And the Winners Are…The Best Social Media Campaigns of 2014

igniteblog_bestof2014_large_v1 The year 2013 was the era of real-time marketing. Oreo set the benchmark with the infamous Super Bowl XLVII Tweet and since then, brands, filled with “Oreo Envy,” have tried tirelessly (unsuccessfully for most) to recreate this moment. However, 2014 snapped many brands out of this real-time daze. Successful brands have now shifted their focus to right-time marketing with more developed, on-brand campaigns aimed at reaching the target audience at the time they are most receptive. While there were many brands who succeeded in owning their voice, knowing their audience and creating stellar content, here are six highlights that we applauded in 2014.

Taco Bell – #onlyontheapp

Taco Bell shocked us all when they embarked on a social media blackout across all channels with the release of their mobile app. Taco Bell chose to launch their latest product by cutting through the clutter with a new approach and one clear objective: driving downloads of their new mobile app. The popular fast food chain’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat were all seemingly erased only offering this messaging: Taco Bell isn’t here, it’s #onlyontheapp.


This drastic tactic worked. The app was #1 in the Food & Beverage category on the iTunes App Store and broke the Top 25 Apps overall. Additionally, 75 percent of Taco Bell’s 6,000 U.S. stores had processed mobile orders within 24 hours. While Taco Bell’s social media blackout was short-lived, the effects lasted with rounds of media coverage and thousands of app downloads.

Key Takeaway: When launching a new product, be bold, fearless and creative to cut through the clutter.

Chevrolet – Purple Your Profile

Chevrolet partnered with the American Cancer Society in order to raise awareness for World Cancer Day and over $1 million for cancer research.  Chevy asked users to #PurpleYourProfile by easily tinting Facebook profile pictures or Twitter avatars purple to raise awareness for cancer. This action also came with a tangible reward; Chevrolet would donate $1 for every purple photo up to $1 million. This goal was met within two weeks, with total purple profiles at over 2 million. ChevyPYP This integrated campaign had support across social channels, a mobile app as well as TV ads, most notably a 60-second Super Bowl commercial. This campaign was unique in that it focused on the audience’s story rather than the brand. With an emotional tie-in, a low barrier of participation, a charitable cause and cross-channel promotion, this campaign had all the elements for success.

Key Takeaway: Integrate social campaigns with low barriers of participation across multiple channels for maximum impressions and success.

Esurance – #EsuranceSave30

Expensive and extravagant Super Bowl ads are nothing new. Over the past several decades, the cost and amount of advertising during the big game has increased exponentially. During Super Bowl XLVIII, Esurance took a risk to cut through the advertising clutter and people noticed. Instead of airing a commercial during the game, Esurance opted to claim the first spot immediately following the game. According to Esurance, this decision saved them $1.5 million, or a 30 percent savings, which is how much they claim their insurance can save. Instead of pocketing this large savings, Esurance turned to Twitter to giveaway $1.5 million. By using the hashtag #EsuranceSave30 (a nod to the money the brand saved), users entered to win this large sum. The sweepstakes was open for 36 hours, after which the winner was announced live on Jimmy Kimmel. 1.5_million_sweeps Whether you view this move as a stunt or clever strategy, you can’t argue with the numbers. Within one minute of the advertisement airing, 200,000 Tweets using the #EsuranceSave30 hashtag rolled in. After 36 hours, Esurance received an astounding 5.4 million Tweets using the hashtag. Leo Burnett, Esurance’s agency of record, reported 2.6 billion social impressions on Twitter, a 12x spike in visits to the Esurance website within the first hours of the sweepstakes and a top nationwide trending topic for 48 hours. It’s important to note that while awareness of the brand increased, the long-term impact may be less than glamorous. During the 36-hour contest, the Esurance Twitter handle grew from under 9,000 followers to over 250,000. However, ten months later, the handle dropped to just over 100,000 followers. Using this broad and bold approach earned Esurance billions of impressions and awareness, however it did not retain long-term brand advocates.

Key Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to go big or go home, but don’t lose focus of your target audience.

The White House – #GetCovered

After a tumultuous start with widely publicized website issues, President Obama and his social media team launched #GetCovered to turn the tide on registration for the Affordable Care Act. In order to effectively reach the target demographic of millennials, this integrated campaign was active across multiple channels, including many platforms previously untouched by brands. The #GetCovered campaign aimed to reach millennials in a way that was organic and digestible. The campaign’s website housed snackable bites of campaign information, profile pictures and cover photos all easily sharable on users’ social media accounts. President Obama also ventured into new territory by becoming the first verified user on Quora, a question and answer based social community, where he held an online forum discussing the Affordable Care Act. Arguably the most successful (and hilarious) component of #GetCovered was the president’s appearance on the online talk show Between Two Ferns with comedian Zach Galifinakis, which has received over 8 million views, trended nationally and even won a Creative Arts Emmy Award. 7millionandcounting_getcovered In addition to virality across multiple channels, the campaign reached its goals of registration. The Obama administration reports over 7 million users signed up for health care over the course of the #GetCovered campaign.

Key Takeaway: Know your target audience and how to reach them, but don’t be afraid to step outside of your brand’s comfort zone.

Club Carlson – #HashtagHotelPromo

FULL DISCLOSURE: Club Carlson is a client of Ignite Social Media. We loved the results of this one so much that we needed to share.

For a brand, making their public social channels private seems like a thing of nightmares. However, this bold idea worked in favor of Club Carlson when they decided to embark on a 24-hour private Twitter party — #HashtagHotelPromo. For many brands, the goal for a successful campaign is growing their social community, but, positive brand sentiment, engagement and revenue don’t always have a direct correlation to the size of a follower base. Instead, this campaign showed that it’s important to engage with and reward a brand’s loyal followers in order to maintain the relationship or turn them into brand advocates. Leading up to the event, Club Carlson promoted the occasion (and its exclusivity) encouraging fans to follow the brand for an opportunity to win dozens of prizes before they were no longer able to “get behind the velvet rope.” Then when the time came, Club Carlson turned its Twitter handle to private, only allowing followers to participate in the party and see their updates. Club_hashtagHotel1000 Exclusion worked in Club Carlson’s favor; the brand saw an increase of more than 7,000 followers prior to the start of the party which generated over 14 million impressions and trended nationally for 8 of the 24 hours. Response was overwhelmingly positive and this promotion was seen as yet another perk for this hotel loyalty brand.

Key Takeaway: Know the value of brand advocates and reward them to deepen those relationships.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – #ALSstrikeout

If you were on social media anytime during 2014 (or just not living under a rock for that matter), you saw friends, coworkers, family members and brands participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge — a dare which encouraged people to dump a freezing cold bucket of ice water on themselves in order to raise money and awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Origins of this viral trend trace back to Team Frate Train, a page dedicated to Peter Frates, a 29-year-old college athlete diagnosed with ALS. The virality of this trend went well beyond a singular brand. Hundreds of thousands of individuals, including celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, undertook the challenge to raise money and awareness for ALS. According to Facebook, over 17 million videos were shared that were viewed over 10 billion times by 440 million people. And in the end, over $115 million was raised for the ALS organization. Regardless of origin or the exact point of virality, this campaign exceeded its goals exponentially: raising considerable awareness and funds for ALS research. thank-you-v4 Key Takeaway: When done truly altruistically, partnering with social causes can provide an additional incentive to participate.

By aligning with social causes or pulling social stunts, brands in 2014 took advantage of right-time marketing and wowed us with impressive and memorable social media campaigns. Whether you applauded their efforts or rolled your eyes in annoyance, one thing’s for sure: brands have a lot to live up to in 2015.

Did we miss any of your favorite social campaigns? Share your winners in the comments below!

Ignite Social Media