7 Game Changing Marketing Campaigns

As a marketer you’re responsible for changing the game.  Every day you have the opportunity to dream up and execute a marketing initiative that could re-shape your business and re-define your career.

And that’s damned exciting. And it’s also kinda scary. Because it’s hard.

This post isn’t a classic SEO post. It’s a post about taking inspiration from awesome marketing initiatives that have had genuine business impact.

The takeaway from this post is a challenge to you to think bigger. It’s something that we’re really focusing on here at Distilled at the moment.

Below are 7 Campaigns that detail:

  • What the campaign was
  • What the impact was
  • What we can learn
The only parameter for inclusion is that the campaigns must have originated online. I’ve deliberately included big and small budget projects to show that an epic win doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Win 1: Beats by Dre (2012)

beats 2

The Campaign: Beats wanted to make an impact with the launch of their new coloured headphones. With a message focused around individuality, Beats launched a marketing initiative during the 2012 Olympics.

Without an official sponsorship deal, they delivered custom headphones to high profile athletes. Massive social media coverage ensued. Fans were also encouraged to ‘join the movement’ by uploading photos of themselves, typing in a single word that describes them, and choosing a colour of headphones. People that entered had the potential to win money can’t buy prizes.

The Impact: 1.7million new facebook fans. Increase to 80% market share of the premium headphone market in the US. Beats by Dre became the #1 audio brand in the US.

The Learnings:

  • Take risk. There was risk that the brand would be drowned out during the Olympics. There was risk that the company might be sued for guerrilla marketing tactics. Beats took a calculated risk and won.
  • Influencers sell. Leveraging high profile aspirational athletes at the peak of their popularity with their own passionate online communities of social followers helped Beats to spread the message.

 Win 2: Why are Generation Y Yuppies So Unhappy? (2013)

wait but why

The Campaign: A 1500 word article about the problems of being part of generation Y, accompanied by (deliberately ironic) stick men drawings and multi coloured fonts.

The Impact: 535k likes, 7k tweets, 455 LRD’s (versus 93 LRD’s to their homepage)

The Learnings:

  • Create content that speaks to communities that people associate themselves with. If you’re part of Generation Y then reading this is a no-brainer.
  • Make content easy to engage. Particularly at the start. If you read the Generation Y piece, none of the first 7 paragraphs run to more than 2 lines.

Win 3: Oreo’s Daily Twist Campaign (2012)


The Campaign: To celebrate 100 years of their existence, Oreo’s re-imagined pop culture through the eyes of Oreo. Every day for 100 days they took a pop culture event e.g. Pride and re-imagined it through an Oreo biscuit. Starting with Gay Pride and finishing with a user generated choice, the campaign was a fantastic success.

The Impact: 1m facebook likes. 231m earned media impressions. 4% increase in sales.

The Learnings:

  • Start strong. The Gay Pride Oreo was potentially one of their strongest images. Linking the brand and Oreo’s with that day, when the whole world was watching, was a truly inspired start to the campaign.
  • Be political/topical. If your brand can take the risk to get involved in and show support for a political issue, then social traction is that much easier.
  • Ideas rule. If you strip everything away, this piece is essentially cleverly shaped biscuit pictures!

Win 4: War Against Lazy Stubble (2009)


The Campaign: While breaking into the Indian market, Gillette set their agency the challenge of getting Indian men to shave more often. The agency carried out research that showed a fascinating data point. 77% of women preferred their men shaved, but the majority of men thought they looked cool with Stubble.

Using this insight as the nexus of the project they created ‘The War Against Lazy Stubble’. The campaign (unbranded) was started on facebook, and was picked up by famous Bollywood actresses (paid or not paid, we’re unsure) which then created the press and PR, which ended in a mass shaving event that made it into the Guinness Book of Records.

The Impact: Mach3 sales grew by 500% in India. Market share increased by 400%.

The Learnings:

  • The value of data. People love data points. Arguably this campaign succeeded based on an awesome data insight.
  • Plan the evolution of your campaign. Whether it’s paid media or earned media, it’s your responsibility to keep pushing the campaign. Gillette clearly planned for a sustained media impact.

Win 5: Dr Pepper Status Takeover (2010)

dr pep

The Campaign: The Dr Pepper ‘What’s The Worst That Could Happen’ status takeover was a campaign that truly lived up to its name. Dr Pepper launched the campaign on facebook and asked people to hand over control of their status updates for a chance to win £1000. The more embarrassing the updates you allowed Dr Pepper to post, the more chance you had of winning the £1k.

The Impact: Over 8 week period, Dr Pepper went from 1.2k to 220k facebook likes.

The campaign was a fantastic success. To a point. Unfortunately the campaign ended in disaster after a famous porn star movie ended up on the facebook profile of a 14 year old girl.

The Learnings:

  • Take risk. Are you noticing a theme here?
  • The idea is everything. Dr Pepper built an app and seeded the idea with key influencers, but this campaign lived and died based on the strength of the original idea
  • Manage risk. The reason they got busted could have been predicted and dealt with. (Click here to find out what the quote was.)

Win 6: What Does 200 Calories Look Like? (2008)

200 calories

The Campaign: As part of WiseGeeks continuing aim to educate the internet, they launched a collage of images from peanut butter to broccoli that showed how many calories were in certain foods.

The Impact: 1806 LRD’s to the piece. Covered on Daily Mail, Guardian and Huffpo.

The Learnings:

  • Originality Wins: As recently stated in an excellent post about creative ideation on Moz, the originality of an idea is a key component of a project’s success.
  • Quality titles’win. The intrigue that this title generates will have contributed massively to this piece’s success. In a recent post from newcomer Upworthy on how they go viral, they stated that they write 25 headlines per piece of content they write (check slide 38).

Win 7: Uniqlo Lucky Line (2010)


The Campaign: To promote the Uniqlo sales day, and to encourage people to visit and purchase from their physical stores, Uniqlo created the first ever online waiting line. People were free to join the line, and if they tweeted about it they received a discount coupon for the offline stores.

The Impact: 2.2 million people joined the Lucky Line. Top worldwide trend on twitter. Uniqlo set a single day sales record in Japan of 10 billion yen (£63.5m).

The Learnings:

  • Pre-launch. The campaign launched 10 days before the sales day. Give your campaigns time to build. If they’re not working as you envisaged, you also have the chance to adapt the campaign and get it working.
  • Focus. Uniqlo wanted to get people offline and into stores. Setting yourself specific objectives like that can really help to focus your creative ideation.
  • Incentivise people to take action. People love free stuff.

Hopefully the campaigns above have inspired you to think a little bigger about how you market your business.

So how do you get started?

There are arguably a million different ways. One of the key things that holds us back is risk.

With that in mind, there are 3 things you as a marketer can do to mitigate risk when taking up the ‘Change The Game’ challenge:

  1.  Think BIG. Start small. (Distilled’s motto, if we had one). Until you’ve proved that you can nail a project there’s no point asking for huge budget or resource. Whether it’s £500 or £500k. Think Big. Then take baby steps to get there.
  2. Accept failure. Internally educating your organisation that marketing plays will fail is absolutely key.
  3. Re-purpose. One practical way to mitigate risk is to take projects that have been successful in other formats/industries and re-purpose them for your industry. If it’s worked in other geographies, markets and formats, then it’s likely to work again for you.

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  1. Caitlin Krumdieck

    Can I also put forward the Chipotle Scarecrow video, which I feel is one of the best online marketing plays we have seen to date. Over 7 million views for an ad - talk about earned media. The ad has also succeeded in getting mentions in almost every major publication going and it was all done by a marketing team and a video (by an oscar wining animation studio, but still...).


    reply >
    • James Porter

      Hi Caitlin, I'd not seen that campaign. Beautifully executed animation. As someon who doesn't know the brand, I would have liked to have known what was going on earlier in the movie as I felt a bit lost until about 2 minutes in. It's a great example of a brand taking the opportunity to leverage an important political/cultural issue though, and seems to have worked amazingly.

  2. The Oreo Twist campaign was splendid, I remember admiring it when it was first launched.

    I would also like to mention Red Bull, which I am surprised did not make this list. They have some of the best marketing I have ever seen.


    reply >
    • James Porter

      Hi Jakk,

      Totally agree. I like the Oreo Twist campaign because it shows how powerful a great creative idea can be.

      Red Bull do some incredible marketing. The obvious one to include would have been the Red Bull Stratos space jump that was livestreamed on youtube.

  3. Inspiring post, James! I had a great time reading the campaigns. It's good that you included big and small budgeted campaigns. It only shows that a marketing strategy's success doesn't merely rely on the cost.

    Among the points mentioned here, I like the "take risk" learning. Marketers tend to hold back cause they're hesitant if their idea will work. I'm glad that you took time to discuss how to diminish risk. It's ok to take a risk as long you have a strategic plan.

    Awesome campaigns!

    I found this post shared on Kingged.com, the Internet marketing social bookmarking and networking site, and I "kingged" it and left this comment.

    reply >
    • James Porter

      Thanks Joanne, risk is definitely something that has held me back in the past as a marketer.

      I don't think I'm cool enough to say this...but it's time to go big or go home!

  4. Massimo


    Actually the Oreo campaign is far from being original. It recalls an Italian campaign which started something like five years ago or so, from Saiwa (a brand which distributes Oreo in Italy, so there could be a connection).
    On Youtube you can find several examples if you search for "oro saiwa pubblicità", e.g., this one was focused on the olympics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdTjZmGQyXk

    reply >
    • James Porter

      Thanks Massimo. I didn't know that, but I think it backs up how I coonclude the article, that as a marketer, you can use previous campaigns/ideas from other industries/locations or that have been poorly executed and get them to work in your space.

  5. Thanks James! The Red Bull Stratos Space Jump was truly excellent - but across all extreme sports they are just 'there'. They have incredible brand recognition and this is purely down to their marketing-in-many-places approach.

    Nothing to do with their tasty beverages, of course ;).


    reply >
  6. The Beats By Dre campaign was genius. When you get athletes like Lebron James on board and promoting your products, you know you are going to sell like crazy. The fact that they can get customers to pay that high of a price for headphones, proves it.

    reply >
    • James Porter

      Hi Travis. True! It would be interesting to find out if they paid many of the athletes or if they just relied on the quality personalised of the products. Gut feel is that it was probably a mix...

  7. Great stuff to read, nicely summarised. I personally believe that most marketing is not effective because there has been not enough thought based on what they need to do. Time effort and skill is needed! Many campaigns lack this!

    reply >
    • James Porter

      Hi Jordan,

      I agree. I think that the quality of the creative is essential though. No amount of execution, will save a bad campaign, but I think an average-good idea can be made excellent through good execution.

      I think it's something that we don't talk about in the industry enough actually, how to create that sustained momentum in a campaign to truly make it explode.

  8. Step one: the thinking BIG is what people really don't like to do. Especially in our brainstorms (with customers of internal) there is always someone interrupting this proces by stating ideas are not 'achievable'. First dream, then make that dream realistic and possible.

    reply >
  9. Thanks for these great examples!
    Other than Oreo's tasty looking Twist campaign, I've got to say that WiseGeek's 200 hundred calories campaign is my favourite. It's such an inventive, yet simple when you really think about it, idea! I'm honestly surprised big supermarket and food brands didn't think of it first.
    It's a great example of repackaging readily available information in an engaging manner.

    reply >
  10. I love the unicorns and rainbows graph - I hadn't seen that one before.
    The Oreo's campaign is excellent and I also agree with Jakk about Red Bull. They have got a great marketing machine with extreme sports and the space jump was just perfect. Tons of free coverage from every major TV channel in the world. Genius!

    reply >
  11. I didn't see Dove's new campaign, it's one of my faves - "Campaign for Real Beauty". I haven't even seen campaign #2! To funny! Loved the article!

    reply >

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