Beat ‘Em to the Punch: 6 Viral Social Campaigns of Recent Years and How You Can Snag Their Marketing Swag

viral campaigns 2016, best marketing campaigns holiday, best buy marketing

Christmas has passed us by, the New Year is well underway and our resolutions are left lying on the floor. (Hey, who can or SHOULD give up donuts anyway?) While we are all over the tinsel and the fireworks, now is the best time to start thinking about next year’s seasonal campaigns while the holiday is still fresh enough to be an inspiration and long-gone enough to leave you rested. Starting now means not only getting a head-start, but also getting a leg-up on the competition.

To help inspire you to lay the groundwork on 2017’s holiday campaigns, we wanted to take a look at some of the best seasonal marketing campaigns of recent years and what we can learn from them. While we cannot all be the industry-giant, it only takes one great campaign to take your company from local favorite to viral celebrity. From humorous takes on the holiday season to sentimental walks down memory lane, here are 6 of the best social campaigns from recent years and how you can snag their seasonal marketing magic for yourself…

Target Celebrates the “Ultimate Shopper”

Everyone knows an “ultimate shopper.” There is always that one person in the family who gets up at 2 a.m. on Black Friday, drinks 2 pots of coffee before cranking the car and has a license to carry a concealed Groupon. Target saluted the shopper who thought that sleep was for quitters… and so was letting go of the last holiday-edition blender, even if it meant getting into an occasional fist fight.

Seriously though, Target set the bar high back in 2011 when they took a light-hearted jab at the super-shoppers who show up at their doors when the holidays come around. With a Rocky-like soundtrack and the timely reminder that shoppers who cared this much about making their loved one’s holidays rock… well, they rocked too – it was clear to see why this become one of the most notable holiday campaigns of recent years.

Snag the seasonal marketing swag:

  • Never be afraid to laugh at yourself or take a friendly jab at your audience. Humor is a powerful selling tool when done right.

Best Buy Gets Honest

Best Buy’s most memorable seasonal campaign was also one of the simplest we have seen. It capitalized on the feeling we all feel whether we want to admit it or not. Every year, we stay up late to wrap gifts, put together bicycles and work overtime for months just to make sure that all the wonder of the season happens on time. Then, comes along and Santa takes all the credit. He even gets to eat all the cookies!

Best Buy understood us all when they let the now-legendary tagline fly out into the airwaves, “Game on, Santa”, the mom says as she checks out with an awesome gift. “Game on.” You may have even caught yourself mouthing the same lines as you snagged that epic gift for your favorite kid.

Snag the seasonal marketing swag:

  • Tap into the grey areas of Christmas. Most companies keep it black and white.
  • Your marketing does not have to be elaborate to be universal. In fact, the simpler the concept the more universal it will be.

Office Max Creates a Legend

Office supplies are a little bit boring and Office Max knew it full well. Perhaps, this was what sparked the idea for their marketing campaign that did not have a thing to do with what they sold. It is very probable that this is one thing that helped to make the company’s wildly-popular Elf Yourself site so darn memorable, and did we mention, sharable?

Almost overnight, people were showing up to the Elf Yourself site in troves, spending 30+ minutes uploading their own photos and laughing the entire time. Entirely ridiculous and incredibly addicting, people were uploading, sharing and helping Elf Yourself to catapult to viral status. The company is still going strong ever holiday season with Elf Yourself, adding new features with each passing year.

Snag the seasonal marketing swag:

  • You do not always have to market your product to market your product indirectly. Experiment with marketing ideas that help you reach your goal in a round-about way.
  • If your product is generally not too exciting, think of new ways to make it relevant by thinking outside the box… or in Office Max’s case, thinking outside the office.

Macy’s Revives the Spirit of Giving

Macy’s invested in a simple idea that not only helped us relive the magic of our childhoods, but also kept in mind that people are generally more charitable during the holiday season. For every letter to Santa that arrived in the company’s red mailboxes, Macy’s would donate to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The retail-superstar had a coinciding online campaign that blended in to this idea seamlessly.

So why did it work?

The mailboxes were outside, but if you drove down to mail a letter… you would likely come in to look around. Kids and parents got to live childhood magic together, worthy causes received more donations and shoppers got to play a part in making a difference. All of this worked together to help Macy’s not only make a better seasonal profit, but also boost its company image. This campaign was simply a win all around.

Snag the seasonal marketing swag:

  • Charitable companies have excellent brand reputations… and even better personal character. Do it for your soul first, and your company second.
  • If you can manage to capture a childhood memory with your grownup audience, you will also manage to capture an audience that you will keep for life.

Coca-Cola Shakes Up the Holiday

When you think of holiday marketing, Coca-Cola probably comes to the forefront of your mind. This is because Coke has put so much effort into keeping its holiday brand story alive for generations. From the image of Santa drinking an ice-cold Coke to those delightful little polar bear families that slid around on ice, we all have a memory of Coca-Cola’s marketing campaigns at Christmastime that coincided with memories from our lives.

Reviving the company’s relationship with Old Saint Nick himself, the memorable ad in our list featured Santa shaking a snow globe in his hands. The snow globe ended up being a REAL globe. People started sliding all over the place! It was classic, but still fresh and right on point with what Coca-Cola had done so effortlessly for years.

Snag the seasonal marketing magic:

  • Stay true to your brand and know what you do best.
  • Find new ways to retell your brand story while still remaining genuine.

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge Unwrap the Feels

We will wrap up our list with Samsung’s 2016 campaign to spread the word about how groundbreaking their product is by bringing virtual reality to those who never thought we would see it happen. Featuring scenes of families gathering around with older relatives and even strangers, the campaign for the Galaxy S7 Edge has been all over our televisions and our YouTube feeds.

The ads have a documentary-like feel, leaving you feeling like you sitting in the room and helping you to picture the reactions from your own grandparents. There was no better time to go so hard on the feels than right here at Christmas. The company continued their growing momentum by running a social campaign that allowed their audience to win a S7 Edge by tweeting one of various hashtags and a few words about a nominee who deserved to experience virtual reality for themselves.

Sure. You have plenty of time to get your holiday marketing right – but lighting a little fire under your butt never hurt anything. In the meantime, let’s all take time to appreciate the hard work that we put in last year… even if our campaigns didn’t quite soar to viral stardom like we hoped. There’s always next Christmas. And this Christmas? We’ll be ready – darn it.