The Best Content Marketing Campaigns of The 2010s

Now that we’re fully in the ‘20s, we can really take a step back to assess the best, most influential content marketing campaigns of the previous decade. What are the ads we’ll continue to remember? What were the revolutionary marketing tactics that we hold onto?

We’ve rounded up ten of the top marketing campaigns that were released in the past ten years. However, we don’t just want to list them – we want to dive into what makes them memorable.

Let’s take a deep look at these brand’s strategies and successes.

1. Saltwater Brewery’s Edible Six-Pack Rings

Edible Six-Pack Rings - Used by Saltwater Brewery
Image Source: SaltwaterBrewery.com

Let’s start with one of the most unique, eco-friendly content marketing campaigns we saw back in 2016. A small Florida-based company – known as Saltwater Brewery – decided to take on the problem of ocean pollution with an interesting approach: edible and biodegradable six-pack holders made of fish food.

This marketing tactic was ingenious on a number of levels. First of all, it used the poster child item of ocean pollution: the six-pack ring. Second, it worked to address issues of environmentalism and sustainability. Lastly (and perhaps most impressively), it cost the brewery nothing to promote!

Around the world, 73 percent of customers have said that they would definitely (or probably) change their consumption habits in order to reduce their impact on the environment. The Saltwater Brewery campaign essentially allowed consumers to do that – while having a beer!

Secondly, the campaign seemed to call out to other brands to ask what they’re doing to become more sustainable. If this small company can make eco-friendly six-pack holders, why can’t huge breweries and chains do the same?

“We hope to influence the big guys and hopefully inspire them to get on board,” Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove confirmed in an interview with Global News.

Not only did this campaign earn quite a bit of positive attention for the Saltwater Brewery and its products, but it also paved the way for bigger and better changes in the world of consumer sustainability.

Key Takeaway for Brands: Saltwater Brewery took a cause that mattered greatly to their target customers – surfers, fishermen, beach lovers, etc. – and made it a visual aspect of their content marketing strategy. What are the causes your audience is passionate about?

2. Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

If you haven’t seen any of these videos, then climb out from that rock you’re living under and join us in 2020! The Old Spice ads rocked the content world with humor, wit, and success.

What makes this memorable ad so funny? There’s actually a fairly complicated answer to that question.

Primarily, the campaign tackles the highly relevant topic of what masculinity means in today’s modern culture. In a satirical manner, it shows an overly manly man doing things like creating diamonds in the palm of his hand and riding a horse for no apparent reason.

It’s hilarious and yet timely in terms of social discussions.

In addition, the first ad in this campaign paved the way for the rest of Old Spice’s advertisements. It has evolved into an entire brand personality – one with humor and an appeal for its target audience. Ad after ad in the same campaign has been released, and somehow each one is just as on point as the one before.

Key Takeaway for Brands: Sometimes, going outside the box pays off, especially when you’ve got comedy and snappy catchphrases on your side.

3. Gillette’s “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”

In the same vein of masculinity analysis, Gillette released a short film in 2019 questioning if “this is the best men can be?” It sparked controversial reactions – but there’s no doubt it was a campaign that was highly discussed.

Within three days of the campaign’s release, the video had 12 million views on YouTube and #GilletteAd was trending on Twitter. It called out men to eliminate toxic behavior, both toward women and themselves. As you probably know, the ad blew up, receiving contrasting feedback from different kinds of viewers.

Although some brands might shy away from such controversy, Gillette didn’t – and perhaps they were right to do so. More than two thirds (67%) of surveyed consumers believe that brands should raise awareness around issues on social platforms. They want brands to take stands on sensitive topics, and Gillette did so beautifully – and tactfully.

Key Takeaway for Brands: Don’t shy away from the hard topics that surround your industry. Consider embracing them and becoming stronger for it.

4. Always’s #LikeAGirl

Speaking of taking a stance, the beauty brand Always came out with an empowering female-based ad campaign in 2015 that ignited Retweets, shares, and posts all over the internet. This was the video you saw posted a gazillion times by women in your Facebook feed.

In this content marketing campaign, Always steps up to bat for women’s confidence in a powerful way – and it sparked reactions across the internet. As a brand known for making feminine-hygiene products, Always didn’t just take a stand in a social revolution – it also took its identity to the next level.

Instead of just being a women’s hygiene company, the brand took on the essence of feminist strength and became known around the world for its pro-women campaign. The United Nations even acknowledged the #LikeAGirl campaign that same year for the impact it had on women around the world.

Always didn’t just create content that would spark conversation – it created content that would transform its role in the world of politics and consumerism.

Key Takeaway for Brands: What are people talking about in your industry? Tap into important conversations and get people talking about things that matter.

5. Chipotle’s “Back to the Start”

Now, this is a content campaign that you might not have witnessed back in 2012, but it was still a defining movement for Chipotle Mexican Grill. We all know and love the restaurant, but what do we know about its morals and guiding standards?

Chipotle’s short film, cute and animated, shows a family that decides to switch to a sustainable method of animal farming. It was aired during the Grammy Awards, and not only did it highlight Chipotle’s dedication to sustainability, but it also encouraged fans to get involved.

For every rendition of the song playing in the video, “The Scientist” by Coldplay covered by Willie Nelson, the proceeds would go toward the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which encourages better farming methods as well as family farming.

Roughly 73 percent of Americans’ purchase decisions are influenced by a company’s charitable giving. When considering this statistic, Chipotle’s light-hearted, positive film seems even more brilliant. Not only does it touch people’s hearts and encourage sustainability, but it also encourages viewers to see the restaurant chain as a brand that cares.

Key Takeaway for Brands: Content is a powerful tool when it comes to triggering emotions on different topics, trends, and issues. Where can you weave emotion into your content strategies and brand image?”

6. Aerie’s #AerieReal

Since 2014, Aerie (owned by American Eagle Outfitters) has been at the forefront of promoting women’s beauty in all shapes and sizes. Most of its content campaigns have centered around appealing to regular women with all body types.

Aerie's Home Page Screenshot
Image Source: Ae.com

There’s a word that perfectly encompasses Aerie’s campaign-style: authenticity. They want to use real models and truthful photos in their content marketing strategies to gain the trust (and respect) of their shoppers. They’ve done away with photoshop and perfect models to achieve something more powerful.

Of those surveyed, 63 percent of consumers say they would buy from authentic brands over their competitors that aren’t as true. Aerie expertly tapped into this statistic and grew by more than $300 million in value in just three years.

Key Takeaway for Brands: People want real brands, so give them your real people, products, and information.

7. Allstate’s Mayhem Character

Ever since 2010, Allstate’s Mayhem has been bringing laughs to TV watchers while simultaneously boosting the reputation of one of the top insurance companies. His bandaged-up, satirical character is one that almost anyone can recognize and love.

Insurance commercials are a dime a dozen these days – but Allstate found a way to stand out by taking a less serious approach to the incidents that terrorize families at home and in their cars. As pointed out by The NY Times back in 2010, Allstate positions themselves as the “hero” in juxtaposition to Mayhem, the villain.

This concept fits in neatly with Allstate’s slogan, “Are you in good hands?” Their content imbues a sense of trust in the viewers, and it makes them feel as though the insurance company has their best interests at heart.

In Edelman’s 2019 Brand Trust Survey, 81 percent of consumers said that trust in a brand is an important part of their purchase behavior. Allstate has been playing into this element of trust with a splash of humor, and it’s worked for them.

Key Takeaway for Brands: People want to feel that your brand protects them and takes care of them – can you show them how you’ll do that?

8. Coca-Cola’s “Share A Coke”

This campaign was first launched in Australia in 2011, then transitioned to world-wide content marketing by 2014. Everyone has seen the Coke bottles with names on them and watched at least one ad encouraging them to share a Coke with someone special.

Coca-Cola did a couple of ingenious things here. First, it played off the social media craze with a great hashtag, #ShareaCoke. It was simple but effective in encouraging customers to post about their experience with the drink and company.

Secondly, the content campaign brought a whole new level of personalization to soft drinks. Although the campaign originally started with 250 of the most popular American names on 20 oz bottles, you can now personalize a Coca-Cola bottle online with any name.

This campaign harnessed the power of positivity and personalization – two very important concepts in content marketing during the 2010s. The strategy transformed a giant company into something that people could make their own, and that has a lasting impact.

Key Takeaway for Brands: There’s enough negativity in the world as it is. How can your brand bring people together in a positive way?

9. Google’s Annual “Year In Search”

Google. It’s a word we used daily, a word that’s been adopted to mean “look something up to learn.” The company behind the search engine understands that “Googling” something is more than just visiting their site – and they harnessed that understanding to build a moving, annual content marketing campaign.

Since 2011, the search engine giant has released a yearly video covering the most common, influential searches conducted on their site. Each year might have a slightly different theme, but each video is created to achieve a few purposes:

  • To showcase the negative and positive events of the year
  • To reveal just how important Google searches are
  • And most importantly, to showcase the overall goodness of humankind

The video offers an insight into what people have needed, wanted, and hoped to do over the past year. People have come to expect it on an annual basis, and it’s used not just as an advertisement or source of entertainment, but as a source of knowledge.

No one would doubt that Google has immense credibility as a brand, but content marketing campaigns like this one continue to hammer in the fact that Google knows a lot about what humans discuss and think about.

Key Takeaway for Brands: People want to buy from the most credible, knowledgeable, and trustworthy companies. How can you use content to position yourself as a bona fide expert?

10. Barbie Mattel’s “Imagine The Possibilities”

What do you think of when you think of Barbie? Her classic pink? Ridiculously pointed toes in high heels? Unachievable body standards that negatively influence little girls?

As women’s rights have progressed and an emphasis on body positivity has grown, Barbie faced some serious problems. Even though 90 percent of women in America grew up playing with Barbies, the dolls were called out in the 2010s for promoting false body ideas and unhealthy standards of perfection.

However, the brand has done something smart: it’s evolving with the times, which is impressive considering that the doll character has existed since the 1950s. Since then, she’s had to change size, shape, profession, and colors to adapt to changing societal expectations.

In 2015, Mattel did something really brilliant – it released one of its best content marketing campaigns titled “Imagine the Possibilities.”

Instead of talking about what Barbie looked like or how cool her clothes are, it showed the impact career role-playing can have on the dreams of little girls.  Mattel took a topic that has been sexualized, criticized, and scoffed at, then turned their doll into a source of women’s empowerment and intelligence. Talk about a brand transformation!

Key Takeaway for Brands: Don’t be afraid to give your image a facelift in the name of keeping up with the times.

Wrapping It Up

These content marketing campaigns might be some of the best ones we remember from the ‘10s, but what we’re really interested to see is how these influence the ones we’ll come to remember and discuss in the ‘20s.

How are they propelling content marketing into the future, and what can we expect to see from future geniuses down the road?

  • Riley Swanson is a born-and-raised Texan who has loved writing since she could first hold a pencil. As one of the content writers at E2M, Riley is responsible for crafting content that is informative, engaging, and purposeful. She uses her knowledge of language and SEO tactics to create web content and blogs that best serve the client. When Riley's not writing, she's traveling the world with her husband and working to make every day memorable.
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