The Best Marketing Campaigns of 2018 (So Far)

Digital marketing is constantly evolving—just when you figure out the latest technology, or the newest addition to a social media platform, something else changes. In many ways, this change is good: it allows room for innovation and it means that digital marketers can take risks with their social media ad campaigns. And so far, 2018 has been a year of social media innovation: we’ve seen really clever ad campaigns that involve audiences, and we’ve seen brands create campaigns that are hyper-local and seem tailor-made for specific audiences.

Because we can’t wait until the end of the year (and because your digital campaign planning can’t wait, either) we’ve rounded up the best marketing campaigns so far of 2018. The following ads—and our takeaways—will help you understand what’s working in digital marketing right now and what’s likely to work in the future:

Spotify

We’re including Spotify’s 2017 New Year’s campaign on our 2018 list because, honestly, it’s too good not to talk about. The popular music-streaming brand took things we love—hard data (remember Patrón's incredible data driven campaign?), witty commentary, and personalization—to craft their forward-looking “2018 Goals” campaign.

The ads appeared outside on billboards and as paid social ads in nine markets and were, often, hyperlocal, like this politically-minded ad for US audiences:

Spotify leaned in hard to the fact that services like theirs pay attention to our data and they crafted that info into revealing, fascinating tidbits.

The Takeaway: Spotify’s clever campaign is right in line with the desires of today’s social media audiences: it surprises, it's inclusive (even if anonymously), and it’s fact-based.

LinkedIn

In a change of advertising pace for the professional networking brand, at the beginning of this year LinkedIn created a social media campaign that shifted the focus from the site’s capabilities to their audience by asking, “What are you in it for?” With the answers members submitted about why they push themselves professionally, LinkedIn created a video ad campaign that launched during the Golden Globes. The ads featured professionals in a wide variety of fields:

 

The message from LinkedIn’s campaign was, no matter why you work hard, you have a community in our platform. “Whatever you’re in it for, we’re in it together,” writes LinkedIn.

The Takeaway: When you incorporate UGC in smart, interesting ways, your UGC serves the dual purpose of including your audience in your content (which fosters lasting loyalty) and creating credibility (by letting your customers toot your horn rather than doing it yourself).

Weight Watchers

We’ve been singing the praises of symbiotic relationships between influencers and brands for a while now, and Weight Watchers’ recent digital marketing campaign demonstrates the brilliance that can be found when brands are smart about the personalities with whom they partner.

At the beginning of 2018, global social media and music sensation DJ Khaled became Weight Watchers’ official social media ambassador. With the campaign, fans can follow along on social (Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) as DJ Khaled participates in the WW Freestyle program:

 

DJ Khaled helms a huge audience that is young and social media savvy, and he is decidedly more irreverent than what we’re used to seeing from Weight Watchers. Because of all of this, DJ Khaled had the potential to bring new (younger, male) audiences to the diet and weight loss brand, and it worked: CNN reports that the company’s shares immediately rose by 6%.

The Takeaway: Finding an influencer who can bring in new audiences while also naturally fitting with your brand can be a major win. Just be sure you’re partnering with somebody who can truly embody the values of your brand (while also adding their own personal spin, a la DJ Khaled).

Dove and Steven Universe

Dove incorporated the characters from Cartoon Network’s popular show Steven Universe into their new series of body confidence and self-esteem videos. The videos offer language to both process and respond to the often complicated and troubling world of adolescence. Dove’s products aren’t featured in the series, and the brand is only mentioned in the title of the project (“Dove Self-Esteem Project), all of which reinforces the legitimacy of Dove’s efforts to truly support kids in the development of healthy self-esteem. In fact, the campaign offers more than witty videos—the project’s homepage provides kids and their parents a database of useful guides that can help them cope with common issues surrounding confidence and body positivity.

The Takeaway: You can build goodwill with your brand’s customer base by offering content that will truly add value to their lives. With Dove’s self-esteem project, the company lets its product take a back seat to an important message—a message that fits well with their core brand values. In doing so, Dove is able to engage their audience and build relationships built on substance, not profit.

OKCupid

With their controversial “DTF” ad campaign, OkCupid took a risk by redefining the acronym:

But the risk paid off, as Adweek reports the campaign boosted OkCupid’s social mentions by 50%, and it resonated with women and the LGBTQ community. Even though the ads weren’t welcome everywhere (like the entire Chicago Transit Authority), OkCupid demonstrated the effectiveness of disruptive marketing.

The Takeaway: Campaigns that appeal to social media users won’t always appeal to the boardroom, but that’s okay. Even though OkCupid couldn’t run their ads everywhere, their campaign still had a huge impact that resonated with their target audiences.

IKEA

Brands like W Magazine and Applebee’s have recently cashed in on the ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) craze by incorporating it into their ad campaigns. ASMR is often described as the tingly, relaxing sensation that whispers and ambient sounds can cause. Jumping on the trend, IKEA recently released the first in a series of long-form 25 minute ASMR videos for their “Oddly IKEA” campaign. The campaign was created to highlight their back-to-school college dorm items:

The Takeaway: Unlike Dove’s campaign, IKEA’s products are front and center, but the video still adds value for viewers: it’s undeniably relaxing and it capitalizes on a popular trend. Brands can absolutely feature their products or services while also offering their audiences something of intrinsic value.

Glossier

Cult beauty brand Glossier offers a limited number of products (fewer than 30), but their minimalist aesthetic is a huge success due to their brilliant digital marketing strategy. Recently, the digitally native brand began to evolve their marketing strategy by opening up limited retail locations. This spring, they coincided the launch of their newest product, Lash Slick, with their second highly-Instagrammable retail location:

The Takeaway: Even as retail increasingly moves online brick and mortar retail locations can still cultivate brand buzz, and Glossier proves it. “Opening a store,” writes Adweek, “is the perfect primer to promote a new product” while introducing customers to existing products they might not yet know about.

As we continue on through 2018, remember that social is an excellent place to experiment with new ad campaign styles and, if you’re smart about it, you can let your hair down and tap undiscovered audiences just like these three stand out brands. Curious what else is new for 2018, and how the year will progress? Check out our tipsheet on top 2018 trends from the savviest in digital marketing.

 

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Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.