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Brand | Tuesday, 30th June 2015

8 Companies That Defy Human Marketing Expectations

Written by Julia Farrugia

Over the years we’ve come to expect certain things from companies. We get used to seeing the same advert style rehashed and reused. Companies use the same clichés and audiences start to notice trends in advertising campaigns.
But every once in a while a company comes along and surprises us. They sneak past our natural ad-blockers and make their way into our hearts. They make us love them and when asked ‘why’ we find it hard to explain. Our love for a brand becomes almost instinctive and we’ll find ourselves defending even the silliest product.

How do they do it?

They simply defy your expectations. They think outside the box and approach things from a completely original concept which ensures they’re always at the forefront of creativity and innovation. Their products might not always be top of the range – but their marketing certainly is.

Today we’re taking a look at some of the companies that constantly surprise us – companies that have defied our expectations. Of course we’re not simply going to give you a list – we’re also going to give you some context in order to understand what it is that makes these brands so successful and how they managed to win our hearts.

Method 1 – Listening To Your Audience.

We’re tired of saying it, but if you’re marketing to human beings then you’ve got to make sure you know what it is they want. It’s useless coming up with an expensive marketing campaign that ticks all the boxes on papers but doesn’t at all appeal to your demographics. Find out what it is what they want, find out who they are, find what motivates them and use that in order to give them something they can love and relate to.

Nike – She Runs The Night

Nike is one of the top brands in sportswear, especially when it comes to women’s sportswear. But this wasn’t always the case. While Nike had plenty of female customers for their general clothing – they weren’t top of the mind for running shoes, with women preferring other leading brands. So while Nike had a good product which it marketed quite well it wasn’t communicating specifically to females. They had to find a way to get their message across to women and earn their loyalty so that more women will refer the running shoes to their friends – building a network of loyal customers.

Nike, together with marketing agency Razor, embarked on a mission to do just this. They spoke to young female runners in order to understand how best to reach their audience – they listened to what they had to say and found out that contrary to the norm many women ran alone. They did not share their running experience with anyone and had no form of fora to discuss their running routines.

What’s more was that due to many of the women having commitments or busy schedules many chose to run at night – something which was daunting and perhaps even dangerous.

And that’s where it all began. She Runs The Night was a campaign launched with the announcement of a 15km Night Run which would unite female runners. A Facebook page was set up in order to connect the runners – allowing them to share their experiences, and build bonds of friendship. Women started setting up running groups and suddenly a whole community was created.

Nike benefitted from increased exposure and engagement along with brand loyalty. By setting up something that the community could benefit from they were seen as actually caring about their customers. By moving away from the usual athletic imagery and going back to basics and using the woman on the street as their ambassadors they were able to show the every day athlete inside all of us.

Their campaign was true, honest, and above all human.

Nike set out to increase their sales and what they caused was a movement – a movement of women on the move who are still running to this very day. Nike organises annual night runs in a variety of locations to continue to strengthen their relationship with these women… women who are all sporting Nikes.

Sport England: This Girl Can

How do you get a population on their feet?

That’s exactly the purpose of Sport England – they work to help people across England create sporting habits for life and perhaps one of the biggest difficulties they encounter is that of motivating the masses – especially women.

Women are constantly bombarded with different ideas of what their bodies should look like and which latest fitness trend they should follow. These are huge voices to compete with – so what do you do? Sport England set out to encourage women to get up and move – no matter what they may look like and no matter what inhibitions they may have. It sought to break down the barriers one red faced woman at a time.

And that’s where This Girl Can came from. You’ll see for yourself why the video went down a treat with women allover the nation. It doesn’t show perfect athletic physiques, you won’t see any flawless looking women moving effortlessly through the air. What you’ll see are real women in all their sweaty, jiggly, huffy puffy glory.

The video was branded in such a way as to focus simply on the campaign – This Girl Can. There was little to no mention of Sport England and a separate micropage was created where women’s efforts were showcased whenever they used the hashtag in their Instagram or Twitter posts. All this created a space for women to own and be a part of the campaign. It united them with one common goal and empowered them to show that it’s not about fad diets or looking glamorous – but it’s about the hard earned sweat.

Cheerios : How to Dad

How exactly do you go about selling cereal? You target the dads.

The brains behind Cheerios realised that dads had slowly and steadily taken a more active role in the day to day running of their household, with many of them handling much of the grocery shopping. So naturally, if you wanted to sell more cereal it was high time you targeted the dads.

But how would you do this? By appealing to how awesome they are of course. There are 100s of adverts celebrating women’s efforts and the hard work they do but what about the dads? They had been lying low and flying under the radar – often forgotten. Cheerios’ 2 minute advert celebrates dads and the work they do by showing how amazing they are. In 2 minutes a dad  micromanages a variety of tasks and connects and communicates with his kids. He’s cool, he’s smart, he’s everything any dad would hope to be.

By appealing to dads everywhere and shining the spotlight on them Cheerios brilliantly reach their target audience and applaud their work – they make all the dads around the world know that they’ve been listening – they’ve observed their efforts and they think they’re awesome.

They gave dads something to be proud of, even going as far as creating a tumblr page full of engaging images related to dadhood. This is simple shareable content which cant be reblogged over and over again, reinforcing the Cheerios brand and making dads feel loved and respected – this in turn earning them the love and respect of many dads.

Go Cheerios – go dads!


Method 2: User Generated Content

Never underestimate the power of your followers. They can make you or break you, and they can also provide you with tonnes of creative content.
Harness their content properly and you’ll be a definite winner.

Starbucks: #HowWeMet

Companies in the food and beverage industry have a huge advantage over most other companies: People connect over good food or a steaming cup of coffee.

Starbucks have always been ahead of the game with their marketing concepts – they share their love of coffee with the world and have a strong fan base made up especially of young millennials. They’ve become part of American culture and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. But their obvious success comes from their constant efforts to connect with their customers – and what better way to do this than to get to know who they are?

#HowWeMet was an Instagram campaign which formed part of the larger Meet Me at Starbucks campaign where Starbucks wanted to focus on the beautiful moments created when people connect.

#HoweWeMet was simple – Starbucks uploaded photos of their customers with a short story as to how they met. From love stories to stories of friendship the brand managed to show who their fans were and tug on everyone’s emotional heartstrings. They made their customers the stars of the show and created memorable posts with high engagement.

They weren’t selling coffee – they were selling a concept, they showed their human side – and it worked!


Coca Cola: Share a Coke

Another popular one… and also another one related to food and beverage!

Coca Cola has been around for ages and while they constantly promote how refreshing their product is, in recent years they have upped the anti when advertising how coke connects people.

Through the Share a Coke campaign they were able to harness social media in order to create hundreds of posts of user generated content, all through one simple idea. By personalising the labels on coke bottles coke recognised people as individuals – it made them feel important and special and gave them fifteen minutes of fame. Everyone wanted a bottle of coke with their name on the label- and what’s more is that people wanted to get their friends one. This created a global campaign of people sharing coke bottles, taking selfies with them, and generally celebrating the connections created over a shared bottle of coke.

Well played Coca Cola, well played.

Human marketing campaigns

Method 3: Keep it Human – Whatever the Industry

We’ve discussed a couple of ads – but really and truly they fell under two industries: Fitness, and Food and Beverages. You might be thinking “sure it’s easy for them – but what about the more serious companies?”. Yes it might seem harder for someone like Microsoft to be more human – seeing as their main domain is technology and there might not be much room to play around… but the truth is that with a bit of creativity anyone and anything can use human to human marketing.


Microsoft Stories: A simple concept that seeks to show the people behind the company. The people who motivate and inspire the company and who have helped shape it to what it is today. It’s a collection of stories about the people behind the brand – and what could be more human than that?

Human marketing campaigns


What could possibly be fun about computer chips? Actually – quite a lot. Intel have mastered the art of engagement. Their Instagram account boasts one of the most beautiful follower to follow ratios and their posts are nothing short of entertaining – even for a non techy like me! They understand that not everyone might understand the specifics- but many can appreciate the work that goes on in the industry. So that’s what they post about. They keep their company relevant and relatable – they keep it human.  

Jet Blue: Air on the side of Humanity

Airline companies have recently shown off their creativity when it comes to marketing concepts. Be it the flashy dance by Virgin, or the Lord of The Rings Spin off by Air New Zealand – we’ve seen it all.

But while those companies went for flashy and humorous Jet Blue decided to take the more honest route. Check it out for yourselves – they simply say what’s on every frequent flyers mind and then subtly reinforce the fact that their company will give you all you need. They even put ‘human’ in the title of the ad – what more could you want?


Next lesson we’ll be discussing inbound marketing trends for this year so put your thinking caps on and let us know of any tips and tricks you’ve heard of or any recent trends you’ve spotted. Go on, write something on the Facebook group.

  • bert fava

    Absolutely love jet blue ad, esp for its production cost, Nike is ult. superb as it left a community effect, Starbucks is totally sweet, and can be used and reused as love stories are endless.

Julia Farrugia

a little more about

Julia Farrugia,

Online strategist by day, environmental activist by night, Julia is the youngest member in the team. When she’s not curating, editing, or writing content she’s scheduling and planning. Her highlighters are her friends and she’s constantly taping to-do lists to the wall.