Slope Blog

Why These Out of the Box Social Campaigns Actually Worked

[fa icon="calendar"] 10/4/18 9:04 AM / by Anthony Greer

Every now and then an ingenious idea goes viral, and a brand is remembered for their unique thinking, inspirational sentiments, or humor. Whatever the case, these social media campaigns evoked emotions that we did not expect and left you in awe of the people who came up with them.

While these brands were already well-known before these campaigns took place, the lessons that can be learned still apply to your future marketing endeavors. For each of these campaigns, we’ll discuss why it worked and which takeaways can be replicated for your own social strategy.

Wendy’s Trolls McDonalds

When it comes to the fast food burger industry, McDonald's is the juggernaut. They dwarf Wendy’s 6,500 restaurants with nearly 37,000 stores around the globe. While McDonald’s has had seen impressive year over year growth in the 2000s, Wendy’s has found its stride recently in giving McDonald’s flack for it. The best part is that most of this takes place on Twitter.

Before Black Friday in 2017, McDonald’s accidentally tweeted a placeholder:



When Wendy’s found it a few hours later, they couldn’t resist and responded with an ice-cold burn:



The tweet garnered over 755,000 likes and 284,000 comments. Once Wendy’s realized that they struck social media gold, they turned their one-off hit into a great marketing campaign. When McDonald’s announced that, by mid-2018, all Quarter Pounder burgers at the majority of their restaurants would be cooked with fresh beef, Wendy’s responded with:



Tweets like these have helped boost Wendy’s following to 2.77 million potential customers intrigued and excited by how Wendy’s will troll their competitor next. Not every post is a McDonald’s roast, but each tweet about a new special reaches millions of twitter users without paying a dime in promotion.

Why this works:

McDonald’s has a reputation for serving cheap, unhealthy food and films like Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me didn’t help. That, combined with their Goliath-like presence in the fast food industry, made them an easy target for Wendy’s. Once Wendy’s saw the high-traffic response they received from their Black Friday tweet, they realized the golden opportunity they had placed before them. They could:

  1. Upsell their brand when comparing to an industry giant
  2. Generate free publicity
  3. Interact with their target customer base

All at the same time!

How it’s replicable:

No matter what industry you’re in, there are usually one or two household brands that take the lion’s share of the customers. While Wendy’s took a combative route – which could easily backfire – conducting a SWOT analysis of you brand and the brands of your main competitors will reveal ways that your product is better than theirs. From there, you must make your competitive advantage known to your target market.

Steps to replicate:

Read customer reviews of your competitor’s products and look for patterns about common complaints they may have. These present you with opportunities to make your product superior, as well as talking points to use when upselling your product. When using social media, pay attention to the hashtags that your competitors are using to speak to your combined target market. Relevant hashtags will help you reach your audience and talk about the strengths of your product and why it’s worth buying (compared to that of your competitor’s). Just be sure to have enough relevant content assembled to back it up.

KFC’s 11 Herbs and Spices

Anyone who has heard of KFC knows that their chicken is made with “11 herbs and spices.” Which ones Colonel Sanders is referring to, however, remained as one of the best-kept culinary secrets of all time. With that mystery in mind, KFC’s marketers created a social media campaign that relied on word of mouth.




In October 2017, Mike Edgette made a shocking discovery about these enigmatic herbs and spices and tweeted: “@KFC follows 11 people. Those 11 people? 5 Spice Girls and 6 guys named Herb. 11 Herbs & Spices.” The combined likes and retweets over Mike’s revelation reached 1,037,000 and news stations around the world reported it.

Why this works:

Not only did KFC get recognized for their tongue and cheek creativity, but they received free publicity over a single idea that may have just taken a few moments to concoct. They took a well known element of their brand and turned it into a hilarious easter egg.

How it’s replicable:

KFC has the advantage of being a well-known brand for more than 70 years with a “secret” about how their product is made. Just because your company might not have the same level of brand awareness and familiarity doesn’t mean you can’t use this opportunity to put a crucial part of your brand in the spotlight.

Steps to replicate:

Every brand has important elements that hold it all together. Think about the one thing you want associated with your brand and reverse engineer an interactive social campaign around it. While leaving breadcrumbs may be too coy for your marketing KPIs, the most important thing is to get your brand differentiators at the center of your interactive campaign.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to be the most successful social campaign of all time. ALS received more than $31.5 million in donations compared to the $1.9 million during the same period in the previous year.



The moment you saw someone on your newsfeed dump a bucket of water on their head, it grabbed your attention. Although silly, once you realize that it’s for a good cause and that others are being called on to do it, it quickly became uncool not to be a part of this challenge—and then donate to the ALS Association.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge got celebrities involved and allowed for everyone to participate in the challenge in their unique way. This creative social media campaign also allowed for scores of hilarious viral videos of ice bucket challenge fails.

Why this works:

The most important aspect of this campaign is that anyone could be involved in it. Grandmas challenged their grandkids, students challenged their teachers, and spouses challenged each other. The Ice Bucket Challenge invited every demographic to participate, gave everyone a good laugh, and brought awareness to a cause regardless of the participant’s motives for joining in.

How it’s replicable:

People want to be entertained and do things that make them feel good. The ice bucket challenge provided a way to fulfill both of these needs

What you can do:

Get together with your marketing team and brainstorm a list of interactive activities that could generate a buzz. It doesn’t have to be directly relevant to your product or cause (dumping a bucket of ice water on your head has nothing to do with ALS), but you get extra credit if it is. These activities should be easy to do or replicate, not dangerous, and fun. Whatever you choose, make sure that you end with a call-to-action and provide an avenue for growth, like challenging someone else to share a post of them partaking in the activity.

GE’s 6 Second Science Fair

In 2013, GE took advantage of the growing interest in Vine, DIY experiments, and our inner nerds by hosting a week-long #6SecondScience.

Throughout the week people posted Vines to the hashtag, which got retweeted and reposted. The visually-stunning posts caught people’s attention when they popped up on social media platforms. Some of the best videos made it onto this compilation, and the one that shows what happens when you combine dish soap, food coloring, and milk has received over 130,000 likes.


Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 10.59.52 AM


Why this works:

GE took a key element of their brand (innovation) and invited audiences to participate and experience a core tenant of GE’s brand first hand. By going down the science fair avenue, they created a social media campaign that garnered a lot of attention and audience involvement. The six-second clips were just enough to leave viewers wanting more and easy for people to create themselves. Science fairs are a big thing in school, and this campaign allowed everyone who participated to have all of the fun without having to touch a tri-fold board.

How it’s replicable:

While Vine is no longer, people still have an interest in science, DIY and nifty videos. Mostly nifty videos. What really made this campaign an overall success, however, was its call for audience engagement.

What you can do:

Think about key aspects of your brand that can be interesting to the public and find ways to facilitate engagement with that particular quality. For GE, it’s innovation; for Slope, it would be creativity.

Let’s say you run a sandwich company, you could run a campaign about crazy (but awesome) sandwiches and make quick videos of the sandwiches being assembled. Then, invite others to participate by making and naming their own sandwiches and sharing it on social. You could even offer to serve the best audience-made sandwich as a special in your restaurant. The more interactive and engaging, the better.

Have you launched a creative marketing campaign or have an idea that you think could go viral? Leave a comment below!

Anthony Greer

Written by Anthony Greer

Anthony Greer is a twice-published author and copywriter with a focus in marketing, branding, and product development.