The Secrets Behind Successful Campaigns

6 lessons from a benchmarking analysis of some of the most famous campaigns in recent history

Campaigns are the lifeblood of any marketing program. At their best, they help drive brand awareness, capture share of voice, differentiate a new product, drive sales, and so much more.

But campaigns are hard. And messy. And they’re all different. So when it comes time to plan and launch a new one, marketers often feel like they’re shooting blind. Should they go broad or narrow? Aim for the funny bone or the heart strings? Push the boundaries of their brand or remain faithful to it?

The answers to these questions vary, of course, but marketers can learn a lot just by analyzing real-world campaign examples. Which campaigns of the last few years have been extremely effective, and why? Which recent campaigns have missed the mark?

By analyzing well-known campaigns in recent history, brands can uncover lessons about the effectiveness of different types of campaigns. Marketers who don’t know campaign history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Marketers who are well steeped in real-world campaign performance, on the other hand, are set up to execute category-defining, trailblazing campaigns.

But, naturally, you need the data.

You’ve come to the right place. The folks at PACIFIC used Crimson Hexagon to analyze the social media response to some of the world’s most famous recent campaigns, including Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly”, Dove’s “Real Beauty”, Nike’s “Breaking 2” and many more.

The whole report is incredibly valuable (you can get your free copy here) but we’ve pulled out a few insights to help brands understand the most important findings.

3. Go social

How can brands get more out of their campaigns? One obvious answer is social media. Modern brands don’t exclusively (or even predominantly) rely on traditional channels like TV or billboards for their campaigns – they squeeze everything they can out of social media. Amplifying a campaign on social — especially through organic methods, like hashtags and influencers – is one of the most effective ways to turn an average campaign into a hallmark.

One great example is Worldwide Breast Cancer’s #KnowYourLemons campaign.

The organization followed a fairly traditional campaign playbook that included videos, a standalone Facebook page, and some traditional ads. But what really set the campaign apart was the social component, especially on Twitter.

The #KnowYourLemons hashtag had over half a million impressions on Twitter (not counting retweets) and some strong feedback. The Twitter conversation’s sentiment was overwhelmingly positive and 83% of the emotion in those posts was joyful.

4. Stay true to your brand (and audience)

Another important finding from PACIFIC’s study was that many of the most successful campaigns deeply reflected the brand’s core reputation and pillars.

Patagonia’s “Bears Ears” campaign is an illustrative example. The campaign — aimed at preserving protected lands — was, in terms of metrics, a huge success. The social conversation about it lasted nearly 11 months, almost three times as long as the average.

Some of this was due to the tactics Patagonia employed, such as taking over part of their website to drive awareness, but a large part of the effectiveness was due to the strong match between company, campaign and audience. Patagonia customers care about protecting the environment, and Patagonia’s ability to use that passion to strengthen their own brand awareness and reputation was a shrewd move.

5. Leverage influencers

Patagonia was able to connect directly with their audience over environmentalism, but sometimes it’s more effective to have an intermediary. Influencers can help bridge the gap between corporate entity and consumers, and several of the campaigns analyzed in this study used influencers to expand their reach and win over consumers.

Halo Top, the maker of low calorie ice cream, centered their “Perfect Pint” campaign on health and fitness vloggers. Without spending a huge amount of money, Halo Top was able to use those influencers to generate a huge amount of conversation about their emerging brand.

The strategy worked. Halo Top’s campaign generated 6 months of social conversation (about 1.5x the average) and 160,000 posts, with 64% positive sentiment and 63% joy.

6. Don’t stop at campaigns

So far we’ve talked about what the study revealed about campaign success, but one important finding is that campaigns should not be the end-all-be-all of marketing tactics. Overall, campaigns did not drive as much conversation as the other two topics in the analysis: scandals and viral moments.

Despite being more expensive and time-intensive, campaigns consistently generated less engagement and were shorter-lived than their more spontaneous brethren. However, campaigns have the benefit of being plannable, repeatable and scalable, which viral events rarely are.

In the next articles in this series, we will look at the lessons brands can learn from PACIFIC’s data-driven analysis of brand scandals and viral moments.

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