Chances are if you’ve heard of a Twitter hashtag campaign, it’s because it failed. The marketing world, in fact, is littered with the recent detritus of woebegone hashtag campaigns. Think back to McDonald’s doomed #McDStories campaign or RIM’s #BeBoldeffort, and it seems that trying to create a stir on Twitter is a fool’s errand.
Focusing on such misfires, however, conceals the fact that some — or even most — hashtag campaigns are actually successful. Below are six campaigns that effectively harnessed Twitter in a way that provoked positive discussion and action.
Domino’s Pizza U.K. offered fans a solid reason to participate in its Twitter campaign: cheaper pizza. The promotion, which ran from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on March 5, cut the price of the chain’s Pepperoni Passion Pizza by one pence every time someone tweeted the hashtag #letsdolunch. After 85,000 tweets, the price dropped from £15.99 to £7.74, and Domino’s offered that price from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day. A similar campaign also took place in Ireland that day with the #pizzalunch hashtag, which lowered the price to €13.24 from the original €20.
This was another U.K.-based campaign in which merchandise got cheaper the more people tweeted about it. (Are you seeing a theme here?) In this case, apparel retailer Uniqlo set up a page called the “Lucky Counter,” which featured 10 items. If you clicked on one of the pieces, it triggered a pre-written tweet using the hashtag #luckycounter. The promotion started on Sept. 7. The items were discounted on Sept. 9.
The Obama administration claimed a rare post-election social media marketing success in late December 2011 with a Twitter campaign about a seemingly soporific subject: the payroll tax debate. The administration humanized the subject, though, by making the argument about the $40 that the average worker would lose per paycheck if Republicans got their way and ended the payroll tax cut. More than 17,000 people responded to the White House’s tweet “What does #40dollars mean to you?” Even better, the GOP backed off on the issue within a day or so.
Let’s face it, not much conversation revolves around shaving unless you’re growing a beard or have nicked up your face that morning. Like other brands in prosaic segments, Energizer Holdings’ Edge Shave Gel has sought to encourage chatter by making the brand about more than just grooming. Talking about “irritation” was a way to migrate the conversation into more interesting territory. That was the thinking behind #soirritating, a hashtag Edge initiated in late 2010 for which Edge’s marketing team scanned Twitter to reward people who used the tag. For instance, when a woman kvetched on Twitter about her husband’s refusal to use his hearing aid, the team sent her a megaphone. The woman later posted a TwitPic of herself speaking to her hubby with the device.
To highlight the importance of World Fair Trade Day, Ben & Jerry’s launched an innovative campaign last May that used your “leftover Twitter characters.” To achieve this, the Unilever ice cream brand set up a microsite where users could type their tweets. Whatever you typed, if it was shy of 140 characters, Ben & Jerry’s would fill in the rest with a plug for Fair Trade Day. (Example: The tweet, “Sitting on a sofa watching TV,” was backfilled with “I’m sharing my unused Twitter characters to raise awareness for #FairTrade. #FairTweets” and then a link with more information.)
Electronics retailer RadioShack welcomed Verizon Wireless in September 2011 with a memorable hashtag campaign that made tweeting #kindofabigdeal into a real-time interactive game. The premise: A bunch of Verizon phones were arranged on a table. Whenever anyone tweeted that hashtag, the phones would vibrate. Eventually, a tweet would send a phone off the table, in which case the final tweeter would get the phone. The campaign netted more than 80,000 mentions of @RadioShack.
What’s your favorite hashtag campaign? Let us know in the comments below.