5 Most Effective Marketing Strategies of the 21st Century

Posted by Matt Mills on April 11, 2014 at 2:29 PM

5 Most Effective Marketing Pitches of the 21st CenturySometimes, a company's marketing strategy just sticks with you. They are memorable years or decades later. People talk about them as part of the nostalgia of their childhoods and they become a common pop culture reference for their time.

These marketing campaigns capture the imaginations of a generation and the unique feel of a particular time, and they speak to their audience in a way few other marketing campaigns ever do. They are, in short, brilliant. The 20th century saw its fair share of memorable marketing campaigns. The 21st century is shaping up to be no different. Here are the 5 most effective marketing pitches of the 21st century so far.

1. The Whopper Sacrifice Campaign

This is a classic study in how to create an effective marketing strategy. It's also a good lesson in how to use an app for marketing. Launched in 2009, the concept was simple: Use the Burger King Sacrifice app to un-friend 10 people on Facebook, and you get a coupon for a free Whopper. The catch was that, unlike a regular Facebook un-friend, which is totally anonymous and the person you un-friend never knows you did it, the Burger King app would actually send a message to the person you un-friended, letting them know that you did it and why. The campaign only lasted 10 days until Facebook shut it down due to privacy violations. However, 20,000 people deleted 10 friends for a free Whopper during that time, proving that a free Whopper is more important than friendship to a lot of people out there!

2. The Old Spice "Man You Can Smell" Campaign

People are still talking about this marketing strategy, which was first seen in a 2010 Super Bowl ad. It showed how the most successful marketing pitches use intrigue, humor, and sometimes sex appeal to draw in their audience. The ad was so popular that the character appeared in 180 more commercials and online videos, and even gained a celebrity following led by such big names as Ellen DeGeneres and Demi Moore. It also resulted in a 107 percent increase in Old Spice products within the first 30 days after the launch of the campaign.

3. The True Blood Debut Campaign

Now about to enter its seventh and final season, HBO's True Blood is one of its most successful programs ever. This is due in no small part to its integrated marketing plan, which was nothing short of genius. The way HBO marketed the first season was like nothing ever done with a television program previously. The network used the actual mail (not just e-mail) to send horror bloggers vials of a strange red liquid accompanied by messages written in a supposedly dead language (it was actually a made-up language). Once bloggers decoded the language, it led them to a website that was supposed to be for "vampires only." The site was called BloodCopy. It had videos of "genuine" vampires talking about whether or not they should reveal their existence to the human public.

This website was accompanied by posters placed in metropolitan areas that advertised a drink called True Blood and a website where you could buy it. The True Blood website featured ads that supported equal rights for vampires. None of it ever mentioned the TV show. This ad campaign created a backstory to the beverage that was the namesake of the show and generated curiosity and buzz among potential viewers who tuned in in droves for the premiere.

4. The Elf Yourself Campaign

It's a simple concept. You upload pictures of you and your friends and family onto a website, and the website puts their faces on dancing animated elves. You see a lot of that kind of thing nowadays, and there's even a whole website called JibJab devoted to just that kind of thing. However, in 2006, it was a revolutionary concept. It essentially allowed people to star in their "own" commercial. The remarkable thing is that the campaign is still going all these years later. The original video has had over six billion shares and people are still using it to create dancing elves out of themselves and their loved ones.

5. The 2008 Presidential Campaign

Barack Obama demonstrated the importance of a social media strategy in politics for the first time in 2008 when he dominated YouTube and Facebook with videos of himself in action, behind the scenes photos, and calls to action to his followers, all punctuated by the catching slogan, "Yes, We Can!" It's still a catchphrase today, and it helped him win two terms as president. What could be more successful than that in a marketing campaign?  This campaign was social marketing at its best.


Your marketing campaign doesn’t have to be controversial, but it should be memorable. How can you incorporate some of the above themes into your next marketing campaign to make more people interested?

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Tags: social media, viral, Marketing strategy, message, commercial, matt mills

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