The best marketing campaigns are easy to spot but hard to know how to duplicate. Some are funny. Some provoke thought. Some are edgy. And all of them hit their mark with whatever audience they’re targeting.
From the outside looking in, creating a memorable marketing campaign may seem like magic. But behind the scenes isn’t just luck. It takes a well-planned strategy — something you can create for your business or organization too.
By deconstructing the process of creating an email marketing campaign, you can learn how to implement one effectively for your business or organization. Get inspired by outreach initiatives — keep reading to see my picks — because you may find that what you create is more effective than you could ever imagine.
What are the best marketing campaigns? They’re the ones that reach the target audience and help you achieve your goals.
A decade ago, I worked to pass a referendum to fund a local children and family funding agency. I knew I had to figure out a way to connect with senior citizens. They were the ones who voted en masse, yet they were also the most detached from the results of the agency’s work.
I created a campaign I lovingly called “The Summer of the Senior.” Those hot months were spent visiting assisted living homes, connecting with in-home health aides, and talking with anyone who would listen about the benefits the agency offered to the community at large. I bought yo-yos and begged seniors to show me their moves.
By combining in-person visits with social media campaigns and special event outreach, I aimed to remind older residents of the value of supporting happy, healthy childhood development. It worked: That November, the referendum passed with 77% of the vote.
It was no international campaign, but it served its purpose. While it’s important to learn the tricks and tips that come from the best marketing campaigns, I’m sharing the story about “The Summer of the Senior” to offer some perspective. Marketing campaigns come in all shapes and sizes, based on what will work for your target audience.
What is a marketing campaign?
Before exploring some of the best marketing campaigns, let’s understand what a marketing campaign is in the first place.
A marketing campaign is a time-restricted outreach initiative targeting a specific group of people with a single message for a predetermined goal. Let’s break that down below.
When a company really hits it out of the park with a marketing campaign, they will usually keep it going. For example, the Chik-fil-A campaign with a cartoon cow encouraging people to “Eat Mor Chikin” made drivers who passed the billboards laugh. The company launched the campaign decades ago, and it still works.
But a decade-long campaign like this isn’t the norm. When you begin brainstorming a marketing campaign, start with a limited time frame. Consider having the campaign last from one to three months before you step back to review the results.
Deciding in advance to limit the campaign in this way also takes the pressure off. Even the best marketing campaigns involve trial and error. And shorter “mini campaigns” can also be effective.
Targets a certain audience
More important than when the campaign runs, however, is who you want to notice your message. Everything that happens with marketing must focus on the target audience if you want to see success.
A common mistake is trying to make the message too general. Instead, it’s more effective to brainstorm a much narrower focus. Consider not only the demographics but also the hobbies and habits of the people you are trying to reach.
For example, it would have been a waste of money to have an influencer marketing campaign on TikTok for my “Summer of the Senior” campaign.
Where do you want to reach out to your target audience? Marketing campaigns are usually limited not by creativity or imagination but by budget. You need to decide what kind of marketing you’d like to do for this specific campaign.
Other kinds of outreach initiatives include:
- Email marketing
- Landing page
- Mobile marketing
- Social media
We’ll cover each of these to share some of the best marketing campaigns in recent years to give you inspiration. But remember, you don’t have to do it all. The best campaigns aren’t necessarily omnipresent on every platform. They are focused to ensure they make the most sense for the target audience.
A single message
Next, a marketing campaign is structured to share one overarching message. This is based on a marketing principle known as the Rule of Seven. This psychological concept states that someone needs to be exposed to something seven times before it sinks in.
You may discover there are many different ways to say the same thing, or you may want to use different ad designs with the same wording. It’s great to be creative — ideal, actually! — but make sure you stay on message with each element of your marketing campaign.
Finally, the best marketing campaigns all have a specific goal in mind. Again, generalizing a goal won’t make it easier. Yes, everyone wants more customers. But in what way?
Do you want more people to sign up for an email drip campaign? Buy something through a landing page? Visit your store? Schedule a consultation? Or do you want them to learn about your brand?
Pick what is known as a SMART goal. This stands for:
At the end of your campaign, schedule a time to critique your results. Learn from the process so you can improve next time.
Why are marketing campaigns important?
Nearly every small- and medium-sized business owner I meet tells me at some point how busy they are running their business. I believe it! But scheduling time to plan your marketing campaigns will actually take less time in the long run. And it will pay off in the long run, too!
When you create a marketing campaign, you force yourself to sit down well in advance of the start of the campaign to plan the entire thing out. When you create a well-planned strategy, you won’t find yourself scrambling at the last minute to get the word out about your services or products.
When business owners don’t do the work in advance, they often implement what I call the “spaghetti against the wall” marketing method. That is, they throw everything out there to see what sticks. While it’s possible to find success this way, it’s more likely that they’ll waste a lot of energy and money in the process.
So, what are the best marketing campaigns? They’re written and ready to implement. You know where you’ll put your resources when you’ll launch specific elements, and what everything will say. You’ve done the hard work in advance by creating the campaign. The rest is just execution.
How to run a successful marketing campaign
Running a successful marketing campaign happens effortlessly with proper planning, but that doesn’t mean the planning won’t take some work. When there are some things you haven’t thought of, it won’t take long to notice. That’s why it’s a good idea to schedule a meeting with your team — or even just a creative friend or two — to hash out the work long before you want to begin the campaign.
To run a successful marketing campaign, you’ll want to check off the following action steps.
1. Start the process early
A common error many busy business owners and even marketing professionals make is waiting until the last minute to plan their campaigns. For example, if you want to launch a targeted outreach initiative over the Christmas holiday, you’ll want to begin the brainstorming process before autumn.
When you operate in a crisis mentality, you actually aren’t planning at all. Instead, you’re shooting from the hip. If you plot out your entire campaign before you even start, you won’t have to worry when you inevitably get busy.
2. Figure out the budget
How much are you willing to pay for marketing methods like influencer contracts or social media advertisements? Organic, unpaid outreach will rarely make the impact you seek. Set yourself up for success by creating a budget for the campaign.
There’s plenty of debate about the proper amount to spend on a marketing campaign, but you should consider the campaign part of your overall marketing budget. Depending on the level of growth you seek, your marketing budget could be anywhere from 5% to 20% of your overall sales.
Some methods of outreach perform, on average, better than others. Email marketing has a return on investment (ROI) of $36 for every $1 spent, so keep this in mind as you determine your campaign’s budget.
3. Create a timeline
Schedule when you want to post blogs, launch advertisements, debut videos, or post billboards. Since your campaign will only run for a specific length of time, you’ll want everything to run smoothly. For instance, you’ll need to have your landing page live before you create pay-per-click (PPC) ads that drive people to the page.
Create deadlines for each element of work within the marketing campaign so that nothing falls through the cracks.
4. Delegate tasks
Before the first deadline, ensure everyone knows precisely what’s expected of them during the campaign. It’s important to communicate expectations to your team. Make sure everyone is comfortable with the plan so you can set your marketing campaign up for success.
Make sure your team members can realistically complete the delegated tasks. They need the right skills — Are they ready to write blogs? Who will edit them? — and enough time to complete the work. By planning this part in advance, every person involved will feel confident in your plan, and nothing will fall through the cracks.
5. Prepare for the launch
In the weeks leading up to the launch of your marketing campaign, take time to review the plan one more time with all the involved team members. Ensure everyone is comfortable with their assigned tasks, and check that everything is covered. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of planning each and every step.
The more work that can be done in advance, the better. For example, if you want to launch an email marketing campaign, it’s possible to create, review, approve, and schedule each email weeks early.
6. Tap a lead team member
When it’s time to begin the campaign, appoint someone from your team to oversee it. This doesn’t mean they should be doing everything, but rather ensuring nothing falls through the cracks. Having a spreadsheet outlining the tasks, deadlines, and responsible team members for each makes the process easier to track.
Then, have the person overseeing the campaign monitor its impact. Just as it was important to set SMART goals at the beginning of the process, it’s also important to determine if you’ve met those goals. Set a review time halfway through the campaign, then again at the end.
Once the ROI and other success benchmarks have been measured, you can perform a critical analysis of what went right and what could be done better next time.
The best marketing campaigns out there
What is the most popular marketing campaign? We can get this one out of the way early because it’s just three little words: Just Do It. In 1988, Nike launched this campaign highlighting the success of athletes of all shapes and sizes.
Nike encouraged their brand loyalists to submit personal stories about how they “just did it,” and they turned their brand into a motivation for winning. Moreover, they more than doubled their revenue in just a decade, thanks to that core message.
While it’s tough to reach that level of success, the takeaway is clear: Align your company’s values with your target customers’ values. Athletes know that it isn’t always about winning but doing your best. They must get off the couch and put in the effort to accomplish this. Focusing such a value-based concept in a simple message can work for you, too.
What are some examples of marketing campaigns that work? You’ll notice that only the biggest corporations have the budget for true omnipresent campaigns like Nike had. The best marketing campaigns get noticed because they start with a single platform with a message that resonates with their target audience.
Maybe you think Netflix is addicting enough that you don’t need an email to encourage binge-watching — but this powerhouse media company has some of the best email marketing, just in case.
Email is a natural outreach method for Netflix, which requires the email addresses of all its users upon joining. And everyone who watches Netflix is also comfortable getting their updates on a screen.
But that’s not the only thing that sets Netflix apart. Not only do they announce new shows through email marketing, but they do so with very segmented audiences. Users only get information about shows they’ve watched or may be interested in enjoying.
For example, if you’ve seen every episode of Stranger Things, you’ll receive an email inviting you to check out their merchandise and live updates on upcoming episodes. Properly segmenting email lists is extremely important, especially when your products and services are as diverse as that of Netflix.
Instead of sending potential customers to your main website and forcing them to navigate (they won’t), consider making a separate landing page for whatever you specifically wish to offer. Slack, a software company used for internal business communication, does this especially well.
Slack offers what they call Digital HQ offerings for many different types of businesses, so they needed different landing pages to push specific sales based on the different audiences targeted in their advertisements. For example, they send their sales teams to a specific page that outlines why it would benefit them to work through their software.
While it’s possible to scroll through the landing page to learn about software integrations and how to move more quickly through a pitch to a close, notice the buttons at the top of the page. Prospective customers will immediately see how to speak directly with a Slack representative and even try their product for free.
All companies can use this takeaway when crafting and directing people to their landing pages. Always make the next step — your goal of the campaign — obvious. In this case, it’s signing up new customers.
Have you ever visited an IKEA store only to realize you’ve spent hours longer than you had originally planned? The Swedish brand solved this time warp for their customers with one of the best marketing campaigns for mobile devices.
They created an app called IKEA Place based on augmented reality that allows customers to virtually place a new piece of furniture in their home. This free app is a worthy substitute for perusing a catalog, plus it’s easier to update — and fun.
The takeaway here? Think about a problem your customers or potential customers have and solve it in a fun way.
SMS, short for “short message service,” is a text that consists of no more than 160 characters. Often, you’ll get these texts from your mobile carrier. Sometimes, a company will have access to phone numbers and use SMS marketing for targeted outreach. One of the best SMS marketing campaigns comes from Urban Outfitters, the hip clothing and home goods store.
These work especially well because they let shoppers know about limited-time, surprise sales on specific items. The feeling of getting a jump on the sale, as well as the limited time of availability, encourages loyal shoppers to stop whatever they’re doing and click right away. Consider creating a similar feeling through SMS, which can be a fun and exciting disruption to a customer’s day.
Social media marketing
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel-related industry took a significant hit — and Airbnb was no exception. But the company created a social media campaign that kept itself relevant by reaching out to its customers about important current events.
On Facebook, Airbnb announced major donations to fighting anti-Asian hate crimes and supporting the work of Black Lives Matter. As one of the best social media marketing campaigns, this showed Airbnb customers that the company cares about their safety, which ties in directly with providing shelter in places around the world.
All that TikTok dancing can make kids thirsty, and thanks to one of the best influencer marketing campaigns, now they know what to order. In 2020, Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with TikTok influencer Charli D’Amelio to create a special drink on their menu. The “Charli” is a cold brew with whole milk and three pumps of caramel swirl.
To sweeten the already-sugary campaign, Dunkin’ added incentives like additional DD Perks points for fans who order the drink on their app and even an opportunity for fans to share a drink with the dancer. She also took over the company’s social channels. Remember this as you think about how to connect fans with your products or services.
Business-to-business (B2B) marketing can prove some of the most challenging, as the target audience often consists of many different personalities throughout various demographics and even industries. Yet the best B2B marketing campaigns can hit their mark with success.
WeWork, a coworking firm with locations worldwide, made an impact with its video-based campaign. They created videos encouraging creative professionals to network and complete their work by outlining the benefits of a community.
These short videos featured fun activities like arcade games and bocci mixed with people working diligently. It made coworking seem much more fun than working alone at home.
Consider the power of the medium — in this case, video — when reaching out to your target audience. WeWork used colorful locations and actors of different ethnicities to demonstrate that they are open to everyone. You can create messages with visuals, too.
Start brainstorming your next campaign now
By integrating these takeaway lessons from some of the best marketing campaigns, you can create an outreach initiative that will reach your target audience, meet your goals, and — perhaps most importantly — grow your business.
Write down everything you can about your ideal customer as a first step toward brainstorming a marketing campaign for your business. By focusing on the details that describe your target audience, you’ll better understand what they’re looking for and what problems you can help them solve.
As you strategize your marketing campaign, you’ll find that most of the work is front-ended. That means it will quickly get easier to execute what you and your team need to do to get noticed right away.