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October 16, 2023

Iconic Marketing Campaigns

Elli Haddick

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Elli Haddick

This week I have listed some of my favorite iconic marketing campaigns. These range from classics to more recent campaigns I believe to already be iconic. But before we jump into that list I thought we could talk about what marketing campaigns are.

What is a Marketing Campaign? 

A marketing campaign is a coordinated series of marketing activities and efforts designed to promote a specific product, service, event, or brand to a target audience. 

Marketing campaigns are typically temporary initiatives with a set timeframe and specific marketing & sales goals. Campaigns are a strategic and focused approach to achieving these specific goals that vary in size and scope.

These goals usually include one if not all of the list below: 

  • Increasing brand awareness.
  • Boosting sales and revenue.
  • Expanding the customer base.
  • Launching a new product or service.
  • Promoting a special offer or discount.
  • Educating the target audience about a particular topic.
  • Enhancing customer loyalty and retention.

If you are familiar with marketing then you probably already understand the purpose of a campaign but when talking to my husband about campaigns he really struggles to understand the difference between marketing and specific marketing campaigns. 

So I would love to take some time to separate the two. Marketing is the term we use to describe any activity a business does to promote its products or services. Now I am digging really deep back to marketing 101 in college where I first learned about the 4 Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. 

Honestly, marketing is really that simple. Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Marketing campaigns fall under the Promotion aspect of marketing. Like I said above marketing campaigns vary in size and scope but the main goal is to sell products or services. 

In order to have a successful marketing campaign you have to nail the first 3 Ps of marketing but even with those a marketing campaign can fail without the proper strategizing. Something to note is marketing campaigns are usually an opportunity to test a theory or stray from your brand guidelines. You can take liberties you don’t normally take to create a memorable, effective campaign. 

Let's look at some these my favorite iconic marketing campaigns:

IHOP: The "IHOb" Campaign

In 2018, IHOP’s fake name change generated a huge amount of buzz. The International House of Pancakes went all in on this campaign to promote their new menu item, burgers. They flipped on letters in their name on all socials and even some signs to say IHOb. Part of the campaign was to allow people really believe they were changing their name. 

Learn more about this campaign

#AerieREAL Campaign

In 2014, Aerie launched its first #AerieREAL campaign featuring models that were not retouched or photoshopped. At the time, this seemed like a revolutionary idea because it is unheard of in the retail industry. This campaign marks the beginning of many of the authentic marketing strategies that we see today. Buyers want to see themselves in your products. We no longer want to see advertisements that lie to us. 

Learn more about this campaign

Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” Campaign

This classic campaign started in 1984. This iconic catchphrase had a tremendous impact on pop culture throughout the 80s and beyond. They built this campaign around throwing shade on the competitors in a comedic fashion. The ad was so successful that Wendy's annual revenue skyrocketed, increasing by 31%. The catchphrase was even a part of the 1984 presidential election when Democratic candidate and former Vice President Walter Mondale asked, "Where's the beef?" to criticize rival Gary Hart's insubstantial campaign.

Budweiser “Wassup” Campaign

This campaign only ran for two years, but it became one of the most iconic catchphrases of the 21st century. The first commercial spot aired during Monday Night Football on December 20, 1999, targeting young men. This campaign went viral before viral was a thing. Budweiser leaned into the attention they were receiving and began producing more content around this catchphrase. This helped to prevent overexposure and allowed for the campaign to grow. Their website traffic increased to 1.265 million visitors per month, compared to the previous year’s average of 400,000.

2023 Tubi Interface Interruption Super Bowl Ad

This ad disrupted every household watching the Super Bowl. Everyone said at the same time, “who is sitting on the remote.” This campaign was only one 15-second commercial but stood out as one of the better Super Bowl ads we have ever seen.

Learn More About This Campaign

Charity Water: 2011 Campaign

This campaign is a perfect example of authentic, transparent advertising. Charity Water's success was accomplished mainly through Instagram advertising. Bringing clean water to 2 million people in 19 countries. This campaign stands out as iconic because it started a wave of non-profits providing transparency about giving and clearly displaying the results of a donation.

Learn More About Charity Water

Kylie Jenner Lip Kit Campaigns

In November of 2014, Kylie Cosmetics released three matte lip kits. The demand was so high they sold out in 1 minute, causing the website to crash. Nothing was traditional about the marketing of these lip kits. Kylie and her team utilized her fame and leveraged social media to create hype around her new products. And in true Kardashian fashion, they turned a controversy surrounding Kylie’s changing lips into a business. Everyone wanted to have Kylie's lips!

Savannah Bananas 

I have included Savannah Bananas in my list because they are an anomaly that never ran a specific marketing campaign to turn themselves into the world phenomenon they are today. In fact, they utilized mainly social media. They listened to their audience, created content that was authentic, and created a demand for a minor league exhibition baseball team that was created in 2016. They started in a stadium that held 4,000 fans and now have waitlists for their world tour that has 550,000 fans hoping to get tickets and 3,000 people joining this list daily.

Learn More About Savannah Bananas


There are literally hundreds of iconic campaigns I could have listed. I tried to pick several that are iconic and several more recent campaigns that are already iconic. Read our blog on Authentic Content Marketing to get a deeper look at how brands target their audiences.

Although there are many things we can learn from other iconic campaigns, it is essential to remember the budget and scope of what you are looking at. Comparing your marketing campaign to a Super Bowl ad is usually not realistic. But every iconic marketing campaign starts in the same place: what is the goal? What are we communicating with this marketing campaign, from there you can figure out everything else.

If there is anything I get nerdy about, it is analyzing marketing campaigns. If you have a favorite campaign I didn’t list, send me a message!!