Lessons From Some of the Best Socially-Oriented Marketing Campaigns

By Rhonda Bradley / 10 October 2018

Find out what some of the top-performing social cause campaigns of 2018 have in common and how your brand can apply the lessons learned.

Whether it’s by taking a political stance, pulling off a publicity stunt, or taking a different approach to creative thinking, all of the big-name marketing campaigns of 2018 find a unique way to present their message.

Supporting an important social cause or taking a stand on a social issue has become a springboard for some of the world’s most successful advertising campaigns. 

Below, we list some of the most creative socially-oriented marketing campaigns of 2018 and show you what small-to-medium sized businesses can learn from the campaigns.

The examples below show how some brands are winning big by taking a stand on social issues.

1. Dads Share the Load by Ariel Laundry Detergent

Ariel Matic laundry detergent’s “Share the Load” commercial and ad campaign promotes gender equality in India by encouraging dads to do the laundry. 

The ad opens with an Indian father’s voice addressing his adult daughter with “Sorry that I never stopped you while you were playing house.”

On screen, the video shows his 20-something daughter working on a computer and managing a business call, while trying to clean up laundry from the floor of her home.

Her dad’s voice continues, “I never told you that it’s not your job alone. But your husband’s, too.”

Share the Load ad campaign

India, along with the rest of the world, embraced the ad and the sentiment behind it.  

According to Fortune Magazine, the ad was viewed over 50 million times in 50 days, increased the brand’s sales by 76%, and resulted in a 4.6X increase in engagements.

Share the Load is a creative campaign that took on a mild amount of risk to great success. While championing a social cause can often give a boost to marketing campaigns, this one confronted Indian men directly, calling them out on gender-biased behavior.

What Brands Can Learn from Share the Load

Ariel Matic minimized the risk of their campaign by approaching a sensitive topic with great empathy. 

By featuring an older, wiser man speaking of his own regrets, the campaign is able to call out injustice without pointing the finger of blame at anyone.

To minimize risk with any type of social justice or cause campaign, consider humanizing the opposite viewpoint in order to strike a chord on both sides of the issue.

2. Just Do It With Colin Kaepernick by Nike

As part of Nikes’ 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” campaign, the brand surprised the world with an ad featuring the controversial former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. 

The ad included a close-up shot of Kaepernick’s face beneath the words: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Just Do It ad

As most people are aware, former NFL pro football player Kaepernick kicked off a controversial nationwide protest of violence against black Americans by kneeling, instead of standing, during the televised national anthem.

Kaepernick’s actions sparked a movement across the NFL, and other players from all parts of the country also began to kneel during the national anthem. The movement is highly controversial among fans, politicians, and even the NFL itself.

When summertime rolled around and professional football took a break, the world turned to other sports and activities. And, after a summertime full of memories, many people forgot about the controversy, while others wondered what would happen next.

Until September 5, 2018, when, just a few days before the first game of the season, Nike released the controversial new ad.

On the outside, it seemed like Nike made a mistake. 

The campaign created an uproar across social media, with angry people boycotting the brand and even burning their Nike merchandise.

Yet, despite the fact that Nike’s market capitalization is down since the release of the ad, the media exposure alone is worth more than $163 million, according to Bloomberg News.

Nike Bloomberg ad

What Brands Can Learn from Nike’s Latest “Just Do It” Campaign

The crucial lesson from Nike’s campaign is to calculate your risks by using data.

On the outside, the campaign appears to be a risky, morally-driven campaign. In truth, however, it’s a masterfully-executed example of data-driven marketing.

According to The Morning Brew news, a Nike executive explained that the Kaepernick campaign is targeting 15 to 17-year-olds. 

This age group belongs to Generation Z, who focus their spending power on companies willing to take risks.

So while Nike may be losing favor with older generations such as Baby Boomers, they’re placing far more importance on the upcoming consumer generation that wants to see their brands take a stand.

Like Nike, if you take the time to learn about the personality of your target audience, your brand can also greatly reduce the risk involved with social cause campaigns.

3. You Can Be Anything Campaign by Mattel for Barbie

One of Mattel’s Barbie commercials opens with a precocious young girl about to give a college lecture about the human brain.

Barbie ad screenshot

The scene was filmed in a real classroom full of unsuspecting real-life students who did not know what was happening.

As the girl begins to talk, she takes command of the classroom in a way similar to that of a real adult professor. The real-time authentic reactions from students range from laughter to curiosity and even respect.

The video continues on, adding a number of similar scenes. For example, a man brings his pet to the veterinarian and the young girl steps in to talk to him as if she were a professional.

In another scene, one girl barks orders to an entire sports team, made up of 100% men, as if she were a real coach.

Barbie ad screenshot 2

1 minute and 40 seconds into the commercial, Barbie reveals its brand name with the statement “When a girl plays with a Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.”

Barbie screenshot 3

The commercial, a promotion for the “Career Barbies” line of children’s dolls, is an announcement to the world that the generations-old brand, often associated with stereotypical and negative female traits, has evolved into the modern era.

In under 2 minutes, Barbie manages to shatter its beauty-obsessed image with one that encourages young girls to pursue their dreams.

What Brands Can Learn from the Barbie Ads

Barbie has been working hard for many years to improve the perception of their brand, and “career Barbies” have been around for a while. However, their old reputation wasn’t easily forgotten. 

By creating a live, out-of-the-box experiment, the brand managed to burn a new memory into the minds of viewers. Now, Barbie has caught up with the times and is starting to be considered a more healthy toy. The company’s use of Career Barbies makes it clear that the toy encourages intellect, creativity, and independence in young women.

From the Barbie campaign, we’re reminded that sometimes just making a change isn’t enough. You’ve got to announce it to the world in a way that embeds itself into the memory of consumers. 

4. Go With The Fake by Diesel Fashion

Is there anything a fashion brand can do to reduce the $461 billion dollars in counterfeit goods traffic each year?

Diesel brand did find a way to use the counterfeit market to their advantage and beat the counterfeiters at their own game in the process.

Documented in a video titled “Go With The Fake” the fashion company created their own knock-off brand called “Deisel” with a label similar to their real name, but spelled differently.

Diesal Adweek article screenshot

They set up shop in New York’s “counterfeit district” and, unbeknownst to shoppers, began selling one-of-a-kind real Diesel pieces under the fake label “Deisel,” at low, knock-off prices. 

The experiment remained a secret until it was revealed at New York Fashion Week, where it made a big splash.

Diesel ad quote

There may have been many reasons to avoid a campaign like this, given that it seems to encourage people to purchase knock-off brands. 

However, the fashion brand came out on top, not only by pocketing money that would have gone to counterfeiters but also for the publicity it garnered them.

What Businesses Can Learn from the Diesel-Deisel Campaign

Diesel Fashion found a backward way to address a serious problem with a sense of fun and humor. 

When brainstorming ideas for marketing campaigns, brands should keep working to develop  concepts until they find something that’s unique.Then, apply the same creativity to attaining press coverage that surrounds the campaign.

Let the Best Creative Ad Campaigns Fuel Your Next Genius Idea

If you’re struggling for ideas to help your brand get noticed or help form a deeper connection with your audience, look to winning campaigns for inspiration.

Ad Age and Adweek Magazines are 2 industry publications that do a great job covering the most creative, successful ad campaigns across the globe. They can be a great source for helping your team spark new and unique ideas.

While the most creative ads often involve some level of risk, keep in mind that data can guide your decisions and greatly reduce the risks. 

Finally, use analytic and insight programs to get to know your audience in order to learn what they best respond to.

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