The top 200 U.S advertisers spent $137.8 billion on campaigns in 2014, an all-time high. Although this advertising expenditure sometimes translated into major returns on investment, there were other cases where a well-intentioned campaign turned into public relations nightmare at worst, and made consumers raise their eyebrows dubiously at best.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the great household brand campaign successes and the shortcomings of others that reportedly didn’t quite deliver on expectations, plus discover the lessons that can be learned from each of them.
Best: Apple’s “Shot on iPhone 6” Campaign Apple is known for its memorable campaigns
This one was different because it focused on how creative people could be when using Apple’s products. The campaign used images and videos captured by iPhone 6 users worldwide.
This approach gave laypersons exposure in dozens of countries,  while high-quality imagery drove home the point that Apple has technology to help people get great results even if they aren’t “professional” photographers and videographers.
Image via www.cultofmac.com, Photo: Satoshi Honma/Apple
The campaign scored points by highlighting the brand’s user base  rather than the brand itself. Also, it capitalized on inspiring people through gorgeous, captivating visuals. When working with our clients, we’ve often found the most powerful results are achieved when giving consumers the freedom to use a brand’s products to the fullest.
Best: Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty
This campaign’s messaging defied stereotypical ideas of what’s beautiful.  Unlike the previously mentioned Levi’s campaign, this one did use images of genuinely curvy women. One goal was to debunk the belief that only thinness is pretty. It also broke through barriers by showing women with wrinkles, which are usually shown as a characteristic to minimize, not highlight.
Image via www.dove.us
Furthermore, Dove expanded the campaign to suggest beauty should be a source of self confidence, not anxiety. Through print ads, billboards and TV commercials, the brand showed a level of realism that’s rare in advertising.
Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to take bold steps in advertising. This campaign was undoubtedly polarizing, but there’s no denying it helped broaden ideas what constitutes beauty. Furthermore, the ad we linked to above became the most watched of all time.  As we often remind our clients, when you’re aiming to make an impact, do it in a way that resonates by being relatable.
Best: Patagonia’s Worn Wear Campaign
Marketing campaigns usually encourage people to buy products. This one, however, emphasized repairing clothing to avoid having to buy new items.
Patagonia also offered recycling centers and clothing exchanges  so other people could benefit from items once an original purchaser finished using something. Additionally, Patagonia released a short film online that was nearly 30 minutes long and contrasted strongly with the consumerism culture of Black Friday.
It’s sometimes worth going against the grain and doing the unexpected. Initially, it may seem like the actions of the brand are counterintuitive because they offer alternatives to buying things. However, they obviously showcased the long-lasting quality that is common to Patagonia items. Through user profiles collected on a Tumblr page,  first-hand accounts demonstrate how some people have had their Patagonia gear for several years or more. Image via
This evidence reinforces Patagonia as a reliable brand that is well able to meet and indeed exceed the expectations of its primary target audience. The brand appeals to people who embrace the “rugged” lifestyle, consequently it makes sense in terms of their values that those individuals would appreciate long lasting and dependable attire, values which are intrinsically core to Patagonia’s brand values too.
When developing any brand strategy or campaign, research, develop your buyer personas and pay careful attention to your primary target audiences’ core values together with their needs, wants, loves, hates and aspirations. If you want to develop a brand solution that resonates with your core audience and they find truly compelling then you need to understand them intimately. Patagonia did this well by emphasizing the hardiness of its clothing, and making a surprising anti-consumerism gesture that got noticed during the festive season.
Best: Nike’s Just Do It Campaign
According to USA Today and Business 2 Community, Nike’s tag line was inspired by similar last words ‘Let’s do it”, used by a convicted murderer.  This enduring tagline has been phenomenally successful for decades because it’s short, simple and easily understood.
The campaign encapsulates an entire lifestyle and urges people to go beyond perceived limitations. Also, because the tagline is so concise yet powerful, it’s easy to use on all brand collateral.
This campaign has stood the test of time because it speaks to concepts that resonate with people regardless of their fitness levels, activities of choice, and so on. Also, the brand enforces the idea there are many types of athleticism a person can display. Being an athlete doesn’t always mean winning gold medals.
The campaign also proves there’s no need to be lengthy when hitting your point home. In fact, the brevity of this campaign is undoubtedly partially why it has been such a powerful force in advertising for so long . As we often remind our clients, having a punchy, bold tagline can work much better than a lengthier message that’s unlikely to be so easily remembered.
Unintended Outcomes: McDonald’s and #McDStories
This Twitter-based campaign was supposed to encourage consumers to reminisce about their best experiences at McDonald’s. It was only intended to run for a day, but within about an hour, executives realized the conversation wasn’t quite going as planned. That’s because it was largely hacked by malcontents who wanted to talk about why they disliked the restaurant.
However, the #mcdStories hashtag represented only two percent of the overall mentions  of the brand that day, so the while the campaign according to Business Insider didn’t go entirely to plan, the McDonald’s #meetthefarmers campaign also run on the same day performed much better. The Daily Mail, a UK publication, captured some tweets showing why the #mcdstories campaign resulted in some unintended consequences for the brand. 
Take steps to control the conversation as much as possible, but be aware that on a platform like social media, the tone of messages can get out of control very quickly. When things start to go wrong, respond proactively. McDonald’s have good contingency plans in place and responded quickly by pulling the campaign thereby minimizing any potential damage.
Unintended Outcomes: Levi’s Curve ID Jeans
To promote its line of Curve ID jeans, Levi’s launched an advertising campaign with the tagline, “Hotness Comes in All Shapes and Sizes.” When designing the jeans, the brand analyzed 60,000 body scans and came up with three basic body types. However critics allegedly grumbled that all the models used for this ad campaign were skinny, and therefore, they didn’t think fully representative of the people who would be buying the jeans. 
Since Levi’s implied these jeans were made for people of many body types, yet apparently showed pictures that indicated something that didn’t entirely reflect anticipated expectations, some consumers became discontent. This is one reason why it’s so important to create brand personas that accurately reflect your target audience so you can develop authentic messaging that speaks to the core of what makes your brand special and consequently relevant to the customers you want to attract most.
Unintended Outcomes: Groupon’s 2011 Super Bowl Advert
Social deals website Groupon reportedly got unintended outcomes when it aired an advertisement where actor Timothy Hutton began by somberly talking about the human rights crisis in Tibet, but quickly changes tact by discussing how Tibetans “still whip up an amazing fish curry,” and that Groupon makes it possible to get Himalayan food at a discount.
The advert was part of Groupon’s nationwide advertising campaign, and it was used along with other spots that spoofed causes people deemed important. According to the New York Times, it drew criticism from viewers because many argued the advert was making light of a serious problem.  Groupon did have a webpage that enabled people to donate to the spotlighted charities but unfortunately it wasn’t mentioned in the commercials.
Sometimes, attempts to be funny can be interpreted the wrong way. If striving to use post-serious humour,  maybe consider approaching it in ways that avoid poking fun at those perceived to be vulnerable.
Key Takeaways to Consider:
In conclusion, here are some key points to keep in mind when developing the details of your brand strategy, be they large or small campaigns.
- Control the conversation as much as possible, and know when to call a halt if a campaign isn’t going well
- Make sure images or models used reflect the true or implied meanings of your brand messaging
- Be careful that attempted uses of humour don’t appear insensitive, minimize the hardships experienced by societal groups, or try to overshadow the worthiness of causes that people care about
- Experiment with giving users the freedom to ‘sell’ your products by demonstrating the things they can achieve with them
- Consider boldly reshaping established stereotypes in ways that provoke thought and inspire positive changes
- Brainstorm ways to go against the grain by promoting your products through methods that might seem counterintuitive — provided the strategy reflects your core brand values
- Realize that being simply relatable, emotionally compelling and to the point can offer a significant return that might help your brand dominate the market for decades
As you can see results vary greatly even when advertisers have their sights set on success. Given some consideration these points should help you avoid mistakes while also helping you create brand strategies for powerful campaigns that help strengthen your brand reputation.
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So what do you think?
• How do you think the #MyMcDsStories brand strategy could have be done differently?
• Why did Patagonia’s anti-consumerism brand strategy work so effectively and how could you apply similar parallels to your brand?
• What are some actionable brand strategies you can take to ensure your brand messaging and brand tone of voice appropriately reflects your brand?
• Can you recall some instances where offbeat humour worked well to engage its primary audience and consequently helped the brand increase its success?
• Which factors helped Dove, a brand arguably most well known for soap, be able to make such a broader impact on opinions about beauty?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.
 David Pierini, http://www.cultofmac.com/, “Photographers Thrilled with Exposure from ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ Ad Campaign”, June, 2015
 Will Burns, http://www.forbes.com/, “New iPhone 6 Advertising Campaign From Apple Puts The Focus On Our Creativity, Not Theirs”, June, 2015
 http://www.dove.us/Social-Mission/campaign-for-real-beauty.aspx, “The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty”
 Nina Bahadur, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/, “Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign Turns 10: How A Brand Tried To Change The Conversation About Female Beauty”, January 2014
 Meagan Clark http://www.ibtimes.com/, “Anti-Black Friday Movements Gain Traction With Patagonia Clothing Swap”, November 2014
 http://wornwear.patagonia.com/, “The Stories We Wear”
 Jeffrey Martin, http://www.usatoday.com/,“After 25 years, ‘Just Do It’ Remains Iconic Tagline”, August 2013
 Bob Hutchens, http://www.business2community.com, “Just Do It” Turns 25: Nike & The Most Profitable Tagline Of All Time”, September 2013
 Gus Lubin, http://www.businessinsider.com, “McDonald’s Twitter Campaign Goes Horribly Wrong #McDStories”, January 2012
 Hannah Roberts, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/, “#McFail! McDonalds’ Twitter Promotion Backfires as Users Hijack #McDstories Hashtag to Share Fast Food Horror Stories”, January 2012
 Stephanie Soderborg, http://blog.sfgate.com/, “Levi’s Curve ID Campaign Falls Flat with Critics”, February 2012
 Stuart Elliott, http://www.nytimes.com/, “Groupon Ad on Super Bowl Rated a Miss by Many Fans”, February 2011
 Marshall Kirkpatrick, http://www.readwrite.com, “Why Groupon’s Super Bowl Ad Was So Offensive”, February 2011