Social media campaigns in 2016 have been just about as crazy as this year's events. From malfunctioning artificial humans talking to you via Facebook, to fake news stories about the Pope endorsing Trump, 2016 has seen some amazing social media campaigns.
1. Channel4 - Humans Returns
Channel4 claims the title for the most immersive social media campaign this year. The marketing campaign for the new series of their sci-fi hit Humans blurred the lines between fiction and reality.
Series 2 of Humans centres around a product recall of malfunctioning artificial humans called 'Synths'. Channel4 released a video interview with a fictional spokesperson for the fictional company behind the synths, sent out Persona-branded synthetic human collection service trucks, created a product recall website and a bot that enabled users to chat with a not-so-fictional Synth via Facebook Messenger. #PersonaSynthetics started trending on Twitter, resulting in 423,000 website hits in the first 72 hours of the campaign.
Obviously this kind of marketing costs much more than most marketers have at their disposal, but the core philosophy behind the campaign - marketing as storytelling - is an idea that can be adapted to all budgets.
2. Ikea - Retail Therapy
Ikea's clever Retail Therapy campaign saw the brand rename products after frequently Googled relationship problems. Type "she doesn't want to cuddle" into Google and you'll get mattress wedge as a result.
Ikea's cheeky SEO play resulted in a social media storm, especially amongst internet marketers. To the average consumer, it was humorous, and kind of endearing. To online marketers, it was an out-of-the-box SEO stunt that they couldn't wait to write about, with many Tweets on the topic getting thousands of shares.
Could naming products after high volume search phrases be a trend of 2017? It's unlikely, but it's certainly something that we'll see SEOs and marketers experiment with.
3. Pizza Express - Donald Trump's Face
According to voters on Pizza Express' social media channels, the scariest thing of 2016 is Donald Trump's face. By popular demand, Pizza Express made Trump's face into a pizza as a Halloween stunt.
Though I can't stomach the idea of eating Trump's face, Pizza Express lovers were excited to get down to the restaurant chain's Baker Street branch to eat a slice. This Halloween social media campaign was met by a mixture of "OMG" and "Yuck!" comments and gained over 2.9K likes on Facebook. The stunt also resulted in getting Pizza Express press coverage in The Sun, The Standard, The Telegraph and The Mirror.
You don't have to make your own pizza, but piggy-backing on current trends in the news is a tried-and-tested marketing technique that's not going away anytime soon.
4. Buzzfeed - Tasty
Definitely tastier than the thought of eating pizza-fied Trump is Buzzfeed's viral Tasty campaign. You've probably seen these quick and easy recipe videos popping up all over your Facebook feed.
Perhaps the stand-out social media campaign of 2016, Tasty has become one of the biggest video accounts on Facebook. These shareable little videos have garnered BuzzFeed 60 million Facebook Likes and exponentially increased the site's visibility. The videos have been so popular that BuzzFeed now has a team of 75 working exclusively on producing 60 Tasty videos per month for Facebook.
Like the unchopping tomatoes videos from 2015, this is an example of food as therapy. The Tasty videos are perfect because they take something that's messy and difficult (cooking) and make it seem easier than it actually is. And that's all therapy is: a way of making something messy look simple.
5. Fabletics - First Outfit for Under $25
There ain't no lady on the internet who hasn't been targeted by 2016 Facebook ads for Fabletics. Kate Hudson's controversial workout clothing brand has been all over us, trying to sell its sports gear.
Fabletics' main promo - "get your first outfit for under $25" - hinges on users signing up for a membership. New users are sent through a short online quiz to determine what kind of activewear they need and what colors they like. A one-hour countdown timer then begins to push them to make that first purchase.
In just three years, the brand has reached over 200K Facebook likes and Fabletics' parent company, JustFab, is on track to make $650 million this year.
The most interesting aspect of this campaign is the one-hour window that customers are rushed through. It's classic scarcity marketing - creating the illusion that a product is scarce in order to ramp up the perceived value - but it's a tactic that also has the potential to cause a backlash among customers who feel pressured and manipulated.
6. WTOE5News.com - Pope Francis Endorsed Trump
Has the world gone absolutely mad? That's what fake news website WTOE5News.com had everyone believe when it published the fake news story that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for president.
The fake news had over 100,000 comments, shares, and reactions on Facebook and was re-published on a number of fake news websites. The story was picked up by a number of major news websites, before BuzzFeed News uncovered the guy behind it all.
Whatever you think of the politics, the fake news epidemic of 2016 has been hugely influential, taking social media mastery (or manipulation) to never-before-seen heights.
We're not saying that you should create your own fake news stories (though undoubtedly some marketers already are) but everyone should be paying attention to the lessons we can learn from fake news. Lesson #1: People are quick to believe what they want to believe.
7. Knorr - Love at First Taste
Because nothing says sexy like a flavor stock pot, am I right? The #LoveAtFirstTaste campaign paired up single people and got them to feed each other to see if they'd fall in love over food.
In this 2016 social media campaign, Knorr played on the concept of romance and food. The brand filmed a video of these sexy single people feeding each other and followed it up with a number of behind-the-scenes romance videos and interactive online quizzes.
The original video came out as the second most viewed ad on YouTube in 2016.
There's no secret here: sex sells. If the guys behind the Knorr campaign can make a stockpot sexy, almost any product can be made sexy with the right approach.
8. Spotify - Thanks 2016, It's Been Weird
Spotify has launched it's biggest ever global campaign to say adios to 2016.
Launched 6 weeks before the end of the year, their campaign is targeted at everyone who can't wait for this year to end.
Spotify's campaign is so good because it's location-specific. Data is used to display ads to Spotify users based on their location - for example, one ad for UK users says: "Dear 3,749 people who streamed 'It's The End Of The World As We Know It' the day of the Brexit Vote. Hang in there." The campaign includes personalized emails to users and social media ads, informed by Spotify's data-driven insights. Shares of the ads on Imgur have seen more than 400K views and 16K up-votes.
Localized campaigns are definitely going to be more of a focus amongst social media marketers moving into 2017. With social media users posting on the go and sharing their location, marketers have access to hyper-local data that can be used to understand consumer behavior and make users better offers.
9. Disney & Make A Wish Foundation - Share Your Ears
Disney's #ShareYourEars campaign to raise money for the non-profit Make A Wish Foundation covered social media in selfies of people wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
For every photo uploaded to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the #ShareYourEars hashtag, Disney donated $5 to the charity. They originally capped the social media fundraiser at $1 million but doubled their pledge and donated $2 million. The campaign itself isn't exactly mind-blowing, but the charity donation sure is.
The most interesting part of this campaign? It worked because it asked consumers to do something that they were going to do already: upload pictures of their kids to social media sites.
10. Cadbury - Eggs Everywhere
Not to be outdone by Hotel Chocolat's bunny in a suit, Cadbury dropped three massive Easter eggs into Loch Ness as part of their #EggsEverywhere campaign.
As you might expect, the three floating eggs - which were the same size as a double decker-bus - did not go unnoticed by tourists. As well as the eggstravagant stunt (sorry), Cadbury's £6 million campaign saw Easter egg hunts across the UK, with egg hunters uploading photos to Twitter with the #EggsEverywhere hashtag. The brand got a lot of people tweeting, but the hashtag has since been hijacked by people accidentally breaking eggs.
What got people talking about this campaign was how unexpected it was. Easter egg hunts have been done, but no one has ever put gigantic Easter eggs into a lake before. Big media stunts will always get social media results.