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4 Iconic Facebook Marketing Campaigns and Why They Worked

By Rebekah Radice

6 min read

What makes a Facebook so many marketing campaigns successful and others flop?Components of a successful marketing campaign include:

  • An active and engaged audience
  • A network excited and eager to share content among friends (spread virally)
  • A campaign that is designed to reward fans and
  • A campaign that meets or exceeds set goals, whether it's a growth in fan base or improved visibility

The following case studies take a look at four iconic Facebook marketing campaigns. Each illustrates how timing, message, voice, and social network, when effectively combined, can boost visibility, build brand awareness and create a viral sensation.

4 Iconic Facebook Marketing Campaigns and Why They Worked

Case Study #1 - Ford's Big Reveal

Ford's campaign to reveal the new 2011 Explorer has gone down in history as arguably one of the best Facebook campaigns ever run. What made this campaign remarkable was its use of social media rather than taking the traditional marketing route and unveiling the new model at an auto show. This well-established brand, who many might have thought to be entrenched in an old school marketing methodology, became the first car company to use the web and social media in this way.Although it was only to be a single day event, the 2011 Ford Explorer reveal was a viral sensation as it was broadcast live on Facebook, continuing to gain momentum for days and weeks to come.So why did this campaign work? Ford used that amazing ability of Facebook to "go viral" by creating anticipation and buzz around an eagerly anticipated product. The campaign was enhanced by Ford's exceptional use of video, keeping what soon became a clicking frenzy on the move.The final result: seventy-five thousand fans logged on and viewed the auto show. Ford held the number one trending topic position on Twitter for the entire launch day, the number two trending topic on Google, and received over one million views on YouTube.

ford explorer 2011 facebook campaign

Case Study #2 - Ikea's Photo Tagging

Ikea, the iconic Swedish furniture company promoted the opening of a new store in Malmo, Sweden on Facebook, using photo tagging as their marketing tool of choice.Here's how it worked: Over the span of two weeks, Ikea posted twelve photos of showrooms considered catalog worthy. Fans were then invited to tag the items, with the first person to add their name to a particular piece of furniture winning that item.Why it worked: Regarded as one of the lowest-cost demonstrations of the incredible power of Facebook marketing, Ikea's iconic campaign worked due to its simplicity, clear and strategic use of photo tagging and the short window of opportunity that created a frenzy of excitement and immediate virality to each image.

ikea facebook showroom campaign

Case Study #3 - Burger King's Sacrifice

Perhaps the most controversial Facebook campaign to gain global attention was the Burger King "sacrifice a friend campaign." During this campaign, fans were encouraged to "sacrifice" (insert de-friend) ten of their friends to receive a coupon for a free burger.As fans began to delete friends, the Burger King Facebook application would then notify the friends that they had been sacrificed for a burger. This particular aspect to the campaign is believed to be the reason the campaign was eventually shut down, although confirmation never came from Burger King or Facebook. The impact had already been made when the campaign was shut down.Nearly 234,000 friends had been "sacrificed" with more than 23,000 coupons for free Whoppers given away.Why it worked: Fans were motivated by their love of a Whopper and could deletefriends without worry. They could easily come back and add them again the next day.

burger king whopper sacrifice

Case Study #4 - Papa John's Pizza

Finally, a slightly more mainstream method of marketing, but advertised using only a social network, was the Papa John's Pizza campaign. During the “Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge,” fans were challenged to create a new pizza offering that could become the chain's next specialty pizza. The winner would also receive free pizza for life plus proceeds from the winning recipe.As you can imagine, the response was overwhelming, with over 12,000 entries received via Facebook. Only three winners were chosen, each given $1000 to market their creation.Why it worked: This simple but effective campaign capitalized on word-of-mouth marketing and worked because Papa John's clearly understood fans love of their pizza.

papa johns facebook campaign

What Marketers Can Learn

The first lesson in this is the value of consumer participation. Each of the brands above harnessed this to their advantage. People always want to be heard and definitely want in in on the fun!The second lesson is capitalizing on human nature. The curious just couldn't resist clicking on the Ford Facebook tab and viewing the "reveal" video while others couldn't wait to dump friends only to gain a simple hamburger. The ambitious wanted to show their friends that they could make a really great pizza and the gamblers amongst us took their chances on a a piece of furniture. The bottom line is: understand your audience and their willingness to buy into your campaign and product.The third lesson is found in humans desire to keep up with "the Jones'." Facebook creates a fervor as friends spread the word about a marketing campaign. When one friend takes action, many others will follow suit creating a cascading and in some cases an avalanche effect. No one wants to be left behind or out of a seemingly exciting opportunity, especially not on social media.

The secret for your next Facebook marketing campaign? Design a campaign where all three lessons can be merged into one cohesive, viral sensation!

Rebekah Radice

About Rebekah Radice

Rebekah Radice, co-founder of BRIL.LA, has traded narcissism for purpose. When not driving growth, you'll find her tricking family into thinking she's Emeril Lagasse - likely covered in marinara. The spotlight was fun, but impact is better. These days she's using 20+ years of brand brilliance for good.