It was an interesting year to be a marketer. Expectations were high, budgets were low, content moved at the speed of light, and marketers had to make magic happen through it all.
As 2023 comes to a close, I polled the HubSpot Media Team to see what their favorite marketing campaigns of the year were. Check out the full run-down below.
HubSpot Media’s Favorite Marketing Campaigns of 2023
The Barbie Movie
Let’s start with the obvious: Barbie owned the first half of 2023.
To promote the summer blockbuster, Warner Bros. and Mattel teamed up to execute one of the most robust, well-rounded marketing campaigns we’ve ever seen. The “Barbie” movie’s marketing engine, from experiential activations to product collaborations, had it all. Some of the highlights include:
Ken’s Malibu Dreamhouse that was listed on Airbnb
Barbie-themed co-branded products with brands like Crocks, XBOX, BEIS, and Homesick Candles
An experiential Barbie-themed boat cruise in Boston
The Barbie meme generator
However, Warner Bros. and Mattel can’t take all the credit — “Barbie” also had a ton of organic marketing support. Opening the same weekend as “Oppenheimer” led movie fans to create the “Barbenheimer” double feature trend on social media, giving both films a marketing boost. Also, anytime we saw the color pink this year, we couldn’t help but think of Barbie.
Snoop Dogg and Solo Stove
In the fall, Snoop Dogg shared a cryptic social media post implying that he was giving up smoking. Naturally, the post garnered a lot of attention, as Snoop Dogg’s marijuana use has been a big part of his brand since day one.
It turns out the post was a teaser to promote his collaboration with Solo Stove, a brand that sells smokeless fire pits. The brand announced Snoop was its official “smokesman” and dropped an official ad days after his initial social media post.
Walmart Black Friday
Walmart tapped into nostalgia marketing in a big way with its “Mean Girls” themed Black Friday campaign.
The retailer rolled out a series of commercials starring the original cast of the 2004 film reprising their roles. This campaign was well-produced and effectively targeted the largest demographic of holiday shoppers: millennials.
Millennials are expected to spend more than other generations this holiday season. The original “Mean Girls” was a generational film that many millennials know and love, and the ads immediately sparked nostalgia for this important group of consumers.
Dunkin’ Donuts x Ben Affleck
In February, Dunkin’ Donuts aired its first-ever Super Bowl commercial starring Ben Affleck. The Massachusetts-raised actor has been photographed enjoying Dunkin’ coffee several times over the years, so it made sense for him to become an official spokesperson for the brand.
The Superbowl commercial kicked off a series of Dunkin’ Donuts ads starring Affleck, and the partnership is a great example of brand alignment and a celebrity endorsement that just makes sense.
Nicki Minaj’s Gag City
Nicki Minaj has one of the most engaged fan bases on the planet. This year Minaj fans, known as the Barbz, rallied around the release of her latest album Pink Friday 2 effectively creating a viral marketing moment for the rapper.
In September, Minaj shared the album cover on social media. The cover featured her set in a pink futuristic city. Her fans quickly began using the term “Gag City” to describe the album cover and used AI to generate their own pink cityscape images to depict Gag City. Barbz essentially created an online world and generated memes to help promote the album.
Other brands like Baskin Robbins and Microsoft Bing quickly got in on the action, creating their own Gag City images and adding fuel to the trend.
While it’s unclear whether the Gag City campaign was deliberate marketing from Minaj and her label or purely an organic movement created by her fans, it’s an interesting case study at the intersection of fan UGC and generative AI.
Dove Self-Esteem Project
The Dove Self-Esteem Project had a string of stellar campaigns supporting its impact work this year.
In the spring, Dove took on social media beauty filters with the #TurnYourBack campaign. The campaign featured celebrities and influencers sharing unretouched content warning their followers about the dangers of digital distortion and encouraging them to turn their back on filters that change their natural features.
Soon after, Dove launched an initiative with Lizzo called the Dove Self-Esteem Project Research for Kids Online Safety. The goal of the campaign was to draw attention to the Kids Online Safety Act, which promotes safety on social media for young users. To support the bill, Dove produced a film called “Cost of Beauty” to highlight the impact social media beauty standards can have on young people’s mental health.
As we covered this fall, Dove also teamed up with Nike to launch the Body Confident Sport initiative, which encourages girls’ participation in youth sports during and after puberty. In addition to an educational toolkit for coaches and caregivers, the Body Confident Sport campaign included a series of YouTube videos depicting the benefits of girls’ participation in sports.
From cinema to social impact, 2023 had its fair share of effective campaigns. We look forward to seeing what marketers have in store for 2024.