Marketing Campaigns of 2014: A Retrospective

We saw a lot of brilliant marketing campaigns in 2014, but these were some of the ones that stood out to us as members of the industry in their scope and influence.

Over the last year, the internet and social media continued to play increasingly larger roles in driving these campaigns. We saw the importance of sparking conversation and encouraging viewer engagement to promote a product, service, or cause. These factors will continue to change the face of advertising in the coming year and beyond.

1. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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You know what’s up, and you might have even tackled the Ice Bucket Challenge yourself.

This campaign picked up extra momentum with each video and comment shared on social media, and was an international phenomenon by the time it reached several high-profile celebrities and tastemakers. Over just a few months, the Ice Bucket Challenge managed to raise over $100 million and brought awareness to a relatively obscure disease.

Great marketing for a great cause – what more could you ask for?

2. Share a Coke

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This was simple and brilliant: Coca-Cola started printing names on their products that you could either pick up for a friend or drink for yourself. Some of the names were ridiculous  (I’m still not sure if “Share a Coke with Sharkeisha” was a photoshop or not) but that only added to the viral nature of this campaign.

I don’t even drink soda and I picked up a couple of bottles for friends that do, simply because they had their names on it. Philosopher Slavoj Žižek might say something about the ideologies behind the commoditization of love and friendship, but hey: free coke.

Pretty soon, you’re bringing a 12-pack to a party that says “DUDE” and “GRILLMASTER” on it and bam, you’re the most popular guy there. Cue montage: neon shutter shades, Hawaiian shirts, Lil Jon taking over the aux cable… This campaign turned down for nothing.

3. Taylor Swift

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Musicians tried really hard to market their albums in 2014: Nipsey Hussle sold his mixtape for $100. Thom Yorke of Radiohead released his new work independently on BitTorrent. Wu-Tang did… a bunch of things, and U2 chose the “blunt force” approach and just forced its album onto your iTunes. But none of these campaigns were as successful as the brand of Taylor Swift, whose latest release 1989 is basically the best selling album of the last decade.

How’d she manage to sell so well in the post-CD age? There are a ton of lessons here for us in her monster of an marketing campaign, stuff that we can all learn from moving forward into the new year:

Swift has rebranded to stay relevant with her fans. Her evolution from pop-country to straight pop is basically the culmination of the 80’s/90’s worship that’s been boiling over the past couple of years across all music genres. She’s also increasing her credibility as an artist by aligning herself with more “serious” musicians like Lorde and Kendrick Lamar, and even started becoming more outspoken about feminist causes.

Swift has a massive social media presence across multiple platforms. Her Tumblr and Instagram are particular highlights; each picture is carefully crafted to blur the lines between professional photo shoot and “quick selfie lol.” Her fan interaction game is also seriously on point:

But deeper than surface level, her marketing team is incredibly shrewd. The image of Taylor Swift everywhere: in commercials, fashion shows, magazines, gossip rags, billboards, big-budget commercials, and even pizza boxes. She recently took a stand against making her music available on Spotify, which actually increased demand for her newest album.

She maintains two “faces:” one of the celebrity, and the other of the person – but both have been carefully manufactured for maximum exposure. Between her huge commercial presence, carefully maintained public persona, and excellent music, Tay Sway has basically written the Art of War for marketing in 2014 and it’s incredible to watch.

PC: Big Machine Records

Just admit that you love that one song and get on with your life, dude.

Honorable Mention: The Whole Thing Surrounding The Interview

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The hullabaloo surrounding the release of The Interview was a comedy of totally unexpected coincidences that may have actually made a better movie than The Interview itself turned out to be.

Despite ads for the film being pulled from television and major theaters outright refusing to show the movie, the film has almost made back its $44 million budget and has become Sony’s highest-grossing online release. This highlights the power of organic marketing’s ability to inspire public conversation promoting your product, and the importance of just rolling with the punches even during a disastrous PR fiasco.

The TL;DR: Sony’s databases were hacked and threatening messages were left on its servers by a group calling themselves the “Guardians of Peace.” An anonymous comment suggested that North Korea may have been behind the whole thing as a response to the production of The Interview, a bro-comedy movie about James Franco and Seth Rogen assassinating Kim Jong-Un.

Fearing the worst, major movie theater chains initially refused to screen the movie on Christmas Day, and have still yet to release it in early January. But this only added to the movie’s notoriety, and sparked conversations about the value of art in the face of censorship, Internet security, and the threat of cyberterrorism.

Independent movie theaters still insisted that they’d release The Interview on Christmas, but when that move was blocked by Sony, the Alamo Drafthouse announced that it would screen the brilliantly topical Team America: World Police in its place. This tactic brought a lot of attention to the theater itself – kind of like trickle-down advertising – and also went viral online.

It literally took a televised statement from President Obama for Sony to allow indie theaters to release The Interview in time for December 25th. The added international publicity also gave the studio an opportunity to try out a same-day digital release of the film on YouTube and Google Play, the first major picture of its kind to ever do so.

… And that’s the story of Christmas.

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