The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Campaigns
From P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” to American Express’s “Small Business Saturday” to Dos Equis’s “Most Interesting Man in the World,” marketing campaigns have a way of sticking with us long after an impression or purchase. Why is that? Well, campaigns make companies memorable. They promote a focused effort that guides consumers towards the desired action. They also give brands an identity, personality, and emotion.
Marketing campaigns can do the same for your business. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide — to provide a clear, concise approach to your next marketing campaign.
Keep reading to get started or use the links below to jump ahead.
Marketing Campaigns vs. Advertising Campaigns
Marketing is how a company raises awareness of its brand and convinces customers to make a purchase, while advertising is the process of creating persuasive messages around these broad goals.
In terms of campaigns, an advertising campaign might be one facet of a larger marketing campaign strategy.
Say shoe brand Nike launched a campaign surrounding the release of a new product. Its advertising would only reflect one facet of its marketing strategy.
The brand might also leverage email newsletters, social media, and paid search to meet its goal.
Now that we understand the difference between advertising and marketing campaigns, here’s a list of a few more types of marketing campaigns you might run.
Marketing Campaign Components
Multiple components go into the planning, execution, and results of a stellar marketing campaign.
Goals and key progress indicators (KPIs): This component defines the end goal of your campaign, quantifies it in specific and measurable goals, and states which metrics will be used to track progress. For example, your content creation campaign might be measured by organic traffic, with each post aiming to drive 1,000 views per month and 10 new contacts, with metrics being measured in Google Analytics and Looker.
Channels: Where will your content and messaging be distributed? For example, if you’re running a social media marketing campaign, you might specifically prioritize growing the channels most relevant to your audience and omit those where you’re least likely to grow a loyal following.
Budget: Not all marketing campaigns require an incremental budget, but many still do. Factor in the agency, advertising, and freelance costs, if appropriate, and factor these numbers into any ROI analysis for your campaign.
Content Format(s): Determine what kind of content you will be creating to fuel the campaign. It’s common for marketers to include multiple content formats in a singular campaign. For example, a branding campaign could include video ads, press releases, and guest blogs.
Team: Who are the individuals you’re relying on to get the job done? Before kickstarting your campaign, make sure you designate people to work on every aspect of the campaign, from copywriting and design to media buying and reporting.
Creative Assets: A great marketing campaign should have great creative assets to match. Whether it’s a sleek website design, a video commercial, or an interactive infographic, make sure your design is professional and fitting for the purpose of the campaign.
How to Create a Successful Marketing Campaign
Creating an entire campaign is a big task, but the process is pretty straightforward.
Before you create what your audience will see, you must consider your end goal and the action you want them to take
I’ve organized this section as a marketing campaign template. All you need to do is answer the questions — as accurately and in-depth as possible — to ensure a thorough, successful approach to your next marketing campaign.
Planning Your Marketing Campaign
This step is crucial to the effectiveness of your marketing campaign. The planning stage will determine how you measure success and will guide your team when things go awry.
Featured Resource: Free Marketing Plan Generator
1. Set a purpose and goal for your campaign.
Let’s start simple. Why are you running this campaign? What would you like your campaign to accomplish for your business?
If you’re having trouble defining your campaign purpose, start broad. Take a look at the goals below. Which one is most aligned with your own?
- Promote a new product or service
- Increase brand awareness
- Gather customer feedback or content
- Drive leads
- Generate revenue
- Boost user engagement
- Advertise an upcoming event
This is hardly a definitive list, but it gives you an idea of general business goals that a campaign could help reach.
Let’s take this broad campaign purpose and turn it into a S.M.A.R.T. goal. We’ll use the third option as an example: Gather customer feedback or content.
“The goal of my marketing campaign is to gather user-generated content from 100 customers via a branded hashtag on Instagram featuring our new product line by December 31.“
The goal is specific (user-generated content), measurable (100 customers), attainable (via a branded Instagram hashtag), relevant (featuring the new product line), and timely (by December 31).
See how this broad campaign purpose instantly transforms into an actionable, attainable goal?
Pro Tip: Setting SMART Goals is simple when you have the right tools. Check out the free SMART Goal-Setting template below to get started on this critical piece of your marketing campaign.
Featured Resource: Free SMART Goal-Setting Template
2. Establish how you’ll measure your campaign.
This will look different for everyone depending on the channels you’re leveraging and your end goal. You might measure email open rates, new Facebook Page likes, product pre-orders, or a combination.
These answers will depend on your overarching campaign goal. Here are a few examples of metrics based on the campaign goals I mentioned above.
- For promoting a new product or service: Pre-orders, sales, upsells
- For increasing brand awareness: Sentiment, social mentions, press mentions
- For gathering customer feedback or content: Social mentions, engagement
- For generating revenue: Leads, sales, upsells
- For boosting user engagement: Blog shares, social shares, email interactions
- For advertising an upcoming event: Ticket sales, vendor or entertainment bookings, social mentions
If your campaign involves multiple marketing channels, it’s wise to define how you’ll measure your campaign on each medium.
For example, say I was running my user-generated content (UGC) campaign on social media, email, and on our blog. First, I’d define my key performance indicators (KPIs) for each medium, which may look like:
- Instagram engagements (likes and comments) and profile tags
- Email open rates and click-through rates
- Blog views, click-throughs, and social shares
Then, I’d define my primary campaign KPI: Instagram branded hashtag mentions.
While the above KPIs indicate how well my campaign is reaching and engaging my audience, my primary KPI tells me how close I am to reaching my SMART goal.
Lastly, let’s think about another question: What does “success” look like for your company? Sure, it’s exciting to reach a predetermined goal, but that’s not always possible. What (outside of your goal) would constitute success for you (or serve as a milestone)?
Pro Tip: When determining how you’ll measure your campaign, consider setting up some checkpoints along the way. If your campaign involves boosting brand awareness and your goal is to reach 50 PR mentions by the end of the year, set up some benchmark notifications at 10, 25, and 40 mentions.
Not only will it remind you to keep pushing toward your ultimate goal, but it’ll boost morale within your team and remind you that your hard work is paying off.
3. Define your target audience.
Imagine constructing a bulletproof marketing campaign only to be met with crickets.
In that case, you might think you chose the wrong marketing medium or that your creative wasn’t witty enough. However, the culprit may be your audience.
The first step to resolving this problem is figuring out what stage of the buyer’s journey your campaign is targeting. Are you trying to bring in new customers, or attempting to gather feedback from existing clients?
Marketing your brand to those who recognize it, or are you introducing a new brand identity altogether?
Your marketing message will vary depending on whether your campaign audience is in the awareness, consideration, or decision stage. Even though your campaign may reach those outside of your target audience, it’s vital that you design your campaign with a specific target in min you know who it’s meant for.
Next, identify your audience’s interests and pain points. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team to better understand your audience.
- What are my audience’s general interests? What magazines do they read? What TV shows do they watch? How do they spend their free time?
- Where does my audience hang out online? For what purpose do they use Instagram, Facebook, and other networks? Do they engage or merely browse?
- What kind of content gets my audience’s attention? Do they respond to straightforward sales messages, or would they rather consume witty, humorous content? What cultural references would they understand?
- What kind of problems do they have that my product, service, or brand could solve?
Becoming well-acquainted with your campaign audience will help you confidently answer these questions and any others that may arise during the campaign.
Pro Tip: To uncover more about your target audience, survey your existing customers as well as potential customers in your market. Then, use this data to create your buyer personas — you can even enter that data into a free buyer persona generator like the one below.
Featured Resource: Buyer Persona Generator
4. Set a concept for your campaign and get in contact with the right team.
Marketing campaigns require a mission, vision, and visual identity. Great campaigns are an offshoot of their parent brand, both visually and creatively — they stay consistent with the business brand but maintain their own identity.
When creating their campaign assets, some businesses use an in-house team while others opt for an agency. Another alternative is hiring a freelancer or contractor to complete a specific portion of the project, such as the copy or design.
Pro Tip: Depending on your specific campaign goals, I’d recommend starting with your in-house team and moving forward from there. They are the experts of your business and can speak to what your campaign needs to succeed.
This step will likely take the longest since you’ll be creating your campaign concept from scratch. Next, we’ll dive into how you’ll distribute your campaign assets and connect with your audience.
Featured Resource: Market Research Kit
Distributing Your Marketing Campaign
This stage is all about the public-facing part of your campaign, including what your audience will see and when. If you’ve combed through the previous section, you should have all the answers you need to guide you through this step.
5. Choose the channels on which you’ll run your campaign.
This choice depends on your audience preference, budget, and brand engagement levels, among other factors.
Take a look at the current media channels you use to promote your company. Which ones perform the best? Which ones allow you to pay for advertisements? Which ones have the best engagement? Most importantly, where are your customers hanging out?
Need a few ideas? Take a look at the PESO model, which breaks up distribution channels into Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned.
6. Set a timeline for your campaign.
Establishing a deadline for your campaign gives you a much better idea of when, how, and how often you’ll promote it. Here’s how to do this:
- Build a general campaign timeline, then mark your campaign start date and deadline on a calendar.
- Take a look at your marketing assets and chosen promotional marketing channels and work backward from the campaign launch date. Based on your resources, how often can you afford to post and promote your campaign content? With this information, create a promotional calendar for each marketing channel.
- Decide on a cadence for each channel and map out your scheduled posts, emails, etc. on your calendar.
Visually mapping your marketing campaign will help you evenly disperse your campaign promotions and publish equally on each medium. It’ll also give you an idea of where your time and energy are going so that you can look back when assessing the effectiveness of your campaign.
Pro Tip: If your promotional calendar seems full, don’t fret. Social media and email scheduling tools can alleviate the pressure of posting daily. Check out tools like HubSpot and Buffer to help you schedule and manage your campaign promotions.
Converting Customers Through Your Marketing Campaign
This stage — the conversion stage — is all about how your campaign can lead to a specific result.
7. Ensure your campaign is driving users toward a desired action.
Even if your campaign is effective and drives a ton of traffic, it still needs to complete its desired action. By “the desired action,” I’m talking about that SMART goal you initially defined. Let’s take a moment and reiterate that goal.
For my sample campaign, my SMART goal was “to gather user-generated content from 100 customers via a branded hashtag on Instagram featuring our new product line by December 31.”
This step is all about calibrating your marketing efforts and channels to lead your customers to complete your desired goal. This is done through conversion assets like calls-to-action, landing pages, and lead forms.
Pro Tip: Lead conversion assets can be used separately or in conjunction with one another, such as featuring a lead form on a landing page, or creating a call-to-action asking your audience to fill out a form.
8. Monitor the right metrics.
The campaign effectiveness metrics you’ll monitor will depend on what type of marketing campaign you’re running and what channels you’ve chosen. This section merely serves as a baseline list to give you an idea of what to watch.
Also, it’s tempting to focus on vanity metrics like generated traffic, click-through rate, and impressions. A bump in these areas is definitely a good thing, but since they don’t necessarily indicate a bump in revenue, they can’t be the only metrics used to measure the effectiveness of your campaign.
Pro Tip: Bookmark this link to all the marketing metrics to watch. It’s organized by marketing channel so you can quickly scan the list for new metrics to track for your campaigns.
Assessing Your Marketing Campaign
The post-campaign stage determines your success just as much as the planning stage. Measuring and analyzing your campaign data can provide unique insight into your audience, marketing channels, and budget. It will also inform future campaigns.
9. Establish success numbers and metrics.
The easy way to figure this out is to understand whether or not your campaign met the initial SMART goal outlined in step one. If it did, great! If it didn’t, you can dive into the data to assess why.
For example, if your goal was to increase organic blog views by 100K, any bump in views would be considered successful. But there’s a difference between a campaign that works and a campaign that’s worthwhile.
A worthwhile campaign gives you an ROI that’s proportionate to the time and energy you put into it.
Pro Tip: While it’s OK to celebrate any bump in pre-orders, leads, views, or engagements, don’t assume that’s enough. There’s a reason the very first thing to do is set a campaign goal. Sticking to that goal and calibrating your investment will ensure your campaign is worthwhile.
10. What will you do with the campaign data?
This step helps maximize your campaign’s business impact.
When you analyze and apply your data, its value increases tenfold — not only did it help you measure and assess your campaign results, but it’ll also give you direction and clarity on your audience, marketing methods, creative prowess, and more.
Let’s return to my UGC Instagram campaign.
In addition to meeting my goal of 100 posts with UGC, the data I collect in the process also offers insights into who my audience is, when and how often they post on Instagram, what language they use, and how they use my product.
Whether you collect lead information, pre-orders, social engagements, or offer downloads, your data can equip you to not only meet your campaign goal but also expand your marketing efforts as a whole.
Pro Tip: The campaign isn’t over once you’ve pulled that final report. Spend time with your team in a retrospective meeting. Ask yourselves questions like:
- What could’ve been done differently?
- How could we have saved money?
- For anything that went wrong, why do we think it went wrong?
- What did we learn about our audience or marketing channels?
- What kind of feedback could we gather from participants or customers?
Great Marketing Campaign Examples (and Why They’re So Great)
This wouldn’t be a HubSpot Ultimate Guide if we didn’t share some examples from the pros.
1. The Lip Bar‘s “Something BAWSE is coming”
In 2022, The Lip Bar celebrated its 10-year anniversary. It also release a new product called “The Bawse Bundle.”
In early February, the brand launched a multi-channel campaign, from website and social media to billboards.
The campaign is built around a story of resilience and perseverance, focusing on the CEO’s negative experience on the show Shark Tank.
Why The Lip Bar’s “Something BAWSE is coming” campaign is so great:
It accomplishes multiple things through a single campaign: It gives the audience a peek into the brand’s journey. It builds on that journey and beautifully connects it to a product.
So, not only can current customers share in this excitement because of the 10-year anniversary, new customers will be drawn in by the personal story shared by the CEO.
2. Meta (Formerly Facebook): “The Metaverse”
The campaign is still in its infancy stages, but it has taken over social media networks, including the Facebook app itself.
Why Meta’s “The Metaverse” campaign is so great:
Reception of the campaign is still developing, but so far, it’s successfully stopped the world in its tracks — and that’s a recipe for success with just about any marketing campaign.
The idea of a Facebook rebrand had been speculated prior to the launch of the campaign which piqued the public’s interest. That meant even if they didn’t like the change, they would still be interested in seeing what happens next.
3. Popeyes: “Megan Thee Stallion Hottie Sauce”
If Popeye’s wasn’t sure that it hit the ball out of the park with the chicken sandwich marketing campaign, then it nailed it for sure with the Megan Thee Stallion Hottie Sauce collaboration.
Arguably, Popeyes created one of the best chicken sandwiches on the fast-food market in 2019. At the same time, artist Megan Thee Stallion was becoming the hottest rapper in the industry.
So, it made sense that in 2021, the two would join forces to debut a remix of the successful chicken sandwich.
Why Popeyes’ “Megan Thee Stallion Hottie Sauce” campaign is so great:
This marketing campaign was intentional about targeting the younger crowd with not just chicken sandwiches, but merchandise, too.
Popeyes was able to tap into this segment of the market and increase sales while continuing to capitalize on its success without the campaign coming across as stale.
4. Cheerios: #GoodGoesRound
General Mills ran a non-profit campaign called Good Goes Round via its Cheerios brand, lobbying to raise enough money to fund one million meals.
Why Cheerios’ “Good Goes Round” campaign is so great:
The campaign featured its own landing page, video marketing assets, and hashtag (#GoodGoesRound), separating it from its parent brand and making it shareable among its audience.
It also paid to promote the “Good Goes Round” URL on Google, giving the campaign even more visibility.
5. Apple: “Shot on iPhone”
Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” series highlights the high-quality videography and photography that customers can capture on the iPhone X.
It’s a product launch campaign that focused on one specific feature of the new Apple smartphone.
Why Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign is so great:
This campaign was unique, because it’s similar to a user-generated campaign but was also promoted heavily by the brand itself.
6. The General: “Re-brand”
When it comes to cheesy commercials, The General’s old marketing strategy fits the bill.
The brand became synonymous with pixelated animations and low-quality production which inevitably had a negative effect on the way potential customers perceived the quality of service.
In 2020, the company changed its marketing campaign to target a more rational customer who appreciates a little humor.
Shaquille O’Neal became the face of the brand, appearing in commercials alongside other notable celebrities like Montell Jordan and Ernie Johnson.
Why The General’s “Re-brand” campaign is so great:
The General listened to its customers’ opinions of the brand before moving forward with the new campaign and saw great success as a result.
The tone of the marketing campaign remained light-hearted but took a more mature approach to the humor — toning it down and letting the key selling points of The General shine through.
7. Airbnb: “Made Possible by Hosts”
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel companies such as Airbnb saw unprecedented losses in profit.
How did the company respond? It created a series of videos called “Made Possible by Hosts” that shows appreciation for the hosts who have continued to accept guests on the platform.
What’s most curious about the campaign is that it doesn’t put Airbnb customers at the center.
Instead, it spotlights the hosts who accept customers in the first place. In doing so, Airbnb focuses on the human aspect of its platform: You’re not renting an Airbnb property, you’re renting someone’s home.
Over to You
Marketing campaigns aren’t easy, but they’re valuable and integral to growing a successful brand and business. Campaigns set apart certain deliverables from general promotional efforts and touch your audience in creative and exciting ways.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider what would be valuable to your audience, and go from there. Your audience is, after all, the lifeblood of your campaigns and company.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.