There’s no sure-fire formula for the best marketing campaign, but unpick any memorable effort and you’re likely to find a brave brand, some brilliant creative, and a moment or two of inspiration. The right message at the right time can supercharge your brand in its home territory, or even help it conquer new markets.
Creating a global marketing campaign means more than translating ad copy into regional languages. Where cultures and sensibilities vary, global brands need to temper their global messages with local understanding. The best global marketing campaigns work because they appeal to what we all have in common while understanding and responding to what it is that we don’t.
So what does this look like? Here’s our pick of the best global marketing campaigns in 2018-2019:
#ForTheThrone – HBO and Droga5 New York, 2019
For eight years and 73 episodes, Game of Thrones drew global viewers into the plot, intrigue, and outright violence centred on the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. By early 2019, millions of fans awaited the eighth and final series, which — to help prevent piracy — would launch simultaneously worldwide.
Despite the series’ popularity, HBO needed to maximise the anticipation and coverage of the climactic episodes in a way that would have global appeal. Working with Droga5 New York, it devised #ForTheThrone — a campaign that gave fans the opportunity to quest, bleed, or create for the Throne.
While Create For The Throne let fans worldwide share GoT-inspired creations through social media, the campaign also hit a darker, more original note. Fans could literally bleed for the Throne, by donating blood through regional blood service partners. Perhaps most effectively, Quest For The Throne created a treasure hunt buzz by concealing six replicas of the Iron Throne in secret locations around the world, encouraging fans to find and ‘claim’ them.
By linking fantasy and reality, #ForTheThrone amplified fan excitement and increased awareness of the upcoming eighth season. Regional partnerships and a worldwide treasure hunt helped ensure global relevance; #ForTheThrone is shortlisted for the 2019 Cannes Lions.
The Best Men Can Be – Gillette and Grey New York, 2019
The Best Men Can Be sums up everything that can go right, and many things that can go wrong with a global campaign. Seizing the #MeToo movement and wider discussion of men’s role and behaviour in society, the campaign seeks to challenge the image of masculinity Gillette had previously celebrated under its ‘The Best a Man Can Get’ slogan.
On the one hand, many welcomed the demise of the dated, hyper-masculine Gillette Man, and the company’s challenge to men to rethink sexist and violent behaviour. Others, however, objected — with some perceiving an attack on masculinity, or simply questioning the company’s credibility. Journalist Josh Barrow asked: ‘Who is Gillette to tell me this? I just came here for razors.’
For a brand, joining a movement invariably risks alienating those who aren’t moving. With a global campaign, differing cultures and attitudes make it even more essential to judge and convey the message carefully. Not everyone agrees that The Best Men Can Be gets it right, but Gillette should at least be applauded for trying to move things on. Cannes Lions clearly thinks so: the campaign is shortlisted in the 2019 awards.
Shot on iPhone – Apple and TBWA Media Arts Lab, 2014-2019
Apple is hardly a stranger to marketing ‘best of’ lists, and sure enough, it can teach us all a thing or two about global marketing campaigns. Back in 2014, the iPhone had drawn criticism for its underwhelming camera. With the iPhone 6, Apple had addressed the problem, and it wanted everyone to know.
The result was Shot on iPhone, a brilliant campaign that demonstrates the quality of the iPhone’s camera through user-generated content. While many campaigns encourage UGC with varying degrees of success, Apple has used its media reach to amplify its campaign beyond digital, splashing users’ iPhone images on billboards and huge site-specific hoardings, and displaying them in stores.
Aside from simply showing how good iPhone cameras now are, Apple has ensured the campaign has global relevance, by choosing photos that reflect regional themes and locations. Apple has also taken care to seed the campaign with global photographers, known across print and digital channels. A Cannes Lions winner in 2015, the campaign continues to support current generation iPhones.
Just Do It – Nike and Wieden+Kennedy Portland, 1988-2019
It seems hard to believe that Nike’s Just Do It campaign is more than thirty years old, but such is its success that it’s now hard to imagine the clothing and sportswear brand without it. Launched in 1988, the campaign harnesses the focus and motivation of professional athletes to inspire people from all backgrounds to achieve more.
Over the years, Nike has deftly kept the campaign relevant, leveraging sponsorship deals with leading athletes of the day such as Ronaldinho, Roger Federer, and Serena Williams. It’s ensured global relevance by sponsoring worldwide talent and by localising campaigns around regional teams and sporting heroes.
With the 30th anniversary ‘Dream Crazy’ sub-campaign, Nike demonstrated its confidence in Just Do It, addressing polarising themes such as NFL star Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the US anthem, and the legal battle over middle-distance runner Caster Semenya. Nike faced a significant backlash over the former, but the risk paid off: the brand’s revenue grew by 14% over the relevant quarter. Just Do It recently added the Ad Age Creativity Award to its long list of accolades. Refreshed and as relevant as ever, it looks set to run and run.
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