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Ypulse’s Favorite Marketing of 2014

Yes, we call out brands when we think their marketing to young consumers isn’t up to standard. But we also give kudos when someone gets it right. We’re looking back at some of the most creative and impressive efforts both online and off in a roundup of our favorite campaigns of the year.

1. Share a Coke

We’ll start with one of the biggest winners. Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign was such a hit that it has reversed a decade long decline in U.S. Coke consumption. The personalized bottle and can stunt was especially successful with young consumers, who are always looking for personalization in their products and a chance to show off their creativity. In the words of one 22-year-old, “To see your name on a big brand, it makes it personal.”

Why It Worked: The ability to personalize cans opened up the campaign to be creatively highjacked by Millennials. It inspired several memes, viral videos, and more than 500,000 photos on Instagram. Young consumers online made fun of the names found listed on the bottles (or those that are left out) and filled in their own to create new comic pairings that relate to other memes. One young couple’s video has gained over 3 million views on YouTube by using a fun storyline of voice-over clips that ends in a big reveal, and the brand even gave them kudos. A marketing campaign that goes viral thanks to trends created by consumers themselves is a true success in our book.

2. Marvel’s Mix Tape

The nostalgic details and music that filled Guardians of the Galaxy were a major part of making it the superhero movie that Millennials want right now, and they continued to use that nostalgia now that the film is out of theaters. The movie’s soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 1was released as a limited edition cassette tape sold at participating record stores on November 28th, in time for Black Friday. The cassette came with a digital download of the soundtrack so they can listen in both the past and the present. The album had already been released as a digital download, CD, and vinyl, and was the tenth largest selling album of 2014, but so many fans asked Marvel about where they could get the soundtrack on a cassette like Star-Lord carried in the film that the brand knew there was an opportunity to leverage their nostalgia and create yet another delivery mechanism. 

Why It Worked: Responding directly to consumers’ requests while tapping into their ongoing nostalgia made this a winning marketing move.

3. Taylor Swift’s 1989 Secret Sessions

Before the release of her now record breaking album 1989, Swift invited hundreds of fans to her homes for secret listening sessions of her new album 1989. They baked cookies together, listened to the album, and played with her cat. Swift reportedly “stalked” her fans on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter for months to choose the attendees. She has called these fan parties the 1989 Secret Sessions, and they have garnered her tons of press. We know that young Millennials are drawn to the celebrities they feel could be, or even are, their friends, which is one of the reasons that YouTube stars have become so incredibly popular with them. These intimate fan gatherings and sympathetic messages of Swift’s make everyone watching feel as if she has a personal relationship with her fans.

Why It Worked: We have written in the past about the rise of personalized marketing, and the advantages to reaching out to a smaller focused group of consumers to make a big impact and create a compelling story. If done right (hint: with sincerity), this “audience of one” marketing can transform a brand experience from transactional to a relationship. Swift’s Secret Sessions made that major personalized impact with a few, while creating an image of a completely accessible pop star for the many. 

4. The Madden GIFERATOR

EA Sports Madden has maintained its spot as the top football video game, and has continued to adjust to keep up with young gamers and their tastes. Now that digital download games and mobile gaming has invaded the space, the brand has made digital marketing a priority, and for Madden NFL 15, they put GIFs in the spotlight. EA teamed with Google to create the Madden GIFERATOR, a site that allows anyone to create customized GIFs of Madden players to send to friends as animated trash talk. Visitors pick their favorite team, a play to be looped, an environment the player will be placed in—including falling snow, lightning, lava, and a field of blossoming cherry trees—and then add block of text, or choose from a menu of already written insults.

Why It Worked: The Madden GIFerator hits the nail on the head by understanding how GIFs are a part of Millennial conversation: they’re used as visual exclamations, reactions, and to send over the top messages that words alone just can’t convey. The instant sharing tool incorporated into the site is key to its success, and the fact that the GIFs are completely customizable speaks to young consumers’ desire to put their own stamp on content before broadcasting it out. 

5. Oreo Mini Delivery

In a follow-up to their Mel’s Mini Mart campaign, Oreo gave consumers a chance to share some sweet (mini) deliveries with friends. For a limited time, fans who visited the Oreo Mini Delivery site could send a single wrapped mini Oreo, for free, to a friend they want to show their appreciation to. Only 500 deliveries were available each day until August 22nd, and the digital mini mart generally “sold out” by the early morning. Those who arrived too late to send the real thing can send a “Mini GIFt” to friends instead. Though there was (of course) a dedicated hashtag for the campaign, and fans were encouraged to use it to share the “little thing that makes their friend special,” the real social element here is giving consumers a chance to reward and connect with one another.

Why It Worked: Not only is Oreo’s Mini Delivery a good reminder that social campaigns don’t necessarily have to depend on existing platforms, it also emphasizes the appeal of scarcity and unique limited supplies and young consumers’ desire to celebrate their friends in real life in addition to online.

6. I Can Has UberKittens!  

Uber isn’t just a car-on-demand app, they’re a stunt marketing machine, pushing out a near-constant stream of fun, weird, buzz-worthy marketing that keeps positive headlines about the startup top of mind, all while appealing to Millennials’ current tastes. For the second year in a row, Uber paired up with popular meme site Cheezburger to celebrate National Cat Day, delivering kittens and cupcakes to users in seven cities who requested a visit. For $20 (which was donated to local shelters) 15 minutes of snuggle time with adorable kittens were brought to doors from 1pm-4pm to those who requested the “KITTENS!” option on the app. For an added dose of cute, the campaign allowed participants to adopt the visiting kittens for good. 

Why It Worked: Young consumers are looking for moments of uplift and fun during their days, and Uber continues to deliver. Despite the fact that users are often  paying to participate in the marketing, the unexpected offerings—kittens! ice cream! mariachi bands!—makes them feel like fun surprises, and the app almost always throws in a gift or bonus that feels like a reward for participating. Each stunt creates a shareable moment, and encourages users to talk about their experiences with built in hashtags and even competitions to reward those with the most popular tweets about the campaigns.

7. Ikea’s Insta-Catalogue

Embedding links into Instagram posts is still nonexistent, but some creative thinking from IKEA showed a new way to spotlight products and create an entirely shoppable catalogue on the network. The brand created the Instagram profile @ikea_ps_2014as the homebase for its PS 2014 collection with a grid of photos and information. Click into the posted images and each product is tagged, directing users to individual Instagram profiles for each product. For instance, @ps_bureau has images of product information for the IKEA bureau like price and specification descriptions, in both English and Russian, and also displays the bureau’s function and decoration ideas through a short video and catalogue stills.

Why It Worked: While some brands are only dipping a toe into marketing on visual platforms, a few smart ones are truly exploring their creative potential. IKEA’s Instagram-enabled collection functions much like a website, offering easy and targeted access to the products that users generally browse through, providing shopping inspiration to social followers. Creating individual product profiles is also a fun way to add personality to the brand and expose users to products that might otherwise get lost in the background.

8. Always “Like A Girl”

Always might have released the most successful feminism-as-marketing ad this year with “Like a Girl,” a commercial that was so widely shared that it has been viewed on YouTube over 53 million times since being posted on June 26th. The ad tackles the idea of “like a girl” being an insult, asking “What does it mean to do something ‘like a girl’?” Older participants mimic running, fighting, and throwing “like a girl” as weak, comical, and silly. Then younger girls are asked to act out the same things, and the spot shows them running as fast as they can, throwing with confidence, and play fighting with power and passion. The ad was all over social media feeds, and sparked conversation on blogs and news sites. 

Why It Worked: In a year full of girl-power marketing grown-up, Always’ spot stood out. Rather than providing the more general pro-girl messages, it spotlighted the ways that women are still held back, positioning the brand as a champion of female consumers. 

8. #emptymet:

While some brands are finding ways to shine on visual sharing platforms with Snapshot Marketing, others are still struggling to understand how to build their followings. Cultural institutions in New York are solving the problem by tapping into Instagram’s photographer network. Dave Krugman is a 26-year-old Instagram power-user who is currently helping some of New York’s least social-media savvy museums and libraries grow their followings and profiles on the network, including The New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space MuseumThe museums and libraries grant him and his select Instagram photographer crew exclusive access to their spaces before or after hours. With the museums and libraries all to themselves, Krugman and co find creative ways to promote the locations via hashtags, and to push followings to the institutions’ own social feeds. On #emptymet tours visitors take striking pictures of the empty museum, posting to social feeds with the appropriate hashtag and mentioning @metmuseum in the post. These now occur monthly, and have helped to push the museum’s following to over 170,000 in the less than two years it has had an account, and helped the museum connect with a new audience. 

Why It Worked: Though “no pictures” has long been a rule in most museums, tours like #emptymet open up museums to the photo-addict generation, who might just visit to get their own pictures of Instagrammable art and architecture.  

9. Nivea Protégé 

Cosmetics brand Nivea has launched a print campaign for Nivea Sun Kids sunscreen in Brazil that manages to integrate technology and appeal to parents. Wanting to help families with “that other beach problem” of kids wandering off, the brand provided a print ad that doubles as useful tech. The page includes a detachable strip that becomes a reusable humidity-resistant bracelet to track kids at the beach. After downloading a special Nivia Protégé app and synching it with their specific bracelet, the app will tell parents how far away the child is, and allow them to set a maximum distance the child must stay inside of. If the child goes outside the allotted zone, an alarm will sound and the bracelet will show precisely where the child has wandered. We’ve already seen that Millennial parents are making hyper-monitered childhoods the norm, and tech like this fits right in with their desire to keep tabs on their offspring in digital ways.

Why It Worked: This tech-forward approach to a print ad transforms marketing into something that lives on beyond the page, and directly benefits the consumer. The concept could also be used in packaging or other printed material to elevate what would normally be thrown away into something useful and memorable, and create a new layer of connection with the brand.

10. Seamless #OscarNomNoms

Many of the greatest hashtag trends have been all about displaying the users’ creativity. One easy way to encourage and reward creative participation is to amplify it. Seamless launched a campaign after the 2014 Oscar nominations, starting the hashtag #OscarNomNoms by sharing spoof posters for nominees with titles of the films changed to be food related, such as “Herb” and “Gravitea.” When the twitterverse began to chime in with their own #OscarNomNom suggestions, Seamless created posters for some and retweeted with the appropriate artwork. The campaign was a major success, with Buzzfeed posting 15 of the favorite food puns and many participating, even creating their own posters to share with the brand. Taking the creativity of the community and bringing it to life made #OscarNomNoms a memorable trend, and gave the brand some real buzz.

Why It Worked: Throwing a “#” in front of a slogan is fine, but isn’t likely to inspire involvement, which means less buzz, consumer interaction, and fewer opportunities for young consumers to actually remember the campaign. Seamless’s campaign shows one of the ways brands can hastag right.