Best Marketing Stories and Stats of 2017

December 04, 2017

Who knew that Colonel Sanders has a romantic side? Or that shattering a Social Media record could net a year’s supply of free chicken nuggets?

There were some spectacular marketing wins and fails in 2017. There were also some significant findings about consumers’ digital habits. We rounded up our picks for the top 3 of each of these for the best marketing stories and stats of 2017.

Favorite Facts


Online shopping accounts for 8.4% of all retail shopping in the US

Ecommerce revenue increased over 226% in 8 years, or from $34 million in Q1 2009 to $111 million in Q1 2017

Most consumers prefer to shop online—51% of all consumers, 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen X

Social Media

Social networks inspire almost 4 in 10 purchases

94% of marketers use Facebook, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram

90% of marketers say their Social Media efforts increased exposure for their business


77% of emails in the US are delivered, up 4% from 2016

The #1 complaint about marketing emails is the high volume

61% of U.S. consumers prefer email over all forms of communications

Marketing Misfires

1. Russian influence during the US election

An estimated 10 million people in the US saw over 3,000 ads during the 2016 election cycle that Facebook linked to Russia. These ads were designed to inflame racial and religious divisions. But the Russian influence extended beyond Facebook—5% of those ads appeared on Instagram. And both Google and Twitter uncovered evidence that Russians purchased ads that were linked to accounts on their platforms.

Lesson Learned: 75% of consumers are worried about fake news sites, which causes 60% of consumers to consume more content elsewhere. The “How Brands Annoy Fans” 2017 study from the Chief Marketing Officer Council also showed a correlation between consumers and mistrust for brands that advertise near objectionable content. What can marketers do? Continue applying pressure to companies like Facebook to implement better protocols and filters to prevent the prevalence of fake news.

2. Dove misses the mark—twice

Dove soap’s “Real Beauty” campaign caused waves on two separate occasions in 2017. They created six limited-edition bottles designed to reflect women’s unique body curves and proportions for European markets in the spring. The body-shaped bottles sparked body-issues for women, as many vocalized on Twitter. Dove came under scrutiny again for a racist ad in early October. The ad depicted a black woman turning into a white woman after using Dove soap in Facebook ad on its US account. This caused an uproar and comparison to decades-old soap advertisements showing soap’s cleaning power transforming a black child into a white one.

Lesson Learned: Clearly Dove doesn’t have an understanding of its customers. Perhaps if they had engaged in social listening (monitoring digital channels) to get a better understanding of what their customers are saying, they would have delivered relevant content rather than offensive ads.

3. Pepsi ad fail

Pepsi aired an ad in April that showed Kendall Jenner ending conflict between protesters and cops by handing the cops a Pepsi. The ad co-opted imagery from the #BlackLivesMatter and Civil Rights movements. The ad came under fire on social media for trivializing racism and its misappropriation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Lesson Learned: Just because images from a counter-culture movement are trending doesn’t mean a company should appropriate them for advertising. If the trending imagery can be shared as part of meaningful brand storytelling (such as company history of supporting the movement), then using it in a thoughtful way can work. Otherwise, use imagery because it makes sense for the company, not because it’s trending.

Sweet Successes

1. #NuggsforCarter

A teenager Tweeted at Wendy’s to ask how many retweets he’d have to get for a years’ worth of free nuggets. Wendy’s replied with “18 million” but once his tweet had been retweeted for a record 3.42 million times, Wendy’s awarded him his year of nuggets and made a $100,000 charitable donation in his honor.

Lesson Learned: Wendy’s could have ignored this request. It never advertised a social giveaway contest that X number of retweets would result in some reward. But their response earned them a lot of publicity. Top brands and celebrities helped make #NuggsforCarter takeoff, earning Wendy’s a lot of goodwill. Paying close attention to social channels and responding to followers can go a long way.

2. Romancing the Colonel

Since Mother’s Day is Kentucky Fried Chicken’s best-selling day of the year, KFC decided to create a treat for mom. That treat was a free harlequin romance novella featuring Colonel Sanders in a Victorian romance titled “Tender Wings of Desire.” (KFC has a 40% sales spike on Mother’s Day.)

Lesson Learned: This marketing campaign took a creative leap to conceive and execute. It generated a lot of interest and was a fun idea. Originality and uniqueness made this a success.

3. Turning people into tacos

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Taco Bell launched a Snapchat filter that transformed people’s heads into tacos. At over 224 million views in one day, it holds the record as the most-viewed Snapchat lens. This project cost a reported $750,000 to create and was in development for six weeks.

Lesson Learned: The takeaway point is to find a clever way to put the product in your customers’ minds. It doesn’t have to serve as a literal replacement like Taco Bell’s did, though. Although not every retailer has the budget for such a large-scale promotion, applying creativity can get the job done. For example, make a taco cardboard with the face cut out. Encourage people to take photos and post on the company page with a special hashtag for the occasion. It is lower tech than the Snapchat filter, but it could be a fun way to engage customers who are in your store. 

Service Tags: 
Digital Solutions
Email Marketing
Social Media Management
Marketing Strategy