Our Knowledge

Eyes to the front! Lessons from some of the best marketing campaigns of all time

When a marketing campaign goes well, it doesn’t just raise the profile of an organisation, it can change the world. Certain TV advertisements, jingles, slogans, and even colour co-ordinations become synonymous with life events – from the momentous, to the everyday. Here, we’re going to look at some of the most memorable marketing campaigns, and what they can teach us about creating marketing campaigns of our own.


Go Compare!

Admit it; you didn’t just read those two words normally. You sang them in the style of a rotund, moustachioed Italian tenor, and there’s every chance you did so out loud. That’s the power of marketing. No longer can two words be placed next to each other without people feeling compelled to sing them in a certain way. Many of you most likely rolled your eyes at the reminder of the jingle as well. Hardly surprising. The GoCompare commercial was voted marketingmagazine.co.uk’s ‘Most Irritating Advert’ for both 2009 and 2010. Yet from humble beginnings in 2006, the price comparison outfit is now posting revenues approaching £120m.

How can this be? How can a company with an advert voted ‘Most Annoying’ for two years running, continue to grow? In 2012, GoCompare broadcast a new set of adverts featuring celebrities who came into shot and silenced Gio Compario (yes, that’s what they call him) mid-song before extolling the benefits of the company’s service. They played on the fact that people found Gio annoying, and they adapted the campaign accordingly. The adverts were a massive hit, and GoCompare re-established itself as one of the UK’s price comparison big hitters.

What’s the lesson here? The lesson to be learned from Gio Compario, is that adaptation should be considered before elimination. GoCompare had developed a marketing device that frankly, people hated. However, they still believed it was a device that could potentially deliver results. It just needed to be adapted. Should you embark on a marketing campaign of your own that falls flat, with a dash of cunning that campaign could be adapted to embrace its failure, and be re-released in a way that delights.


De Beers

When it comes to proposing to the one we love, one of the first thoughts we have is a ring. You may be surprised to learn that this is a tradition barely 70 years old.

In 1948, in the midst of The Great Depression, diamond ring makers De Beers were suffering from tumbling sales. They needed a marketing device that would have men rummaging through their wallets to hand over cash for some prime compressed carbon. They devised the ‘Diamond is Forever’ strapline, and to say the campaign was a success, would be something of an understatement. Not only did it massively boost sales, it produced the very concept of the engagement ring. Staggeringly, by 1951, 80% of brides in the US had an engagement ring of their own.

What’s the lesson here? The lesson here pertains to the concept of ‘need’. If we’re honest about it, we don’t need engagement rings. A declaration of love coupled with the proposal itself should be more than enough. De Beers though created that sense of ‘need’ where it hadn’t existed. If you’re starting to think there isn’t a need for your product or service – create that need yourself.



Marlboro must be up there as one of the most rugged, macho (albeit these days, unfashionable) brands. All the more remarkable then, that it was originally targeted at women, filtered cigarettes widely regarded as effeminate. Marlboro needed to get the blokes on side and in 1955 introduced the world to ‘The Marlboro Man’. The horse-riding, Stetson-wearing cowboy became an overnight cultural icon. A symbol of free-spirited, red-blooded masculinity. ‘Real men’ smoked Marlboro was the message, and by 1972, Marlboro was the world’s highest selling tobacco brand.

What’s the lesson here? First and foremost; don’t smoke. It really is terrible for your health. That said, the Marlboro Man teaches us a most important marketing lesson. People can be encouraged to associate certain brands with lifestyle choices and ambitions. Via intelligent marketing, you can do the same.


Paddy Power

Internet gambling is big business. One only needs to watch a live sporting event on TV and seemingly every advert, electronic billboard, and shirt sponsor is a betting company. It’s an environment in which companies need to be doing something special to stand out.

Paddy Power are one such company. Once a humble bookie, dotted across the high streets of Ireland, it has grown to become one of the internet gambling heavyweights. It’s their methodology that’s been fascinating. Rather than pumping the media highways with offers and promotions, much of their output has been purely comedic. Their Twitter feed, for example, is awash with memes and waspish commentaries on current sports stories. It’s a tactic that has proved enormously popular, and Paddy Power now enjoys a huge social media following and an enviable share of the market.

What’s the lesson here? Marketing approaches invariably focus on the capabilities of an organisation and/or offers and promotions available. But people get tired of being sold to all the time. Paddy Power realised this, and instead tried to entertain and amuse. It worked. Don’t always feel like you have to be selling your services directly through your marketing. Dare to do something different. People appreciate companies who offer irreverent distractions from time to time.

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