5 killer marketing campaigns we can all learn from

We recognise five of the best marketing campaigns from the last 12 months and examine just what made them so effective.

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I think we can all agree that advertising – on the whole – has become rather annoying. Browsing the web can often seem like a pop-up dodging exercise, adverts for items we searched for weeks ago still haunt our every digital move and the sum of most TV ad breaks is greater than the programme they’re interrupting (well, nearly).

But, truth be told when brands do get it right, we all love a great marketing campaign. Whether it’s making an important social statement, taking a unique and innovative approach, is visually stunning or just down right hilarious, some campaigns really do just have the ‘X’ Factor that so many marketers strive for.

Here’s a run down of some of our favourite marketing campaigns from the last 12 months, what made them stand out from the crowd and what useful techniques you can learn from them to enhance your own marketing efforts.

Best targeted marketing

Virgin Trains – #Avocard

In March this year, many young people were unable to get hold of a Virgin Trains railcard due to high demand crashing the company’s website.

As a way of appeasing disgruntled travellers, the rail company ran a campaign called ‘#Avocard’ offering the same discounted fares to travellers aged 26-30 who arrived at ticket offices carrying the fruit of the millennial – an avocado.

The campaign really resonated with its target audience, who saw it as a fun and friendly solution to the problem whilst sticking a subtle two fingers up to those that claim the popular superfood is the root to millennials’ money woes.

The consumers provided most of the campaign elements themselves – the avocado (which eliminated the need for Virgin Trains to supply temporary cards), ID to prove eligibility, and digital promotion sharing their unusual UK rail experience on social media under the hashtag #avocard – making it a relatively low-budget campaign for Virgin Trains.


Understand your audience. If you’re using humour in your campaign, is your audience going to appreciate it or is it more likely to offend?

Best use of analytics

Spotify – 2018 Goals

While the rest of the world are investing in their online marketing, Spotify left the digital playground for their recent billboard campaign.

In case you missed it, Spotify’s ‘Thanks 2016, it’s been weird’ campaign saw billboards appear across several countries containing comical observations Spotify had made from analysing users’ listening habits. The music company created a sequel campaign for 2018 using similar billboard advertising, but this time using analytics from throughout 2017 to create comical new year ‘goals’ for people.


marketing campaigns that worked- Ed Sheeran
Image via campaignlive.co.uk
marketing campaigns that worked
Image via adage.com

In June 2018, the number of paying subscribers on Spotify rose to 83 million. That’s an increase of more than 45% in just 12 months demonstrating that when companies handle their user-generated data correctly, it can create a positive outcome for both the consumer and the company itself (yes, Facebook we’re looking at you).


Make your analytics data work for you. Your audience – particularly those that engage with your brand through digital platforms – offer up so much useful information that can be used to connect with them on a personal level, showing your customers that you understand their needs.

Also, remember you don’t have to restrict your campaign to one platform. Providing your audience with ‘share-worthy’ offline content will encourage them to share your campaign with their own networks and generating greater awareness of your brand’s message.

Best influencer campaign

Weight Watchers – DJ Khaled, Social Media Ambassador

In January, Weight Watchers named DJ Khaled as its new social media ambassador, opening up the brand to a younger, and predominantly male market – far from the company’s core demographic.

With over half the 25-34 year olds in the UK obese or overweight, tackling healthy eating (or lack of) amongst young adults is a serious social issue.

DJ Khaled is notorious for his social media activity, and has generated a strong following thanks to his open and authentic approach. He’ll be documenting his weight loss journey for all his social media fan base to see, and there’s a lot of them – nearly 9 million just on Instagram!

“…the Weight Watchers programme is perfect for me and I feel like it’s something we all can do [easily]…So watch my journey, ‘cos I’m all in, and I ain’t never stopping.”

Inspiring words from DJ Khaled on US talk-show, Steve.

Just a few weeks later, the music mogul announced Khaled’s Kitchen Tour, a food truck experience like no other featuring some of DJ Khaled’s favourite Weight Watchers Freestyle dishes. The truck will follow DJ Khaled on tour and host free pop-up events in several concert locations along the way, promoting healthy food on-the-go.

marketing campaigns that worked - DJ Khaled's food tour
Image via instagram.com

The locations of the truck will remain secret until the day of each event when DJ Khaled and his ‘WW fam’ will share their location via social media.

The whole campaign oozes excitement, surprise and kudos – words not normally associated with healthy eating or following a diet plan.


On making the announcement, Weight Watchers stock rose 8% percent in just one day, so it goes to show that working with the right influencer can be a highly effective way of gaining brand recognition amongst a new audience. However, it’s crucial to allow your ambassador autonomy to add their own creative stamp, otherwise the partnership will lose any authenticity.

Best PR crisis management

ASOS – Typo bags

It’s a fact of life that things can and do go wrong from time to time. What’s important is the way your brand handles the situation; deal with it well and it can mean a huge boost for your brand’s image, but address the situation poorly and it can be catastrophic for a company’s reputation.

In March, clothing retailer ASOS printed 17,000 branded carrier bags containing a spelling mistake.

However, the red-faced marketing team took to Twitter with a genius public message addressing the error:

This went down a storm with followers who applauded the fashion house’s ‘grace and humour’ in dealing with the situation, almost making the blunder worthwhile.


Responding quickly, professionally and in a way that will put your brand in a good light is key.

Strategically placed humour will highlight your brand’s personality. To err is human, so by acknowledging a mistake in a light-hearted but professional manner you’ll win the respect of consumers.

Best social responsibility campaign

Burger King – Bullying Jr

Fast-food giant, Burger King, teamed up with anti-bullying organisation, No Bully, to raise awareness of bullying amongst young people.

A group of actors were placed within a Burger King outlet to investigate which scenario patrons were more likely to report to the BK staff – the teenage boy being bullied by his peers or their ‘bullied’ burger which has been punched and beaten in the kitchen before serving.

So which one did they report – the bullied human or the bullied burger?


95% of customers reported their ‘beaten up’ Whopper Jr compared with just 12% who alerted staff to the real-life human being picked on in in the restaurant.

No Bully CEO and founder Nicholas Carlisle said “Our partnership with Burger King is an example of how brands can bring positive awareness to important issues”. And with 30% of children suffering at the hands of bullies every year, it’s certainly an issue that will touch a wide audience.

The minimal use of Burger King promotion in the video strengthened the campaign’s credibility instead of it coming across as an attempt to profit from a sensitive subject (remember McDonald’s’ distasteful ‘dead dad ad’?).


If you’re drawing on a social issue, then joining forces with a relevant organisation who are invested in the cause will reinforce your good intentions as well as helping to open up the campaign to a wider audience that may not have engaged with your brand before.

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