The greatest marketing campaigns of all time

in Marketing by Kathleen Aoki
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Greatest marketing campaigns

Over the years, countless marketing campaigns have come and gone, yet a few have managed to leave a lasting imprint on the collective consumer psyche - campaigns that have shifted how people see a brand, spawned catchy slogans and even created a new way of seeing the world.

While selecting the best of anything is always a tricky task, there's no arguing that the following campaigns have had the kind of indelible impact that is every marketer's dream. Here we present a few of the best campaigns of the 20th century.

Nike's "Just Do It"

Coined in 1988 at an ad agency meeting, the simple and catchy "Just Do It" campaign struck a chord that resonated with millions of people. Don't feel like getting out of bed and going to the gym? Just do it. Don't want to go for run in the park? Just do it, because pushing yourself beyond your limits feels great. It's a shared human experience we can all relate to.

Not just catchy, the campaign was extremely profitable too, with Nike increasing its share of the domestic sport shoe business from 18 per cent to 43 per cent, with sales increasing from $877 million to $9.2 billion from 1988 to 19981.

The Nike "Just Do It" campaign shows how tapping into the heart of human nature can create a very powerful emotional connection to a brand.

Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like"

It was the ad-turned-social campaign that marked the epic comeback of a long-neglected brand.

This viral sensation began with a 2010 Super Bowl ad featuring shirtless baritone Isaiah Mustafa, a muscly former NFL player promising women he was "the man your man could smell like". The ad won countless awards and has more than 44 million YouTube hits to date2, but it doesn't stop there. Old Spice recognised the opportunity to build on the campaign and five months later made marketing history with a series of 180 near-real-time videos that responded to live Twitter feeds and featured celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and Christina Applegate. The company enjoyed a 107 per cent increase in body wash sales within 30 days of the campaign launch3.

Volkswagen "Think Small"

Ranked as the best advertising campaign of the 20th century by Advertising Age, Volkswagen's "Think Small" print campaign for the Beetle in the 1950s bucked the trends of the day4. During a time when American sentiment was still leaning towards big, gas-guzzling cars as a symbol of wealth and prosperity, the Volkswagen Beetle was all about minimalism.

The ads, created by advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, featured a tiny image of the car against a bare background, emphasising the small size of the vehicle while at the same time creating a striking image that was hard to ignore.

Volkswagen proved that by being true to thine own self, and not trying to be something that you are not, can be a very successful strategy.

De Beers "A Diamond is Forever"

In 1947, Frances Gerety, a young copywriter working for N.W Ayer & Son, coined the famous advertising line "A Diamond is Forever"5 and the unforgettable slogan is still in use by the company today. While prior to 1930 diamonds were rarely given as engagement rings, De Beers managed to irrevocably link diamonds to romance and marriage - a strategy that has changed how people view the stones forever.

It's another great example of how creating a powerful emotional connection to a product or brand is the key to long-lasting success.

As the above marketing campaigns show, by creating deep emotional associations in a simple and straightforward way, companies can create a lasting connection to a product or brand that can translate into huge profits as well.







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Create Brand: How to Build a Global Brand

This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

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Kathleen Aoki

Kathleen has a degree in marketing with over 10 years experience in the IT field as a database developer and web designer. As a freelance writer, Kathleen has written for several publications across Australia as well as for various business and hi-tech blogs online.

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