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9 digital campaigns to learn from

9 digital campaigns to learn from Jim Nichols

Behold some of the best that digital marketers created in the last year. Some are integrated multi-execution efforts, others are simply powerful one-offs. But all of them signal the beginning of a new era of creativity that includes platform and format as part of the effort to move the needle.

Ford Focus: Doug

Ford did a nice job "relevantizing" Ford Focus's appeal to younger drivers with the "Doug" puppet campaign. In addition to videos like this, the presence in social media was funny, tight, and popular. Ford's digital marketing manager, Scott Kelly, says he acts as a liaison of decency between Doug and the public, as well as letting us interject some vehicle features in a natural way. Results are good. Mashable reports 36,000 Facebook fans and some 1.7 million video views, strong conversions to sale, and a brand image that markedly improved among target buyers. Not bad for a puppet!

Google: The web is what you make of it

There are so many things to like about the new campaign for Chrome, which encompasses traditional, online, mobile, and social. This particular "viral" execution has so many things going for it. It is how you do celebrity in an era of consumer participation. The effort shows how Chrome empowers such amazing experiences that wouldn't have been at all possible even a few years ago. And it puts Google squarely at the center of the best of what digital has to offer. Yeah, yeah, Google does TV now. But it's Googly, and in the process, takes ownership of the things people love about our new media era.

McDonalds: Pong

The great thing about "I'm lovin' it" is that it is a concept that can encompass so many fun things. That breadth is great for a brand that needs to be about a lot more than the best fries ever! This MickeyD's campaign from Sweden featured an enormous billboard on which two passersby could play Pong. If you successfully played it for 30 seconds, you were sent a mobile coupon for free McDonald's food. I admit that I have no transactional results to show you here to confirm its immediate business impact. But as a means of generating buzz and cementing the company's fun and hip credentials with young people of all ages, this effort was "magnifik." In my view, mega brands need to create special experiences like this to create lasting consumer impact in an era of media fragmentation and change.

Paramount's Twitter sneak peek

It's often tough to tie sales to social, but this interesting campaign for the Paramount theatrical release of "Super 8" drove $1 million in theater tickets and strong buzz for a modest budget title. The program offered a combination of official announcements and what they call a "Promoted Trend" to flag pre-release showings. The effort contributed to opening weekend box office sales that were higher than expected.

Audi's A8 Klout campaign

The luxury market is incredibly crowded these days, so I liked Audi's use of influencers as a means of generating bottom up buzz. Just one of the tactics was the Klout perks offering to encourage people to test drive the car and discuss it with their networks. The effort generated loads of tweets and great reach for people-originated endorsements of the Audi standard of luxury.

BK's Channel 111

When BK changed agencies, it signaled a philosophical shift from lifestyle messaging to product front-and-center. What better way to do that than placing it smack dab in the middle of DirectTV's channel 111. By staring at the Whopper for long periods of time, you could earn coupons for free sandwiches. But if you looked away, you might miss a demand that you press a button on your remote. Miss an order, start over. What makes this such a great interactive digital campaign is how it put interactivity at the center of a TV focused campaign -- a media rarely known for its participatory side. The buzz from this effort was awesome, and I would imagine that all that time staring created internal dissonance in many a cynical viewer. I call it Flamebroglio -- I want to deny my personal susceptibility to advertising. But look at those perfect grill marks!

Barbie takes Ken back

Years ago, the world was stunned when Barbie dumped Ken for some Australian McConaughey clone named Blaine. I'm guessing it was an effort to make her a little more trendy in a world of loose Bratz. But things soured with the Aussie (I'm guessing too much beer was part of the problem.) In 2011, Barbie saw her error thanks to a massive publicity campaign asking America if she should take Ken back. My favorite piece was this little video showing Ken finding Barbie using the powerful algorithms of Match.com. But there were loads of components to this effort. Tens of millions of impressions, several million Facebook fans, lots of votes, and for the first time, millions became part of the brand and actually cared about America's favorite anatomically incorrect doll. This sort of voting isn't new, but the massive multi-dimensional nature of the digitally centered effort made it feel fresh.

Brand Harry Potter and Pottermore

The HP books created a literary sensation that the world arguably hasn't seen since Twain and Dickens serialized their stories in newspapers. But J.K. Rowling told us that the saga is over. How do you keep the excitement and revenue coming from a completed franchise? Why with Pottermore, of course, a groundbreaking interactive environment in which fans of all ages can read new content and participate in the stories. And while they are there, buy unique electronic content and the first ebook editions. Will it work? I think so, but what really matters is that it offers a really remarkable new model for the book business that leverages the static stories in uniquely participatory ways. This, while continuing to sell stuff.

JC Penney personalized QR codes

I was really taken by this innovative use of QR codes as a means of delivering personal audio messages on holiday gifts purchased from JCP. Buy the item at Penney's, get a personal QR code card, record your message, and make your gift recipient smile! What a brilliant way of making goods purchased at Penney's -- which are often precisely the same goods that you could purchase somewhere else -- and make them uniquely valuable. What a great way to get people to shop Penney's first, and buy the item where they first find it. QR codes are often used by consumers to find lower prices online. In this case, Penney's has flipped the model on its head and in the process, driven incremental sales!

Jim Nichols is a marketing and strategy contractor.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Jim Nichols is VP of Marketing for Apsalar. Jim has 20+ years experience in over 80 different categories, including developing successful positioning and go-to-market plans for more than 40 adtech and martech companies. He joins Apsalar after...

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Commenter: Chloe Della Costa

2012, February 02

Great picks, Jim! :)