It's been a whirlwind year.
In the face of relentless uncertainty, brick-and-mortar establishments have experienced some of the worst luck, with much of the year written-off due to mandatory shutdowns.
Which left marketing teams wondering… where do we go from here? If the stores are closed, is there much point investing time and energy into creating intricate marketing campaigns to capture the public's attention if they can't convert that good-will into sales?
Well, as good business-people do, some saw it as a moment of opportunity.
Clever marketers used the time to develop stronger relationships with customers, re-orient them towards new ways of interacting and exchanging with the business, and reassure them that they'll be right there when all of this has blown over.
Here are the best examples of such marketing campaigns and advertisements that appeared out of the rubble of 2020.
As you read through them, take a moment to consider how you could apply the same strategies to your store?
McDonald's – 'Skip the dishes'
Great advertising should communicate the main benefit of the product or service in ways that are original, memorable, and simple to digest.
Advertising agency DDB's Prague division hit the nail on the head when tasked with promoting McDonald's freshly launched 'McDelivery' service in the Czech Republic.
What is the central reason people want food delivered to their home? Well, to avoid the hassle of cooking, serving, and cleaning it, of course. This campaign took the 'cleaning' element and paired it with classically recognisable McDonald's visuals to create a series of images that put all the puzzle pieces together.
We see pots, pans, and plates in the shape of a Big Mac, bowls and wooden utensils forming the iconic McDonald's fries, and finally a lemon juicer making its best impression of a McFlurry.
The beauty of this campaign is in its use of striking visual elements to communicate the central proposition.
Molecular biologist John Medina wrote in his book Brain Rules that you are only 10% likely to remember information three days after hearing a it. When paired with a visual, however, that percentage increases to 65%.
This is especially relevant when advertising services, as there is less opportunity to use images without any products. How might you summarise your service in one clean visual?
Heineken – ‘Back to the bars’
How best to get people flooding back to bars to enjoy their favourite beer while also encouraging them to stay safe and follow the new rules?
Well, Heineken does it brilliantly in their 'back to the bars' commercial campaign video and manages to maintain warmth and sense of humour about it, too.
Frank Sinatra's 'That's Life' plays as we watch people in bars stocked to the brim with Heineken socialise, but take additional care to do it responsibly after forgetting their obligation to follow the new rules.
We see old friends stop mid-hug to touch elbows instead. Patrons enter the bar with their masks on their chins only to pull them back up after a moment of recollection. They leave a seat empty at the bar to keep distance and go back to the bathroom sink to wash their hands… this time with soap.
Finally, we watch some crisp looking Heinekens be poured as a group of friends go to cheers their glasses, only to hesitate and keep them safely in their own hands.
You can watch the full video on the Heineken website .
The advert lets you know that bars are back open for business without being socially irresponsible. It draws on the common experience of forgetting the context of the virus to great comedic effect.
Perhaps its best achievement, though, is restoring a sense of possibility. You feel uplifted after watching as if the worst is over and we can all start having fun again – as long as we play by the rules. That's a great emotional experience to link with your brand that won't be forgotten by the next time you hit the bars.
Cheers to that!
Adidas – WhatsApp Direct Marketing
Not all adverts are 'adverts'.
In the digital age, a significant connection with the target audience can be made through means other than TV commercials, bus adverts, and online pop-ups.
This year, Adidas took to WhatsApp as a new way of interacting with its audience through influential brand ambassadors.
Promoting their new 'Predator' football boots, Adidas opened a WhatsApp hotline for footballers in need of a player for an upcoming match. Those who were successful got their player – an Adidas-sponsored professional footballer who would turn up to the game wearing the new boots.
Boasting a "100% unfair" advantage, the surprise addition to the team got people talking about the boots, and they were a smash hit.
The effect stretches far beyond traditional advertising, as it not only achieves the objective of increasing sales, but also encourages good PR, positive consumer sentiment, and two-way communication with the target audience.
Creating memorable experiences like this one is a good lesson in inspiring lifelong loyalty amongst your customers, and it was conducted entirely through a free messaging app.
Though it might not be a platform where ad space can be bought and sold like other social media, WhatsApp boasts nearly 2 billion users across 180 countries according to Business of Apps. That's currently more users than Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest combined! With far superior open-rates than email too, don't overlook WhatsApp as a meaningful direct marketing channel.
How could you utilise this technique with your store?
Burger King – 'The Moldy Whopper'
If one of the sacred advertising goals is to get people talking, Burger King does a fantastic job in this series of ads.
In what will probably be considered the decade's bravest advertisement, Burger King divided consumers and marketers alike with their 'Moldy Whopper' multi-channel advertising campaign.
In the video version, we see an immaculately styled Whopper burger in centre-frame. "The Whopper Day 01" text appears on the screen, as we see a time-lapsed video of the burger start to decompose slowly.
The burger deflates before our eyes, and we see a close up shot of furry green mould start to take over the patty and buns. It grows further as the lettuce gets swarmed by the decomposition, and finally, we see the entire burger consumed with mould as "Day 34" appears on-screen. The burger looks truly disgusting and inedible.
Watch the entire advert on Burger King's YouTube channel
Why, you ask?
The screen cuts to black, and the final text appears – "The beauty of no artificial preservatives".
That's right, they're promoting the lack of chemical preservatives in their food, the result being a burger that is more susceptible to decomposition than their competitors – and that's a good thing.
It seems wildly counterintuitive to show your food in its most unattractive looking and dangerous to consume state, but they make their point powerfully and confidently in this campaign.
Whether it makes you hungry for a burger or not is beside the point. They put a lot of faith in their audience's intelligence to decode the messaging, and at the very least, they got the whole world talking about them for a day or two.
Lessons from 2020's best ads
The ads and campaigns that received the most attention this year can teach us a few lessons about branding and marketing at unusual times.
McDonald's teaches us the importance of visual identity in branding your store. When your products and packaging are iconic enough to be recognisable even when they're in the form of kitchen utensils, you know your brand has major impact.
How can a smaller store achieve this? Well, McDonald's hasn't made major changes to the main themes of its visual identity in decades, so consistency could be the key.
In troubling times, it's good to see brands acknowledge the weirdness. Things are different now, and Heineken accepts this reality with open arms and provides some much-needed comfort and comic relief amongst the craziness.
You don't have to have global beer-brand level budgets to get to the heart of your audience though, and Adidas brilliantly demonstrates this by mixing PR with direct marketing on a unique channel. How many social media apps does your store operate on? There may be a way to connect with your audience that you're missing out on, don't neglect the non-typical channels.
And finally, Burger King teaches us a fundamental rule of advertising while breaking pretty much all the other ones – be bold, and turn heads.
One last tip…
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