Oranges were big business in California in the early 20th century, but demand fell flat while growers continued to churn out the fruits, causing a big slump in profits. The California Fruit Growers Exchange brought on the marketing expertise of agency Lord & Thomas in 1907, who brought all of the farmers together under the name “Sunkist”. The agency also helped to popularise orange juice as a commodity, and while “Sunkist” now refers to a separate soft drinks company, OJ is still a worldwide breakfast accompaniment thanks to the work of those marketeers over 100 years ago.
We think of health shakes and smoothies as a modern phenomenon, but in the mid-1900s there was one beverage that medical professionals were certain had beneficial properties – a pint of Guinness. In 1929, adverts for the dark Irish stout read “Guinness is good for you”, and slogans promoting the drink's nutritious qualities enticed customers for the next three decades, with roaring success. Whether Guinness really can be considered good for you is still debated today, but the stout is rich in a number of vitamins and minerals.
Making products popular by using celebrities is one of the oldest tricks in the advertising book, and it paid off for Miller Lite. Movie and sports stars appeared in the ad to tell us that light beer – a new product at the time – still tasted good despite its lower calorie content, helping to open it up to male markets. The campaign was a hit and production of Miller Lite quadrupled by the following decade. In fact, the brand brought back its 1970s packaging in 2014 to revive flagging sales, to great success.
Another slogan that’s become a cultural phenomenon is “Got Milk?”. It was first used in a TV ad, where a young man is unable to talk on the phone as his mouth is jammed with peanut butter and, when he reaches for the milk carton, realises it's all gone. Impressively, the campaign spurred a rise in milk sales in California, and the slogan went on to be used globally in a celebrity-led campaign for the Milk Processor Education Program which saw the likes of Kate Moss and Whoopi Goldberg pose with a 'milk mustache'.
Monster.com tugged at heartstrings with this ad, in which children say what they want to be when they grew up. Rather than the usual aspirations, theirs are cynical: “When I grow up, I want to file all day”; “I want to be underappreciated”; “I want to climb my way up to middle management”. The slogan? “There’s a better job out there”. It clearly worked, as the site’s traffic increased by around one million users a month.
Encouraging people to switch bank accounts is a challenge, and what’s even harder is making the whole thing seem like fun. Enter Howard Brown, a customer services assistant that UK banking brand Halifax decided to make the star of their television adverts. His singing and dancing saw him quickly become a household name, to the extent that people started to steal cardboard cut-outs of Howard from branches. And it was good for business too, as Halifax reportedly saw a 25% increase in the number of current account holders. Deemed somewhat of a British national treasure, a waxwork version of Howard was added to London’s Madame Tussauds in 2005.
In our age of social media, to get noticed you have to go viral. It’s something Old Spice knew well when it launched this campaign for shower gel, which scored more than 52 million views online and brought a huge 107% increase in sales. By creating a YouTube video that could be shared on social media, it reached far wider audiences and reaped the rewards.
KFC can teach us a thing or two about recovering from public scandals. When the fast food outlet ran out of chicken in the UK in 2018 due to delivery issues over half of its UK restaurants had to close. But rather than let this embarrassing situation impact its brand reputation as well as its sales, advertising executives decided to 'fess up and rearranged the letters into “FCK – We’re sorry” in an ingenious apology. The ad gained an award at Cannes, and business soon bounced back for the chicken retailer, which was opening a new restaurant at a rate of one every seven hours before the pandemic. Clearly, it clucked out with this cheeky ad.