10 must-see social media marketing successes

Social media gained even more steam in 2016, and smart companies such as Starbucks, Red Bull, Arby's and Chobani took to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social channels to reach new customers and build brand loyalty.

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Credit: Thinkstock
2017's biggest social media marketing wins

What does it take to win hearts and minds on social media today?

You could hire a female base jumper, get her to launch off an 8,000-foot mountain, grab your product during her descent, and then capture it all on 360-degree video. That's exactly what Dunkin' Donuts did, and its high-stakes gambit paid off.

Other notable brands used social media creatively to lower their prices, solicit product designs, and even publish a customized cookbook. If you're looking for inspiration as we head into 2017, check out these 10 social media campaigns from last year. (And if that's still not enough, here are 10 more from our April 2016 roundup.)

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Credit: DD IP Holder
Dunkin' Donuts #WTFast

Sometimes you need to take extreme measures to get attention. Dunkin' Donuts did just that last summer to promote its new mobile ordering option. The doughnut and coffee chain hired the world's fastest female wingsuit base jumper to leap off an 8,000-ft. mountaintop and snatch a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee midflight.

The company augmented the TV ad on social media with the hashtag #WTF and 360-degree video that people could watch on Facebook or a Dunkin' website. The footage helped Dunkin' Donuts to get more attention for its ad, and the Facebook 360 video received more than 7 million views. It's a great example of a brand "adopting new content formats to keep audiences coming back for more," says Moses Velasco, chief product evangelist of Socialbakers, a social media analytics provider.

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Credit: Lidl U.K.
Lidl's Social Price Drop

U.K. grocery chain Lidl launched an ingenious "Social Price Drop" on Twitter in November, designed to let its social media followers control pricing for select products during the holiday season. The Twitter campaign lasted for four weeks and featured four different products. The more followers talked about an item on Twitter, such as the "Christmas lobster," the more that item's price dropped. The campaign was a success "because there was a real incentive to share socially," says Toby Beresford, founder and CEO of Rise, a gamified performance management platform.

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Credit: Arby's IP Holder
Arby's Twitter account

Fast food chain Arby's showed a creative flair in 2016 using Twitter images that incorporated elements of its food while also recreating iconic pop culture images. The interactive game "The Last Guardian," the HBO series "Westworld," and the Tim Burton animated film "The Nightmare Before Christmas" all served as inspiration for Arby's. 

"Arby's really knocked it out of the park with its target demographic of hungry, 15 to 35 [year old], slightly nerdy people," says Jonathan Harrop, social media marketing manager for mobile marketing platform AdColony.

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Credit: Chobani
Chobani's #NoBadStuff campaign

Yogurt brand Chobani created a #NoBadStuff social hashtag for the 2016 Rio Olympics designed to emphasize the importance of healthy living, clean ingredients and a positive attitude — all of which are core to its brand identity, as well as the Olympics. The campaign kicked off with a commercial that featured Olympians such as Ashton Eaton.

"Chobani's campaign integration, multichannel presence, and use of influencers and related accounts is stellar," wrote The Simply Measured Blog. "Chobani has also used its products to provide messaging that helps advertise the campaign, encouraging people to join in on social and build user-generated content." 

By taping the Olympics' aspirational nature with its products, Chobani "made sure the campaign outlasted the Olympics," says AdColony's Harrop. 

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Credit: Nike
Nike 'Time is Precious' campaign

"The best campaigns need to be emotive and memorable, and Nike's 'Time is Precious' series of text videos on social media is both," says Jesse Ghiorzi, director of brand strategy for Charge, a sports and entertainment marketing firm. "The ads reach people on social media to remind them how vain and monotonous life can be, with binge watching, scrolling timelines, and celebrity worship." The white-text-on-black-background video reminds viewers to exercise when it ends with, "Time is precious. Are we running today?"

The campaign is "about as stark a departure as possible from Nike's typical big-budget, celebrity athlete-fueled approach," according to an Adweek blog. "As such, it's at the very least a refreshing change of pace for the brand and category in general." 

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Credit: BuzzFeed
BuzzFeed is 'tasty' on social media and in print

News website BuzzFeed.com had a hit with 'Tasty,' the food-focused part of its site that features recipes, short cooking videos and more. The site also has a popular BuzzFeed Tasty Facebook page, with more than 77 million followers. BuzzFeed's Tasty videos "break down easy-to-make meals in a fun way," says Kerri Gois, marketing director at BroadbandSearch, an Internet-provider search engine. 

Tasty even spawned a print cookbook, which can include specific types of recipes and be printed on demand, according to Fast Company. The company created a Tasty book website to compile more than 1,000 top-rated recipes into categorical chapters users can build themselves. The book received more than 20,000 orders in its first week of availability, Fast Company reports.

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Credit: Unilever United States
Knorr's #LoveAtFirstTaste

Unilever brand Knorr matched singles with similar food preferences, then set them up on dates, where they had to feed each other (and agree to be recorded). The campaign included an interactive flavor-profile quiz, a campaign landing page and a series of social videos, including a popular YouTube video that received more than 60 million views since April.

"Knorr is known for more product-centric marketing, but with this campaign the brand expanded into the tangible power of flavor," says Lily Croll, strategy director at digital marketing agency Wire Stone. The campaign "brings a different understanding of the brand and connects on an emotional level." It shows why brands should experiment outside their legacy marketing tactics and be authentic, she says.

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Credit: 3M
3M Command's 'Do No Harm'

3M's Command products are adhesive-backed hooks that don't require nails or other tools to mount, so they supposedly "do no harm" to walls or fixtures. To promote the hooks, 3M has an ongoing campaign on YouTube, Twitter and a website that features singer MC Hammer, who, according to the (corny) promotional tagline, is "the only hammer who hates nails." The integrated campaign includes broadcast TV spots, as well social and digital content. The campaign's related YouTube videos racked up nearly 10 million views.

It is effective because it taps into '90s nostalgia, "with MC Hammer a powerful cultural icon from that period," according to Croll. With the campaign, "the brand can talk about its products in a humorous but still tangible manner."

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Credit: Red Bull
Red Bull's bridge climb video

For years, Red Bull has marketed its caffeinated sports drinks with ads that emphasize pushing past boundaries and going for it. So its video of climbers racing to the top of a bridge, which received more than 71 million views on Red Bull's Facebook page, was perfectly on message for the brand.

"The suspense and awe-inspiring talent of the athletes is what keeps audiences engaged," says Socialbakers' Velasco. "Red Bull stays true to its brand identity and consistently creates content that its audiences love. It's safe to say Red Bull won this race."

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Credit: Starbucks
Starbucks's Instagram-inspired Red Cups

In 2015, Starbucks's minimalist red holiday cup stirred controversy. Critics called the cup boring or bemoaned its lack of a specific holiday-themed design. Some Starbucks fans even decorated the cups themselves — and that gave the global coffee retailer an idea.

In 2016, Starbucks invited customers to submit their own designs and post them to Instagram using the hashtag #redcup. The company chose a total of 13 different cup designs, submitted by customers in the United States, Canada, Dubai, South Korea and other countries. 

A green "unity" cup, which was also controversial, proceeded the 2016 #redcup campaign. Nonetheless, with its holiday cups, Starbucks creatively used social media to engage customers and drive media attention, according to Katie Kern of Media Frenzy Global, a technology marketing communications agency.