My Mantra

Helping brands and leaders be more influential
by embracing their humanity and personality.

Social Marketing & Advocacy Archive

4 Lessons From The Year’s Best Marketing Campaign

Every year, Advertising Age magazine publishes a report that looks at the collective results from nine of the most globally respected industry award shows in the advertising industry—from the Cannes International Festival of Creativity to the Clios. The number-one award recipient this year wasn’t a tear-jerking celebrity sports ad or a preview of a hot new holiday gadget. Instead, the top honor went to Metro Trains from Melbourne Australia—a public utility with a simple public service message advocating greater train safety.

The addictive animated jingle for its popular campaign video rode global YouTube popularity to drive its unexpected message home for audiences (see video embedded below). How can you mimic the success of this campaign in promoting your business?

1. Elevate Your Message

The easy thing to do with a public service announcement is to come up with a straightforward tagline that focuses on the problem. Metro Trains elevates its message beyond just train safety. Instead, the video and corresponding campaign created a conversation about something bigger than just safety on trains, and benefited from the attention. The lesson is clear: If you can find ways to talk about something bigger than just your business, you can reach people in a way that a more direct (and smaller) message just can’t.

2. Embrace Humor

The entire campaign takes a humorous approach to a rather morbid topic. The lesson? Not to take yourself or your business too seriously. Even with a serious public service announcement, humor can lighten its tone just enough to make the message one that people will interact with and share frequently. No one wants to share a virtual version of an overprotective mom wagging her finger and telling you not to do something. In this case, humor isn’t about trying to make you laugh out loud. Instead, it gives just enough levity to make what could be a difficult and depressing message more relevant and shareable.

3. Make Your Team Into Heroes

As you might imagine, there were several teams behind this campaign, including advertising agency partners and other vendors. One of the great things about industry awards, beyond the fact that they can add a layer of legitimacy and attention, is that they offer credit to the team that worked on them. In this case, that credit means a lot, because the entire team working on the project likely devoted more time and attention than their day jobs dictated they had to. Part of inspiring a team to achieve great things on your behalf is offering them a share of the credit and attention when the kudos eventually come. It gives everyone a shared sense of accomplishment, and makes it even more likely they will go above and beyond to deliver great results for you in the future as well.

4. Extend Across Multiple Channels

The biggest concern with a viral hit video in a marketing campaign is often the curse of the “one hit wonder.” What if all people really care about is a single great video? To counter this, the Metro Trains team has an active publishing strategy around the concept of the ad that includes everything from printed materials to gaming apps. By extending the reach of the campaign beyond just a great video, they can engage even more people in the message and give the campaign more of a shelf life to continue reaching and influencing people long after the first video becomes overplayed or less interesting.

Though it may seem like an unexpected example to find marketing lessons, the campaign is worth paying attention to. In addition to its accolades, popularity and awards, the campaign managed to reach its ultimate objective: a reduction in train accidents of over 20 percent.

As executive creative director Jon Mescall shared in an interview, “What we have is a franchise, rather than just an advertising platform.” What if you brought that same mentality to the marketing you’re doing for your business? Building a franchise instead of a campaign may be harder, but there’s no denying it has the power to set you apart when you do it—even if your goal isn’t as selfless as saving humanity from the dangers of trains.

Note: This post was originally published as a contributed article on the American Express Open Forum website and is republished here with slight edits.  

What 7 Masters Of Persuasion Can Teach You About Behavioral Marketing


This past weekend one of the first ever conferences on consumer psychology and behavior focusing on marketing, sales and business strategy quietly took place in Stamford, Connecticut.  Before the September craziness of business events and corporate summits … Behaviorcon was intentionally different.  Created by best selling author Ramit Sethi and marketing and branding advisor Michael Fishman – the event brought together a…Read More >>

Why Great Brands Don’t Have Obvious Answers


What problem are you solving? It’s one of the most basic and fundamental questions in business … and one that most brands believe they need to be able to answer. The best ideas solve problems, right? There is a problem with this logic. Ideas that make money or change the world don’t just solve problems. They offer unexpected solutions. For…Read More >>

Why Tackling Obesity NOW Is A Smart Strategy For Coke


Consumers want what they want. How often have we heard this used as a defense for selling just about anything, whether it is good for people or not? The fact is, people like unhealthy products – and they get angry when anyone tries to deny them the chance to buy them. This is particularly true in America, where New York…Read More >>

An Ingenious New Nonprofit Proves That Maybe You CAN Buy Forgiveness


It’s the holiday season and we’re in that delightfully slow week between Christmas Day and New Years where many of us have a chance to step out of the craziness of daily life, forget about work and just take a lazy little break. For many people in the world, however, this week won’t offer much relief because they have something…Read More >>

2013 Trend – Heroic Design


What’s the Trend? Design takes a leading role in the introduction of new products, ideas and campaigns to change the world. For several years, leading companies have started to see design as a competitive advantage, but in the coming year design may hold the solution to the world’s biggest challenges. Partially because the solutions themselves may come through better design,…Read More >>

How To Spot A Trend: 7 Social Media Trends That Matter In 2013


There has been a single pink folder on my desk since January 15th of this year. That day matters to me for two reasons – first because its my birthday, and second because it’s the day when I start an empty folder with the intention of collecting ideas for my year end trend report. Then throughout the year, I steadily…Read More >>

The Lost Choir on Thanksgiving

It is Thanksgiving day and you’re probably thinking about food. Or spending time with family. But one thing you won’t be able to avoid is hearing about all the great retail deals. Thanks to early store openings and a relentless marketing machine promoting all the deals – there is a growing backlash against the commercialization of the holiday. No matter…Read More >>

How To Save San Francisco With Puppies

How To Save San Francisco With Puppies

In entrepreneurship courses around the world one of the first things that they teach you is to find a problem that your business can solve. We all have problems, so there should be plenty of inspiration. And no doubt, there are many successful businesses that start with this simple question in mind. But how often do they ask if the…Read More >>

The Importance of Being Fearless

The Importance of Being Fearless

Most of us have a love affair with the big idea. We memorialize and romanticize it. We attend workshops or read books to learn how to come up with it. And the celebrate the achievements of anyone who has had one. Yet for all of our focus on this big idea, perhaps there is something even more fundamental that powers…Read More >>