Marketing Campaign Examples: The 10 Most Successful Campaigns Ever
Every business needs a great marketing campaign to drive conversions and sales. Some of the world’s most successful companies have made their millions on the backs of ingenious advertising strategies, and many small businesses have found their footing in local markets thanks to strong growth marketing campaigns.
However, there are so many different ways to market a business that it’s common for business owners and marketers to feel overwhelmed by the sheer variety of options. From digital marketing tactics like influencer marketing or email marketing, to traditional marketing initiatives like billboards and direct mail, countless businesses before yours have tried almost everything under the sun to get their products noticed. But how do you know which marketing strategy will work for your business?
Every business is unique, and the only way to choose the best marketing strategy for your company is to carefully consider your specific circumstances. Talking with a marketing expert is a great way to get tailored insights into your business’s marketing and branding options.
You can also look to other brands’ marketing strategies for ideas. Whether it’s a current top competitor in your industry or a marketing success story of legend, you can learn a lot by studying what’s working (or not working) for others. With that in mind, here are 10 of the most popular ads and successful marketing campaigns of all time to inspire you:
The 10 Most Successful Marketing Campaigns Ever
Here are our picks for the 10 most successful marketing campaigns of all time:
- Coca-Cola: Share a Coke
- GoPro: GoPro Awards
- Pepsi: Is Pepsi Okay?
- Lyft: Referral Marketing
- Blendtec: Will It Blend?
- Planet Fitness: Facebook Live
- California Milk Processors Board: Got Milk?
- Always: Like a Girl
- Cards Against Humanity: The Holiday Hole
- Robinhood: Pre-Launch Marketing
Some of these examples are successful in the traditional sense, and some may surprise you — but all of them have a lesson to offer.
1. Coca-Cola: Share a Coke
Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign got its start in Australia in 2011 and quickly spread throughout Coke’s worldwide market. It revolved around the tagline “Share a Coke with…” and featured bottles printed with hundreds of different popular names. The idea was a huge success, and Coke saw gains in sales and engagement as people rushed to find their names and post about it on social media.
The genius of the Share a Coke campaign is the way it combines personalization with the popularity of social sharing. Customers could see their names printed right on the products they were buying, fostering a sense of personal connection with the brand and turning the hunt for a bottle with your (or a friend’s) name on it into a memorable experience in itself. At the same time, the campaign capitalized on younger generations’ love of sharing those types of experiences with one another on social media before many other brands had started using social media as a go-to marketing channel.
2. GoPro: GoPro Awards
The GoPro Awards is a digital marketing campaign that invites GoPro users to “send us anything awesome you’ve captured with your GoPro” for the chance to win rewards and be featured on GoPro’s social media. Since the campaign was launched in 2015, it’s generated a steady stream of user engagement for GoPro as customers send in their self-shot videos of extreme sports and other stunts.
There are a couple of reasons for the GoPro Awards’ success as a marketing tactic. First and foremost, GoPro gets a practically endless supply of content marketing directly from their users. Instead of producing expensive advertisements, GoPro’s marketing team goes straight to the source and lets real customers' experiences speak for themselves. The Awards also reinforce a strong sense of community among the GoPro user base.
3. Pepsi: Is Pepsi Okay?
Pepsi’s Super Bowl LIII TV advertisement features Steve Carrell, Cardi B, and Lil Jon, who find themselves in a situation that’s familiar to many of us: someone orders a Coke at a restaurant, and the server asks “Is Pepsi okay?” Steve Carrell then passionately explains that Pepsi is “more than okay.”
This advertisement works so well because it’s self-aware and even a little bit self-deprecating (in a humorous way). By leaning into the relatable perception that their drink is the second choice in restaurants, Pepsi comes across as playful yet remarkably authentic at the same time. The ad doesn’t obtusely argue that Pepsi is number one — it acknowledges that it’s often perceived as number two and then challenges that incumbent perception. If you’ve seen the ad, odds are you’ll think of it the next time you hear a waiter ask you if Pepsi is okay.
4. Lyft: Referral Marketing
Referral marketing is a popular tactic throughout almost every industry. As Lyft was finding its footing, it faced tough competition from its biggest competitor: Uber. To keep up, Lyft devised a referral marketing program that got incredible results. The program offered up to $2,000 per week in free rides to any Lyft customer who invited others to join the app — whether as riders or drivers.
Brand advocacy is one of the most powerful marketing tools, and Lyft demonstrated that fact yet again with their referral marketing initiative. Ultimately, the campaign was a success and led to a significant uptick in average monthly rides.
5. Blendtec: Will It Blend?
With their “Will It Blend?” campaign, commercial blender company Blendtec proved that sometimes, the most inventive marketing ideas get the best results. Blendtec’s bizarre yet memorable ads feature founder Tom Dickinson putting all kinds of different items — from golf balls to iPads, to plastic Stormtrooper action figures — into a Blendtec blender to answer the simple question: will it blend?
While it’s unlikely you will ever need to use a Blendtec blender to blend any of the items that appear in the ads, the campaign does succeed at demonstrating the product’s capabilities in a truly unforgettable manner. More importantly, it gets people talking. Blendtec’s YouTube channel currently has around 850k subscribers, and some of the videos have multiple millions of views.
6. Planet Fitness: Facebook Live
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Planet Fitness (like many gyms) faced a serious problem: how does a business remain profitable during lockdown when its business model hinges on physical, in-person participation from customers?
Planet Fitness came up with the perfect solution. They recognized that their brand’s value was not just in the exercise equipment and physical gym space they provide, but in the supportive community and fitness-positive environment they create for their customers. To keep that sense of community alive, Planet Fitness began offering online fitness classes via Facebook Live. The marketing tactic succeeded in keeping Planet Fitness’s audience engaged throughout quarantine and even earned them some new customers.
7. California Milk Processors Board: Got Milk?
You’ve almost certainly heard the famous line from the California Milk Processors Board’s timeless ad: got milk? It’s been repeated and parodied so many times it's practically become a fixture of pop culture. But there’s a fascinating lesson to be learned from the tagline’s inception that you may not have recognized before.
In 1993, the advertising firm Goodby, Silverstein & Partners conducted a focus group for the California Milk Processors Board. However, rather than ask participants about their recent milk-drinking habits, they asked participants to abstain from milk altogether for a week before the focus group. During the focus group, the questions revolved around how not having milk had affected the participants’ daily lives. By subverting expectations with their unique approach, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners built a powerful marketing campaign that highlighted the value consumers would miss out on if they didn’t keep their refrigerators stocked with milk.
8. Always: Like a Girl
Menstrual hygiene product brand Always created a Super Bowl ad in which they asked numerous adult and adolescent participants to demonstrate several actions, such as running, throwing, and fighting, “like a girl.” The results consisted almost exclusively of flailing spaghetti-limbs, along with plenty of gasps and giggles. Next, the advertisers asked several prepubescent girls the same questions, and the results were completely different. When asked to run, throw, or fight like a girl, they responded with strong, confident motions.
The purpose of Always’s advertisement is to draw attention to the fact that young girls routinely experience a sharp drop in confidence when they reach puberty and to call for a societal reassessment of how we use the phrase “like a girl” in light of that fact. Interestingly, Always’ products are not mentioned or shown a single time throughout the ad, and their brand logo is shown only briefly at the very end. Nevertheless, the ad was a huge success because it stoked a conversation among Always’s audience. This is a perfect example of how brands shouldn’t be afraid to take stances on meaningful issues when those issues align with their core values.
9. Cards Against Humanity: The Holiday Hole
During 2016’s holiday season, the adult party card game Cards Against Humanity pulled one of the strangest marketing stunts the world has ever seen. Using a (now defunct) website set up specifically for the occasion, the card game brand crowdfunded approximately $104k from supporters to pay an excavating team to dig a giant hole in the ground — for no apparent purpose whatsoever.
While the obvious knee-jerk reaction to this marketing stunt is to condemn it as a ridiculous waste of time and money, consider that it generated an enormous amount of press for Cards Against Humanity at the time. When asked: “why aren’t you giving all this money to charity?” (via the dedicated website’s FAQ section), the company’s response was: “Why aren’t YOU giving all this money to charity? It’s your money.”
10. Robinhood: Pre-Launch Marketing
In 2013, Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt launched a pre-sales campaign for their upcoming commission-free stock trading platform, Robinhood, with a simple offer: be one of the first to get access to the product by opting in with your email address ahead of time. Customers who opted in were placed on a waiting list — and that’s where the real genius began. Each time you shared the offer with a friend using a provided one-click link, you would be rewarded by moving up in the queue. The more times you shared, the closer to the top of the waitlist you rose.
The campaign generated a massive ROI, earning a million sign-ups throughout the year-long pre-launch period and 10,000 on the first day alone. The key was the combination of gamified referral marketing that made it fun to share the product, and the fast, one-click sharing that ensured there were no barriers preventing customers from spreading the word.
Examples of Successful Marketers
Behind every exceptional marketing strategy is a team of expert marketers. Here are a few examples of the types of great minds that bring marketing ideas like the ones listed above to life:
1. Chris Yeh
Chris Yeh is a seasoned entrepreneur and investor who has been helping startups grow since 1995. He co-authored the bestselling book Blitzscaling with LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and is the Founding Partner of Blitzscaling Ventures, where he helps startup founders rapidly scale their companies. Hundreds of successful businesses have taken off thanks to Chris Yeh’s experience-based marketing insights.
2. Robin Daniels
Robin Daniels has served as CMO at three different companies and has over twenty years of experience in marketing leadership positions. He’s played an instrumental part in driving growth at companies like Salesforce, Box, Matterport, LinkedIn, and WeWork. Now, he devotes his time to helping companies across the globe learn how to scale up quickly and efficiently.
3. Asher King-Abramson
Asher King-Abramson is the co-founder of Demand Curve and the founder of Got Users, a program that coaches fast-growing Silicon Valley companies on how to grow efficiently and sustainably. Throughout his time in marketing, he has helped more than 100 startups drive $100M+ in revenue with practical insights in areas like growth strategy, SEM, paid social marketing, conversion rate optimization, outbound marketing, and more.
Create a Custom Marketing Strategy for Your Business
Each of the successful examples mentioned here stands on the shoulders of diligent market research and careful campaign optimization. Hopefully, your takeaway from this list is to feel inspired to tailor these ideas to work for your business’s unique situation. You’ll need to develop a robust understanding of your industry and your target audience in order to create a strategy that resonates with your particular market.
One of the best ways to get started is with help from an expert. Picking the brain of a seasoned marketing professional could reveal game-changing insight into how to create a marketing campaign like these 10 examples for your own brand.