Best social media campaigns 2021
2021. A cruel year that stole lives, damaged mental wellbeing, destabilized many industries. But, we’re resilient. We carried on. We found ways to cope. Social media gave us a platform to stay updated. We shared opinions, rants, and jokes. This post celebrates the brands that supported us with epic social media campaigns, plus insights to drive your strategy in 2022.
The ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic means that 2022 could prove to be another bumpy ride. But we’re adapting. Work from home or hybrid working has been embraced by many companies. Brands have streamlined the customer experience and put consumers first.
Whatever we’re faced with in 2022, brands will need to sell their products. Yes, to make money, but also to stay afloat. Unemployment around the world was one crippling effect of the pandemic, with it estimated to exceed 200M in 2022.
Alongside mass unemployment, we're also witnessing ‘The Great Resignation’. With employee needs changing during the pandemic, it's essential that businesses listen and accommodate their new ways of working. According to the Fast Company Impact Council, industry leaders predict that companies will have to meet employees' new demands or lose them.
Social media is a powerful marketing platform, with 90% of marketers saying that their social media campaigns have driven brand awareness and increased traffic by 75%.
You should be planning your social media campaigns for 2022. But, it’s been an exhausting year, so I’m going to show you some of the amazing, innovative, and memorable campaigns from last year to inspire and motivate you.
I’ve listed the social media campaigns here, in case you’d like to scoot on down to a particular brand or industry.
- Emirates | Taking ads to new heights
- Qantas | Fly Away
- Korea Tourism Organization | Feel the rhythm of Korea
- Duolingo | Duo’s TikTok presence
- Aldi | #FreeCuthbert
- Samsung Electronics Co. | #TeamUnstoppable
If you love somebody, set them free
Hit badly when the world was told to stay at home, the pandemic stopped the travel industry in its tracks.
But it's a resilient industry that despite suffering during the pandemic and numerous crises in the past, remains profitable.
With people desperate to spread their wings and leave the confines of lockdown, the travel industry is emerging from behind the clouds as countries start to relax travel restrictions and open borders, and vaccination rates increase.
Top of the world!
The foundation of social ads is evolving. In 2022 consumers will search out ads that give them relevant information, and offer entertainment. One standout brand that has already developed this new type of social advertisement is Emirates.
In August, in celebration of the green light on quarantine-free travel between Britain and the UAE, Emirates released a promotional video of a cabin crew member welcoming passengers back to Dubai, from the top of the Burj Khalifa.
The virality map of the tweet sharing the behind the scenes video received over 30K engagements from around the world.
Real or fake? A lot of you have asked this question and we’re here to answer it.— Emirates Airline (@emirates) August 9, 2021
Here’s how we made it to the top of the world’s tallest building, the @BurjKhalifa. https://t.co/AGLzMkjDON@EmaarDubai #FlyEmiratesFlyBetter pic.twitter.com/h5TefNQGQe
The high level of engagement wasn’t only down to the message. Yes, it was well received because people had been so desperate to travel, but it was also a super impactful video. Consumers reacted with surprise and excitement for the brand’s creativity and the story behind the ad.
The video was filmed on top of the Burj Khalifa building. I said ON TOP! No green screen or special effects were used. Not a real flight attendant, Nicole Smith-Ludvik is a UK stunt person and skydiving instructor.
Hat tip to you, Nicole.
“I’m gonna see you soon. Love you!”
I had a dream that someday I would just fly, fly away.
Qantas released an ad in August promoting the COVID-19 vaccine by showing people who were separated from loved ones overseas, finally able to meet up when vaccination rates are high enough. The campaign received over 55K mentions through the end of 2021.
The ad is part of the airline’s “Be Rewarded” campaign, which includes discounts and the chance to win free flights, accommodation, and fuel to Australians who got vaccinated.
The YouTube video received almost 500,000 views - blurred by tears - from Australians, and people all over the world reacting and commenting.
Dr Nick Coatsworth - an infectious diseases physician and Australia’s former deputy chief health officer - celebrated the Qantas campaign.
I'm crying cos they cast a South East Asian woman and South Asian guy as a couple LIKE IT WAS NORMAL BECAUSE IT IS— Que Minh Luu 💉💉💉 (@theqza) August 23, 2021
Que Minh Luu - Director of Content @NetflixANZ.
The ad was also praised for its inclusive representation, with the ad’s writer and director, Josh Whiteman, saying, “that means the world”.
Who could have predicted that one day we’d be looking forward to eating dodgy food with plastic cutlery, in a confined space!!?
Try getting this tune out of your head!
The song, called ‘범 내려온다’, is by alternative pop band LEENALCHI, and is a mix of pop and Korean traditional singing style - Pansori.
It tells the story of tigers in Korean folktales coming to town,
Initially intended to promote tourism, the video content was updated from “Come visit Korea” to “Cheer up the world and meet you later.” A message looking forward to a time when tourists from around the globe could visit Korea.
By September, when Korea was able to open its doors to tourists again, the campaign had received over 38K mentions.
A series of eight videos, the campaign showcases the traditional and modern facets of ten Korean destinations, with an original soundtrack of K-pop and folk music. Different artists from the renowned record label H1ghr Music participated in the music. This being a major reason for the popularity of the campaign.
The Korean Tourism Organization collaborated with LEENALCHI and the Ambiguous Dance Company, to tell the story of the legendary Dragon King of the Sea gathering its team for a meeting.
Artists from the label like Jay B, pH-1, and the label itself were the influencers predominantly promoting the videos on social media.
In the past, the tourism board used Korean celebrities and footage of local food in promotional videos. But, recognizing changes in consumer behavior and a younger generation of travellers, the organization introduced funky dancers performing in front of Korean landmarks.
Hitting their target, the demographic most engaged with the campaign was Gen Z, representing 68.5% of the conversations, proving their interest in the message of the campaign, and urban music.
Way to go team!
Make ‘em laugh
We all love a laugh. It reduces stress, while lowering our blood pressure. When a brand makes us laugh, it creates an emotional connection and we think positively about the brand. We buy its products.
And let's be honest, who hasn't needed a full on belly laugh during the pandemic?
Given this, it's surprising that more brands didn't adopt this marketing technique.
A missed opportunity?
We don't want constant reminders that life's not easy at the moment. We want to escape. We want entertainment. Give us some light relief.
Ever seen an owl twerk?
@duolingo lol i don’t think they’re happy with me 🤪 #Duolingo #sillygoofymood #trend #comedy #amifired #becauseofyou #oops #ripDuo ♬ original sound - Freckles
Duolingo's Year in Language Report 2020 said that 30 million people looked to learn a new language, due to the pandemic.
On many people's bucket list, being stuck at home gave people the time to finally learn another language.
With the UK's exit from the European Union, it's ironic that among the app's users, more Brits signed up for courses than any other country during lockdown. Sign ups increased by almost 300%.
In 2021, there were over 2M mentions of Duolingo. One of the most popular edtech apps for learning new languages.
Top themes surrounding the Duolingo edtech language app.
In November 2021, conversation around the brand showed the growing desire for free language learning apps. With consumers looking at options that also include Rosetta Stone and Skillshare.
This increased interest is what prompted Duolingo to invest time in social media, particularly TikTok, to stand out from its competitors.
438.2K followers on Twitter, at time of publication.
After a prolonged period of working from home, the Duolingo marketing team was able to return to the office in September 2021. On seeing the Duo - owl-mascot - costume, the team decided to introduce it to its TikTok account. What they produced is funny, relatable content.
Talkwalker capturing the introduction of the Duolingo mascot to TikTok.
The change of strategy from the original rather stodgy videos - sorry team - shows how the brand has found a way to be authentic and entertaining.
@duolingo Ever feel like you don’t belong somewhere? @mexemluv has the perfect #French word for it! #LearnOnTikTok #Duolingo #Untranslatable ♬ original sound - Duolingo
This new lighthearted approach to social media marketing has resulted in an increase in engagement, proving that TikTok users are loving the content. In November, The brand’s TikTok account had greater reach and engagement than other active brands on the social media platform such as the WWE, Shein, Starbucks, and Fortnite.
Duolingo’s 2020 language report highlighted the boom of new learners during the pandemic. The Year in Language Report 2021 shows how those patterns have evolved.
@duolingo I KNOW I NEED A PEDICURE DON’T COME FOR MY BEAK. #Duolingo #trend #comedy #feettok #feet #DuaLipa #DulaPeep ♬ Bananza (Belly Dancer) - puhrplehqze💜
Couldn’t resist. One more. Sorry, not sorry.
This is not just cake…
HAPPY BIRTHDAY COLIN! Others may have tried to imitate him, but our choc-tastic Colin the Caterpillar cake has always been the original and the very best. And now this birthday icon is celebrating his very own special birthday – Colin turns 30 this month! 🎉🐛 pic.twitter.com/RyCdqFpOcw— M&S (@marksandspencer) August 21, 2020
There aren’t many kids in the UK that haven’t gobbled mouthfuls of national treasure Colin the Caterpillar.
Marks & Spencer launched its go-to party favorite in 1990 - the first retailer offering a caterpillar cake - and have manufactured over 15 million Colins since.
Inevitably, other retailers wanting a slice of this success, created their own version of the M&S caterpillar cake.
Wiggles, Cecil, Curly, Clyde, et al.
Once such supermarket that felt the wrath of M&S, was Aldi, who created Cuthbert the Caterpillar.
See what they did there, folks?
M&S claimed that Aldi was “riding on the coat-tails” of its reputation, and launched an intellectual property claim in the High Court.
Not to miss a marketing opportunity, Aldi went on the defensive and launched a social media campaign. The campaign received over 117K mentions and the hashtag - #FreeCuthbert# - went viral.
Aldi's Free Cuthbert social media campaign quickly went viral.
#CaterpillarWars kicked off with both the brand and consumers getting creative on social media, showing memes and images accompanying the message of #FreeCuthbert.
This not only generated brand awareness for Aldi, but also won the love of consumers as they raced to support Aldi.
One of the most popular tweets was Aldi’s image of Cuthbert in jail…
Cuthbert behind bars received 125.7K engagements.
Aldi shamelessly - who wouldn't? - exploited the situation and created a social media campaign that increased brand awareness while winning an army of new fans.
Regrettably, Cuthbert may be spending the festive season in lockdown…
BTW... keep your eyes peeled. Looks like Aldi’s squaring up to M&S again…
Hey Aldi! How’s about a caterpillar in a bottle of tequila?
The power of inspirational marketing
To dispel the negativity, brands are creating powerful, positive marketing messages. Giving a great big hug and building an emotional connection with their target audience.
From inspirational videos to long-form stories, pull the heartstrings and consumers will get onboard.
When used comprehensively, inspirational marketing creates an emotional bond that increases customer loyalty and brand perception.
Word of warning... it has to be genuine.
“Get ready for the Unstoppable journey.”
Samsung Electronics launched its #TeamUnstoppable campaign in Southeast Asia to convince younger generations - Gen Z and Millennials - to submit their own “do what you can't” stories to win Samsung products.
The goal of the campaign was to foster innovation and the sharing of inspiring stories on social media by digital natives. To push boundaries and pursue their passions, and in doing so, motivate others to take action.
They said she wasn’t feminine. But @MargielynDidal defied the odds, and even became an Olympian. This is her story. Now it’s time to share yours.— Samsung Philippines (@SamsungPH) September 6, 2021
Stay tuned & get a chance to win up to ₱52,990 worth of Samsung devices.#TeamUnstoppable #DoWhatYouCant pic.twitter.com/EKDbA87Rgr
This aligned with Samsung’s vision to inspire the world with innovation to create a new future. The campaign film premiere showcased five inspirational young individuals who went against the odds and are following their passions with great success.
Imran Aqil rose above his challenges and built a community to inspire change.
The campaign reached many countries in the APAC region,
but over 90% of conversations occurred in Indonesia.
With 4.3K mentions of the campaign, Samsung succeeded in reaching out to their target audience. 4.2% of conversations were from Gen Z, while 33.2% were from Millennials.
Consumers used multiple social media platforms with the hashtags #TeamUnstoppable and #TeamUnstoppableMY to share their stories and videos. One of the most popular posts being on TikTok, which received over 40K engagements…
@itsjovynn We’re bringing the oldies back arent we 😍 #tiktokmalaysia #dj #mashup #TeamUnstoppableMY #ComicMe ♬ wildest dreams x shes my collar - jovynn
Ready to get out of your comfort zone and create a new future?
Be inspired by the best social media campaigns!
That’s all folks!
An awesome collection of social media strategies that won big, despite a tough year. How did they do it? They inspired us. Made us smile. Gave us hope.
If you're interested in finding out more about brand campaigns that smashed it in 2021, check out Movers & Shakers | Brands of 2021.
I hope these campaigns motivate you to create your own awesome social media strategy in 2022. I’ve also shared our Social Media Trends 2021 Report, for additional tips and tricks from experts in the know.
Keep it real…