Global Village Marketing

by Jessica Ramesh

Damian Ryan’s new book The Best Digital Marketing Campaigns in the World II showcases some of the most successful online strategies being employed by brands around the world. We select some of our favourite examples of global innovation and ask what marketers can learn from them

Harley-Davidson Open Road Film Festival (Australia)

Harley-Davidson is often cited as a brand that doesn’t need to market itself: everyone knows exactly what the Milwaukee motorcycle manufacturer stands for. But Harley are canny operators. In 1995 they attempted to trademark the 45-degree V-twin single crankpin motor’s distinctive ‘potato-potato-potato’ sound and in 1999 launched an (unsuccessful) bid to trademark the term ‘Hog.’

But even bikers need to roll with the times. To lift sales in Australia of its Touring range, Harley-Davidson created the 24-hour test ride – a full day in the saddle for prospective owners. To highlight the sense of the adventure associated with the brand, Aussie agency 303Lowe produced the final scene of a short film in which a man wakes up with a Harley. Other young filmmakers were then invited to imagine – and shoot – the rest of the film. The results were shown at The Open Road Film Festival on Bondi Beach, where fans could vote for their favourite version and sign up for the 24-hour road test. was the online hub and the top eight films were viewed over 10,000 times. The campaign generated far more interaction than anticipated, including celebrity endorsement, extensive online and offline coverage and – crucially – lifted sales of the Touring range by 43 per cent.

The lessons: no brand is too big to ignore digital media. Strong ideas set their own agenda. And if you’re lucky enough to have a genuinely engaged community, don’t be afraid to let them steer a campaign themselves.


Screengrab from Harley-Davidson Open Road Film Festival

FLOW (For Love of Water) (South Africa)

Only 2.5 per cent of the world’s water is fresh. This South African campaign, run by agency Native and launched to coincide with World Water Day in March 2013, was designed to help users make simple changes to their water usage, thereby limiting waste.

Proving that sometimes literal is the way to go, the campaign featured live streaming footage of a real-life tap through which flowed recycled water. Users were asked to Tweet or share their commitment to saving water and, once 10,000 shares were reached, the online tap was turned off. It took 71 days to stem the flow (an Arduino microcontroller picked up Tweets and shares) and the campaign generated a wave of national and international press coverage.

Created on a limited budget but instantly understandable and inherently sharable, this was an example of viral marketing being granted an extended lifespan by virtue of a long-term goal. It also harnessed the power of collective action on social media and gave mainstream news outlets a clear story to work with.

Volkswagen BlueMotion Roulette (Norway)

Fuel efficiency may not be the most glamorous point of entry to automotive marketing, but by introducing a gaming element to the promotion of the Golf BlueMotion in Norway, Volkswagen were able to get drivers excited about litres-per-metric-mile.


Screengrab from

With a map created using Google Maps and Street View, users could follow a Golf BlueMotion with a full tank of diesel as it headed down Norway’s Route E6. The game: to guess where it would run out of gas, with the correct answer winning the car. Since users only had one guess, they were required to research the BlueMotion in detail. Fully supported by TV, banner ads, social media and designed to work across multiple devices, more than 50,000 Norwegians placed a bet on the car’s final resting place and 160,000 visited the site during the month-long campaign.

They key to the campaign’s success? The very natural integration between game, product, channels and desired outcome. Games are, by their nature, oriented around a clearly defined narrative and set of goals. The masterstroke here, however, was giving users an incentive to go off and research the model themselves, in the process engaging with the brand and its USP: low fuel consumption.

Deutsche Telekom: Move On (Germany)

Brand differentiation is notoriously difficult to achieve in the busy telecoms sector. Deutsche Telekom’s multi-award-winning 2012 campaign, created by MediaCom, enabled users to turn their cinematic dreams into reality by co-creating and participating in a film entitled Move On. Thousands of fans were invited to provide creative input as extras, composers and even prop providers. Directed by Asger Leth (Man on a Ledge) and starring Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) as a secret agent traversing Europe, the result was shown in eight episodes online before being premiered in Berlin and broadcast on TV.

All very glamorous, of course. But how did this benefit the brand? ‘Sharing’ was the key message here and the concept was written into every aspect of the production. The film enabled the brand to reach a highly desirable young demographic and total brand fit uplift averaged 10.5 per cent. Purchase intent increased up to 30 per cent and there was an 81 per cent increase in consumers who found the brand ‘inspiring’.

Film has always been a uniquely seductive medium for brands and advertisers, but this example took the relationship – and the distribution model – to another level. Participants had a uniquely personal investment in the campaign, but non-customers were also significantly impacted. In the future, could there be an Oscar for ‘Best User Generated Content’?

Red Bull Stratos (Global)

The record-breaking skydive, undertaken by Felix Baumgartner from 108,100 feet in 2012, is digital’s marketing’s epochal moment: even your granny heard about it. The sheer audacity of the enterprise (with over 9 million people watching online it was the internet’s biggest ever event) catapulted it into history. But what benefit did it really bring the energy drink?

Red Bull’s stated target market was ‘the general public.’ That would be pretty much everyone, then. Key in reaching that vast, undifferentiated audience were multiple integrated platforms to support the online experience. The campaign also demonstrated an acute understanding of how important social integration is in any project (the Twitter account racked up 250k followers in a single day) and straddled traditional divisions between online, offline, broadcast, experience and content.

As plenty of marketers have pointed out, stratospherically ambitious campaigns like this are out of most brands’ reach. But the underlying lesson is universal: if you want to make an impact, think big. And then think even bigger.

As featured in Issue 21 of Figaro Digital.

The Best Digital Marketing Campaigns in the World II by Damian Ryan is published by Kogan Page.

Article by Jon Fortgang