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Jan 09 2020

The Good, Bad, and Ugly Marketing Campaigns of 2019

The success (or failure) of a marketing campaign depends on how well it is received by its target audience. Sometimes, a campaign hits the sweet spot and becomes a success.

 

At other times… Ummm… not so much.

 

Here are some of the hits and misses of the marketing campaigns of 2019!

 

The Best Marketing Campaigns

 

Greggs Vegan Sausage Rolls

 

Greggs hadn’t been doing too well towards the end of 2018. Then, at the beginning of the year, the company launched its vegan sausage roll!

 

Was it an effort to cash in on the vegan bandwagon?

 

Maybe.

 

Was it a brilliant ad?

 

Most definitely!

 

Never has a sausage roll (yes, yes, it’s vegan so not technically a sausage) looked so much like an Apple product.

 

 

Screenshot of Gregg's tweet to announce the vegan sausage roll, with an ad that looks like it's for an Apple product

 

However, it wasn’t just the ad that went on to become a viral sensation. Greggs’s Twitter account also exploded after the announcement, especially when Piers Morgan piped in and Greggs had a sassy reply ready.

 

 

Screenshot of Piers Morgan's reaction to the announcement of the vegan sausage roll and Gregg's response to him

 

The campaign (and the social media hype) was so effective that they have now launched a vegan steak bake.

 

 

Tesco 100 years

 

Tesco completed 100 years in 2019, and to celebrate the centenary, they launched an ad that was made up of iconic moments over those years. The ad ticked several boxes.

 

Nostalgia.

 

Fun.

 

And very low prices, which came at the perfect time… right after Christmas, when people are feeling the pinch of holiday spending.

 

 

John Lewis Excitable Edgar

 

Every year, the major supermarkets come up with a Christmas ad and this year was no different. Along came John Lewis’s Excitable Edgar, a dragon who ruins everyone’s Christmas because he can’t control himself when he’s excited.

 

It was a sweet little tale of friendship and how your faults can be turned around into advantages (and only slightly reminiscent of the other unwanted Christmas character whose red nose that made him different also made him Santa’s fave!).

 

The ad was such a hit that it outperformed Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot.

 

 

Iceland Rang-tan

 

In 2018, Iceland created a Christmas ad in collaboration with Greenpeace. It spoke about how palm oil (used in a variety of products) is responsible for the loss of habitat for orang-utans. The ad ended with a pledge from Iceland saying they would stop using palm oil in their own brand products.

 

Unfortunately for them, the ad could never be aired as Clearcast said it was political messaging.

 

That should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t.

 

Even though the ad wasn’t ever shown on TV, it was released on YouTube where it stands at over 6 million views. People not only watched it – they also loved it.

 

Now, technically, it was made it 2018 and it was never actually used for marketing in the manner it was intended. However, the video continued to be popular well into 2019.

 

Greenpeace was contacted by schools to ask for resources to teach children about deforestation, and to offer help and support for the cause.

 

It got so much praise that it is now being adapted into an illustrated book.

 

 

 

Alan Partridge Returns

 

When Alan Partridge returned to the BBC after 24 years, he obviously needed to tell everyone about it. What better way to do it than with an awkward, tactless, yet desperate email to over 20,000 employees at the BBC?

 

 

Screenshot of Scott Bryan's tweet with Alan Partridge's letter

 

 

[The full contents of the email can be viewed here.]

 

 

 

The cringeworthy letter was obviously shared by these employees on Twitter.

 

More hilarity ensued when some enterprising people replied to the email. They got back an automated reply calling them ‘mentalists’ for emailing him.

 

 

Screenshot of the auto-reply when sending an email to Alan Partidge's email

Failed Marketing Campaigns

 

On the other side of the coin, we have campaigns that were so clueless that they were bound to fail. Here are some of them.

 

Ancestry.com – ‘Inseparable’

 

Ancestry.com is a genealogy website that came up with an ad that showed a white man and a black woman in a romantic relationship.

 

Nothing wrong with that.

 

Except, for reasons unknown, it was set in the American South during the era of slavery.

 

We’re not sure what the message was, or how it helped the company, but people didn’t like the fact that the company was trying to romanticise slavery.

 

 

 

 

Peloton’s Christmas ad

 

Peloton is a company that sells exercise bikes, and obviously, when they made a Christmas advert, it featured the product as a gift.

 

The problem was, it showed a husband giving his slim (some would say thin) wife an exercise bike.

 

Because she OBVIOUSLY needed to lose weight.

 

The ad shows her recording herself exercising in a vlog, only to say (at the end of a year) how it changed her life.

 

When there is no discernible difference in her appearance.

 

Because she was already thin.

 

It was made worse by the fact that the actress playing the wife looks anxious and generally fearful throughout. (Actress Monica Ruiz, who played the wife, even joked that it might have been her face that was the problem!)

 

People were appalled by the misogyny and sexism, with many even calling it dystopian – like a Black Mirror episode. All in all, it was not a good campaign, even though the company has stood by it.

 

 

(You can also watch the (Ryan Reynolds’s gin brand) Aviation Gin ad created as a spoof sequel here.)

 

 

BONUS: Most Controversial Marketing Campaign

 

Gillette – the best a man can be

 

We are all familiar with Gillette’s strapline – The best a man can get. In January 2019, they released a new advertising campaign that focused on ‘the best a man can be’. This was an effort to show corporate social responsibility by attempting to address negative male behaviour and toxic masculinity.

 

At the same time, the company pledged to donate $1 million per year over the next three years to organisations that work towards helping men achieve their personal best.

 

On the face of it, the message sounds good. However, it got reactions that were quite polarised. Some people praised the message and the effort, while others were outraged as to why a razor company should be telling them how to behave. Men were out on social media saying they were boycotting Gillette.

 

Was this a form of outrage marketing where the idea was to get people talking about their brand?

 

Maybe.

 

Was it an attempt to attract women as customers, since they are the ones most likely to be shopping for household products (and are buying razors for themselves regularly)?

 

Possibly.

 

Or, was it just a poorly thought out campaign trying to cash in on the #metoo movement?

 

What do you think?

 

What We Think

Marketing is balancing that fine line between what’s relevant and what will strike an emotional chord with the viewer. People aren’t stupid, so if the communication isn’t authentic, they will see right through it.

 

Why did Greggs succeed with a product that is SO controversial?

 

Firstly, because there is a market for it and they exploited that. Secondly, they had a clever ad and fended off objections on social media brilliantly, in line with their persona. Most importantly, they had a product that actually tasted good.

 

Tesco, Iceland, and John Lewis touched the viewers’ hearts with nostalgia, a current issue with a cute mascot, and a familiar story told differently respectively.

 

BBC’s Alan Partridge campaign worked so well because it was so true to the character. It was genuinely something Alan Partridge would do; it was familiar and expected, and it was funny.

 

This is where Peloton and Ancestry failed. Their campaigns were generic and completely oblivious socially. They came across as insensitive, sexist, and extremely clueless.

 

Which is why no one liked them.

 

So, these are the marketing campaigns in 2019 that stood out for being well-liked or deeply hated. What did you think of them, and would you like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

 

Alternatively, you can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and join the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Elly Cattermole

Our marketing and creative demon - Elly is here to keep you updated on any new developments in the industry. Her keen eye for social media updates (they happen more than you think!) and new ideas to market your business means she’s in the know for all things content.

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