The WARC Awards is a global case study competition designed to reward next-generation marketing effectiveness.
WARC reveals social marketing trends
Its Effective Social Strategy Report 2018 reveals key social trends from the world's most effective marketing campaigns.
WARC's Lucy Aitken who is managing editor for case studies said that they had been documenting the evolution of social strategy since 2014.
"During that time, social has changed in the media mix, from an activity designed to generate conversation, participation, sharing or advocacy to a broadcast medium for online video and, in many instances, a support medium for bigger integrated campaigns that also use TV.
"Social is now firmly established in the media mix, though its ability to connect with communities in highly unique and memorable ways continues to make it distinct."
Following WARC's analysis of the metadata of the entries, survey with the entrants and contributions from the esteemed judging panel, chaired by Elizabeth Windram, VP Marketing, JetBlue Airways, four key themes have been identified for an effective social strategy:
Human connections drive social success
Campaigns that saw higher sales increase appealed to people in a human or humorous way.
Fast-food retailer McDonald's eased exam stress for students in China, Danish supermarket Fleggaard created comic content that confronted the snobbery around border shopping, airline JetBlue nudged Americans to take vacations and OTC medication Gas-X tackled a taboo using humour.
All four campaigns saw significant sales jumps off the back of their strategy with McDonald's in China, which won the Grand Prix, performing extremely well. According to the case study, the campaign exceeded the KPI of a 15% increase for overall sales.
WARC's Lucy Aitken observes: "Using an accessible, gently humorous or empathetic tone is entirely appropriate for social campaigns - as the results for all these campaigns can testify."
Social video formats diversity
Video is key to successful social campaigns, with more executions across more platforms, offering greater scope for iteration.
PlayStation's Play Everything campaign used multiple video touchpoints to drive awareness and views for the campaign. Meanwhile, British telco BT created 11 different pre-roll adverts on YouTube, and French mineral water brand Hépar created ten videos based on audience's suggestions.
Judge, Gerard Crichlow, Head of Cultural Strategy at AMV BBDO, says: "Video was an integral part of many of the best performing social campaigns at this year's WARC Awards. Effective brands are mirroring the behaviour of modern audiences, who increasingly view and engage with brands on their own terms, when and where they choose."
Communities of interest
Many winning brands skillfully used social as a way to connect with particular communities.
Unilever-owned detergent OMO in the UAE helped parents rethink their approach to child-rearing, while Durex's PR-led campaign in India enabled men to buy contraceptives more freely.
Jury member Chris Herbert, Strategy Director at the7stars, points out: "Part of an effective social strategy is not only ensuring that campaigns anticipate what their audience will talk about, but also seamlessly becoming part of the conversation."
He added: "While the ways we connect with each other have changed, the reasons why we connect haven't. The messages we share socially are still those which interest us, those which agree with or challenge our beliefs."
The year's Awards spawned a handful of social-by-design campaigns that demonstrated the value of a discoverable idea.
Judge Kristen Fox, Director, Social Media & Digital Analytics, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, comments: "Discoverability is about presenting value that is relevant to a consumer, at the time and place where it is most relevant to them. It should also be presented in the most frictionless way possible."
Addict'Aide helped drive awareness of alcoholism by convincingly mimicking an Instagram profile, while @GeoStories by The Geological Survey of Canada History Committee leveraged people's habit of posting and tagging pictures of places they visit.
Kristen Fox added: "Even when you have media dollars to spend, it's hard to identify where you need to be. These executions used newsjacking to slingshot content and drive discoverability."
Now in its third year, the WARC Awards 2019 will open for entries on 1 November 2018 and carries a prize of USD $40,000 for the winning papers.