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Leo's Top 5 Hail Mary Marketing Passes


As a counterweight to last week's worst marketing decisions, I thought it would be both fun and relevant to discuss marketing campaigns that shocked me with how brilliant and effective they were. In no particular order, here are these terrific decisions:


1. Got Milk?


As mentioned in the WOW Lays article, the 90s really hated fat. Unlike today, where fats are touted as essential, people tried to cut all fats from their diet as much as possible, and that meant avoiding dairy like the plague. The dairy industry was dying. Farms were closing. So Goodby Silverstein and Partners came up with the iconically short and sweet phrase.


It first appeared in one of the most memorable commercials I've ever seen titled "Aaron Burr" and was directed by then-industry newbie, Michael Bay. Yes, that Michael Bay! The result? Dairy farms across the country, some about as old as the country itself, were literally saved by copywriting.


2. I'm Lovin' It.


Supersize me dealt the harshest blow McDonald's had ever faced, and they'd faced a number of storms throughout the decades. But the new health scare that McDonalds was somehow less healthy than other foods with similar calorie and macro ratios had turned into a witch hunt, and for the first time, the giant was closing stores rather than opening new ones.


They tried appealing to their detractors with healthy food. NEVER appeal to your critics. As a result, they were shrinking even further. But a brilliant combination of a new slogan and new jingle targeting adults rather than children (and a blessing for coulrophobes like myself...) removed the clown iconography in favor of a versatile and catchy phrase: "I'm Lovin' It." The change in marketing tone made for a quick turnaround for the brand and they are back to growing.


3. The Marlboro Man


Leo Burnett's legacy is what got me into copywriting. And this story is my favorite: In 1954 women began to stop smoking as it was losing the image of being ladylike. And Marlboro, at the time, was seen as a woman's cigarette. So Leo was commissioned to change that.


The result was a campaign that I will probably write a whole article about someday. It changed pop culture, the global view of America, and for Marlboro...one out of every 3 cigarettes smoked around the world, by men and women alike, is a Marlboro.


4. Steve Jobs


Can a person be a brand? Absolutely. And Apple was in dire straights after firing Jobs. At the time, he wasn't' associated with apple. This changed greatly upon his return. His image, along with several innovative designs that fit the early 2000's tech-thirsty crowd in all the right places, led to massive hype every time he made an announcement in his dad jeans and black turtleneck. His death has done little to slow their growth, becoming something akin to a Walt Disney for the company, still associated with his product.


5. The Blair Witch Trailer


Surprising, I know. We don't think of movies as products, and sometimes forget filmmakers are business-people. Michael Bay isn't the only movie giant in this list. Adam Wingard's found-footage Indie had a two line trailer that not only launched a brand, it created a new genre of film.


The short, dizzyingly low quality trailer generated enough hype for the film, which cost 60,000 (you read that right, the cost of a luxury car) to gross a whopping 248 million dollars. It proved to the world you can still make a blockbuster on a shoestring budget and countless found footage horror movies exist solely because they followed in this brilliantly marketed movie's footsteps.


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