Inspiration is a fickle friend. It can show up in unexpected places with perfect timing and then ghost you when you need it most. That’s why we’re constantly on the lookout for creative and innovative social media content and campaigns from brands, big and small, B2B and B2C.
You may have seen some of those moments (we call them Sparks) in our weekly social newsletter. Now, as one year comes to a close and a new one begins, we’re taking stock of the last 365 days of inspiration (don’t worry, we’ll only share our top ten) in the hopes that these creative moments can spark even more marketing inspiration in the new year.
10. #ChasingtheDream and #SellingChicken
KFC’s virtual influencer“Hot Colonel Sanders” hit Instagram last spring, and the campaign was equal parts hilarious, genius, and (a little) disturbing. The virtual influencer had legitimate partnerships with brands like Dr. Pepper and Casper, while also promoting KFC, of course. All in all, we’re happy it's over, but it showed its range of social savviness and its satirical sense of humor, we’ll always consider ourselves part of the #FriedChickenFam.
9. Choose Your Chicken
Speaking of fried chicken, one of Twitter’s most memorable events this year was the great chicken sandwich debate between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A. What started off as some light-hearted shade being thrown between sub-tweets, quickly escalated to a full out fried-food fueled Twitter battle. The result? Popeyes sold out of its sandwiches in a matter of days. It goes to show that a little friendly competition on social media can go waaaay further than you might expect in the real world, if played correctly.
8. What Would You Dew for the Throne?
We won’t say anything about how “Game of Thrones” ended, because, no, we have not recovered. But we loved this GoT-themed marketing campaign from Mountain Dew (back before our souls were crushed). By tweeting one of the campaign hashtags (as well as saying what you’d sacrifice to sit on the Iron Throne) fans were entered to have the limited-edition, branding-less (you might say the can has no name), rare-as-dragonglass, GoT Dew sent to them.
Dozens of brands dove into this global, cultural phenomenon, and even though the only connection between GoT and Mountain Dew is the drink’s wildfire color, the Dew set itself apart by combining aspects of social media and experiential marketing. By completely hiding its branding, Mountain Dew committed the marketing equivalent of bending the knee — and it worked.
7. La La La La, Elmo’s World!
It may be playing favorites to say so, but the @sesamestreet account is probably the best on Twitter. While we look back fondly on all of our old Social Sparks, this simple tweet from Sesame Street brings the nostalgia to another level and raked in tons of engagement, not from its current toddler TV audience but some more mature friends (#millennials).
Of course, being the social (listening) creatures that they are, the show was already well aware of its Twitter audience demographics and quickly responded (to the PG-rated responses) via its main account and character accounts (yes, you can follow Cookie Monster) as well. This understanding of who is listening allows them to connect with followers in fun and conversational ways that are more adult, but still appropriate for the smaller ones tuning in.
You’re stuck on a deserted island and you can pick one of these Sesame Street friends to come with you. Who are you picking and why? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/bGjF7Bx5Xo— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) March 18, 2019
6. Chase’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Tweet
Every once in a while, we take a “what not to do” approach to our Spark. (It’s way better to learn from others’ mistakes than to make them yourself. This year, we learned that while sassy, meme-able content might work wonders for fast-food fried chicken brands, it’s not such a good look for a major financial institution like Chase. The infamous tweet was deleted, but the damage was done. Marketers can take numerous lessons from Chase’s poorly thought out tweet. But most important? Know your audience and how your brand is perceived.
5. Let’s Get Lit(erature)
Never let someone try to convince you that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. We were wildly inspired by the 120-year-old New York Public Library’s campaign to bring classic literature to Instagram Stories. By posting entire novels (which are still available in its Story Highlights), the library took digital storytelling to new heights and proved that beloved classics and innovative technology can come together.
4. Root, Root, Root for the Home Tweet
Influencer marketing was nothing new in 2019, but one subset got a major league upgrade: employee advocacy. Major League Baseball put its own spin on this tactic (which relies heavily on authenticity) by providing its athletes the tools and supplemental content to post if they wanted to. The final score? The players who shared the new content 50% more engagement and an average increase of 20% more followers. Home run.
3. TikTok and Free Guac
If you’re still feeling unsure about how your brand can utilize Gen Z’s favorite app, TikTok, look no further than Chipotle. This burrito brand has held multiple hashtag challenges on the short-form video platform including its very successful #GuacDance challenge, a guacamole-themed dance off for Avocado Day (naturally). While it might be harder for B2B brands to connect with Chipotle’s marketing style, we admire its boldness in jumping into the TikTok space (dancing feet first) and its ability to connect with those mysterious, younger audiences.
2. U Got Games?
This Spark, brought to you by Adidas and Snapchat, has a lot going on: gaming, baseball, shopping, and social media. For this multifaceted campaign, Adidas created a line of baseball cleats (with old-school video game inspired designs), then launched an old-school style baseball video game within Snapchat, and sold the cleats directly from the game. Like we said, a lot going on. As social e-commerce grows, it’s exciting to see the creative ways brands connect consumers with their products and expand the shopping experience beyond just a purchase.
1. Take a Stance on Me
We’re rewinding way back to early 2019 with this one. Remember how so many people freaked out at Gillette’s “We Believe” ad? We can’t forget all the conversations it sparked — in the office, on Twitter, and in the news. While many saw it as a positive step in combating toxic cultural norms, others felt attacked by the ad. No matter what your stance is, we think all marketers can take lessons from Gillette. Taking a stance is hard, and it probably won’t jive with everyone in your audience, but if it’s authentic and meaningful to your brand, it can be worth it.
From fried poultry to political podiums to puppets, 2019 provided plenty of marketing inspiration to go around. As the calendar page turns over, we’ll certainly keep an eye out for the next moment of marketing motivation.
If you’re looking for ways to spark up your social, make sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, and contact us here to learn more about how we can help step up your social strategy in 2020 and beyond.