Marketing campaigns are fun to draw inspiration from. Some of 2021’s marketing campaigns were great examples of the state of our industry, what’s going well, what’s changing, and what’s to come in marketing. Why not take the opportunity to look back and consider some of the lessons provided by campaigns last year? In that spirit (and just because it’s fun!), here’s a look back at some of the best marketing campaigns of 2021 and what made them stand out. There are sure to be helpful tips here for every marketer and content creator looking for inspiration in 2022.

With so many companies constantly trying to stand out in a heavily saturated market, there are always a few that seem to snatch the spotlight effortlessly with a truly innovative campaign. Let’s count down what the team at SharpSpring has decided were among the 11 best marketing campaigns of last year.

1. Clorox “For the moments you can’t miss”

In a short video, Clorox shows customers how its products solve sanitary issues during the pandemic. The product is used to clean high-touch areas during a grocery store run as a woman shops for ingredients for a “can’t miss” family dinner moment. The video ends with a happy family sitting down for dinner.

The Takeaway: A good marketing campaign not only shows how the company is solving a problem but it also influences viewers’ emotions and makes the target audience feel good.

2. Progressive

In “The Ad Where Nothing Happens” Progressive promotes its insurance offer in one simple line. The prospective insurance customer questions if something crazy will happen now, and the Progressive representatives respond by saying, essentially, that people have been through enough. When three NSYNC members show up at the house, their celebrity endorsement is not needed. This ad shows that sometimes simple is best.

The Takeaway: Not everything has to be overdone to grab attention. Simplicity can go a long way in generating buzz as long as the marketing campaign remains true to the brand’s identity.

3. Applebee’s ‘Fancy Like’

When Walker Hayes’ hit song ‘Fancy Like’ and his accompanying TikTok video went viral on social media, Applebee’s took notice of the brand’s name called out in the famous lyrics. The marketing team leveraged how the song’s lyrics matched their brand’s style and created TV commercials to advertise Applebee’s and showcase the user-generated content from TikTok of users doing the ‘Fancy Like’ TikTok dance. The song and viral dance made people happy and gave Applebee’s the opportunity to make them smile (while consuming their ad).

The Takeaway: Generating positive emotions like excitement and optimism is hugely effective for boosting brand awareness.

4. Apple’s iPhone 12 Fumble

Apple continued its trend of short commercials highlighting one feature of its products in 2021. In a 38-second video, an iPhone user walks down a sidewalk and their iPhone slips out of their hands. The iPhone soars through the air as the user fumbles. The iPhone drops to the ground and doesn’t break or scratch. This short video gets people excited to own a smartphone that won’t break from an everyday fumble.

The Takeaway: Focusing on a single element and keeping the message clear can work to your advantage in marketing.

5. Canva

Marketers and small businesses often have to create presentations to prove ROI or convey new marketing ideas to their teams. Canva’s “Enjoy Presentations” ad shows how teams can easily create and collaborate on presentations directly in the Canva app. The video shows a team working on a presentation 20 minutes before a meeting with the help of Canva’s features and templates.

The Takeaway: Show your product in action to showcase key points of your product.

SharpSpring All-In-One Platform

6. LUSH Cosmetics

Social media posts are great for brands that want to highlight user-generated content from customers. Brands spend less money on UGC campaigns, and consumers are more likely to share how they use a brand’s products or services. Companies that share follower content get more brand awareness and brand engagement online.

The Takeaway: People love to share things that are close to their hearts. Becoming organically involved in a community can help boost brand awareness.

7. Popeye’s Chicken

Popeyes continued the laughter from the 2019 trending fried chicken topic on Twitter when fast-food chains started battling it out in tweet threads. Popeye’s managed to master the sass game by taking frequent jabs at competitors like Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s. In 2021, the brand tweeted “…y’all good” in an effort to increase brand awareness and continue engagement with customers on social media. The reason why this worked so well as a marketing campaign is simple — it was funny. Humor can go a long way in generating brand awareness. It’s becoming harder to get attention online, so Popeye’s decided to do something unexpected and throw a few snarky comments at other chain restaurants. This funny commentary generated followers and engagement for the brand.

The Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to use humor to your advantage.

8. Facebook #MothersWeek

Facebook took a step to help families feel connected during the pandemic with its 2021 Mother’s Week marketing campaign. In an article on the Facebook Newsroom site, the company states, “Video calling is all about connecting with the people who matter most in our lives and sharing special moments with each other — even when we’re physically apart.” Along with the commercial and a Portal holiday sale, Facebook offered events for its target audience to engage in discussions on relatable topics. The campaign draws the attention of moms and families to how Facebook’s Portal device helps them stay connected.

The Takeaway: Forming human connections with your target audience can go a long way towards nurturing brand loyalty.

9. NFL’s Football is for everyone

Football is for everyone” was a marketing campaign that the NFL launched in 2021 to support the LGBTQ+ community and The Trevor Project. The ad showed text that replaced “everyone” with various inclusive words to represent the LGBTQ+ community. The Trevor Project is an organization that supports the LGBTQ+ community and provides crisis intervention. The NFL encouraged donations to The Trevor Project. This campaign is great because it supports a social justice cause. As a result, it increases brand awareness.

The Takeaway: Supporting a cause can generate a lot of buzz for your company and produce an army of loyal customers who also support that cause.

10. Nike’s “Best Day Ever”

Nike released a short film in 2021 as part of the Play New campaign. “Best Day Ever” shows clips of athletes from various backgrounds and abilities. Offering this type of inclusivity is a great marketing strategy on its own. The product speaks for itself.

The Takeaway: In today’s market, striving to make your products more inclusive is a great way to gain likability and bring in new customers.

11. McDonald’s ​​”You’ve Been Loyal”

Launching the “MyMcDonald’s Rewards” loyalty program, McDonald’s showcases customer brand loyalty with its “You’ve Been Loyal” commercial. Following highlight moments from one person’s life, the commercial shows a customer as a child ordering at McDonald’s then becoming a mother also ordering from the fast-food restaurant. The commercial ends with the customer using the user-friendly app and rewards system to order. With the MyMcDonald’s Rewards and app, the company offers customers contact-free ordering and free fries for customers new to the app and rewards program. In addition, the company also offers a choice of one of four menu item options free after their first purchase. Through this loyalty program commercial, the company shows how important the restaurant is to its customers throughout life’s journey.

The Takeaway: Loyalty programs with generous rewards will have your customers coming back, and generosity can be a good look for major brands.

This year and every year, marketers have the work cut out for us when it comes to making our mark and standing out from the crowd. No matter what business you’re in, a marketing automation platform can help you reach your target audience more efficiently and effectively in 2022. The SharpSpring all-in-one marketing automation platform continually offers up new tools and integrations to help make your campaigns more personal, targeted and impactful. To learn more about how our team can help you improve your marketing strategy and grow your digital footprint, ask for a free demo. We’d love to hear from you.

Lisa Rios