With the end of any year always comes the inevitable Best Of lists. Me being a marketing geek, I can’t let the opportunity pass me by to write up my own list–the Best Marketing Campaigns of 2019 (According to Me). That caveat at the end is important, because unlike some other places, for the most part I don’t have a lot of real data backing up any of these picks, they just happen to be marketing campaigns that I thought were a combination of:

  • Creative
  • Well-executed
  • Hilarious (honestly, I’m a sucker for funny)
  • Talked about (offline, online, or both)
  • Great example of knowing your audience

In no particular order…

1. BarkBox: “Pigs in a Blanket”

On November 6, 2019, BarkBox launched their Thanksgiving Dinner BarkBox, featuring Thanksgiving-themed dog toys and treats. There was jellied cranberry sauce, a football, a double-stuffed deviled egg, a boatload of gravy, a stuffed turkey, treats with typical Thanksgiving flavors like sweet potato, a mashed potato mountain, a colossal casserole, tennis balls that looked like brussels sprouts, an apple pie, and stuffed pigs in a blanket (they’re the 5th frame in the ad):

Pigs in a blanket? Doggie sex toys? I’ll let you decide, although the internet definitely had opinions. And they were hilarious. Because of the…um…questionable design of the pigs in a blanket dog toy, BarkBox’s post went viral, as did another Facebook post sharing screen caps of the original BarkBox post. Thanks to the general hilarity of the design (and BarkBox’s responses, which were also hilarious), the Pigs in a Blanket toy quickly became one of their most popular toys to-date.

Reading the blog post, it sounds like BarkBox didn’t quite realize just how popular these toys would be, or that the reaction to them would be so immediate (and hilariously dirty). The way that they responded, though, was on-brand and awesome. A lot of companies would have pulled that post in a heartbeat, issued some huge, long-winded apology about how they never meant to offend anyone (or their dogs), and would have made a total mess of the situation by doing so. Instead, BarkBox had fun with it. They made fun of themselves for their faux pas. They made jokes. They actively participated in the hilarity and from what it looks like won over a decent amount of new fans and customers because of their sense of humor and willingness to play along and make fun of themselves.

That’s what I call a social media marketing win.

2. Netflix: “What’s Something You Can Say”

Full disclosure: these first two examples definitely have a theme of inappropriate humor. It is what it is. They also have a theme of brands actively participating in hilarity and making fun of themselves, which I honestly think is important at times. Consumers can be a bit jaded, especially when it comes to some of the world’s biggest brands. There’s sometimes an “us vs them” mentality, which is illustrated in a variety of ways–social media posts, boycotts, sit-ins, and sometimes even violence. So when those big brands loosen up their virtual ties and show some personality, a sense of humor, and a willingness to make fun of themselves, it helps to ease a little bit of that tension that sometimes exists between them and the consumer. And Netflix’s “What’s Something You Can Say” tweet definitely did that.

When I first saw the screen caps on Facebook, I of course was laughing so hard I literally had tears rolling down my face. But I also thought, “There’s no way this is real.”

As you can see, the Facebook post with the screen caps itself went pretty viral, with 191,000 shares and over 27,000 comments. Of course, though, I had to verify for myself because, well, this is the internet.

And it was real! It was like the marketing gods had just hand delivered a beautifully wrapped social media marketing gift for all the world to see. Even better? All of the different brands that participated.

So. Many. Brands.

It was just this epic marketing collaboration full of humor and inappropriateness but the audience reaction was overall very positive. That’s how you win at social media marketing.

3. Shiner Beer: This Is Shiner Country

I’m not a beer drinker, but I’ve long had a deep and abiding love for Shiner Beer’s commercials. They’re well done, they know their audience, and they fully embrace their heritage (Texas with German influences). As the brand has grown, they’ve stayed true to their roots. This year’s This Is Shiner Beer ad campaign, “This Is Shiner Country,” is a nod to their heritage, their penchant for storytelling, and the people who make up the great state of Texas (and beyond, but definitely Texas).

My favorite video of the series is Smoker. My husband and I love to smoke meat, and we’ve stayed up many a night smoking a brisket–or gotten up way too early to start the process–and that commercial just does such a great job of illustrating the ritual and the process.

The folks behind Shiner’s commercials are masters of storytelling, IMO, and really understand the brand and its consumers.

4. Manly Bands: Bands for Every Man

I don’t know why I started getting Facebook ads for Manly Bands; afterall, my husband and I have been married for almost eight years and as far as I know of he’s perfectly happy with his wedding band. But I’m kind of glad I did start getting Manly Bands’ ads, because they’re freaking hilarious.

The first one I got was this one:

I of course had to share it, because I laughed my ass off at it. Since I shared it, that meant I kept getting their ads, with the most recent one being this one:

The first one’s been pretty popular, and the second one just debuted I think. The videos are also creative, well-executed, and show that Manly Bands knows their audience. Plus, they’re hilarious. And funny gets bonus points with me.

5. Aviation Gin: The Gift That Doesn’t Give Back

Talk about capitalizing on a moment. After Peloton received quite the backlash for its ad featuring a wife who received a Peloton from her husband for Christmas, the Peloton Wife meme kind of took off (because this is the internet, and everything is a meme these days). While everyone was trying to figure out if the Peloton Wife was okay and not actually a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, Ryan Reynolds very smartly had his people call her people, and within days a new ad for Reynolds’ Aviation Gin was filmed. You can watch a video interview with the actress, Monica Ruiz, here. Reynolds appears towards the end and they talk about how the whole Aviation Gin ad came to be.

Kudos to Reynolds for A) capitalizing on a moment so brilliantly and B) giving Ruiz a chance to write her own narrative in a funny, classy way. This is marketing at its finest–timely, well-done, humorous, while telling a story.

6. Black Rifle Coffee Company: Coffee, Take Me Away!

I’m admittedly a little biased because as a BRCC Coffee Club member I got to vote on which ad would be their Mother’s Day ad this year, and this was the ad I chose. It’s also the ad that won. So there is that.

I’m not a mom, but I got this ad. I know lots of moms. I have a mom. I have nieces and nephews. And even without being a mother I’ve still had those moments when I’ve realized it was too early for wine, and so I reached for the coffee instead.

Honestly, there were several BRCC videos/ads I could have chosen for this list (BRCC fans are probably scratching their heads wondering why I didn’t pick Instructor Earl, and I’ll get to that) because BRCC’s marketing is generally amazeballs. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked on job applications to name a company who’s marketing I admire and I’ve listed Black Rifle Coffee Company (probably to my detriment because of the company’s name). This one right here, though, is a great example of why I admire their marketing so much. Other reasons why I love their marketing:

  • Their marketing is incredibly well-done. From social media posts to videos to emails to their website to the coffee club, BRCC’s marketing is on-point and on-brand.
  • Their branding is amazing. For such a relatively young company (they were founded in December of 2014) it’s kind of amazing how strong their branding is and has been for a while now. They’ve recently done a slight refresh on some of their original coffee blends, but it’s still very much on-brand and only elevates the brand more, IMO.
  • They’ve embraced social media and grown via new media.
  • They’re not afraid to take risks with their marketing. They’re also not afraid to be funny as hell–and laugh at themselves.
  • They know their audience. They really, really know their audience. And their content reflects that.
  • They have a great relationship with their customers. That can be seen via the coffee club’s exclusive Facebook group, and even on non-coffee club social media posts where the owners of the company more often than not respond to individual comments and questions.
  • They have a great product to back up all their awesome marketing.

This video shows all of those things, and had coffee club involvement to boot (every now and then coffee club members will get to vote on stuff like this), furthering the company’s relationship with their most loyal customers. That’s A+ marketing, my friends.

7. AT&T: Ok Surgeon

We don’t watch a lot of television (hence why almost all of my examples have been online marketing thus far), but the first time we saw this ad both my husband and I cracked up laughing.

We still laugh whenever we see it, which is honestly kind of amazing considering the fact that my husband’s received two kidney transplants in the past five years and had multiple other surgical procedures related to the transplants and/or kidney disease. You would think we would both cringe at the thought of having a surgeon like that, but instead we laugh at it.

And that’s the beauty of this commercial; it takes something incredibly serious like surgery and puts you in a facetious situation in order to make a point. Is it a little bit of dark humor? Possibly. But I tend to like dark humor. It also definitely gets the point across–just okay is not okay. It’s timeless, really.

8: National Kidney Foundation: Jerry Rice – Heart Your Kidneys

Like I said above, we don’t watch a lot of television in our household, and when we do it tends to be sports: baseball, football, or hockey. The other night we were watching a Dallas Stars game on Fox Sports Southwest, and were completely surprised to see this commercial on our television screen:

We just kind of looked at each other like, “did that really just happen?” Kidney disease is something that just isn’t talked about, despite the fact that it affects 15% of the adult population in the U.S. and approximately 1 in 3 Americans is at risk for developing Chronic Kidney Disease according to the National Kidney Foundation. Apparently this ad debuted back in February, but it took us until the weekend before Christmas to see it. I assume part of that is because NKF is a non-profit and dealing with limited funds for advertising. Cynically, I’m assuming a bigger part is that even though Jerry Rice–one of the all time greatest wide receivers to play the game (and that’s coming from a Cowboys fan)–is attached to the campaign, kidney disease just isn’t as “sexy” as cancer when it comes to advertising. Even though more people die from kidney disease every year than they do from cancer.

This one isn’t funny. It isn’t viral. But it’s important, and it’s on a subject you don’t see discussed on television on via advertising very often. That needs to change, IMO, so kudos to the National Kidney Foundation and Jerry Rice for trying to get the message out about how important kidney health is.

What were some of your favorite marketing campaigns of 2019?