One of the best ways to find inspiration for your marketing initiatives is to look back at some of the best digital marketing campaigns over the years. Seeing what other brands have done can stir your creative juices and enable you to come up with imaginative ideas for your own efforts.
Of course, finding the best initiative isn’t a simple task, as numerous online marketing services and digital campaigns are launched each year.
So to make this easier, we've put together a roundup of some notable digital marketing campaigns that have hit the web (and even the real world) over the past few years. We'll highlight examples in the realms of mobile, video, email, and more.
After looking at these examples, you’re bound to walk away with inspired ideas to apply in your own campaigns.
Gorilla: British advertising campaign from Fallon London ad agency in 2007 to promote Cadbury dairy milk chocolate.
What is viral marketing?
Closely related to digital marketing is the term “viral marketing,” which pertains to marketing strategies and tactics that are specifically designed to get people to share a campaign with their network.
The ultimate objective is to "go viral" and reach a state where people proactively share and discuss information about the brand or campaign. In some cases, viral campaigns even inspire spin-offs and encourage user-generated content.
A great example of this is the Ice Bucket Challenge, an activity that involves pouring a bucket of ice water over someone's head. Co-founded by ALS activist Pat Quinn and Pete Frates, the Ice Bucket Challenge aimed to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Launched in 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge helped the ALS Association raise $115 million in donations and improved the organization’s R&D capacities.
Now, not all digital marketing campaigns are created to go viral. However, the concepts of user-generated content and social media sharing are important components of some of the best initiatives out there. You’ll find that many of the most successful digital marketing campaigns incorporate these things in some way, shape, or form.
Let’s explore more marketing initiatives below.
Best mobile digital marketing example
It’s no secret that people love being on their mobile devices. According to January 2021 data from Statista (opens in new tab), there are 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide. Of this total, 92.6% (4.32 billion) accessed the web via mobile devices.
Clever brands understand this, and some are finding truly creative ways to leverage mobile to their advantage.
Take a look at this 2019 mobile digital marketing example from Burger King. Called "Burn That Ad," Burger King encouraged consumers to "burn" the ads of its competitors using the augmented reality (AR) features of their mobile phones.
"Our competitor ads are everywhere," said Burger King in a video (opens in new tab). "So we decided to use augmented reality to burn them."
Consumers simply needed to get the Burger King app, find competitor ads, and use the app’s AR capabilities to (digitally) burn them. In exchange, people would get a free Whopper from Burger King.
This is a superb example of mobile digital marketing because it leveraged features that are unique to mobile devices: apps and mobile cameras Burger King’s campaign not only raised brand awareness, it also encouraged consumers to download the company’s app plus head to the store to claim their free burger.
Best video digital marketing campaign example
Video is an effective storytelling tool that can captivate viewers, stir emotions, and ultimately drive action.
Brands like Nike recognize video’s capabilities and are putting it to good use.
Case in point: Nike’s "You Can't Stop Us" film. Narrated by Meghan Rapinoe, the video features split-screen footage of diverse athletes and offers a compelling message about unity, resilience, and perseverance.
“We’re never alone. And that is our strength. Because when we’re doubted, we’ll play as one. When we’re held back, we’ll go farther," says Rapinoe, while narrating the ad.
“And no matter how bad it gets, we will always come back stronger. Because nothing can stop what we can do together.”
The ad went viral, garnering 20 million views on Twitter and over 11 million views on YouTube within just a few days of its launch.
Best email digital marketing campaign example
As far as digital marketing tools go, many may consider email marketing as an “old school” tactic. And while email has certainly been around for quite some time, it continues to be one of the most effective marketing tools out there.
Industry data shows that email has a median ROI of 122%, outperforming other digital channels like social media and paid search.
That being said, consumers are inundated with email, which is why you need to invest time and resources in creating compelling messages that stand out.
Take a leaf out of YouTube’s email marketing playbook.
YouTube sends its creators monthly emails containing news and updates about the platform. What's notable about YouTube's email is that it incorporates personalization into the mix. The message also contains information that's personalized to each recipient; it recaps the number of subscribers gained that month, total views, and minutes watched.
This encourages creators to open YouTube’s emails because they’re able to get useful information specific to their account.
Best creative digital marketing campaign example
Creative visuals can leave a lasting impression when they’re executed with style.
Case in point: Apple. To demonstrate the power and quality of the iPhone’s camera, Apple regularly commissions photos and video content that’s shot with just an iPhone.
We can see this in action in the video below, which showcases a vibrant candy landscape that was filmed using the iPhone 13's cinematic mode.
To make it even more interesting, Apple also added some behind-the-scenes content of videographers Dong Hoon J. and James T sharing the methods and tactics they implemented to bring Apple’s video to life.
Best out of home digital advertising campaign example
The power of digital has permeated out of home advertising, and brands sure are taking notice. Unlike traditional out of home ads, digital campaigns are much more interactive and can often react to external stimuli — such as consumers touching the ad or even the weather.
For example, in 2019, McDonald’s ran a digital out of home campaign that reacts to the weather. Launched all over the UK, the ad showcased different products based on the weather in the area, and the creative changed based on the temperature. For instance, when temperatures were over 25 degrees Celsius, the campaign updated its imagery. It also contained live temperature updates and the city name.
Best digital marketing campaigns over the years
Need more digital marketing inspiration? Let’s look at some notable campaigns in recent years.
What was the best digital marketing campaign of 2021?
As with all creative endeavors, the notion of “best” is subjective. However, we can usually tell that a campaign has struck a chord based on how most people react to it.
Take, for example, BetterHelp’s Want ad, which explores the importance of mental health in men. The ad starts off by showing a man opening up about his struggles after someone asks him the question, "What do you want?". After a moving monologue, the camera shifts to reveal the man's friend who simply wants to know what he wants to eat. (Hence the question "What do you want?")
The ad ends with the words: "Need someone else to talk to?" followed by the BetterHelp logo.
The video received a positive response from audiences everywhere. Glossy reports that, "Early online reaction to the spot has been overwhelmingly positive, with viewers variously describing it as 'simple, terrifically executed and meaningful' and 'a perfect advertisement.'"
What was the best digital marketing campaign of 2020?
In 2020, Brit + Co., teamed up with Office Depot to launch a 10-week virtual online course that helps women launch or grow their businesses.
Featuring notable female founders and experts, the campaign delivered an empowering message to women entrepreneurs.
The initiative won Digiday's Best Custom Advertising Award (opens in new tab), with Digiday praising "the inspiring and diverse group of women hosting Selfmade, along with leading female investors, spotlighted participants who otherwise might not have accessed such impactful resources, especially during a global pandemic."
What was the best digital marketing campaign of 2019?
In 2019, the life assurance and pensions company Irish Life produced a campaign highlighting the fact women in Ireland are likely to receive pensions that are 22% lower than men's.
The campaign included a video of an ice cream truck that serves women ice cream cones that 22% smaller than men's. The campaign also included a mix of social media assets, blogs, infozines, and a landing page that serves as a hub for the entire campaign.
According to Irish Life, the campaign garnered hundreds of thousands of impressions in just a couple of weeks. It was also recognized by the Content Marketing Institute as the best B2C Branded Content Campaign of the Year.
What was the best digital marketing campaign of 2018?
In 2018, the agricultural cooperative Land O’Lakes enlisted the help of advertising agency Martin to encourage the younger generation to consider farming as a career. But being a predominantly male profession, Land O’Lakes knew the industry need to do a better job connecting with women.
So, the brand and its agency came up with a song, “She-I-O” which put a new spin on the classic Old MacDonald song that goes, “E-I-E-I-O.” The song was featured in a music video that included real-life female farmers.
The campaign was a smashing success and garnered accolades from Digiday, The Webby Awards, and more. Best of all, it served as an inspiration to women everywhere.
Coming up with creative marketing ideas isn’t easy, especially when they need to stand out across already crowded digital spaces, which is why it helps to look at other successful digital marketing campaigns and draw inspiration from them. Hopefully, the examples above offer a great starting for your own campaigns.