10 Marketing Initiatives That Stopped Us In Our Tracks in 2022

Here are some favs that made us and the world take notice

Nothing beats good marketing. It’s entertaining, surprising, memorable, welcomed and makes you feel seen and connected. In an environment that’s more cluttered and competitive than ever before, standing out is no mean feat. The stats change by the minute, but on average we’re exposed to an average of 7k ads a day. Though marketing should cover off different objectives throughout a marketing funnel (from awareness to conversion) it’s been proven that brands that aim for fame have the best shot at impacting their bottom line. Put simply, a 10% rise in the fame of a brand will increase market share by a fifth. This is pretty incredible. For startups that don’t have the budgets to compete with their deep pocketed competitors, there is no choice but to be bold and ballsy. We’re sure there’s many we’ve missed, but here are ten fame-driving marketing initiatives that we take our hats off to this year.

1. Normal

Operating in the sex industry is a beast. Basic infrastructure like web hosting and payment processing often excludes ‘adult industries’. Not to mention vigilant marketing platforms and their lightning-fast reflexes to remove what they deem ‘inappropriate content’. To circumnavigate this hurdle, at a particularly precious time of year for D2C businesses (hello, Black Friday!), NORMAL created street posters laden with spelling mistakes and blurred imagery of their range of sex toys. The campaign shook a finger at dated censorship laws, and the gendered double standards behind them, while also delivering powerful creative that garnered significant attention. The campaign exceeded all expectations in terms of performance.

“This was our first major campaign for NORMAL since consciously uncoupling from our parent company, and we’re so excited by the reception of the creative - which was a joy to make! - as well as the massive improvements in marketing efficiency we’ve seen, with our marketing spend looking 6-7X more effective!" .Normal Founder and AfterWork community member, Lucy Wark.

2. Stranger Things x Dominos: Mind Ordering App

To launch their hotly anticipated season 5, Stranger Things went big and weird. The marketing mix was littered with a dynamic mix of  activations and partnerships; like a Snapchat filter complete with nosebleeds, or Lyft partnerships with ‘haunted-house-style’ cars chartered by creepy drivers or giant artistic installations of the Mind Flayer in public spaces like Bondi. Perhaps their best initiative was a partnership with Dominos where they invited fans to order a pizza with their mind. The app tracked eye movements and used facial recognition software to allow you to order the perfect pizza without saying a thing. The idea worked for both brands; reinstating Domino’s dominance as a tech player, while giving Stranger Things fans a new way to experience a ‘food group’ they care deeply about.

3. Ovira's Tattoo for Cash

Ovira, the pulse therapy device for period pain relief, have mastered the art of disruptive, breakthrough marketing. They’re on a mission to correct the injustices of female healthcare; and they’re starting by challenging the taboo of period pain. In their own words, on their Linked In bio “We solve shitty women’s problems that society forgot about.” Through a combination of frank, stunt-based activations, amplified through social media, they have quickly amassed almost 6m followers on TikTok. Not bad for a topic no-one likes talking about! One of their best efforts this year was offering to pay a stranger $500 to get an Ovira tattoo. The willing participant had no idea what Ovira meant but went ahead anyway. This stunt racked up millions of views and hit the press circuit off the back of it.

4. Airbnb’s Ukraine Campaign

This compassionate business move became an invaluable piece of viral marketing for a business known for its marketing prowess. The company waivered all booking fees for any rental made in the Ukraine, then encouraged people all over the world to book. The goal was to get money directly into citizens hands; fast. And it worked, raising nearly $2million dollars in a month. This initiative was quickly backed up with Airbnb.org’s campaign to fund 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Airbnb is a stellar example of a business powered by their brand. They champion ‘belonging’ and pull that notion through to all business activities; well beyond their marketing department.

5. Patagonia’s New Shareholder

In a similar feel-good vein, Patagonia made waves across the world when CEO & Founder Yvon Yvon Chouinard announced that his family had decided to make planet Earth the only shareholder of his AUD $4.5 billion business. The news piqued global interest, across an impressively diverse range of mastheads, publications, influencers and outlets.

6. "MayBuy" by Up Bank

One of the oldest tricks in the challenger brand playbook is to zag while the others zig. UpBank took this lesson to heart when it took a big dig at BNPL culture and launched its MayBuy campaign. After conducting research, they discovered 25% of Aussies regretted a BNPL purchase. In response, they released Maybuy; a feature that allows “Upsiders” to create savings plans for items they might want. Once the savings goal is reached, they can purchase the item in full. Or not. To launch the idea, Up ran a pop-up in Melbourne which offered passer-by’s random cash payments for between $10-$500 for their regretful purchases. The activation allowed Up Bank to ride a controversial conversation about BNPL culture; and ascertain thought leadership for doing so.

7. Coinbase’s SuperBowl Ad

When a slot costs you north of $5m USD, you want to make sure you create something people talk about. Coinbase shunned expensive celebrities and witty plot lines and instead bounced a lone QR code across a screen to a generic techno track, in a manner that mimicked DVD screensaver meets Gameboy. 20 million people downloaded the mysterious QR code and received the $15 free in crypto.

8. The Total Milkrun Marketing Engine

A lot of respect goes out to the Milkrun marketing team for sailing into constant controversy and finding an opportunity to make every interaction with customers a branded opportunity. From jumping on the Mr Men meme train ("Little Miss F*ck It, Rose All Day Baby"), to provocatively referencing they can deliver ‘bags’ to Bondi in less than ten minutes, to offering social media trolls coupon codes cheekily names ‘LoyalTroll’; they make a habit of taking risks, piercing complacency and entering pop culture.

9. Barilla's Spotify Playlists

Before you throw your hands up in the air and think you need serious budgets to make a difference, let’s hear it for low-cost, high-touch activations! Pasta brand Barilla took to the Spotify airwaves to create 8 playlists, named after different pasta types. Each playlist was timed to match the required cooking time of each pasta; with names like Boom Bap Fusilli,” “Moody Day Linguine,” and “Pleasant Melancholy Penne”. This simple activation was genuinely useful and deeply engaging.

10.  Iceland Tourism's Outhorse Your Email  Campaign

Iceland has built its brand off the back of its dramatic scenery and quirky national character. In their 2022 tourism campaign, Iceland merged both these elements. In a spectacular display of absurdism, under pinned by a real insight (nothing ruins a holiday like an email from your boss). So the tourism board trained 3 horses to reply to your emails while on holiday; and set them up in a pristine field with a giant keyboard.

The result? A very memorable and shareable OOO message like “Melissa Miller is out of office. During this vacation, Melissa has OutHorsed all work-related emails to an Icelandic horse called Hrímnir frá Hvammi to free up more time for adventure”.