How to be successful in modern advertising

Written by Master Student at Lund University




social media, trends, integrative marketing, creativity, interactivity, value creation, consumer engagement, storytelling, gamification, authenticity, consumer empowerment, brand experience, cross-media, celebrity endorsement, best-practice

Picture 1: Quote by John Kao (in Smith&Zook, 2011)


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Right now many companies are busy throwing out a lot of money on expensive, fancy-looking campaigns on every digital platform they can think of - the phenomenon of ubiquity -, without even realizing, what the determining factors of success in the new business environment are.

Companies are just starting to realize that social media is important and not even all of the Global Fortune 100 do have a social media presence and even if they do, they are often not on top of the new challenges (Burson-Marsteller, 2012). And that is understandable. New digital media and its revenue prospects are growing enormously and fast (Gartner, 2012) and as humans are not prone to change (Scoble, in Scott, 2010), it takes them quite a long time to actually grasp and understand this change.

Nonetheless, there are some early adopters out there that go with the flow and integrate their marketing, which often makes them extremely successful (Burson-Marsteller; The Drum, 2012).


When going through current academic literature, we are at a point where everybody has understood that social media is of high importance, that consumers are increasingly engaged, that the web demands transparency and that this empowers the consumers, which all have different wants and needs (Holt&Cameron, 2012; Smith&Zook, 2011; Scott, 2010; Bernoff&Li, 2008).

However, what literature does fall surprisingly short on is actual clarity, what the right actions for consumer engagement are (Wind, 2008); and there are many terms that are mentioned increasingly frequent: storytelling, cross-media engagement, integration, gamification, ubiquity (Schwab; Wasserman, both 2012; Duffy, 2013).

Therefore, this paper aims at shedding some light upon these terms, to see them in practice by orchestrating successful campaigns and to explain the current trends in digital marketing, using the best practice examples of five different campaigns in order come to give a profound advice for future marketing activities.


Starbucks and Lady Gaga - Project SRCH

Starting out with cross-media storytelling and engagement, the Starbucks' scavenger hunt is a great example, especially since special celebrity endorsement is also involved. The two weeks' Project SRCH consisted of seven rounds and was integrated across platforms. It was Starbucks' aim to develop closer relationships with its most engaged customers and to connect the store ("third home") to its Digital Network ("fourth home") (Marketing Network, 2011). The first round started on the day of Lady Gaga's new album release, letting her take over the entire Starbucks website with exclusive content (Van Grove, 2011). In advancing rounds, the puzzles got increasingly difficult and were designed to encourage group play and sharing (Marketing Network, 2011).

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Picture 2: First round of project SRCH (Starbucks, 2011)

Since this was a cross-media approach, including QR-coding, Twitter, Facebook, Starbucks' and Lady Gaga's owned media as well as third parties' digital properties, it created a lot of buzz and interaction among fans (Starbucks, 2011). On Twitter, people even started to pair up in teams to decode the cryptic messages at a faster pace, since competitive prices were at stake, resulting in a fun, unexpected digital experience (Van Grove, 2011).

Due to the orchestrated riddle, the consumers visited many different media platforms and shared a lot of content, as this was part of the game. As a great element of play was involved - in academic literature coined as gamification (Deterding et al., 2011) - people felt encouraged and motivated to participate (20 minutes of positive interaction per person per round) and thereby happily creating positive user-generated content (UGC) for Starbucks (as well as for Lady Gaga), resulting in a lot more interaction between the users and the brand as well as a huge media buzz without any media investment. Moreover, celebrity endorsement with a social media powerhouse like Lady Gaga, is a smart move as well (Van Grove, 2011).

Nike - Catch the Flash

Another new online marketing tool, that an increasing number of companies are making use of, are augmented reality gaming elements (ARG) (Bahl, 2012). This often involves a campaign that incorporates smartphones as well as some gamification elements (O'Reilly, 2011).

Nike used this concept in their award-winning campaign called "Catch the Flash" in a new and creative way by "introducing a real world element to the game that would normally be illustrated by an augmented reality feature" (O'Reilly, 2011, online). The campaign, which was designed around the product launch of Nike's new 'Vapor Flash' running jacket, took place during night time in Vienna, featuring 50 runners wearing this jacket, hooked up on GPS systems, that ran around the city for 90 minutes.

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Picture 3: Promotional Picture of Nike's 'Catch the Flash' Campaign (Jung von Matt, 2012)

It was the aim of participants to track down as many runners as possible and document this by taking a picture of them. The winner was awarded a platinum bar worth 10.000 Euros. As the 'Vapor Flash' jacket is 100 per cent reflective, the camera flash revealed the number of the runner, when hitting the jacket, and therefore made it easy to keep track of the number of flashed runners (Jung von Matt, 2012). Simultaneously, the rest of the world could join the game on the online microsite. Since all 50 flash runners were tracked by GPS, the featured "Catch the Flash Online Game" made online users experience the event in real time as well (Pense, n.d.), thereby successfully connecting online and offline elements to enhance engagement (Markenfaktor, 2012).

Coca Cola Israel - The Recycling King Challenge

When Facebook Places was introduced in Israel, Coca Cola took advantage of this fact and introduced a campaign that was based on this new Facebook feature to raise awareness for recycling (Wasserman, 2011). Hence, Coca Cola added over 10.000 recycling bins all over Israel to Facebook Places, encouraged people to check-in at any recycling bin to upload a photo and gain points (Socialbakers, 2012). The person with the most check-ins was awarded a price and the title "Recycling King" (Gobry, 2011).

In just two weeks, the campaign generated over 250.000 check-ins via Facebook Places including more than 26.000 uploaded pictures and a raise of 30.000 Likes for Coca Cola's Facebook Fan page (Socialbakers, 2012); thus, Coca Cola not only managed to leverage a new feature of Facebook by using the sense of a group feeling as well as social conscience, but the brand also positioned itself as environmental-conscious.

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Picture 4: Coca Cola - The Recycling King Challenge

Kotex - Inspiration Day

Yet, a new medium on the social media agenda is Pinterest. Until recently just a sidekick in advertising campaigns, if integrated at all, the female care products company Kotex used this platform last year to gain momentum for their brand on Women's Inspiration Day by connecting with 50 active and influencing women on Pinterest (Ghedin; Wasserman, 2012). They studied their type of pinning behaviour and how they expressed themselves. They then use it and send out a box of gifts that was customized to their taste - first virtually, and when the recipient repinned the gift, she got a real one (Keath; Berkowitz, 2012). According to the advertising agency Smoyz, nearly all women created some content around the gift, not only on Pinterest, but on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram, resulting in a total of more than 2.200 interactions, based on only 50 gift baskets (Wasserman, 2012).

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Picture 5: Kotex - Inspiration Day (Olpost, 2013)

Incentives are always a powerful tool, however, used in a smart way, Kotex was able to use this tool to bridge the gap between online and offline engagement. Thus they bonded with their consumers on a very close level, showing them that they value and care about every individual.

Bodyform - Ad response

As users become increasingly active and empowered, brands are more often facing rants by angry consumers. Rather than taking the traditional approach to solve this problem, U.K.'s sanitary napkins company Bodyform took advantage of it and created a YouTube video as timely response to a Facebook user's comment (Della Costa, 2013). The original post (picture 2) got more than 80.000 Likes, however, this did not stop Bodyform to turn this into positive PR and great social engagement (Haberman, 2012).


Picture 6: Richard Neill's comment on Bodyform's Facebook page (via

"[B]reaking down the taboo around Bodyform and periods has always been a challenge, and I hope that we have started to address this", said brand controller Yulia Kretova in a statement (in Nudd, 2012, online).


However, simply providing empirical evidence for certain trends and phenomena is not sufficient for solid evidence of a development; but by acknowledging the resulting interaction and brand perception as well as value creation of the empirical examples, and by rooting the phenomena described above in movements in academic literature, their relevance for today's business practices as well as for future developments become evident.

Thus, as Deighton and Kornfeld (2009) state, "the form of interactivity most attractive to marketing is that which can facilitate peoples' identity projects and contribute to the collective making of meaning" (p.4) and that is exactly, what the above-featured examples have in common.

Recent studies show that companies are increasingly focusing on permanent brand experiences (Parson&Maclaran, 2012). The key for this type of strategy is the fact that it is highly interactive, both from a consumer-to-marketer and consumer-to-consumer perspective (Parvitt, 2012). "These interactive experiential strategies are designed to co-create meanings with consumers" (Parsons&Maclaran, 2012:46; Tarnovskaya 2012). This development goes hand in hand with the consumer's demand for authentic goods and services (Parsons&Maclaran, 2012), because the more integrated a brand practice is, the more authentic it gets (Holt, 2002).

Moreover, it serves Holt's postmodern branding paradigm (2002), which proclaims that an authentic brand can work as key source for identity construction. Thus, building trust (Gustafsson, 2005), as well as to communicate transparently and engage in a dialogue to show consumers that you do actually care and listen to them (Sullivan, 2012), becomes a crucial task for any marketer (Barwise&Meehan, 2010).

The current and ongoing shift from web 1.0, over 2.0 towards web 3.0 supports this development by increasingly empowering consumers, making them more tech-savvy and brand aware (Parfitt; Tarnovskaya, both 2012).

Hence, cross-media engagement, like Starbucks' SRCH campaign, are initiatives that reflect the current Zeitgeist (Schwab, 2012). Similar to Nike's campaign, they both focus on interaction and offline involvement, creating a special brand experience for their consumers and thereby "forg[ing] a deep connection with the culture" (Holt, 2003: 43), especially when including gaming elements (Schwab, 2012). The online-offline combination enhances brand engagement (Scott, 2010), as it strongly associates feelings with the brand.

Once a buzz is created, everybody wants to take part. This social motive is exactly, what Coca Cola Israel took advantage of. People always want to be part of a group (Marshall, 2002) and "perceived visibility of consumption significantly affects consumers' predictions of normative outcomes (i.e. social approval from referents)" (Fisher&Price, 1992:477). By letting people check in, this served as motivation for social integration and raised awareness at the same time.

Moreover, it was the exploration of a new media tool, which is a crucial task for marketers (Duffy, 2013). This is what Kotex did as well by trying out Pinterest. By focusing on their target group's specific needs, they were able to create value, and came across very authentic and genuine. They engaged in a close connection and dialogue with these women as well as they showed everybody on Pinterest, that they care, which also worked for Bodyform on a different medium.

Thus, staying close to the consumers, being “fluid, dynamic, flexible, adaptive and connected (Faurholt Csaba & Bengtsson, 2006:130) and communicating authentically, even sometimes outside the box, created great value as people really appreciate the effort, since only a few companies are doing this, yet (Elliott&Davies, 2006; Bernoff&Li, 2008).


The common denominator in all these examples is the term "integration". Thus, the future challenge for marketers, is to fully integrate their marketing and advertising practice (Parfitt, 2012; Winer, 2009). This can be done in various ways and the examples mentioned above are just some of the vast possibilities that come with this change.

By appreciating and taking advantage of at least some of the new tools, as well as by understanding how important it is to be close to their consumers, brands have a great opportunity to create value for their brand, be close and engaged with their consumers (Voorn, 2012; Scott, 2010; Duffy, 2013).

On top of that, this gives you the necessary insights for further campaigns, because whatever you do, no matter if online or offline, tailor the channels and activities to the needs of your target group (Bernoff&Li, 2008). Just because it is online, this does not change the groundwork of identifying who your targeted customer is. Therefore, integrate your campaign (Carrabis, 2013; Sempo, 2012), customize and channel your messages to your target group's preferences, rather than just spreading a message across channels (Voorn, 2012; Scott, 2010, Bernoff&Li, 2008).

Thus, to conclude, embrace the new tools and trends and use them to still gain an early-mover's advantage, before others do (Eleveld, 2012) - because they certainly will. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new.


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