Types of Marketing Campaigns (A Guide with Examples)
My love of marketing campaigns runs deep; that's why I've dedicated all 21 years of my career to creating campaigns.
Marketers in agencies and large corporates are already using campaigns to meet their marketing objectives. Still, in a recent poll of small businesses and startup founders that we ran here at Campaign Del Mar, only 50% of respondents had run campaigns before.
What is a Marketing Campaign?
Let's start with understanding what a campaign is; a connected series of actions leading to the desired outcome.
Think about a politician running for office. Their desired outcome is to win the election, and the campaign is everything they do leading up to the vote to achieve their goal.
Do candidates throw all their money (and time) into one thing to win? No, they speak at town halls, buy advertising, give press interviews, send emails and get on the phone with voters, among other focused efforts. And all of these activities are tied together by an overarching message, slogan and visual identity.
This is the same for a marketing campaign.
So, a marketing campaign is a considered, cohesive, focused effort.
Different Types of Marketing Campaigns
Campaigns come in all shapes and sizes, and there are many different types of campaigns. They usually fall into three different categories - channel-specific, tactic-led and by objective.
Channel-Specific Marketing Campaigns
Some campaigns are channel-specific such as:
- Social media campaigns
- PR campaigns
- Email marketing campaigns
- Paid advertising campaigns
- Integrated, multi-channel campaign (my preferred option)
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Dove's #NoDigitalDistortion social media campaign
Tactic-Led Marketing Campaigns
Some campaigns are led by specific tactics, including:
- Collaboration marketing campaigns
- Influencer marketing campaigns
- User-generated content campaigns
- Storytelling campaigns
- Anti-marketing campaigns
Marketing Campaigns Defined by Objective
All marketing campaigns should start with a primary marketing objective.
Often, brands go wrong because they try to cram too many objectives into one campaign, but as we learned above, campaigns work best when focused on one or two specific goals.
Common examples include:
- Brand awareness campaign
- Lead generation campaign
- Launch campaign
- Referral campaign
- Repositioning campaign
- Sales or conversion campaign
What is a Brand Awareness Campaign?
A campaign intended to build brand recognition; being known. Often the biggest challenge to growth is the fact that most of your target audience doesn't even know you exist. Brand awareness campaigns are about expanding your reach and visibility so that you can grow your audience.
You want as many people who represent your target audience to know who you are and what you offer, but most brands have a very narrow top of funnel. Successful brand awareness campaigns put brands on the map.
What is a Lead Generation Campaign?
Lead generation applies to service-based, B2B and SaaS brands. Unlike e-commerce products where customers may learn about a brand for the first time and purchase from it 20 minutes later, service-based businesses have a longer and more involved sales process.
Service-based brands must capture and qualify prospects and nurture those leads before they can become customers and that process is called a lead generation campaign.
Launch Plans Versus Campaigns
'Launch' is the new buzzword in the online space. Not only a verb, it's now used to describe the promotional activity preceding the release of new products, services, offers and online courses. The trouble with new-age launch plans is that they're often templated, "this-worked for-me-so-fingers-crossed-it works-for-you-too" digital products.
They are also exhausting because they try to do too much. Build an audience, nurture the audience and convert them all within one short period. As already discussed, campaigns work best when they are focused on one objective at a time.
Marketing campaigns are ideal for launching new initiatives and in the last 21 years, I have run marketing campaigns to launch well-known products, services, online courses and digital products for Campaign Del Mar and our customers.
What are Referral Marketing Campaigns?
Referral marketing is about getting your existing customers and audiences to refer you to new ones. While this may happen organically, referral marketing campaigns are a deliberate effort to supercharge those referrals.
My favourite referral marketing campaign is Masterclass's Buy One, Share One free which they have run a few years in a row.
What is a Repositioning Campaign?
Pretty much every brand has had to pivot in the last few years. If a brand is known for something but now wants to be known for something else, a repositioning campaign is a smart idea. It can take a long time to change perceptions so creating a purposeful campaign all about a brand's new offering can fast-track that process.
What is a Sales or Conversion Campaign?
A planned approach for converting leads into customers. Yes, you can use marketing campaigns to make sales but you will also need to deploy some sales strategies like outreach and sales calls. Just remember, you cannot convert a cold audience so sales/conversion campaigns should be targeted at warm audiences. If you are more experienced with marketing campaigns, you can run a brand awareness and lead generation campaign back to back with a conversion campaign but this requires considerable planning and enough lead time which is another reason why "launch plans" don't work; not enough time has been built in for audiences to progress through the marketing funnel.
What type of marketing campaign should you create?
Start with your objective; what is the biggest challenge or opportunity facing your business? It is building your audience, generating leads or making sales? This will determine what type of campaign you will run.
Once you know your primary campaign objective, pick the best channels and tactics for that type of campaign. For instance, social media and paid advertising are great for building brand awareness, but email marketing delivers the best results for conversions.
When you know your objective and your marketing mix (channels you will use), we can get our creative juices flowing and pick some tactics for your campaign.
Mia’s tips for effective marketing campaigns
After 21 years of running campaigns, I’ve seen brands struggle to select the best type of marketing campaign for their purpose. This is one of the reasons our campaign marketing course, Campaign Classroom, is so popular, as it provides students with a comprehensive overview of campaign marketing.
I think the best campaigns have;
- 1-2 objectives maximum
Most brands go wrong by trying to cram too many objectives into one campaign. Campaigns work best when they are focussed on one goal. The trouble is that brands have many goals, so they find it challenging to pin down one thing. But the strategy is about choices; we can't do it all at once, so we must prioritise. The question to ask yourself is, what is the most pressing objective right now? Alternatively, what objectives must I first meet before being able to hit other more significant objectives? For instance, if your brand is unknown or not well known, the first step will probably be a brand awareness campaign.
- Use a mix of paid, earned and owned channels
Using only social media for your campaign is like using only a hammer to build your whole house. Why limit yourself to just one tool when so many others are at your disposal? But smaller brands over-rely on social media.
Using a smart mix of paid, owned, and earned channels will allow you to do more with less. Rather than throwing all your money at advertising, owned and earned channels will make your budget work harder.
- Utilise at least one creative tactic
Campaigns are about capturing attention, so your campaign should be underpinned by a creative theme, hook or message that will resonate with your audience. I refer to this as the "Big Idea", coined by David Ogilvy.
Coming up with the Big Idea for your campaign is one of the most challenging parts of campaign creation and one of the most important because it will determine whether your campaign stands out or blurs into the noise.
Playing it safe is a risky strategy; you are almost guaranteed that people will scroll past your campaign. Original ideas win, so creativity is the future of business advantage.
Mia Fileman is a professional marketer with 21 years of experience as a Brand Manager, Agency Director and Creative Strategist. She's the Founder of Campaign Del Mar a marketing education platform for entrepreneurs and marketing teams. Mia is also the host of the Got Marketing? Podcast and a widely published marketing expert. She has written for Social Media Examiner, Mumbrella and Smart Company, among many others.
She spent the first decade of her career in brand management roles for global consumer brands Black Swan, Kraft, L'Oreal and BIC France. Upon returning to Australia, Mia worked agency-side before setting up her marketing agency. Those seven years creating and running campaigns for business and government clients gave Mia incredible insights into what smaller brands need - and how quick-fix learning products are failing them.
Now, Mia teaches startup founders and marketers how to create smarter marketing campaigns, even on a shoestring budget.