Marketing is a dynamic industry that’s incredibly responsive to the fast-changing media landscape. And while the rising popularity of new channels means the sector has had to remould itself over time, the impact of individual campaigns on marketing as a whole cannot be underplayed.

Dove Real Beauty Campaign iconic advert

The ultimate goal of any advertisement is to sell, but some transcend this by managing to alter how other brands think about their own marketing strategies going forward. Certain campaigns don’t just promote products — they change outlooks.

Here are three which truly shifted the marketing paradigm forever and can teach your brand a few valuable lessons.

1. Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’

The advert

Launched in 2004 by personal care brand Dove, the ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ celebrates the different natural bodies of women and is still active today. Its aim is to inspire confidence in its customers, no matter what they look like. The campaign began with billboard adverts of ordinary women in their underwear, rather than relying on the industry’s preference for professional models. There have also been video discussions of issues relating to the modern perception of beauty, and the launch of the Dove Real Beauty Sketches short film, in which women found out how strangers view them versus the way they internally perceived themselves, emphasising how much they downplayed their own beauty.

Dove - Campaign for Real Beauty - 2004

The ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ has garnered wide acclaim for its efforts to change the concept of beauty and ‘the ideal’, countering the narrow-minded perspective so prevalent in other cosmetics adverts. Indeed, Marketing Week called the campaign “one of the most celebrated examples of brand purpose over the past two decades”, and Dove picked up numerous accolades over time. These included being named the Best Campaign of the Past 20 Years and 2013’s Campaign of the Year. The campaign was also extremely effective commercially, seeing Dove doubling sales of its firming cream within a month of the advertisement’s 2004 launch.

What you can learn from it

Dove was one of the pioneers of ‘femvertising’, and proved that brands could be vehicles for positive social changes without being opportunistic or superficial. As remarked by digital recruitment agency Salt: “They don’t piggyback on causes; they create them and effectively shape society in a positive way.­” If your own brand is in a position to bring about important social changes, and can do so in a genuine and effective manner, it isn’t just good for society, but maybe even your company too.

2. Nike’s ‘Tag’

The advert

In 2001, sports giant Nike ran an advert that some have claimed “changed sports advertising forever”. The ‘Tag’ commercial centered around a man being tagged as ‘it’ during a citywide round of the classic playground game. However, his efforts to tag someone else prove futile, as everybody he chases does everything possible to escape his clutches. As the advert ends, he is shown to be wearing Nike trainers, with his pursuit of a lone straggler on the subway platform continuing off screen as a superimposed Nike swoosh appears, accompanying the campaign tagline “Play”.

The ‘Tag’ advert won huge plaudits, with critics particularly praising Nike for its promotion of childhood innocence. It was also heralded for its light-hearted tone, clever choreography and overall concept. The TV spot went on to scoop honours at ceremonies including the Clio Awards, the London International Awards and the Andy Awards, while Nike ended the year with a 5.5% sales boost.

What you can learn from it

Perhaps the biggest lesson is that, sometimes, less is more. Even though Nike is one of the world’s biggest brands, there was no need for fanfare or celebrity endorsements — just a fun, creative sequence that was sure to stick in consumers’ minds.

The advert also doesn’t take itself too seriously, providing an antidote to the more serious sports marketing campaigns airing at the time. Finally, it highlights the value of a good story, which is often cited as one of the most effective ways to forge a relationship with audiences.

3. Old Spice’s ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’

The advert

Back in 2010, male grooming brand Old Spice made waves with its ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ campaign, featuring actor Isaiah Mustafa addressing viewers with a series of self-assured, quick-fire monologues explaining the advantages of Old Spice’s products. While speaking, Mustafa undertakes activities including horse riding and diving off a waterfall, all in one continuous take while maintaining constant eye contact with the camera. Interestingly, Old Spice aimed the advert at women, surmising that many females buy male grooming products on their partners’ behalf.

Initially running as TV commercials, the campaign was a viral hit, clocking up over 57 million views on YouTube as of March 2020. It also won the Grand Prix for film at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival and the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial. Mustafa’s role was crucial to the campaign’s success, with People lauding his “sharply scripted” monologues and “smug, and over the top” screen presence. Within three months of its launch, sales of Old Spice Red Zone Body Wash were up 60% from the previous year.

The brand supported the campaign with “Old Spice Responses” five months later, a series of over 200 videos of Mustafa answering fan questions. These videos were delivered with the same type of humour as the TV ads, and became one of the fastest-growing online video campaigns of all time, garnering just under six million views in 24 hours. This beat Barack Obama’s victory speech by over a million.

What you can learn from it

The ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ campaign has taught marketers how important it is to interact with the audience. Old Spice’s novel approach set the bar for how far brands could go to focus on their fans. By enabling customers to drive the content of its videos, fans were much more inclined to engage.

There are many ways to run interactive advertising campaigns yourself, such as launching a pop-up — a short-term sales space which encourages passers-by to interact with your products or services. You could also use apps like Snapchat and Instagram to gamify your commercials, with Snapchat’s augmented reality feature allowing users to digitally interact with products in real time.