How to grab attention in 2015

Microsoft's Alyson Gausby highlights inspiring 2014 campaigns that taught us what consumers really want.

sing it kitty

By Alyson Gausby

Over the holidays (and perhaps fueled by a few festive cocktails), I stared thinking back on 2014. Last year brought us some great campaigns across various screens that made us laugh, cry, raised our awareness, fueled debates and helped us hack our lives. As I started to jot down a list of my favourites, some themes started to emerge. What did these campaigns have in common? And, more importantly, what can they teach us for 2015?

1. What have you done for me lately?

Let’s face it, our time is increasingly at a premium. We know through consumer research we’ve done at Microsoft that Canadians feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. So, brands that find new ways to add value to our lives or help simplify things are well-poised to earn a few extra brownie points.

  • For example, last January, Lowe’s “Fix in Six”  aimed to help consumers one little life hack at a time by educating and simplifying everyday tasks through adorable stop-motion Vine videos. The brand plays the hero in educating and helping.
  • Nivea Sun‘s summertime innovative campaign provided real value – helping parents protect what matters most (their kids). The brand created a bracelet – available through magazines – that included a GPS locator that synced with parents’ phones, allowing them to keep tabs on their kids on the beach.
  • I love this ad for a German news app.  It’s simple, clear, and to the point…exactly what you’d want from your news source. What’s more, it shows exactly how the brand can help you, the consumer, getting you as close to the news as possible.

With “having a better work/life balance” a top New Year’s resolution, consumers’ appreciation for these types of ads will only grow.

2. Something to rally around

Whether we’re talking good ol’ patriotism or social causes, there were a number of campaigns that tapped into our basic humanity this year. Along with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, these pushes proved brands can drive meaningful and additive sharing with content that sparks conversation and action.

  • I’ve yet to meet someone who didn’t like the Toronto Raptors’ “#WeTheNorth” campaign. It’s an engaging ad that builds hype with Canuck patriotism without being cheesy (and helped propel MLSE’s Shannon Hosford to be one of strategy’s marketers of the year).
  • Greenpeace’s “Toxic Tours” featured faux travel ads selling up the benefits of touristy attractions doused in oil spills. Definitely not something you’d expect from Greenpeace, this multi-platform campaign is impactful, memorable, while being thought- and conversation-provoking.
  • Red Cross “Tweet Donate” asked Twitter users to donate “unused” Twitter characters to the Red Cross and help spread the word about blood donation. The notion that you have more blood and more characters than you need is simple, yet powerful.

Looking forward, it’s how and where brands drive these conversations that are most likely to evolve, as research shows that Canadians (particularly younger generations) are increasingly looking to niche networks to connect with the people and things they are interested in. But in an increasingly disconnected society, consumers are going to want to rally around something, so keep that in mind when planning your marketing activity over the next year.

3. Move and inspire

There was a wave of ads that pulled at our heartstrings last year, and that resonated especially strongly here in Canada. P&G’s Always may be the most talked-about example, but it’s not alone in this category. There were a number of brands that did a great job of expressing their core values, showing their unique voice and delivering powerful messages – inspiring others to get in on the action.

  • Of course, Always “Like a Girl” was hugely influential. I can honestly say I never thought I’d be moved by an ad for a feminine hygiene product.
  • Cheerios Effect” is one of my top picks in 2014. The series has a great tie into the product and it’s hard not to connect with stories about such profound connections.
  • TD Make Today Matter series was the top contender for me. Following up their ATM (“Automatic Thanking Machine”) campaign, “#MakeTodayMatter” is both brand and community building. A win-win.

As Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”  That’s just human nature and given all the industry attention these campaigns have earned, consumers may want to keep their tissues handy.

4. Just for fun

To quote Three Mobile’s tagline, “We all need silly stuff.”  I had to throw in a few campaigns that are interesting, fun or quirky.

  • Three Mobile U.K. “Sing it Kitty‘s” got a lot of cuteness and fist-pumping, and is a great viral opportunity. Let’s face it, it’s hard to get tired of cat videos (even if you’re not a cat person).
  • I know I don’t miss these awkward cringe-worthy parental moments, and HBO GO’s “Awkward Family Viewing” perfectly encapsulates them. It’s something we can all relate to.
  • Commbank “Where’s My Wallet” is a highly engaging campaign (players spent an average of 12 minutes on the site), with a great tie to the brand’s new technology. The brand took a highly-detailed panoramic shot of Sydney, Australia, hiding a handful of wallets around town. The stunt was to promote the brand’s Cardless Cash offering, which allowed bank customers to still retrieve cash, even if they’d lost their wallets (and cards).

One of the best ways to create noteworthy, engaging, and sharable content is (and always will be) by being entertaining.

alyson gausbyAlyson Gausby is consumer insights lead at Microsoft Canada.