The world of marketing: what are the best campaigns?

If you’re stuck for marketing ideas, why not look to the past to inspire your next campaign?

History is peppered with iconic ads and strategies, and here, we’ve created a collection of the world’s best — looking at why these achieved such phenomenal success to help you plan your next campaign.


Advertising was getting into its stride during the Swinging Sixties, and many US companies led the way. Unfortunately for some motoring brands, it seemed that the American consumer only wanted big cars, and sales of small motors — like the ones produced by German manufacturer, Volkswagen, were low. So, how did the brand overcome this issue? Volkswagen created banners and newspaper ads with lots of white space to highlight the compact feature of its vehicles. So, when other car brands were packing their ads from border to border with copy, colour and imagery; Volkswagen stood apart from the crowd and was noticed for its ingenuity and honesty — its cars were small, and that’s what it told you.

Replicating Think Small

Flaunt, don’t hide what makes your product special. Advertising is believed by many to put an unrealistic spin on reality to sell its customer a dream, so any brand that focuses on honesty is sure to achieve credibility.

California Milk Processor Board

Thanks to celebrity endorsements and effective outdoor banner printing, the American Got Milk? campaign is still hugely popular. Interestingly, Got Milk? wasn’t created to target new milk drinkers — instead, the campaign focused on speaking to people who already were.

We’ve all seen the iconic images of people with milk moustaches, but did you know that the campaign boosted milk sales in California by 7% within its first year? The success of the campaign in the Golden State meant that the strategy started breaking borders, and soon Got Milk? posters and banners were spotted in stores and on highways across the country before moving to television and the internet.

Replicating Got Milk?

Use humour and glamour to your advantage. The Got Milk? strategy is just one example of how something simple can be funny (i.e. the milk moustache), and adding a twist of glitz (i.e. use of celebrities) sealed the deal.


Considering the vast, multi-national sporting brand it is now, it’s hard to believe that Nike was once a struggling business. But that was indeed the case in the 1980s when the company launched the Just Do It strategy at a time when it was floundering behind Reebok in sales of shoes.

After a brief meeting in 1988, the team at Nike came up with one of the 20th century’s most enduring taglines: Just Do It. This famous slogan was soon seen on banners and billboards everywhere. Why? Because it was clear, concise and emotive. Can’t be bothered to run? Just do it. Don’t think you can handle an hour at the gym? Just do it. Within ten years of its launch, the campaign had boosted Nike sales from $800 million to $9.2 billion — all due to a tagline thought up in around 20 minutes.

Replicating Just Do It

Taglines, slogans and attention-grabbing text are key to the success of your marketing campaign. Use posters and billboards to show off your slogan — which won’t vanish until it’s taken down unlike video or other types of online advertising. If you want this type of success, perhaps adopt this strategy by concentrating on a solid slogan — that encapsulates your brand and speaks directly to your core audience — and building out from there.


This marketing idea is so simple, it’s surprising that anyone ever thought of it. Fundamentally, the Absolut strategy consisted of ads depicting an Absolut bottle outline in various real images, such as:

  • A Christmas advert depicting a woman carrying stacks of gifts in a bottle formation (tagline: ‘Absolut 24th’).
  • An aerial shot of NYC’s Central Park shown with an added section at the top to create a bottle neck and cap shape (tagline: ‘Absolut Manhattan’).

For around 25 years, this marketing idea worked wonders for Absolut. Before it, the brand had less than 3% of the vodka market in the US and by the end, its name was on the label of half of all the country’s imported vodka.

Replicating the Absolut Bottle

When in doubt, go back to basics. How do your products feel and look? Large outdoor banners and billboards offer the opportunity to capitalise on colours, textures and silhouettes to turn something simple into something intriguing. So, pick your brand apart and diversify what you have.


Dove’s Real Beauty campaign was wonderfully handled and expertly executed — so much so, it’s still talked about today. Real Beauty started as a series of outdoor banners and ads that were designed around a social experiment:

  • A sketch artist — who’d been trained by the FBI — was asked to draw two images of a woman.
  • The first image was after the woman had described herself and the second image was drawn after a stranger described her.
  • Both images were then shown on completion and were found to look completely different.

Clearly, this highlighted how differently women perceive themselves compared to how others see them. After, Dove combined the result of this experiment with the statistic that a mere 4% of women find themselves attractive to create a hugely successful marketing campaign that truly resonated with its audience.

Next, came the print marketing side of the campaign. The brand incited a debate about female beauty standards by releasing a series of banners and billboards portraying regular women next to contradictory checkboxes for the viewer to choose between (e.g. ‘wrinkled or wonderful’ and ‘fat or fit’). Dove’s advertising strategy was insightful, inspiring and sensitive; encouraging women to see themselves in a different light. To date, Dove’s Real Beauty campaign has been seen in around 110 countries.

Replicating Real Beauty

This massive campaign was simply Dove looking at a real and well-known issue among its target audience — so, what’s affecting your customers? Dove turned a negative into a positive with Real Beauty, which not only helped women feel better about themselves, but also reflected positively on the brand.

When you’re coming up with your next marketing campaign, consider how you can incorporate these inspiring examples into your strategy!