In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing, there are rare moments when a campaign emerges, capturing the hearts and minds of consumers in such a brilliant and unexpected way that it leaves even the savviest marketing professionals in awe. These are the campaigns that not only drive sales but also ignite conversations, spark trends, and redefine the essence of what marketing can achieve. They are the proverbial Holy Grail, the gold standard by which all other campaigns are measured.
We all dream of the day where we’ll be the one making the game-changing decision. The game-changers that forever alter the course of branding and advertising. From the iconic "Share a Coke" campaign that personalized a ubiquitous beverage, to the ingenious blend of technology and storytelling in Red Bull's Stratos space jump event.
So, buckle up, because I interviewed eight accomplished marketing professionals who walked me through which campaigns have stood out to them as exemplar. Campaigns that not only have stood out in the industry, but have them saying, "I wish I'd thought of that."
Jessie Van Arman, Head of Marketing at Meta
With over 15 years of experience in the realms of experiential and event marketing, Jessie Van Arman currently has the privilege of leading a team of senior marketing professionals at Meta. Starting in the events department, she then went to work in the small business sector, specifically Meta’s economic impact program. Now, she’s working in government and social impact, marketing the Meta suite of products to governments around the world, candidates during election periods, non-profit organizations, and educators.
Jessie chose MailChimp’s marketing specifically because, “with B2B, brands can sometimes feel of secondary importance to expressing the efficacy of the product or service.” But MailChimp’s brand persona is approachable, fun, and most importantly consistent.
“If I were to start something, I would put my money with MailChimp because they have a persona that makes them feel like a friend. The really cool friend that you’d want to go out to dinner with or invite to your cocktail party.”
They do a lot of amazing purpose driven work, specifically with small businesses and nonprofits. There’s one campaign that stood out to Jessie called “Give Where You Live”. Strategized and conceived by Kin, it was a multi-platform activation that kicked off with a short animated film to make people curious about their small local businesses. Leading to a website that features a City Guide of community farms, local STEM programs, art collectives, and environmental action groups. Jessie was impressed with how the campaign “almost made the concept of ‘giving’ sexy, by creating feelings of fomo!”
“For MailChimp, whose audience is a little bit closer to consumers, they win on consistency and brand. They’re able to have a lot of fun and really build their brand thoroughly and I think they do it exceptionally.”
Sheena Hakimian, Director of Digital Marketing at Conde Nast
As a Director of Digital Marketing at Conde Nast, Sheena Hakimian oversees the subscription acquisition business for the site, email, and app channels for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and Bon Appetit. A lot of her day is execution and strategy, thinking about the consumers, while also driving subscriptions. Leading a team of 7 young women to be creative together and individually is a source of joy in her professional life. “The thing that wakes me up is my team.”
“For me, as a leader, a big part of my day to day is helping my team release their fears and build confidence.”
On her campaign of choice, she notes how Suburu did an amazing commercial called “A Beautiful Silence”. It features Keivonn Woodard, an Emmy Nominated deaf actor, and his dad on a road trip through Yosemite National Park. “It switches off between you being able to hear the sounds of the forest and the vehicle, and then not. It takes you into how he views things. When you’re in that moment of not hearing things, you’re still seeing the beauty.”
“Another thing that I love is these big companies giving back. Subaru is a big donor to the National Parks Foundation. For me, with a big company like that, giving back is attractive. I don’t have a car, I live in New York City, but I went right ahead and donated to the National Parks Foundation”
She admires that through this commercial, Suburu is staying hyper focused on their core values that we as consumers have consistently come to expect from them. Their slogan is literally, “Love. That’s what makes Suburu, a Suburu.” They want you to feel warm and fuzzy when thinking of their company. The authentic story highlighted here, sure does deliver that.
Jack Appleby, Founder and Creator at Future Social
With over 10 years of agency experience working primarily in social media, content, and influencer marketing, Jack Appleby knows all things social. As a Director of Creative Strategy, he’s lead campaigns for industry heavy hitters like Microsoft, Beats By Dre, Verizon, Spotify, Minecraft, Bethesda, and Rock Band.
He recently took his newsletter, Future Social, independent and is building his own media business from the ground up. When I sat down to speak with him, he had just wrapped a campaign with Hootsuite and had a lot to say about the strategy behind their marketing.
“One of the things I’m most impressed with is a campaign that I was hired to promote, which is Hootsuite’s 2023 Social Media Career Report,” Jack noted. “We’ve seen white papers used as an acquisition method for a long time. It's a good way to pull people in and give them free information about your product.”
“[Hootsuite] really did a report that is truly for their core markets. It’s not a generalized marketing case study, it’s about the actual people who use their tools, social media managers. It’s an 80 page report that provides every sort of information that I see social media managers worried about every day. It’s encyclopedic and I think it’ll be a resource that is referenced for years.”
When Jack opened LinkedIn on the day this campaign launched, he saw social media managers who have never done a promoted post for themselves being used as influencers. Because of this strategic move, the campaign spread like wildfire through the social media manager community.
“It made for some of the most authentically smart content that I’ve seen in influencer marketing in a long time.”
Miranda Gottlieb, Fractional CMO at The Healthy CMO
Miranda Gottlieb operates as a Fractional CMO at Healthy CMO, a role dedicated to assisting health and wellness companies in achieving accelerated growth while benefiting from the expertise of a part-time Chief Marketing Officer. The consultancy specializes in Seed and Series A health and wellness startups, Miranda leverages her wide-ranging network of professionals. Through collaborative efforts, she and her team offer crucial support to early-stage health and wellness startups.
Leaning into her experience in the health and wellness space, Miranda spoke about Tushy, the modern and sustainable bidet company founded by Miki Agrawal. “She was really the first person to kick off the period panty stuff! She’s so genius and the creative that she does for all of her companies are exceptionally thoughtful, edgy, and provocative in a way that makes her brand so memorable.”
“What I love so much about Miki and all of the things that she does, is that she focuses on areas of taboo and on areas of bodily function that no one talks about.”
Asshole Activists was an art gallery of people’s buttholes (yes, you read that right), yet it’s talking about climate change! Tushy is positioning itself to be a toilet paper saver and it’s calling out the paper industry. “It’s such a good campaign and it’s so unbelievably edgy in a way that is almost repulsive, but it provokes the question ‘why are we so ashamed of this?’”
The campaign didn’t necessarily push the product, it told the stories of individuals who care about climate change while being shocking enough to cause a stir in the community. We keep coming back to authentic storytelling. Are you sensing a trend?
Josh Gotthelf, Founder of State Of Grind
Josh Gotthelf boasts a remarkable track record in the realm of brand development, with over 400 campaigns, events, and product launches under his belt. He started off as the co-founder and CEO of Dime, a basketball magazine and brand created by ballers, for ballers.
After selling Dime, Josh founded State of Grind, a dynamic brand studio that combines content creation, strategic planning, and data-driven insights to position and nurture brands for growth. He’s involved in all the brands on a creative level, “everything from script writing to endorsements deals with athletes, all the way down to email open rates and click through rates and customer value and retention”
“Everything is so measurable, especially digital, that you can test and learn really quickly.”
The campaign that Josh was so excited to share with me is Blenders Eyewear’s most recent collaboration with Deion 'Coach Prime' Sanders. About it, Josh notes “He felt that he was trash talked by an opposing coach last week. He took it personally and got a video of him giving his new Coach Prime shades to all of the players on his team last week.” The gag being “oh they were throwing shade at us” so here’s some sunglasses.
Then, he went on ESPN and gave a pair of the sunglasses to each of the hosts, who put them on live on TV. After the team won the game on Saturday, his son, who is the quarterback of the team, put the sunglasses on in the post-game interview. “[Blenders] did well into seven figures of sales in 24 hours. Just off this one launch, all [Coach Prime], as a one person marketing machine.”
“This was so perfectly on brand for both Blenders Eyewear and Coach Prime. They had the right person at the right time with the right product and it all came together on a national stage at the exact right moment. It was flawless.”
Where influencers go wrong sometimes is the lack of organic and authentic content. “It might just be someone holding up a product or a still photo saying ‘I use this before every workout’ and those fall really flat. I would bet that most of those aren’t delivering business changing numbers on the revenue side.”
Jake Hurwitz, Founder at Thursday Labs
Jake Hurwitz is the man behind Thursday Labs, a company born out of sheer frustration. The frustration stemmed from witnessing countless founders poised to make significant impact, only to find them churning out the same tired narratives and content. TikTok ads felt overly pushy and artificial, while Instagram content felt like a never-ending loop of uninspired competition.
Yet, amid a sea of mediocrity, Jake drew inspiration from brands like YETI and Patagonia. These remarkable companies had mastered the art of authentic storytelling, leveraging the voices of genuine individuals that their audience deeply admired. These brands forge emotional connections that leave a lasting impression. Regrettably, too few startups venture down this path, but those who go emerge as true standouts. Thus, Thursday Labs was founded as a “content production house for B2B companies” with a mission to empower more startups to convey captivating stories with elegance and simplicity.
“I take a page out of Yeti Cooler and Patagonia’s book. They’re the best companies in the world at storytelling. They’re never talking about their product.”
Yeti and Patagonia aren’t just going around saying how great they are, they’re never calling out competitors, and “they’re not doing any of the traditional advertising or marketing strategies and tactics.” Jake takes inspiration from their ability to put out “incredibly high quality content to show the magic and allure of the lifestyle that you can live.”
Both Patagonia and Yeti have an entire section of their website dedicated to storytelling. Yet again keeping the authentic story at the forefront, not the product.
Piper Phillips, Director of Marketing at Tru
Piper Phillips serves as the Director of Marketing at Tru, where she has brought her expertise and commitment to authentic engagement to the forefront over the past year. She also operates as an independent contractor, specializing in brand strategy and sales. Beyond her professional pursuits, Piper dedicates herself to a passion project on TikTok. Here, she empowers women by providing valuable insights and guidance in the realms of networking and confidence-building.
Her favorite part of being Director are “the partnerships and getting the brand out there in a more creative and IRL way.” So it came as no surprise when she said, “the Barbie movie campaign lit me up.” They took an omnichannel approach, showing up in every single aspect of their audience’s life.
“With partnerships including (but not limited to) Zara, Forever 21, Gap, NYX, Béis Luggage, Alex and Ani, Cotton On, Joybird, Crocs, Pinkberry, Fossil, Ruggable, and Aldo, Barbie went through every vertical.”
In addition to their incredible partnerships, Barbie was scrappy and “focused on pop ups and experiences with other brands, increasing their virality.” This was really shown in their collaboration with Airbnb. They took over a Malibu beach house, transforming it top to bottom into Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse - Ken’s Way.
Barbie and Airbnb invited individuals like John Legend and Chrissy Teigen with their family to stay in the house to experience Ken’s Way. Their “strategic approach to picking influencers to go there maximizes their impressions!”
“You can’t have a boring photoshoot in the studio and expect it to do well on social.”
Piper is taking this to heart when it comes to marketing at Tru. While you may not have millions of dollars to pump into social media, you can be scrappy and creative in your approach. For a D2C brand like Tru, that may look like a pop-up event where influencers take video content and that video content becomes paid social.
Laura Lee, Founder and Fractional CMO at LL Consulting
Laura Lee started her career on the agency side of things, got her “bootcamp” in, as she likes to call it. Then she decided to go in house and brand direct! With an extensive career spanning over 15 years across the consumer product, entertainment, and gaming sectors, she’s a seasoned marketing leader known for her data-driven and holistic approach.
She’s done everything from studio businesses to different gaming clients to live events to streaming, and now is venturing into aerospace and tourism. One of the biggest and newest changes has been the launch of her consultancy, working as a fractional CMO and advisor for brands looking to excel their growth and drive their digital media strategies. Like Piper, Laura pointed to the Barbie movie as an exceptional example of marketing.
“There wasn’t a moment where you didn’t see anything related to Barbie. You couldn’t escape it!”
You could tell that the marketing campaign was fully supported by Barbie, Warner Bros., and Mattel. Their leadership really understood that a cohesive and extensive marketing plan will bring results. You could see 100% belief from all sides.
Studio executives estimate the campaign to have cost $150 million, and that’s not including the $145 million production budget! The consistency across the board from Barbie’s omnichannel presence was incredible. The most consistent was, of course, the color pink. The Barbie marketing has stayed true to their #e0218a shade of pink. So if you got the feeling that you couldn’t escape it, it was purposeful.
The team took every chance to inspire joy and virality with a top tier album release, to a Barbie selfie generator, to a limited edition Barbie XBox console and controllers.
“This is one of those case studies where you can say, ‘if you truly believe in marketing and you go all in, these are the results you can get.’”
What Can We learn?
In the realm of B2B brand marketing campaigns, the imperatives of authenticity, consistent brand identity, and storytelling stand as pillars of enduring success. Authenticity, the bedrock of trust, establishes a genuine connection with business partners and clients, fostering loyalty and long-lasting relationships. A consistent brand identity, meticulously maintained across all touchpoints, reinforces brand recognition and reliability, reinforcing a sense of familiarity and dependability that clients can count on.
Storytelling transcends mere information, weaving narratives that resonate emotionally, making your B2B concepts relatable and memorable. In the competitive landscape of B2B marketing, these principles not only distinguish a brand but also empower it to engage, inspire, and ultimately lead the way in a crowded marketplace. In essence, authenticity, consistent brand identity, and storytelling are not just elements; they are the essence of B2B brand marketing campaigns that leave a lasting impact and drive sustainable success. How will you use them to your benefit?
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