The best marketing campaigns of 2020
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The best marketing campaigns of 2020

by Jackson Kushner | Dec 10, 2020

It’s time for another roundup of our favorite marketing campaigns. Though 2020 has played out much differently than most of us anticipated, there have still been many examples of innovative and engaging advertising campaigns.
We’ve pulled a list of this year’s best ad campaigns and provided insights into what made these campaigns so successful, plus how you can replicate that success for your brand.

1. Facebook’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial

For the first time ever, Facebook aired a commercial during the Super Bowl. The 60-second ad aired during the fourth quarter and promoted Facebook Groups. The ad, called “Ready to Rock?” featured celebrity appearances from actor Sylvester Stallone and comedian Chris Rock, as well as highlighting several “rock” themed Facebook Groups, including Table Rock Lake, Moab Rock Climbers, Rock Buggies, and Rocky Balboa Going the Distance.

The quirky commercial drew a lot of praise for its fun play on words and including real people who are members of the featured Facebook Groups.

In recent years, the social media giant has seen a decrease in U.S. usage rates while other social media networks have gained popularity. So this commercial was a great way to renew interest in their platform and highlight features that may not have been as popular when more people were using the network.

This ad is also a great example of targeting. If Facebook was concerned about decreased usage in the U.S. market, what better way to reach Americans than to advertise during the most-watched event of the year?

The takeaway for brands from Facebook’s Super Bowl campaign is that advertising in new places or on new platforms can help your business reach a wider audience.

2. Volkswagen’s snowy scavenger hunt vehicle promotion

Volkswagen, who also drew recent praise for their ads bidding farewell to the Beetle, garnered attention from their January 2020 promotion of the Passat Alltrack. Volkswagen teamed up with the Swedish national ski team to host a unique scavenger hunt where the first person to find their hidden vehicle got to keep in. The catch was that Volkswagen’s take on the scavenger hunt involved hiding one of their Passat Alltracks in a “showroom” deep within the snowy north of Sweden.

The campaign, called “The No Show Room,” featured breathtaking shots of the vehicle in the snowy terrain and dropped hints about its location through commercials showing members of Sweden’s national ski team trekking through the wilderness around the car’s hiding spot.

This campaign is a great example of interactive content. In addition to being able to physically hunt for the vehicle, customers were also encouraged to deduce clues about the location from the commercials as well as other hints strategically placed throughout their social media channels.

Volkswagen also strategically positioned the Passat Alltrack’s features in this campaign. The vehicle may have been hard to find, but the brand made sure to show that it would be easy to drive home due to its superb handling in snowy terrain.

Brands that are inspired by this campaign can take away a few lessons. Interactive campaigns are often very popular with customers, but do best when the interactive element is unique. Brands that do choose to create their own interactive campaign should also follow Volkswagen’s example and share it across a variety of platforms to make the most of the exposure.

3. Burger King’s moldy Whopper campaign

This year, Burger King announced that they had removed artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors from their Whopper. To promote this, Burger King released their moldy Whopper campaign. Displayed in both photo and video formats, Burger King documented how much mold grew on one of their Whoppers over a 34-day period.

Advertising moldy food might seem counterintuitive for a fast-food restaurant, but Burger King’s campaign is actually a clever swipe at their adversary, McDonald’s, who was recently in the spotlight due a man’s experiment which revealed how a McDonald’s burger had barely changed over the course of 20 years. So not only was this an eye-catching campaign to promote the removal of artificial preservatives from their menu, it also worked to deposition Burger King’s rivals.

This campaign is a great example for brands on how to grab customer attention. Burger King’s ad was morbidly eye-catching and increased discussion around their brand, ultimately amplifying their announcement that they removed artificial preservatives from their products. The lesson brands can take away from Burger Kings’ example is to not be afraid to take risks and run unconventional campaigns, as long as the underlying message frames your brand or product in a positive light.

4. Gillette’s #MeToo movement activism

In January, Gillette updated their 30-year-old slogan “the best a man can get” to “the best men can be” for their latest advertising campaign. For the campaign, Gillette created a short film that addresses the #MeToo movement and the problems in society it highlights, such as sexual harassment, bullying, and toxic masculinity.

This ad doesn’t simply capitalize on the attention surrounding the #MeToo movement, but also highlights Gillette’s commitment to the cause. With the debut of their ad, Gillette also announced that they would be donating $1 million per year for the next three years.

This campaign was a huge success to Gillette in terms of brand awareness. In just a week after launching the video, Gillette had garnered over 1.5 million social media mentions, compared to just 10,000 the week before.

Gillette’s campaign is a great example of how brands can approach and voice their support for sensitive social issues with the greatest impact on their brand awareness.

5. World Health Organization’s COVID-19 PSAs

We would be remiss to not include an example of a COVID-19 themed ad in this year’s roundup. Over the last few months, many brands have come out with their own takes on COVID-19 ads. But for this roundup, we wanted to highlight the work of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) effort to spread awareness about the virus. 

The WHO’s marketing team has worked hard in 2020 to reach people around the world with their health and safety COVID-19 and stop the spread of misinformation and their efforts should be praised. Advertising platforms, such as Facebook, noted the importance of these efforts and even offered the WHO free advertising.

Brands can also learn a lesson from these COVID-19 campaigns. Promoting messages that aim to help and protect our society is not only the right thing to do but can also cause customers to look favorably at your brand. 

6. Cards Against Humanity Black Friday

Every year, Cards Against Humanity does their famous anti-Black Friday campaign. Whether it’s 2019’s humans vs computers competition or 2013’s raising their prices by $5, instead of having a sale, they always set the standard for creative marketing campaigns.

CAH twitter promo

Cards Against Humanity flipped the script once again in 2020 with a new approach following a tumultuous year: they donated their entire Black Friday budget to nonprofits. While everyone can appreciate a penchant for hilarious antics, this authentic, helping hand was a welcome gesture.

7. Corona beer Pay with Plastic

COVID-19 has been tough on all of us, but Corona’s marketing team had it particularly tough. They aren’t easily kept down, though, because when life gives them lemons (or in their case, limes), they can still turn them into a tasty beverage. They started the year off strong with a joke marketing campaign where they were offering $15 million to change the name of the “CoronaVirus” to the “BudLightVirus”. While they get an honorable mention for this unorthodox tactic, their best marketing move came later in the year.

Corona beer promo

For World Oceans Day, Corona launched their "Pay With Plastic" program, where they accepted plastic waste as payment for Corona beer in stores and bars in Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Spain, and Colombia. With many of us concerned about environmental issues, especially the state of the oceans and plastic waste, environmentally positive marketing campaigns were a smart strategy for companies in 2020.

Corona created a limited-edition beer can comprised of upcycled materials, and for every six-pack sold, the organization cleans up one square meter at a local beach. And, with the help of over 25,000 volunteers, Corona and their partner, Parley, have already cleaned almost 1 million square feet of beach.

A look back at past years

Best marketing campaign of 2019

Budweiser revisits its 50s, 60s, and 70s ads

In honor of International Women’s Day, Budweiser released a series of vintage-styled ads highlighting positive depictions of women. Appreciating their own metaphorical glass house, the brand returned to their own ads from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Instead of characterizing women as wives, and ultimately aiming to sell Budweiser to their husbands, this campaign instead focuses on the storylines of women.

When looking to improve your brand image, identifying where you have fallen short in the past is a pathway to reinvention. Ultimately, by adjusting their image, Budweiser showed they are not a beer for men, rather a beer for people. As a result, they have positioned themselves to become more appealing to more audiences.

Best marketing campaign of 2018

OKCupid’s DTF(all head over heels) campaign

With their controversial “DTF” ad campaign, OkCupid took a risk by redefining the acronym:

But the risk paid off, as Adweek reports the campaign boosted OkCupid’s social mentions by 50%, and it resonated with women and the LGBTQ community. Even though the ads weren’t welcome everywhere (like the entire Chicago Transit Authority), OkCupid demonstrated the effectiveness of disruptive marketing.

Campaigns that appeal to social media users won’t always appeal to the boardroom, but that’s okay. Even though OkCupid couldn’t run their ads everywhere, their campaign still had a huge impact that resonated with their target audiences.

With 2021 just beginning, remember that social media is an excellent space to experiment with new ad campaign styles. There is a huge opportunity to attract undiscovered audiences and amplify brand recognition just like these stand-out brands were able to do. And to gain more insights about social media marketing, remember to download our Social Media Pocket Guide.

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