With approximately 1 billion people using Facebook, 500 million using Twitter and Youtube’s views hitting 4 billion per day as of November 1st, it’s not an understatement to say that social media has become a significant channel through which to market and sell. While a memorable, impactful and unique social marketing campaign can be a hot ticket to overnight brand success, a poorly thought-out one can cause irreparable damage just as quickly. We rounded up some of the best and worst recent social marketing campaigns and took a look at why they were so successful, or why they failed.

The Burger King, an infamous character in social media.

Two Of Our Favorites

Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

The infamous Old Spice social marketing campaign is one of our favorites of all time. Procter & Gamble managed to revitalize their long-forgotten brand, Old Spice, with what initially started as a single SuperBowl commercial in 2010 and turned into a full-blown viral social campaign. Once regarded as an outdated brand for stuffy elderly men, Old Spice’s image was instantly overhauled with a wildly popular commercial created by ad agency Wieden + Kennedy featuring actor Isiah Mustafa, his genius comedic timing and washboard abs. The commercial hit 13 million views over the course of five months, and was then followed by a Twitter campaign in which the Old Spice man filmed over 180 personalized video responses to users who tweeted about him to the brand. The responses included a marriage proposal and witty banter aimed at celebrities, resulting in 236 million total Youtube views between all videos including the original commercial.

So overall, what was the key to Old Spice’s campaign success? They kept their videos short and witty, created easily shareable content, responded in real time and most importantly – used social media to engage the mass media. The Old Spice campaign proved that when done right, social marketing can have hugely beneficial results on a brand. The stuffy, outdated image that Old Spice initially had was transformed overnight following the release of its Superbowl commercial and ensuing campaign, leading it to become one of the young, hip brands it once had no hopes of competing against.

The Dark Knight Rises – Help Us Catch Batman

As a follow up to the first Dark Knight film’s innovative social media campaign, Warner Brothers created an equally as impressive campaign for this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises. Fans were told that in order to unlock the third and final trailer for the movie, they had to help the fictitious Gotham City Department locate Batman by tracking down hundreds of pieces of graffiti from around the world. Warner Brothers would unlock one frame of the trailer per every piece of graffiti that fans found and tagged on social media.

Within hours, graffiti from Australia to Holland to China had been found, posted on social media and the film’s trailer was unlocked. The campaign was ingenious as it created buzz for the movie via social media by engaging fans of the movie as well as all of their followers who would see their posts about the graffiti.

Unlike the Old Spice campaign which put out witty videos, The Dark Knight Rises campaign put out clues in order to engage fans and the media, create easily shareable content and heighten word of mouth marketing. Judging by the mere matters of hours it took the frenzied fans to unlock over 300 clues across the globe, it’s safe to say the unique campaign was a resounding success.

And Some Of The Worst..

Ragu – Dad Cooks Dinner

Alienating viewers and throwing out insults is a sure-fire way to tarnish your brand’s image. We’re really not sure what Ragu was thinking by putting out a commercial featuring blogger mothers discussing how horrible men are at cooking, and neither were most viewers who saw the ad. To make matters worse, Ragu also began tweeting the link at male bloggers, with remarks such as “How does it feel like to not be able to cook?”. Many people were taken aback by how discriminatory the brand had been towards fathers, playing into the stereotype that men aren’t adept at domestic life and use Ragu in order to make all of their bland creations taste better. What the brand failed to take into account was that in today’s day and age, there are equal parts men who do the cooking, cleaning and laundry while their wives are out being the household breadwinners.

By alienating men altogether, the brand automatically upset half their audience – leading to major backlash. As blogger and father C.C Chapman writes on his website, “I’m sure Ragu doesn’t really hate dads, but after this video I can firmly say that there are plenty of dads who will hate Ragu. I certainly now do.”

What’s the lesson to be learned here? Don’t create campaigns that will alienate your audience, tweet offensive and spam-like content to Twitter users and base your campaign on a sentiment that’s meant to put others down – especially when you’re a brand like Ragu who’s image revolves around family time and enjoying meals.

Quantas Airlines – #QantasLuxury

After grounding all of it’s fleet in October 2011 as a sudden, last-minute attempt to end union disputes, Qantas decided to introduce the #QantasLuxury Twitter campaign no less than one month later. The main aim of the campaign was to get Twitter users to share their ideal luxury flying experience. It’s easy to see that the main goal behind Qantas Airlines’ PR team’s aim was to alleviate the tension that the grounding of Qantas fleet caused and shift the brand’s focus towards how luxurious users’ in-flight experiences have been. However, the campaign backfired incredibly when irrate users who had experienced or heard about the grounded flights overtook the #QantasLuxury hashtag with jokes at the airline’s expense. Here are a few examples:

@GrogsGamut: #QantasLuxury- when the passengers arrive before the couriers delivering the lockout notices do”.
@Gump5000: #QantasLuxury “Giving yourself a pay rise whilst grounding your whole airline and taking local jobs offshore”.

@The-Aaron-Smith: #QantasLuxury is chartering a Greyhound bus and arriving at your destination days before your grounded Qantas flight”.

The #QantasLuxury social campaign fared (no pun intended) disastrously mainly due to terrible timing and the corporation’s failure to listen to what it’s clients were feeling.

Overall

All in all, there are numerous reasons why a social media campaign can succeed or fail. Sometimes the most unlikely of campaigns are the ones that generate the most attention, but often their outcome is predetermined by a golden set of rules. To see your social campaign take off, push out engaging content (such as the short and witty videos as Old Spice did, or the Dark Knight Rises’ graffiti scavenger hunt), respond in real time, use social media to engage the mass media and most importantly; take extra care not to offend your audience. As Ragu and Qantas Airlines’ social campaigns showed, often the greatest component in a campaign’s failure is stepping on people’s toes. In Ragu’s case, it offended its viewers who were fathers. In Qantas Airlines’ case, its consumers were already irate from the October 2011 last-minute grounding of all fleet and responded to the social media campaign accordingly. Furthermore, brands need to take extra caution when using Twitter as part of their campaigns. Spamming users with unwanted links to the brand’s content is never appreciated, and asking Twitter users to respond to a question via hashtag must only be done after analyzing existing sentiment surrounding the brand.

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