The Best and Worst Marketing of 2018

December 31, 2018

We saw some spectacular marketing campaigns this year. We also saw some marketing efforts that missed the mark.

In this article, we name our picks for the three biggest marketing wins and the three biggest marketing fails of 2018. Let’s all take note of what worked and what didn’t for better marketing success in the new year.

Marketing Wins

#1: The Nike Kaepernick Campaign: A Masterclass in Marketing

Making Colin Kaepernick the face of Nike’s “Just Do It” ad campaign was a genius move. Whether or not you agree with his “take a knee” movement, there’s no denying how spectacularly this campaign performed.

The controversial ad generated both revenue and buzz. Sales spiked 31% after Nike revealed the Kaepernick campaign and Stock prices reached an all-time high in the wake of the ad. The campaign resulted in over $165.3 million in media coverage. Nike’s brand mentions on Twitter increased 135%.

Nike took a calculated risk with this campaign. This ad was not intended to please everyone. But for those it targeted—mainly Millennials and Gen Z—it elicited strong support. We bet that these ad campaign supporters will remain loyal to the Nike brand for years to come.

Key Takeaway: Targeting and channel selection are critical. Nike used modern channels—Twitter and YouTube—to launch its ad campaign. Nike delivered its message on the channels most relevant to its target audience. The lesson here is selecting a campaign that is relevant, targeted and hits the right channels.

#2: IHOb: The Tweet Heard Around the Internet

On June 4, IHOP Tweeted to announce its name change to IHOb. The reveal for what the “b” meant came 1 week later. Speculation whirred. Then the announcement dropped: it was burgers.

The name change campaign worked. IHOP’s burger sales quadrupled after the campaign launched. The International House of Pancake’s name change sparked an estimated 20,000 news articles and 36 billion social media impressions.

Then IHOP Tweeted again on July 9 reinstating its name and admitted that it faked the name change to get people talking about their new burgers.

Lauded as the first “prank rebranding,” there’s no denying the incredible word of mouth that this stunt achieved. We applaud IHOP for its creativity.

Key Takeaway: Taking risks can pay off. Creating a sense of mystery and giving your audience time to speculate is a solid strategy for generating interest in your company, provided your mystery is intriguing enough and delivered on the channels your audience uses.

#3: Domino’s Paves the Way for Success

Potholes happen. These “bumps in the road can cause irreversible damage to your pizza,” so Domino’s is repairing potholes with its “Paving for Pizza” campaign.

So far, Domino’s has fixed potholes in four cities. Domino’s issues a $5,000 grant to cities that agree to partner with Domino’s on this campaign. These grants fill 30 to 50 potholes. Cities that accept the grants choose which potholes on which streets get filled (not Domino’s). Cities may choose to chalk filled potholes with Domino’s logo and “Oh yes we did!”  Domino’s Paving for Pizza page says they won’t stop until they’ve filled potholes in all 50 states.

This marketing campaign has drawn criticism, perhaps most notably from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders who said that, “It should not be up to Domino’s to repair our country’s infrastructure.” Not all feedback is negative. The city manager of one of the cities that accepted the grant wrote why this was so beneficial for his town in his article for The Washington Post.

Key Takeaway: This campaign shows the importance of fostering public goodwill. No matter what scale it’s on, it is important for businesses to show their positive contributions to the community.

Marketing Fails

#1: Mercedes-Benz’ Last Fan Standing Game Didn’t Work

Mercedes-Benz debuted a modern take on the “last person standing” contest format during Super Bowl LII. The phone-based contest challenged people to keep their fingers on the car on the top of their website as soon as the game started. To keep it challenging, the car would move around. The Last Fan Standing—the entrant who kept his or her finger on the digital car the longest—would win a new Mercedes AMG C43 Coupe.

Unfortunately, the big game started but the contest’s homepage showed the error, “Page not found.” The contest was first delayed and then cancelled. Mercedes-Benz randomly selected a winner from eligible registrants.  The game failed to work because Mercedes couldn’t support the number of users who tried to play.

On paper, this was a terrific campaign. It was promoted well in advance. There was an incentive for sharing the contest in advance (a five-minute “time out” once the game started) and a lot of buzz. There was even a training session for users to practice keeping their finger on the moving car. It’s a shame this promotion went so poorly. At least a winner got a free car.

Key Takeaway: This marketing fail happened during one of the biggest advertising events of the year. This is a public lesson in making sure your technology works before launching such an ambitious undertaking.

#2: Snapchat/Would You Rather Ad Makes Fun of Domestic Violence

Would you rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown? This was a Snapchat ad for a smartphone game that referred to the 2009 incident in which Chris Brown assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna.

Snapchat’s stock fell 4.4% shortly after Rihanna posted a response on Instagram. Her response said that the ad brought “shame to DV [Domestic Violence] victims and made a joke of it!!!

Snapchat said that the ad for this Would You Rather? game should never have made it past its review process. Both the ad and the game it advertised were from a third party, but this callous ad showed up on this social media site despite the fact that it violated Snapchat’s advertising policies.

Key Takeaway: Although a third party was responsible for creating such a tasteless ad and so-called game, Snapchat is responsible for letting this appear on its site. Users as young as 13 use Snapchat. Human error sometimes happens, but this is quite a blunder to let slip through the cracks. A content review process must actually catch inappropriate content.

#3: Chick-fil-A Fails Geography

A user Tweeted at Chick-fil-A to ask for a location in North Pole, Alaska. Chick-fil-A’s response was to thank the user then went on to say that, “we have no immediate plans of expanding beyond North America.” Keep in mind these are public Tweets.

Perhaps the Chick-fil-A Twitter account manager failed to note that the North Pole mentioned in the Tweet is a city in Alaska.

Key Takeaway: While the overall tone and timeliness of Chick-fil-A’s response to this Twitter user are commendable, the response fails at basic geography. The lesson here is to thoroughly read a question before responding to it.

Service Tags: 
Social Media Management
Marketing Strategy