Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Watch your brand come alive!

Published in Nov-Dec 2014

What you can learn from the most popular international social media campaigns of 2014.

It’s always fun to see how global brands performed in the ever evolving domain of social media and digital marketing. So, and in no particular order, here are my favourite social media campaigns of 2014, with some takeaways from each one that you may hopefully be able to use.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

What was so great about people pouring a bucket of ice cold water over their head and posting the vids on YouTube? Undoubtedly, it was the fact that although the original contest was a dare or donate contest, it turned into both, with people doing the dare as well as donating to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) charity fund, and then nominating friends to do the challenge. The challenge helped the ALS Foundation raise over a $100 million for their cause.

What you can use: Think about creating a contest to promote your cause. Contests that are fun, participatory and involve a social element gain traction over those that work in silos. Triple points if you can make people feel good about doing a charitable deed while taking part in a challenge.

HONY UN World Tour

The Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page was already famous with over 10 million Likes. Then Brandon Stanton, the photographer running the page, took it to a new level this year with a 50-day around the world trip sponsored by the UN. The mission was to highlight the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. But as Brandon photographed ordinary people going about their daily lives, the sense of global community among Earth’s citizens exploded into hyper drive. The compelling stories behind the evocative images made the page come alive and connect with people on a deep, deep level.

What you can use: Almost every business uses images and photographs in their social media marketing – product shots, team pics, motivational posters or LOLcats. Why not take your images to a new level by adding a story to them? Imagine if your packaging told the story of how it kept the product safe, or if your employee told the story of why she loves to work in your company? The possibilities for storytelling are endless and combined with powerful images, the potential for virality increases exponentially.

Tourism Australia

With six million fans, Tourism Australia has the most successful travel destination Facebook page – ever. The reason they have been so successful in marketing an entire country is due to their brilliant crowdsourcing campaign. They invite and cull photographs of Australia from native Australians who know their country like no tourist ever could. Then they present those images for the world to see, marketing the country while making the photographers proud in the process. It’s worth noting that their social media team consists of only two people.

What you can use: You do not need a huge team to carry out a brilliant social media campaign, and if you can harness the power of your community and fans, then your work becomes a lot easier. Crowd sourcing is also a great way to encourage participation from your community. So next time you need some ideas for your marketing campaign, try asking the experts – your existing fans!


As a startup, how do you drum up interest in your product without spending a fortune in advertising fees? By talking about it on authoritative blogs, is how. And this was what propelled social media scheduling service, Buffer, from 0 to 100,000 customers in just nine months. They wrote over 150 guest posts in one year for blogs such as Inc, Forbes, Fast Company, The Huffington Post and many other smaller blogs to build momentum and spread the word about their startup on a very low budget.

What you can use: Publications and online blogs are always looking for insightful stories and articles. If you can address their niche audience under your own name and business, it’s a win-win situation. Be prepared for a lot of hard work and initial rejections however; you have to know your market as well as the publication’s audience very well in order to have a good fit and match. If you take this route, always aim to write informative, educational or entertaining articles about your industry versus promotional stuff.

The Ellen selfie

On Oscar night, Ellen DeGeneres seemingly casually gathered a few of her closest A-list celebrity friends, snapped a quick selfie, posted it on Twitter and watched it become the most re-tweeted selfie ever. Interestingly, this selfie was ‘commissioned’ by Samsung and earned them huge amounts of positive press and accolades.

What you can use: Find a celebrity or community hero who is already great at what they do and ask them to do it using your product or service. This technique only works if the person (celebrity) promoting your brand is authentic, believable and loved by his or her own fans. By using this tactic, you could potentially ride on their success to power up your brand without using traditional advertising.


There were plenty of female-empowerment themes in 2014. From Dove’s Real Beauty to LeanIn’s #BanBossy to Emma Watson’s #HeforShe speech to the The Autocomplete Truth campaign by the UN and more. However, the one that stood out for me was the one by Always. The #LikeAGirl campaign by P&G was a powerful breakdown of the gender stereotypes girls are so often subjected to starting from their tween years. Here adults were asked to throw, hit and fight ‘like a girl’ – which they did feebly in contrast to how the pre-teen girls did it, which was confidently. The campaign then asks, “When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?”

What you can use: Is there a larger cause your brand can be a part of or make its own? Maybe you care about rescuing stray animals, or your brand is geared to be environmentally aware. Whatever your brand values, you can find a larger theme to be part of and add your voice to in order to attract followers who share your goals. This way you become part of a movement that is bigger than your brand.

Kickstarter (& Markhor)

This crowd funding platform recently won the 2014 Webby Breakout of the Year for being the number one go-to platform to fund a project; raising over $480 million in funding from three million people across all continents. I especially want to mention Pakistan’s first ever truly successful Kickstarter campaign, initiated by handmade shoe manufacturer, Markhor. In less than 24 hours, Team Markhor raised $15,000 and at the time of writing, they have raised $52,000. The reason for their success is that they told the behind-the- scenes story of rural craftsmen and they told it well and gave their product aspirational value.

What you can use: If you decide to go the crowd funding route remember that your campaign needs to have the magic three: story, meaning and context. Kickstarter and other crowd funding platforms are not run of the mill t-shirt companies. You have to make your product come alive and make people want to own it.

Digital storytelling and marketing is constantly advancing with brands experimenting with innovative ideas and techniques. However, before you jump in and try an idea, make sure it is based on the core values of your brand, a deep understanding of your audience and a good fit of your product with the marketing medium.

Salma Jafri is founder and CEO,