To see out the year, we are looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.
In April, Burger King Spain added a team of professional video gamers to its food delivery service, bringing its product straight into consumers' nightly gaming sessions. The global fast-food chain's Burger Clan of nine professional gamers entered weekend online sessions of FIFA '17, Call of Duty and other popular titles, giving recreational gamers the honour of playing with them before taking their food delivery orders at the end of the session.
In July, Taco Bell went all out with a finishing touch for the late-night reveller's journey home. In collaboration with ride-hailing service Lyft, the US chain introduced Taco Mode to Lyft customers' riding experience. Passengers had the option to activate Taco Mode in the app en route, adding a stop at a Taco Bell to their journey – including one free taco.
Burger King's limited run was an elaborate project that built brand loyalty by introducing hobby gamers to pros. But Taco Bell's Lyft partnership came with a frictionless user experience that slotted more naturally into the customer's day – who wouldn't want a taco after drinks? Such consideration for an organic overall experience makes Taco Bell the winner.
To see out the year, we're looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.
In 2016, Procter and Gamble's skincare brand SK-II started a conversation around China's 'leftover women' (those unmarried at 27) with its Marriage Market video (see New Attitudes to Love and Sex). This summer, the brand expanded the message into other Asian markets with The Expiry Date. The dystopian ad highlights cultural expectations around Asian women marrying young by literally putting expiry dates on the wrists of newborn girls in China, Japan and South Korea – a source of increasing shame as they grow. The story ends with the dates disappearing, followed by the message: "You are more than your age. Don't let others put an expiry date on you."
In the UK, beauty giant Avon marked its sponsorship deal with the Liverpool Ladies' Football Club with Fiercely Feminine, an ad featuring the team's players that critiques society's disconnect between femininity and athleticism. The partnership is part of Avon's larger I Can Be campaign to inspire girls to achieve their ambitions. A report commissioned by Avon found that 29% of UK women believe social barriers and stereotypes placed on women have held them back.
Both brands are advocating for a shift in our perception of women's ambitions. However, SK-II's dystopian scenario drives the message home with a stronger punch.
To see out the year, we're looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.
On December 4 2017, California-based outdoor apparel brand Patagonia strongly opposed President Trump's executive order to drastically reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. "The president stole your land," read a blackout message on Patagonia's website and social media accounts. "This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history." Patagonia's billionaire founder and chief executive Yvon Chouinard amplified the message by saying he plans to sue the Trump administration over the decision.
Earlier this year, British fashion retailer Jigsaw met rising anti-immigration sentiments in the UK head-on with its 'Heart Immigration' manifesto (see Tackling Taboos), which reads: "None of us are the product of staying put." Jigsaw's head of marketing Alex Kelly said: "As a brand, we couldn't do what we do without the immigration of people, ideas and culture." To further challenge the notion of '100% British', the company let its employees analyse the ancestry of their genes, laying open their diverse origins.
Jigsaw took an unflinching position in a very heated political environment, and the staff gene analysis was a great way of making the political personal. Patagonia's promise of direct action, however, is a new watermark for brands standing up not only for themselves, but also for their customers, making the outdoor brand the champion of this battle.
For more on drawing a line in the sand and putting your brand on it, see Brands Take a Stand from our Macro Trend The Currency of Dissent and Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing.
The GDPR Forum in London aimed to demystify GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), an act coming into force in the EU in May 2018. GDPR imposes new rules around the use of personal data, which includes the sort of consumer data collected and processed by businesses and start-ups. "It's going to change the way you interact both as an individual and as an organisation online," said David Lockie, Founder & Director of UK digital agency Pragmatic.
All the speakers agreed that GDPR offers a big opportunity for marketers to get ahead of the scare stories and use the new regulations as a way of building stronger relationships with consumers.
"[Brands and] agencies have a role to play in safeguarding the people who use the services we build," commented Lockie. "We have a responsibility to help you limit your risks."
Key takeaways for brands in any industry:
See Dimensions of Trust for more on effective use of consumer data in marketing and advertising.
Creating long-form content in the era of the shrinking attention span may seem counterintuitive, but native programming that aligns with audience interests can make sense for brands whose consumers don't see traditional TV ads. In its first foray into long-form content, Honda's luxury brand Acura has partnered with Amazon Media Group on a documentary called This Is What We Make. The film explores entrepreneurship and the process of taking a product from concept to market – something we explore in detail in Unlocking Internal Innovation, from our Work/Life Revolution Macro Trend.
The collaboration is part of Amazon's Launchpad programme, which helps entrepreneurs launch and distribute their products to Amazon customers – a concept that taps into the same brands-as-incubators trend we saw with BuzzFeed's new Launch initiative (see BuzzFeed Offers Marketing for New Start-Ups).
For Acura, the aim is to convey its "entrepreneurial, challenger" qualities, with the brand itself present in the documentary via appearances from general manager Jon Ikeda. The film is available on Amazon's Prime Video service, through the Amazon Video Direct self-publishing service. Co-branded media promoting the film drives viewers to a custom landing page on Amazon.
As discussed in Capturing Cord-Cutters, consumer untethering from TV schedules and migration to platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix is opening up opportunities for well-made and subtly branded marketer content in the video stream. We explore this concept of "brand as studio" in our upcoming Look Ahead 2018 report.
A new UK virtual reality project called The Wayback aims to help people with dementia and Alzheimer's. Launched via Kickstarter, it recreates key events from the past as a way to boost personal memories of those moments.
The first to be reproduced is the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The Wayback team, in partnership with ad agency Grey London, shot a recreation of a street party celebrating the event, focusing on particular details – from authentic clothing to conversations that may have occurred among participants – that may spark memories in those viewing the footage.
"The Wayback virtual reality film offers those living with dementia the opportunity to live in the moment, to go back in time and to just ' be ' again," said Dr David Sheard, a dementia expert and consultant on the project. "The Wayback enables families to see the person is not lost to dementia, but able to still experience and feel being who they were, and share those memories with them."
The Wayback follows on from global ad agency Y&R's Chat Yourself app, released in April 2017, which aimed to help dementia sufferers recall key information via a chatbot interface. The initiative won numerous awards at this year's Cannes Lions, including Gold in the Mobile category.
Free the Bid – an American advertising industry initiative aiming to level the playing field for female directors – just celebrated its first anniversary by expanding into Australia.
The campaign calls on ad agencies, brands, production companies and broadcasters to consider at least one female director for every ad project they realise. Directors' bids (or applications to work on a project) are assembled during pre-production, and it's common not to see any female directors included in the selection. Currently, only 9% of ads are directed by women.
US tech company HP became one of the first brand sponsors of the initiative in September 2016, when it sent a letter to its creative agencies tasking them with increasing the number of women and people of colour on their teams. In tune with this, HP has just released Reinvent Giving – the 2017 holiday contribution to its ongoing Keep Reinventing campaign. The two-minute short film was conceived by BBDO San Francisco and directed by Sara Dunlop, who was selected through Free the Bid.
Levi's, LinkedIn and Twitter are the latest brands to commit to the initiative. Michael Fassnacht, chief executive and president of Chicago-based ad agency FCB, said that taking part in the scheme had led to 95% of its productions including female bids, compared to just 40% before taking the pledge.
An inclusive workforce is beneficial to any organisation, but marketers and advertisers especially need to ensure that their creative teams are as diverse as the audience they're hoping to reach. For more on what companies can gain through inclusivity, see Diverse Talent, Superhero Staff – part of our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution.
To promote the second season of its hit show Stranger Things, Netflix teamed up with Snapchat and Shazam on an augmented reality (AR) experience that allowed users to explore the Byers family's living room – a key setting in the show – via their phone screens.
AR experiences interact with physical spaces. This makes geolocation a common AR access point and lets brands drive consumers to real locations – like Gruesome Gotham. The new app from US digital agency Firstborn guides users to the scenes of 19th-century murders in New York City. However, partnering with London-based music identification app Shazam enabled users to unlock the Stranger Things experience via sound, rather than location. On hearing the show's theme tune, Shazam sent users to the Byers house on Snapchat, regardless of their physical location – creating an elaborate brand moment for Netflix.
As smartphones' AR capabilities take the format mainstream, audiences are also gaining access to creation tools. Google has just launched Poly – a stock library of digital 3D objects where anyone can share free-to-use items and sceneries made with tools like Google Tilt Brush (see Pop Culture Round-Up: February 2017). This means consumer-created AR is just around the corner; Snapchat is probably already working on accessible building tools for its users, so every brand should be investing in the format.
For more on uncovering ownable digital brand moments, see Third Spaces: Targeting the Transitory. For the latest developments in AR engagement, see State of Mobile: AR Special and our September Pop Culture Round-Up.
BuzzFeed has announced Launch, a new initiative that will see the entertainment platform partner with start-ups to help promote their products across BuzzFeed properties. Start-ups can pitch their product via the Launch website, and BuzzFeed will choose one per quarter to push to its 650-million-strong audience.
The initiative has emerged from BuzzFeed's Product Labs, the company's e-commerce arm established at the beginning of 2017 that has since launched products including a Bluetooth-enabled cooktop. Ben Kaufman, head of Product Labs, told US tech blog Recode that Launch was inspired by "the fact there's a whole new breed of companies coming out of Kickstarter that don't have a big marketing budget. But we think they will connect with our audience." (See Beta Blends: Dexterous & Dynamic Store Design for more on brands behaving as 'innovation brokers').
According to Recode, BuzzFeed will potentially charge Launch partners 10-20% of their net revenue in exchange for the marketing push across its digital platforms.
BuzzFeed's evolution from supposedly frivolous "listicle" website to product creator and now start-up incubator is one that all brands can learn from. In 2018, every business will need to transform its operations and embrace new roles – particularly in relation to marketing, as ad blocking, automation and the dominance of Facebook and Google continue to be obstacles to consumer attention. Savvy brands will want to follow BuzzFeed's example, positioning themselves in the intersection between underserved consumer needs, breakthrough technology and engaging content.
Our Look Ahead 2018 report will explore these themes in more detail – look out for it in December.
Taking retail-tainment to a new level, British fashion giant Topshop has launched a pre-Halloween extravaganza with Netflix to promote the second season of the latter’s cult TV show, Stranger Things.
Encompassing the store, windows and merchandise of Topshop’s London flagship, it illustrates the changing role of the physical store environment into a platform where experiences are becoming as critical as products. The multi-tiered initiative also highlights the allure of bolstering revenue and brand exposure with beyond-retail sources.
Conceding an unprecedented amount of space to a productless display (extraordinary, given its prime location on Oxford Street), the windows host two interactive stage sets. One replicates a central character’s living room; the other is a lab where visitors can ‘test’ their telekinetic powers with an actor. The televisual connection is emphasised by a huge black forest silhouette that surrounds the windows on the store’s façade.
Continuing the cross-promotion, Topshop’s e-commerce site includes a Stranger Things page featuring a trailer for the new season. It’s also developed an exclusive limited-edition capsule collection of retro-style T-shirts and sweaters, succinctly attuned to the wider fashion trend for reviving classic vintage looks, ads and campaigns – see our A/W 18/19 Nostalgia report for more. The range notably follows Louis Vuitton’s referencing of the TV series in its S/S 18 collection.
The campaign runs until October 31 2017.
For more on the marriage of retail and fan merchandise – specifically how the music industry is compensating for depleted sales – see Fan-Tailing: Tour Merchandise Pop-Ups. For more on evolving brand spaces, see Beta Blends: Dexterous & Dynamic Store Design.
At the annual international television marketplace Mipcom in Cannes (October 16-19), traditional broadcasters sealed partnerships with social platforms to diversify distribution. "Major groups are embracing change and taking a long-term approach by investing heavily in new content destined for all devices," said Laurine Garaude from Mipcom's event organiser Reed Midem.
Alongside deals that will see original NBC content and Olympic Winter Games footage headed to Snapchat, Facebook made waves by scooping up the American remake of Norwegian teen drama Skam (see Pop Culture Round-Up: January 2017) for its new video platform Watch. Skam's original creator, Julie Andem, will work alongside American Idol founder Simon Fuller's firm XIX Entertainment to recreate her show for English-speaking audiences.
The original version of Skam is distributed in real-time clips shared throughout the week on Norwegian broadcaster NRK's homepage and its characters' social media accounts. At the end of the week, the content is packaged into one episode for TV. With a weekly audience of 1.26 million, the social-media-native show draws in a quarter of Norway's population.
Facebook's purchase of the show's remake will help it compete for consumer attention against Netflix's $8bn original content budget in 2018. "What's compelling about Facebook is the opportunity to reach a two-billion-person audience," said Facebook's head of creative strategy Ricky Van Veen. To feed the two billion, Watch already has almost 1,000 shows in its library.
For more on social media's video content boom, see Capturing Cord-Cutters: Advertising Week New York 2017 and Reimagining Human Connectivity: Social Media Week London 2017. To stay up to date with emerging hit formats, follow our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups.
Face filters – which overlay graphics onto users' faces – have become a common way of promoting brands and causes. To mark National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, Mars-owned dog food brand Pedigree has added further functionality to its face filter by turning it into an adoption platform for dogs.
The Pedigree Adoptable Facebook Mask (created by BBDO New York) is available through Facebook's Camera Effect augmented reality (AR) and face recognition platform, where face filters are referred to as masks. US users can simply shake their heads to switch between different dog masks. When they see a set of canine features they like on their own face, they can nod their head and Pedigree will help them find a future selfie buddy by showing dogs with similar faces up for adoption near their location.
As Snapchat and Facebook push cameras as the primary social interaction tool, marketers must consider how they can stretch camera-based experiences beyond one-off moments. Image-recognition user interfaces like this simple shake-or-nod mechanism are the first step towards layered interactions.
Pedigree's initiative also shows how brands can add meaning to banal moments and nudge consumer behaviour to highlight their own core values. This playful experience draws attention to Pedigree's animal welfare commitments without preaching to consumers.
Starbucks has launched the second season of its documentary series Upstanders, featuring stories of "extraordinary courage in unexpected places". The 11 short films cover issues such as immigration, racism, drug abuse and poverty by focusing on "untold stories of courage and extraordinary acts happening across communities in America today", according to Howard Schultz, Starbucks' executive chairman.
In Brands Take a Stand, we discussed how previous Starbucks attempts at purposeful marketing – including misguided engagement with the Black Lives Matter movement – forced the brand to listen to its audience and learn from its mistakes. The result was the successful first season of Upstanders, which debuted last year on YouTube and a dedicated app that now boasts 19 million users. According to Schultz, the first run of Upstanders episodes reached more than 60 million people.
With the second season, Starbucks is expanding its distribution channels: the series will stream on Amazon Prime as well as Facebook's new Watch platform. As we discussed in Reimagining Human Connectivity, consumer appetite for long-form, lean-back video content is growing. In the next 18 months, we'll see this trend fuelling the rise of "brands as studios", with marketers aiming to create content that can compete with the best of Netflix, rather than other brand advertising.
Underpinning this will be a strategy of seeking "uncommon partners", which we explore in Unlocking Internal Innovation from our latest Macro Trend, The Work/Life Revolution. US beverage brand Gatorade, for example, has just launched its own scripted series in partnership with LA-based media firm Awesomeness TV (see Capturing Cord Cutters: Advertising Week New York 2017 for more).
Unilever's global personal care brand Dove has experienced a strong backlash against a racially insensitive Facebook ad. The video for its body wash showed a black woman shrugging off a T-shirt that matched her skin tone – turning into a white woman in the process. The ad has since been pulled.
While the visual was intended to show that the product works for many skin types, it conveyed connotations of racism and colourism, provoking strong reaction. Despite slow and steady social change, definitions of beauty still remain centred around white features. Black bodies are still largely excluded from beauty ideals, while soap and detergent ads even have a racist legacy of depicting black people as dirty.
Dove's oversight suggests that no one along the ad's creative path saw a problem with it – or, if they did, may not have felt empowered to voice their concerns.
Marketing and advertising teams in particular need to reflect the diversity of the audiences they are hoping to connect with, as expressed at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia on October 6. Apple's vice-president of diversity and inclusion, Denise Young Smith, stressed the importance of bringing in staff members from all backgrounds. "Representation and mix contribute to the outcome of any situation," she said.
We address the benefits of culturally inclusive teams in great detail in Diverse Talent, Superhero Staff, part of our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution. For more on what to do in the aftermath of such advertising missteps, see Surviving Marketing Fails.
Global media giant Condé Nast has just announced the launch of Them – a digital media and community hub for the LGBTQ community. The platform will go live on October 26 2017.
Under Teen Vogue's digital editorial director Phillip Picardi's lead, Them will cover current events from an activist point of view, highlighting community leaders and cultural figures across pop culture, fashion, art and politics. It will also be targeted at non-LGBTQ allies, who are keen to learn how to do right by the community.
A third of 16- to 22-year-olds in the UK now identify as gay or bisexual (Ipsos Mori, 2017), while in the US, LGBTQ spending power is estimated to be $917bn annually (Bloomberg, 2016). "We're hoping we can show you storytelling that proves that Them is about all of us," Picardi told Business of Fashion.
Narratives will be arranged around a weekly video multimedia story, with writing, podcasts and infographics enhancing core stories throughout the week. In this way, the platform aims to extend the relevance of its content beyond the 24-hour news cycle.
Further catering to the community it hopes to build with this content, Them will also create physical experiences such as book clubs and partnerships with queer designers on capsule product lines to benefit charities. Burberry, Google and Lyft have already signed on as brand partners.
To learn more about the LGBTQ community's impact on the media landscape, see Next-Gen Beauty Marketing and Marketing to LGBTQ Consumers. For more on how Gen Z connects through digital content, see our pop-culture infographic The Five Es of Gen Zee.