milk moustaches next to the tagline ‘Got Milk?’, and boosted milk sales in California by 7% within its first year.

Soon Got Milk? advertising materials were seen all over the country, and the campaign is today recognised across the world.

Using this idea in your marketing campaign

Got Milk? is a great source of encouragement if sales for one of your products is dropping, or a service you offer isn’t performing as well as before. The Got Milk? strategy is just one example of how even everyday items can be injected with humour (i.e. the milk moustache) and glamour (i.e. use of celebrities).

Think about how these campaigns were researched and designed the next time you’re coming up with a strategy for your business.


Guest article written by: X

Leave a Comment