A Look Back at Some Iconic Digital Marketing Campaigns Live

By Stephen Zorio

Not all marketing campaigns are created equally. The gap between awful and mediocre campaigns is negligible, but the space between mediocre campaigns and the great ones is a chasm -- and one that is chock full of valuable lessons. We looked back at some of the best marketing campaigns from around the world and found the lessons each one has to offer.

Look at the analytics and be honest about what's working (and what's not)

John 'The Motormouth' Moschitta Jr. was one of the faces of a campaign that firmly planted Federal Express in the public conscious.
by ThreeOranges via YouTube

"Time to make the donuts" ranks astronomically high among the most memorable marketing catchphrases in history. Fred the Baker and his signature line entered the American lexicon in 1983, courtesy of Ally & Gargano. However, that same agency created an arguably even more influential campaign just a few years before that.

In 1971, a company then known as Federal Express was launched. For the first few years of its existence, it saw fairly steady growth, but it was still losing money. Executives at the company realized their initial ad campaigns were ineffectual and forgettable -- and they knew they needed to change tactics.

“The initial FedEx advertising was terrific work,”  T. Michael Glenn, FedEx’s executive vice president, market development and corporate communications told Memphis Magazine. “One of the first ads was ‘America, you have a new airline.’ It’s a great spot. The problem is that it didn’t resonate with people."

Enter Ally & Gargano with nine words and an ad campaign that lent the company an instant and invaluable clarity: 'When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.' The company had an unmistakable definition for consumers and the agency used comedy to help drive that point home.

The bulbs ad used humor to help Federal Express make a basic point: rely on our competition and you'll lose ... big time.
by recordman33 via YouTube

By accurately measuring the impact of its first effort, the company was able to pivot to the far more effective campaign, with stellar results. The campaign ran from 1978 until 1983 and helped put FedEx (née Federal Express) on the path to becoming the shipping behemoth it is today.

The power (and peril) of brevity

How much of the image did you need to see before you knew it was an Absolut ad? It's likely that even if the iconic blocky font were removed, you could make a reasonable guess at it. The company's campaign endured over two decades, but slumping sales and a frank realization killed it off. "The old Absolut model of putting a beautiful print ad on the back of a magazine doesn’t work anymore," Jonas Tåhlin, VP Global Marketing at Absolut admitted to Forbes. The company realized it wasn't talking to consumers, and that meant it had to change. (Source: BuzzFeed)
Another campaign that has since been shelved, Thomas Cook's slogan and logo remain instantly recognizable to generations of UK residents. The shift to a new campaign proved to be nearly disastrous for the travel company, but it has rebounded of late and may yet survive what one expert called its 'near-death experience.' (Source: DailyMail)
by stephen.zorio
Verizon's 'Can you hear me now?' campaign was nearly ubiquitous in the United States for the better part of nine years. The ads, featuring actor Paul Marcarelli, started in 2002 and just one year later the cell phone giant was reportedly spending $400 million a year on them. The spending proved to be beneficial for the company, but the actor who played the 'Test Man' role was happy to see it come to an end in 2011, citing its impact on his personal life. He made a return to the role in an iPhone ad and the phrase was later used to mock NSA surveillance revelations. (Source: Washington Times)
by stephen.zorio

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Original content means small business can compete

How do you stand out in a world where there are so many blenders, Amazon has 10 different categories for them? Put a series of seemingly un-blendable items in your blender, tape it, call it 'Will It Blend?' and put the results online. Tom Dickson, the founder of Blendtec, said the ads were a natural offshoot of product demonstrations he'd done over the years. Putting them online (back in 2007) immediately multiplied their value and had a positive impact on his business. The video series remains popular today, with more than 700,000 subscribers to the YouTube channel and nearly 300 million video views.
by Blendtec via YouTube

Back in March 2012, a video featuring 'Mike' -- Michael Dubin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club -- became a massive viral hit. The wise-cracking ad, which has now been seen nearly 14 million times, racked up almost 10 million views in the first year it was online. It netted the company 12,000 orders in the first 48 hours after it debuted. The ad's combination of humor and authenticity proved to be a hit and the company is branching into new products It also allowed Dollar Shave Club to effectively compete in a market full of giants.
by Dollar Shave Club via YouTube

Turn your fans into advocates

NASZE PIEKNE #jordan #kicks #nike #jebacbiede
by jasnyjasny via Instagram
by 1900lukas via Instagram
New kicks match me pint. #AirMax1 #Nike #Guinness #Dublin #Grogans #atbng
by cackjollins via Instagram
by humaidkh_99 via Instagram
Get outside right now!! Today is the perfect day for an outdoor workout! I have been waiting patiently to get outside and create some heat. I killed this park this morning! #fit #fitfam #outdoors #running #playgroundsarentjustforkids #upsidedown #clearingmymind stressrelief #nike #ua #fitmom #miltonontario #amazeballs #love #mammasgoingtothepark #hot #okwarm.
by lalaike via Instagram
I seriously do looooove my new Nikes 💕💕 #new#nike#flyknit#lunar#1#flyknitlunar1#knit#shoes#sneakers#sidestep#sidestepshoes#cute#hello#kitty#green#blue#free#nice#sweet#sports

@youshowwepay @sidestepshoes #youshowwepay
by noribonbonny via Instagram
#nike #roshe #run #black #and #white
by beautydily via Instagram
#freshkicks #nike
by jamessherlock15 via Instagram
by torresova_11 via Instagram
New shoes #nike #janoski #lfl
by alexkyriakides via Instagram

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Nike obviously doesn't need a lot of help on the marketing front. The company has an marketing budget in excess of $2 billion. But it saw the promise of Instagram and fostered an active community -- and has reaped the results. It is the most popular brand on the photo-sharing service "with 3,452,109 followers and a staggering 22,274,489 posts using the hashtag #nike." As the Scribble Instagram gallery above makes clear, the company's fans are more than willing to sing its praises and make the already ubiquitous logo even more widely recognized.


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