Whether you’re one of the world’s superbrands or a small, local supplier, clever social media campaigns can help raise product awareness, increase sales, drive footfall, add fans, improve SEO and online visibility, or just make people think ‘cool, I like that company’.
Some of the world’s best social media campaigns are highlighted below. They are case studies that, for one reason or another, have made us think ‘great campaign’. In deciding what is/is not a relevant case study, our social media litmus test has been to ask if they involve either online social interaction, user participation or user-generated content.
The Social Media Campaign Hall of Fame is in no particular order and, as is the case with lists like this, there’ll be great campaigns you love that are not yet listed, and others you feel should not be included. This is not a list of the campaigns that have the most followers/biggest fan base/most views. It’s about doing creative, interesting campaigns. And, of course, that’s subjective.
If you have a suggestion for inclusion, email it to email@example.com. And please do share your comments at the foot of the page.
Boxing Clever – Nike
Checking in at telephone boxes is the theme of this clever location game from Nike. After registering online, where maps are available, players run between two phone boxes and enter their unique user ID via an 0800 number. This logs their run, earning online points per postcode – the runner with the most points per postcode wins. Speed, stamina and insider knowledge also earn badges.
Seriously Good Work – Warner Bros
To promote the release of its latest film, Batman: The Dark Knight in 2007, Warner Bros launched its ‘Why So Serious?’ campaign. After first decoding clues at whysoserious.com and taking part in an on and off line treasure hunt, fans were given access to the first photos of the Joker, as well as a movie trailer. Fans who sent in photos of themselves dressed as the Joker received a copy of The Gotham Times in the post. The campaign involved 10 million fans in 75 countries.
Beggar’s Belief – Ascendgence
To raise awareness of his new internet marketing agency Ascendgence – and to prove his ability to create viral campaigns – Sean Dolan, with his father Kevin Dolan, created PimpThisBum.com, a website to help homeless Tim Edwards off the street. The site received over 558,000 4,843,420 hits, raised over $60,000 $100,000 for Mr Edwards and other homeless people within the Houston area, as well as getting Tim into an alcohol treatment course. Tim calls the Dolans’ project “a blessing”. He hopes to complete his treatment successfully, secure a job and find a home.
*Following publication of this case study, Sean Dolan contacted Umpf with an update to the stats, above, the video, below, and to provide a further heart-warming note about Tim:
“He’s over a year and a half sober, is employed at Nicol Pattern as an apprentice machinist and is one of the greatest guys I know.”
Green With Envy – Greenpeace
In response to the Turkish Government’s intention to build more power stations, Greenpeace created a clever, multi-channel campaign around a fake political candidate, Seyfi Solukal. Online hype was generated through various social networking sites and online media with a focus on the environment. Having accumulated significant backing and publicity, a press conference (see video below) was held where Solukal’s true identity – as a member of Greenpeace – was revealed. As a result, 74 candidates now back Greenpeace’s Climate Declaration, compared with just five prior to the campaign. The campaign won a WOMMY. And was shortlisted for a Golden Drum.
Red Balloon At Night, Social Media Delight – DARPA
Despite sounding like something from the TV series Lost, DARPA is a real organisation (part of the US Department of Defense). In December 2009 it conducted a test to see how quickly social networking could solve a problem. Or, in its own words, simply “To explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.” It hid ten moored, eight-foot red balloons across America. The first to name the exact locations won $40,000. The prize was won by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who used a pyramid-style cash incentive scheme to encourage word-of-mouth participation. It took MIT just nine hours to pinpoint the exact locations of the ten balloons.
Online Blend Recognition – Blendtec
The series of videos produced by food blender manufacturer Blendtec, based around the concept of “Will it blend?”, have something of a cult following online (300,000+ YouTube subscribers). They show founder Tom Dickson attempting to blend unusual items (the iPhone blend has hit around 9m views). Dickson has made numerous appearances on popular US television shows including The Tonight Show, as well as gaining a cult status with consumers buying into the brand’s popularity, with T-shirts and other related products. Fans can post pictures and videos on BlendTec’s Facebook page of items they want Tom to blend next.
You Are Here – Nokia
To raise awareness of its free new Ovi Maps application, Nokia erected a large interactive electronic signpost in central London (purportedly the biggest mobile sign ever constructed). The public were invited to text or email their location as well as a message, with the crane rotating accordingly.
When Ford in the US identified a potential 18-40-yr-old driving audience of 70m citizens – 77% of whom were actively using social media – instead of the traditional journo junket car launch, they opted for a grassroots social media campaign to promote the new Fiesta.
They placed 100 Fiestas in the hands of ‘social agents’; each agent was given a task every month for six months. It resulted in 4m+ YouTube views; 500,000+ Flickr views; 3m+ Twitter impressions.
Sam De La Garza told Umpf: “Overall awareness is equal to or greater than some of our products that have been on the market for three years.
“We’ve had over 100 million media impressions without the use of any TV placements and close to 5,000 reservations for the product without traditional media reach.” See the original campaign.
If You’re Happy & You Know It, Drink A Coke – Coca Cola
As part of its ‘happiness campaign’, Coca Cola installed an unusual vending machine in an American college. As it dispensed a variety of products – including a four-foot long sandwich – the reactions of students were recorded and uploaded online. 1m+ views in just over a week.
Mashable also has a nice ‘making of the video’ interview.
Pix From The Flix – Orange
Trying to tap into a younger following for the Baftas, Orange, the official sponsor, set up an account with Flixster allowing users a live view of the red carpet. An interactive quiz attracted 50,000 entrants trying to win tickets to events. Orange claimed a 10% increase in traffic to the Orange Bafta website as a result.
Let’s Be Frank – FRANK
To develop a better understanding among young people about drugs, FRANK, the national drug information and advice service, created an automated MSN Bot specials.uk.msn.com/talktofrank, in Windows Live. It gave this younger demographic an opportunity to seek drugs advice 24/7 in a medium they were conversant in and happy to use. Some 32m questions have been posed.
Sofa So Good – Ikea
To raise awareness of a new store opening in Malmo, Sweden, Ikea set up a Facebook account for its Store Manager, Gordon Gustavsson. Catalogue set images were uploaded onto his profile and the first person to tag themselves to an item in the image won the product – hundreds entered and it quickly went viral attracting thousands of fans for Mr Gustavsson and a nice social media campaign for the new store.
Keyboard-Lickin’ Good – BK
An early (2004) interactive online campaign which became a worldwide phenomenon is BK’s ‘subservient chicken’, launched to promote its ‘Tender Crisp Chicken Sandwich’. Users find themselves looking at, what appears to be, a live webcam of a person dressed in a chicken costume. Type in a command and the chicken responds. You can make it ‘pray’, ‘sneeze’, ‘hula hoop’ and, yes, you can even ‘choke the chicken’.
The site garnered 1m+ hits within the first 24 hours and has since surpassed 400m. It was discussed in 63 US broadcasts and has gained global recognition. Read the history of the campaign.
Unwrapping Social Media – Virgin Blue
Australia’s Virgin Blue airline conducted the world’s biggest virtual game of pass the parcel to celebrate its ninth birthday. Participants virtually unwrapped a 3D present to win prizes (they were awarded another layer to unwrap for each friend they shared the site with) and were redirected to low-cost ‘birthday’ prices after taking part.
Gimme Some Skin – E4
To promote the new characters in Skins series 3, TV channel E4 launched an innovative interactive trailer allowing viewers to navigate onto character video biogs once they have been introduced on screen.
Alongside this an MSN Bot was made available giving fans up-to-date episode commentary as it aired. The trailer attracted 125,000 views before the show launched, while 25,000 people downloaded the MSN Skins Messenger Bot. It won an NMA 2010 Effectiveness Award
Cheesy Stunt – Goldenpalace.com
GoldenPalace.com gets a mention for its sheer volume of goofy stunts – ranging from the one where they paid a woman to have the company logo tattooed on her forehead, to paying US $28,000 for a cheese toastie. The latter was spun into a cheese toastie eating competition which was seeded online, in chat rooms and on social networking sites.
Rainbows Flying High – Radiohead
Radiohead’s seventh album, In Rainbows, was initially only available from the band’s website. Not particularly clever in itself, but when the band announced in 2007 that fans could pay what they felt was appropriate for the album, a storm of (predominantly) positive publicity ensued as online chat rooms buzzed with news of the idea. Not classic social media, but clever online stunt.
Gets The Tick of Approval – Nike
To build brand loyalty and raise awareness of its new ‘iPod Sports Kits’, the sports company launched a social networking site, Nike+ . The Nike+ system tracks a runner’s performance via an iPod nano. The community encourages users to compare their running routes and compete against each other.
Collectively, more than 400,000,000km have been notched up by users and a Nike+ organized race in 2008 attracted 800,000 runners. Nike had sold over 1.3 million of its iPod Sports Kits. The campaign is the recipient of a Cannes Cyber Lion Award.
Dude, Where’s My Followers? – Ashton Kutcher
This case study has been in and out of the Umpf list. However, we felt it merits a place because the stunt – where Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN (top video) to see who could first gain one million Twitter followers – to a large extent popularised Twitter to the masses. And $100,000 was donated to charidee. And, as if you didn’t hear, Kutcher won (second vid).
Painting The Town Red, Green, Orange… – Sony Bravia
It is claimed that a strategic social media campaign , launched months before Sony Bravia’s now famous ‘Paint’ ad launched, attracted a cult following that laid the foundations for the success of the TV spot. A dedicated blog, a blogger engagement programme, as well as an SEO campaign helped to drive 1.6 million visits to the site and 850,000 views of the ad on YouTube. Enjoy a 91-second version of the ad:
Dell-ivering Social Media – Dell
When it comes to metrics, Dell’s December 2009 claim that $6.5 million of its revenue was a derivative of its various Twitter accounts (http://www.dell.co.uk/twitter) is pretty emphatic. Whilst it is difficult to provide evidence to dispute the claims, what is undeniable is that as a model for ‘getting it right’, it’s hard to knock as their approach shows.
Mitey Fine Work – Marmite
Marmite recruited a group of individuals (the ‘Marmarati’ marmarati.org) based on enthusiast blogs and online competitions, where entrants had to describe why they loved the brand. They were entrusted to trial a new, stronger marmite spread. As well as connecting personally with their biggest fans, the story gained national coverage and its latest edition, Marmite XO, was launched.
Whopping Great Big Social Media Idea – Burger King
In January 2009 Burger King created a Facebook app and offered users a free Whopper burger if they removed 10 online friends. Facebook was not impressed and shut down the app but by that point more than 200,000 friends had been ‘sacrificed’ and word had virally spread far and wide. Nice social media stunt.
Keel Over – Lynx
The male toiletry brand launched the ‘Keeping Keeley’ campaign in January 2010 using E4 Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison tries to gain the affection of glamour model, Keeley Hazell, with visitors to the website deciding upon the outcomes of the storyline.
Clicks and Morter – Rage Against The Machine
Jon and Tracy Morter’s social media campaign is well-deserving of a place in this Social Media Campaign Hall of Fame, not least because it prevented a truly insipid X-Factor song claiming the Christmas No1 single spot. It is also one of the most successful examples of crowdsourced group ‘buycotting’.
The now famous Facebook-initiated campaign attracted 1m members, gained a huge amount of column inches and airtime and helped Rage Against The Machine grab a No 1 single (it also raised £100,000 for homeless charity Shelter). Zack de la Rocha from RATM described it as an “incredible organic grassroots campaign”.
Do-Nut Pass Up a Facebook Campaign – Dunkin Donuts
To raise awareness of its latest ‘Vanilla Bean Coolatta’ product, Dunkin Donuts launched its ‘Keep it Coolatta’ Facebook campaign where fans could win prizes by setting their profile picture to one of them drinking a Coolatta. Those who did – and they reached over 800,000 fans – were entered into a prize draw to win holiday flights.
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China Cup – Adidas
As sponsor of both the Beijing Olympics 2008 and the Chinese Women’s Volleyball Team, Adidas wanted to enhance the sport’s flagging popularity in China. They implemented a variety of social media tactics: blogs (161,000 impressions) were created to open communication between the team and its fans; images from a ‘glamour’ photoshoot were posted online gaining national press; various viral films (5.5m views within the first three months) were created repositioning the sport as fast-paced and exciting; and finally, a competition was set up to discover the ‘best chant’.
Buddy Holly-Day – TravBuddy.com
The online forum TravBuddy.com, a site designed to bring together travel enthusiasts, created a Facebook app where users can share holiday photos and experiences – it also calculates what percentage of the world they have visited. Within six months 500,000 users had added their profiles with the app being used on average 10,000 times/day. Happily we can include this in the Umpf Social Media Campaign Hall of Fame enabling us to use our Sun-esque ‘Buddy Holly-Day’ headline.
Girl Talk – Procter & Gamble
P&G, the world’s biggest supplier of consumer goods, set up the BeingGirl.co.uk forum where teenage girls could talk about their transition into womanhood. Product promotion was limited, with the discussion board acting as a support mechanism rather than an advertising medium. P&G say that the social media tactic has been four-times more effective than its traditional approach to product marketing. The site receives over 2m visits per month.
I Know What You Did Last Summer – Vodafone
To reinforce appeal among young adults, the mobile phone network produced a drama series of 22 episodes, “Who Killed Summer?” (youtube.com/user/whokilledsummer09) following six young people travelling to different European music festivals. Twitter, Facebook and Flickr were used to promote the site wks09.com.
Eyeing-Up A Donation – eBay, PayPal & Miller Coors
To raise money for cancer charities, the three organisations launched the hashtag #BeatCancer, where for every tweet featuring the tag, a donation of one cent was given to cancer charities across the world. The campaign won the world record for the ‘distribution of the largest mass message through social media’ within 24 hours – 7m Tweets, raising $70,000 in the process.
Two’s Company, Tree’s A Crowd – Ericsson
To position itself as a technological innovator, the mobile phone manufacturer developed a Twittering Tree which it showcased at the Mobile World Congress, 2010. Using electromagnetic field technology to sense human contact, it Tweeted relevant comments such as “I’m lonely” when people walked away.
Haiti Earthquake Disaster
Social media can be an impressive and indispensable tool for crisis communications, too – take the example of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. A campaign, made viral through Twitter and Facebook, raised $8m in just a few days solely through text messages. While researchers in San Diego State University’s Immersive Visualization Center (Viz Lab), helped first-responders on the ground in Haiti.
A-Rated X Factor – ITV.com
Love it or hate it, there’s no getting away from The X Factor. And thanks to social media never was this more evident than in the 2009 series (bagging ITV and Talkback a Reolution award in the process). They ramped up social media activity around the brand (@TheXFactor has 66,000+ followers, thousands added the X Factor Twibbon, there are 1.4m Facebook fans and, during the shows, there are tens of thousands of comments on ITV.com’s chat function). During some shows, half of Twitter’s top trending global topics were X Factor related, at one stage accounting for 4.6% of all worldwide Tweets. As for boosting ITV.com’s ad impressions, a “significant amount of traffic is from Twitter and Facebook” according to Ben Ayers, head of social media/community at ITV.com.
Xperiencing Success – Sony Ericsson
A heavyweight blogger relations strategy was key to this award-winning campaign for the global launch of Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X1. Following a social media audit, a blogger resource centre was established to disseminate information among a tiered list of bloggers. It also handed bloggers the ability to ‘co-create’ the campaign resulting in over 1.4 million mentions of Xperia across social media. Read more.
Simples, Yet Effective – CompareTheMarket.com
The social media elements of this multi-million pound, multi-channel marketing campaign have fuelled the brand recognition flames. The much-loved meerkat has 40,000 followers (@Aleksandr_orlov), 750,000 Facebook fans and his videos (youtube.com/user/CompareTheMeerkat), such as the ad outtakes, below, have been watched over 1m times.
Thirsty Work – Twestival
Twestival, the largest global grassroots social media fundraising initiative, raised $1.2m in 14 months for 137 non-profit organisations. Its highly successful fundraising social media campaign in January 2009 was arranged in just one month. Global festivals in 202 cities were organised via Twitter, recruiting 1,000 volunteers. More than 10,000 people participated raising $250,000 – or the equivalent of 55 wells providing clean drinking water to 17,000 people in Uganda, Ethiopia and India. As well as online noise, the event gained mass media coverage on television as well as multiple newspapers including The Guardian and the New York Times.
The Many Faces Of Coke – Coke Zero
They say each and every one of us has a doppelganger somewhere in the world. Coke Zero’s clever Facebook app aimed to find that person. Grant the Coke Zero Facial Profiler app access to your Facebook account and, using image recognition software, it tries to match your Facebook pic with your look-a-like somewhere in the world.
Social Media Spice – Old Spice
Pre-2010 and post-sometime in the 80s, you wouldn’t be seen dead buying Old Spice, let alone splashing it on. It’s a hideous, ropey old aftershave with a terrible image problem. And then along came former Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa wearing just a towel and Old Spice talking to us with impossibly cool inflection. More than 180 personalised videos were created for specific bloggers, random people, industry commentators and, of course, followers on Twitter, all of whom fanned the self-perpetuating flames of video viralness. It is said to be one of the fastest-growing online video campaigns of all time which the Wieden + Kennedy ad team behind it call a “new episodic content in real time.” Whether it sells any more smelly stuff, only time will tell (indications are it’s had a small increase in sales). At the very least, what social media has done is given the brand some much-needed credibility. Old Spice? Cool? Who’d have thought that?
One of the original UK TV ads
Can We Tweet It? Yes We Can – Barack Obama
Barack Obama’s pre-election campaign had an all-embracing social media strategy. Whilst his inauguration into office cannot be attributed solely to this, it was a significant, contributing factor. And there’s some impressive stats:
13m individuals on an emailing list receiving 7,000 variations of more than 1bn emails
3m online donors who contributed 6.5m times
5m friends on 15 different social networking sites
8.5m visits to MyBarackObama.com per month
2m profiles with 400,000 blog posts
35,000 volunteer groups that held 200,000 offline events
70,000 fundraising hubs, raising $30 million
Three million people signed up for the text messaging program, each receiving five to 20 messages per month
Three million phone calls within the last four days of the election
Dew A Change – Mountain Dew
Launched in late 2007, the first DEWmocracy initiative – for PepsiCo-owned US drink Mountain Dew – opened product development to consumers, asking them to choose the next flavour, colour and name. 1m joined in and Voltage came to market in January 2009. Their latest campaign still harnesses the collective intelligence of the brand’s fans, and is still looking for a new product, but it’s been more social media focused (Facebook, Twitter, 12seconds.tv, YouTube, etc). And the Crowdsourcing element has been wider, allowing the public to select not just the flavour, colour and name, but packaging design and ad campaign, too. As well as the consumer website dewmocracy.com and social media channels, there’s a slick media centre dewmocracymediahub.com.
Fancy A Fcuk? – FCUK
FCUK was one of the first mainstream brands to dip its stick in the peep show of the social media scene: Chatroulette. Its ‘The Man, The Woman’ campaign (“Rise above the sea of failing men and charm a woman on Chatroulette” to win some FCUK clobber) is certainly brave, sailing, as it was, into unchartered waters. Ten out of ten for balls. Literally.
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What Started As A Social Media Wispa – Wispa
Despite the uncertainty around whether this was fan-initiated or PR-driven, the Wispa comeback was a massive success for Cadbury on a meagre budget. No gorilla, no Phil Collins, just people power. The story goes that fans launched a campaign – some 90+ separate ‘Bring Back Wispa’ groups and more than 13,000 signatures in online petitions – to bring back the discontinued bar and the chocolate men said yes. Today, there are some 1.2m+ fans on the official page facebook.com/wispa.
Pink My Ride – Fiat 500
To promote its latest 500 model, Fiat signed up David Sheath to paint a white car pink using only nail varnish and a nail varnish brush. Viewers could watch the four-day task live at PinkMyRide.com and despite @500Pink attracting just 156 followers, news of the stunt spread quickly.
Practising Safer (Sus)Sex – Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP)
A simple yet brilliantly clever online video, supported through Facebook and Twitter channels, fronted this campaign, entitled ‘Embrace Life’, to promote seatbelt use.
Gillette, The Best A Vamp Can Get – HBO
Television network HBO uploaded a series of unusual vampire-specific ads for brands such as Mini, Ecko and Gillette to its Facebook, MySpace and YouTube channels to promote the second series of True Blood – a clever word-of-mouth ad campaign.
Nice, Nice Baby – Virgin Mobile
To promote V Festival in Australia, the publicity-shy company launched a social media campaign, rightmusicwrongs.org, where it uploaded videos of artistes such as Vanilla Ice apologising for their ‘crimes to music’. Users could then vote whether they should be forgiven or be held accountable.
Facing Up To Real Beauty – Dove
In 2006, Dove extended its globally celebrated and recognised ‘Real Women’ campaign with a word-of-mouse ad viral. Its time-lapse video illustrated the airbrushing techniques used within traditional beauty industry campaigns. The 75 second video topped 11m views, grabbing global attention.
Roll vs Cole, You Decide – Sausage Roll Fans Unite
There’s clever social media campaigns and then there’s plain silly. This example falls into the latter camp, but it really does show how a social media collective can form at great pace. Even for a sausage roll. This ‘campaign’ has one simple goal, to garner more fans than the Facebook fan page of the nation’s sweetheart, Cheryl Cole. At the time of writing Cheryl (Girls Aloud band member, solo artist, X-Factor judge, Vogue cover star, Glamour Woman of the Year, face of L’Oréal) had 1.8m fans and the sausage roll (calories 240, fat 20g, carbs: 16g) had an impressive 1.13m.
A Sweet Social Media Campaign – Skittles
In March 2009 Skittles owned social media. Well, for about 24 hours. Their idea – to turn the skittles.com homepage into a user-generated stream of unfiltered Skittles mentions on social media channels such as Twitter – was brilliant in its originality. The page also integrated the brand’s Flickr, YouTube and Facebook pages. But, live by the unfiltered Tweet, die by the unfiltered Tweet – and soon normal service was established. The site still has a lot of social media interaction and kudos to Mars-owned Skittles for being brave with their concept.
Averting A Social Media Crisis – ASDA
After a damaging video was uploaded to YouTube showing a former ASDA member of staff breaking products and licking raw chicken, the supermarket was quick to react, using social media to protect its brand. It responded in kind with its own YouTube-posted video which included interviews with the store manager and shocked staff. Filmed on a Flip, the video response was turned round in hours. It was smart, social media thinking by the in-house team; the speed – not to mention means – of delivery ensuring that media coverage, forum threads, as well as word-of-mouth chatter was balanced, with the public largely sympathetic to the wronged supermarket.
As with ASDA, pizza giant Domino’s experienced a similar problem with a couple of employees uploading videos of themselves defacing pizzas (read and watch more). Within 48 hours the fast food chain had responded with a video of its own on its Facebook page. Again, as with the ASDA example, impact was minimised and online audiences were reassured of the brand’s dedication to quality.
Cadbury Brow-ser – Cadbury
To support its highly watchable ‘Eyebrows’ ad, the chocolate bar brand launched an MSN-based social media campaign. Open for eight hours, it offered participants the chance to become the face of Aglassandahalffullproductions.com (the wider campaign’s title); within this short space of time, Cadbury received 6,000 video submissions, reaching 70,000 individuals.
The Best (Social Media) Job In The World – Tourism Queensland
Ironically, it was a few carefully-placed press ads which launched one of the favourite social media campaigns of 2009. The publicity stunt offered a ‘job’ as an island caretaker in the Great Barrier Reef with a salary of AUD $150,000 for a six-month stint. It was a cold, wet and dreary January morning in the UK when the press picked up on the story. Applicants – 34,000 in total – had to create and upload a video of themselves. A shortlist was created and then a wildcard candidate was crowdsourced. Whether it was social media that created the buzz, or just the thought of living on a beautiful sun-drenched island, with nothing to do but blog, Tweet and upload pictures and videos, who can tell. Regardless, it was an inexpensive, clever idea.
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