How to Design a Stand-Out Marketing Campaign: Tips & Examples
Learn what makes a great marketing campaign—with tips from iconic campaigns and brands.
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Learn some of the best tips and tricks to implement in your marketing strategy with iconic campaign examples to learn from.
Whether you have a whole digital marketing team to back you up or are an entrepreneur wearing many hats, creating a stand-out marketing campaign is no easy feat.
Any way you look, you’ll likely have fierce competition to beat, and with the ever-changing trends of digital marketing, being new and innovative can be a real challenge for small businesses.
One of the best ways to learn how to design a marketing campaign that stands out is to absorb the lessons from some of the most successful advertising campaigns and implement these ideas into your campaign design.
Here’s our list of some of the most useful tips for marketing campaign design.
The power of visual communication: McDonald’s
Most people will add an image to their ad. But more often than not the image is a boring stock photo that people will immediately forget if they even notice it in the first place.
It’s well known that people remember only about 20% of what they read, compared to 80% of what they see. So, the design of your ad is probably even more important than the copy that accompanies (e.g. in a social media ad).
Don’t use visuals as a side note to your copy, instead let graphics communicate your message in a more powerful way. Some of the most iconic ads in history had little to no text and became so memorable thanks to visual communication.
For example, if the main focus of your marketing campaign is a new product launch, an appealing product photo can make a powerful ad with minimal copy.
The power of visual communication extends far beyond a single campaign. One company that has exceptionally well-crafted visual communication is McDonald’s. Their iconic design became practically synonymous with hamburgers and fries, and though they’ve also received some bad rep over the misrepresentation of products in ads, the visual communication is always creative and unique.
For example, they used their most popular products in these job ads for students with no experience, which are often given their first breaks in the fast food restaurant.
A Better Lemonade Stand
A great CTA can also come after a controversial or thought-provoking statement. This example from Lifestraw works great because you’re intrigued to find out how the product works, but you’re still given enough information through the accompanying visual to feel confident enough to click the button to learn more.
Or this creative ad that promotes their delivery service for all those late-night cravings. In both of these visually distinct examples, you can see how McDonald’s uses their signature products for different campaigns and promoting different aspects of its service.
Create a perfect call to action
Every ad needs a call to action (CTA). The first thing we usually think of is an incentive to buy, but marketing campaigns can do a lot more than just help you make a few sales. They can also bring in new potential customers (or leads), increase brand awareness with your target audience, incentivize referrals or help you gather customer feedback on existing products or services.
Naturally, this means CTAs come in all shapes and forms. They are highly dependent on the goal of your campaign and the campaign audience.
One rule of thumb for crafting a good CTA is don’t assume people will take action because you tell them to. Even if it’s something as simple and won’t cost a dime such as sharing a post or completing a survey, many people simply won’t do it. First, it does require time and as well all know… ain’t nobody got time for that!
Secondly, before you build brand loyalty you can’t expect people to be ready to engage with your brand at any given time.
So, a CTA is always accompanied by a value proposition. In other words, do “this”, because of “this”.
When it comes to design, the way your CTA is presented is exceptionally important. Too big and loud, people will feel cornered. Too small and subtle, they might miss it. A CTA should fit organically into the rest of the design but still have a stand-out feature: whether it’s a button, a different color or font size, or placed as the main focus of the design.
Here’s a great example from Basecamp. The CTA strongly enforces the risk-free nature of trying out the product, while the cute illustrations help catch the eye and tell a story (project management does indeed sometimes feel like an endless traffic jam).
Interactive content: Airbnb
Video ads have been taking the internet by storm, and this year around 86% of businesses are already using video ads, while 78% claim videos have directly helped their sales.
But can you take it a step further? Sure! With interactive content. It’s definitely not the simplest or cheapest way to produce, but it can bring a huge increase in engagement and ROI, as well as save time and money on things like customer service.
However, the area where interactive content really shines are lead generation campaigns. There are several reasons for this. Interactive content can help educate audiences and make them better acquainted with your business, and push them faster down your sales funnel. It’s often fun and sharable which helps increase social media engagement. Finally, interactive content is still less common than other types of content, so it will certainly help your campaign stand out.
One of the most fun examples out there is Airbnb’s design personality quiz. It’s a Buzzfeed-style quiz to help you determine your design aesthetic (mine’s eclectic, but tell me something I don’t know). It’s quick, fun and you’d probably be inclined to share the results with friends (see I shared it with you already!). And once you’re done with the quiz, Buzzfeed offers you a list of beautiful accommodation options that match your style that are difficult not to click!
It’s probably the type of campaign that doesn’t bring a huge increase in sales: most people who do the quiz can’t really afford to go on holiday on a whim simply because the accommodation looks beautiful. But it’s a great way to generate leads, increase traffic and engagement.
Make it personal: Spotify
Which email are you more likely to open, the one that starts with “Hi” or “Hi [your name]”?
Personalization is one of the most powerful marketing tactics. Smart HQ found that 72% of customers say they only engage with brands with personalized messaging, while 98% of marketers agree personalization improves customer relationships.
Personalized abandoned cart messages are fairly common with e-commerce, but there are always different and creative ways to provide a tailor-made customer experience.
One example of a company that made personalization a key feature of their marketing strategy is Spotify. The platform uses artificial intelligence to provide users with personalized suggestions and playlists based on their engagement with the platform.
Along with that, they’ve had some great marketing campaigns over the years. The most famous one, without a doubt, is Wrapped (successor to Year in Music) which is a data-driven campaign providing users with insights into their use of the app.
The campaign was a huge success as users flocked to share the data on social media, which also created a serious fear of missing out (FOMO) with non-users and led to an increase in app downloads.
In 2020 the campaign called Only You became bigger and better than ever, with amazing new graphics and animated designs that users loved sharing. And the messaging was pretty appealing to a “snowflake” generation, as it celebrated the uniqueness and wonderfully weird music combos.
It created your astrology music chart and included interactive features (such as pick your musical dinner party guests), all accompanied by beautiful design which was also customizable (you could choose the color scheme before sharing stories on your social media). It’s all about highlighting individuality and I for one fell for it big time.
Promote your values: Always
For years, Always ran marketing campaigns and slogans which were all about building confidence in women. However, it was usually in a rather prosaic context (e.g. move however and how much you like even when you’re on your period).
However, in 2014 they launched the now-iconic campaign Like a Girl, which light on how young women are thought to perceive that being a girl makes them weak or less capable than men.
In a three-minute video the company showed the huge discrepancy between young and teenage girls, and how they viewed what being a girl meant. It was thought-provoking, emotional and powerful which makes the iconic ad still hold up today.
But even if you know nothing about the video ad, the visuals themselves helped the campaign and company stand out. They spoke to an audience of women on a profound level: there’s a little girl in each of us no matter if we’ve had our first period or not, and she’s here to remind us that we’re capable and strong, not despite but because we are girls.
Of course, a campaign like this is so much more than a way of growing your revenue. In just 3 months, the company’s positive mentions rose to 96%, thanks to the praise and love for the campaign. It also generated 177,000 tweets in the first three months, as well as a 50% increase in purchase intent.
A company that sells a very ordinary product managed to start a meaningful conversation and the target audience responded.
Our attention span keeps getting shorter, which means keeping people interested long enough for them to purchase your product can be a challenge.
Retargeting is an essential strategy as it helps you remind potential customers of your business and encourage them to learn more or purchase from you. And retargeting is also cheaper than advertising to new audiences: companies pay an average of $0.66 to $1.23 per click for retargeting ads, while the average cost per click (CPC) on google is between $1 and $2.
You probably know that a good retargeting campaign utilizes clever copy, FOMO, discounts or codes and, again, a personalized approach. But what about design?
When it comes to retargeting campaigns it’s best to keep things simple. If people are already somewhat familiar with your brand, they don’t want to see all the information again and again.
Instead, remind them that they’ve engaged with you before and quickly entice them with striking visuals: whether it’s a holiday home they’ve checked out, a piece of furniture or a device, or a simple email reminding them to complete their registration for your event.
User-generated content is cheap and effective: Apple
User-generated content has numerous benefits. It helps to build trust in your brand and helps you promote your business without any cost.
Many brands have made UGC the most important part of their social media strategy, including names like Glossier, Fenty Beauty and GoPro. More often than not these brands repost content from their customers to show how their products can be used or highlight their benefits or specific features. User-generated content can also be a great way to improve your customer service, as people feel encouraged to comment and share their thoughts. Take time to respond to all comments, good and bad and your clients will appreciate it.
However, UGC can also be a part of a specific marketing campaign, as is the case with Apple’s famous Shot on an iPhone campaign. Since camera quality is one of the iPhone’s most recognizable features, they decided to create a platform for users to share stunning photos taken on their iPhones.
A particularly notable part of this campaign is that these photos were even reproduced as large-scale ads such as posters and even billboards to show just how high-quality the images taken on this phone are.
Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.