As a supposed marketing pro [I’m not sure what really qualifies someone as that ?], when I think about my favorite advertising campaigns I tend to look beyond just creative or entertaining and gravitate toward ones which have had a lasting impact on the marketing landscape. There are tons of great creative campaigns—from the E-Trade babies to Budweiser’s “Whasssup” to Nike’s Just Do It campaign. But three of my favorite campaigns of all time have left an indelible mark, making approaches commonplace today that didn’t even exist a couple of decades ago.
Campaign #1: Is this a product sell or a category sell? It’s a question I hear almost every week. And generally, anyone with more than about a semester of formal marketing training understands the inquiry. Rewind to the early ‘90s, when even most MBA programs couldn’t define a category sell.
The Got Milk? campaign changed all of that. This campaign wasn’t built for a brand. It was created for a group of milk processors in California who had seen demand for their product drop for over two decades. What began with a focus group of consumers, who had been asked to abstain from milk for a week, turned into an ad campaign that made category selling a mainstream concept.
Between 1993 and 2014, more than 70 commercials and 350 print ads were created, featuring actors, athletes, musicians and celebrities from every field. What began as an ad campaign developed by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in California turned into pop culture, that at its height, was seen on any given day by 80% of U.S. consumers.
Check out some vintage ads from the campaign that took something people were forced to drink as a kid and turned it into something hip to consume as an adult.
Campaign #2: On one hand, beer is one of the easiest products to advertise. Just make it funny, cool or throw in a celebrity, and it becomes aspirational. On the other hand, it’s one of the toughest categories to differentiate, because unless you’re a hops and barley connoisseur, beer is basically beer.
When August Anheuser Busch, Jr. presented his father a group of Clydesdales hitched to a beer wagon to celebrate the end of prohibition, he had no idea he was impacting the way beer would still be advertised over 80 years later. Millions of consumers have seen the Clydesdales in person since 1933. But those figures grew exponentially in 1986 when the initial Clydesdale commercial debuted on Super Bowl XX.
Since then, Budweiser has used these iconic animals to humanize the brand, expand their audience to non-beer drinkers, expose a younger audience to the brand and celebrate Americana with spots like this one after 9/11.
Campaign #3: When a brand can find a way to meet its own business objectives, benefit its customers and support their communities, everyone wins. American Express nailed this trifecta when, in the midst of the 2010 recession, they created Small Business Saturday® targeting the Saturday after Thanksgiving, American Express partnered with local retailers to encourage people to Shop Small and bring more holiday shopping to small businesses.
They launched the concept with various forms of advertising, including this TV spot. American Express also gave various marketing tools to small businesses, from ads to in-store signage to social media ideas. The concept was an immediate success and the U.S. Senate unanimously made Small Business Saturday an official day in 2011. The single-day event surpassed $5 billion in sales by 2013 and is now nearing $20 billion in single-day sales.
Most impressive, Shop Small is now a year-round movement, gaining even more momentum as consumers try to help local businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. What began a decade ago as a single-day American Express promotional idea, has become a nationwide movement to buy local and support small business.
How about your thoughts . . . what ad campaigns do you think have been highly impactful?