5 Social Media Campaigns: Brand Lessons from Around the World


Rohan Ayyar works at E2M, a premium digital marketing firm specializing in creative content strategy, web analytics and conversion rate optimization for startups. He is an avid blogger, with posts featured on MarketingProfs, Social Media Today and Fast Company, among other places. Hit it up with him on Twitter @searchrook

Social media reaches four out of five Americans every single day. It has the power to educate, entertain and inspire.

Exciting, successful social media campaigns involve crafting content that can range from viral videos that attract millions of eyeballs to pulling off PR stunts that stick to memory for years.

Here’s a look at five effective social media campaigns, and what marketers like you and I can glean from their success.

1. XBox, Colombia – “FIFA 14″
Latin America and its obsession with soccer is legendary. The continent that produced legends like Pele, Maradona and Ronaldo takes its soccer seriously indeed.

XBox Colombia tapped into this soccer mania to announce the inclusion of local Colombian soccer leagues in its FIFA 14 game. To make their point crystal clear, they pulled in top gamers, who mirrored the moves of a real live soccer game using the XBox console.

XBox then went ahead and did the unthinkable. It interrupted a live Colombian soccer league game with snippets of the VR game that was created by experts. The resulting video was so seamless that Colombians actually loved the experiment instead of labelling it as the Satan of advertising. The video became so popular that Wunderman, the agency behind it, won a Webby in 2014 for Social Media Marketing in the Sports genre.

Take a look at magic for yourself:

FIFA 14 from Daniel Saenz on Vimeo.

Takeaway: Our job as social media managers is to have our fingers on the pulse of the audience. Latin America eats, breathes and drinks soccer. XBox tapped into a national obsession using technology and some lateral thinking to create a campaign that showcased its product to the right audience at the right time in a unique way. It won huge appreciation from fans for its near authentic game play. XBox – 1, Competition – 0.

2. Kern & Sohn, Germany – “The Gnome Experiment”
Kern Scales – a German maker of precision scales – had a cool USP.

None of the other scales in the world could show the slight differences in the weight of the same item that occur when weighed at different locations (due to different levels of gravitational pull at different points on Earth). Kern’s scales could.

The idea was to showcase this special calibration to local gravitational fields at any point and the resulting precision in weights.

The company hit upon a novel idea to promote this USP. They shipped a cute little garden gnome accompanied by their precision scales to scientists across the world and encouraged them to check the weight of the Kern Gnome in their countries. They backed this up with a social media campaign where users were encouraged to share their stories and pictures of Kern, the Gnome.

The idea caught on like wildfire, with people (non-scientists!) writing in, requesting their own Gnome Kits and posting pictures of Kern the Gnome across social media.

Within two weeks of launch, the experiment touched over 355 million people in 152 countries. Sales grew 22 percent, Kern got a 1042 percent ROI on their experiment and the story got turned into a TED talk. Talk about weighty matters!

Takeaway: Even B2B products can be turned into social media sensations. An out of the box idea sparked interest in a mundane topic like precision scales. This recipe took a combination of nerd science, Gnome cuteness and the power of social media to propel Kern & Sohn to the No. 1 spot for precision scales.

3. Channel V, India – “The Seatbelt Crew”
“Road Safety” is often an oxymoron on colorful, busy Indian streets. Fatalities as a percentage of the total road accidents are extremely high, primarily due to commuters’ lack of attention to basic safety like seatbelts and helmets.

Youth-based television channel Channel V decided to tackle this issue head on with a safety campaign. They enlisted a group of transgenders, called hijras in India and tapped into the local belief that transgenders are blessed by God, and have the power to share their blessings on “normal” folks. (This is routinely done in exchange for hefty sums of money.)

The hijras, dressed up like flight attendants, ambushed a traffic light and went on to demonstrate their tongue in cheek safety instructions to hilarious effect.

The video caught the public eye, and social media went berserk with shares and retweets, with coverage given by leading newspapers in India and around the world. The YouTube video earned over 1.9 million views in less than 3 days of going live.

Takeaway: Channel V zeroed in on a cultural curiosity – the reverence given to transgenders in India (unlike in other parts of the world), and used this to deliver a mundane safety message in an extremely engaging way. The message was funny in itself, but the mode of delivering the message is what helped Channel V hit a home run with this campaign.

4. Nike, China – “Find Your Greatness”
Nike’s worldwide “Find Your Greatness” ambush campaign during the London Olympics had a special dimension in China. Nike was the sponsor of a number of star Chinese athletes who had 1.3 billion Chinese rooting for them at the Olympics.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for Nike, some of their biggest hopes went down in flames.

However, they bounced back from these sporting disasters with a revamp of their “Find Your Greatness” campaign and turned it into social media gold.

After Li Na, China’s tennis champ crashed out of the competition in the first round, Nike posted the picture below with a message “The opposite of greatness is not failure, but to never have tried.”

When star hurdler Liu Xiang stumbled and fell during the 100 meters hurdles race, Nike tweeted within minutes of the fall, lauding Liu’s efforts and showing its support for him: “Who dares start all over again in one’s prime, despite the pain… 1.3 billion people all hopped on one foot to the finish. Live Greatness.”

The message got over 125,000 retweets, becoming the third most-retweeted message of the year.

Takeaway: Even failure can be turned on its head to be a success. All you need is the right perspective.

5. Metro Trains, Australia – “Dumb Ways to Die”
This is a very well-known one, but nevertheless deserves every revisit it gets. Safety videos are usually more boring than last week’s news. However, the Metro Trains authority in Melbourne, Australia took it upon themselves to give a funny twist to rail safety by creating an animated video called “Dumb Ways to Die.”

The video focuses on little animated critters who meet their untimely deaths in silly ways with a funny song about the dumb ways in which they die playing in the background. The sheer hilarity of the video and its simple execution created a social media flurry of shares and retweets, spawned hundreds of parody videos, and most importantly, gave actual safety results to Metro Trains.

According to Metro Trains, the campaign led to a fall of over 30 percent in “near-miss” accidents on its tracks — from 13.29 near-misses per million kilometers in November 2011 to January 2012, to 9.17 near-misses per million kilometers in November 2012 to January 2013.

Takeaway: Important messages like personal safety need not always be a glum and serious affair. People tend to tune out “official” sounding messages as they’re considered invariably boring, long winded and unnecessary. A cute song and dance that conveys the same message is often taken more seriously and shared more widely than hundreds of boring safety videos.

Closing Thoughts
More than any other platform to come before it, social media needs, nay demands, creativity from marketers and offers disproportionate rewards to brands that put in the effort and intelligence to craft winning campaigns.

So whether you’re selling a video game or promoting a social cause, a little bit of creativity goes a long way in dominating mind share and grabbing “wallet share.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.