Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
The holiday season is in full swing, which means marketers are unwrapping some of the year's most eye-catching and thumb-stopping campaigns of the year. In our final Campaign Trail of 2018, our editors selected some of the oddest novelty gifts on the market and a parody PSA from a concerned gingerbread man:
Gather 'round Burger King's peculiar fire screen
The rundown: Not one to shy away from the oddball branded product trend, Burger King Sweden is selling a cast-iron fire screen for people to warm their hands around this winter, per news shared with Marketing Dive. If the conceit sounds weird on paper, its inspiration stems from a peculiar point in Swedish history.
In 2010, the country's Prince Carl Philip debuted a fire screen as a nod to a calamitous 1697 blaze that left the royal castle a ruinous heap. The bizarre tribute was an exclusive piece that sold for $1,500, but caused controversy when the designer Eric Ericson accused the prince of not actually being involved in the creation process, eventually leading Carl Philip's name to be scrubbed from the project.
Burger King's iteration — which sees a king filling in where a prince came up short — retails for $99 and can be purchased via Amazon. The limited-edition offering was forged in the historic Tierp Foundry using only green electricity and recycled iron, according to a press statement. The marketer is promoting the product, shaped like one of its restaurant storefronts, through online videos, including a 30-minute static shot of a crackling fireplace.
The results: Burger King's pitch-black screen is clearly being positioned as a sort of gag gift for last-minute holiday shoppers, but might be too specific in its cultural references to resonate with consumers outside of Sweden (though this isn't the first time a European branch of the chain has had some marketing fun at a royal family's expense). The piece's $99 price tag, while considerably lower than that of its chic inspiration, could also prove off-putting, though the promotion carries some interesting tidbits for marketers.
Pushing the fire screen on Amazon, for instance, mirrors the approach other brands have taken for the holidays. Oreo in November sold a miniature turntable that spins cookies instead vinyl on the e-commerce site. For Burger King, the strategy could help the product reach audiences outside of Sweden, and the company is also selling the 29-pound item through a microsite and at select restaurant locations.
The marketing behind the promotion also echoes ideas of holidays past. Old Spice last year ran an hour-long video of a yule log constantly exploding, with occasional non-sequitur visual detours and drop-ins from pitchman Terry Crews. Burger King Sweden's effort serves as a better — and more relaxing — demo of what the brand is actually selling for the season.
Krispy Kreme's holiday cry to spare the gingerbread community
The rundown: "Run, run as fast as you can" to the nearest Krispy Kreme, or so says a gingerbread man named George, who penned a letter in the doughnut giant's latest press release begging Americans to skip the classic cookie this holiday season and spare the lives of gingerbread folk. George asked people to get their festive fix from Dec. 19 to 24 through Krispy Kreme's limited-edition gingerbread glazed doughnut instead.
Following George's pleads, CMO Dave Skena chimed in to request an end to the destruction of gingerbread culture and habitats, referencing the holiday tradition of decorating cookie houses.
A video PSA ran on the doughnut chain's social channels earlier in the week to tease the news, featuring animated gingerbread families again begging viewers to snack on doughnuts instead of them. Krispy Kreme also aired a shorter, six-second video clip on social, as well as posts encouraging fans to share photos on social media with the hashtag #SavetheGingerbreadPeople.
The results: Unlike most press releases that feature formal business jargon, Krispy Kreme's latest takes a creative twist. Having the fictional George "write" the letter and speak directly to viewers in the PSA video across social somewhat humanizes the Krispy Kreme brand and could resonate more deeply with audiences of the cute holiday campaign.
The full one-minute clip appears to be the strongest element of the campaign because it's easily shareable and accessible to consumers on social media, whereas most people likely won't stumble across the corporate press release. As of press time, the video had amassed nearly 230,000 views on YouTube with hundreds of engagements across the brand's social accounts.
Airing the spot earlier in the week gave Krispy Kreme time to tease the news days before the seasonal doughnuts hit shops and spread awareness, potentially striking a sweet spot to capture last-minute gift shoppers in need of a treat. Limited-run products often drum up brand excitement and foot traffic, and in Krispy Kreme's case, encourage gingerbread fans to get 'em while they're hot before the doughnuts are pulled from the menu.
UK snack brand goes nuts with ugly-but-functional Christmas sweater
The rundown: KP Nuts last week released a Christmas sweater (or jumper, for our English readers) that included a built-in rack of peanuts. The snack packs can be torn off, enjoyed and replaced, making this an ugly sweater with more function than form. The sweater was flaunted at a pop-up shop in London's Soho neighborhood, where visitors could enter a drawing to win one by guessing how many individual peanuts were on the sweater.
As part of the campaign, KP donated £10,000 to Save the Children to celebrate Christmas Jumper Day (Dec. 14) and collected donations both at the pop-up show and via text. "With the growing tradition of Christmas Jumper Day, we are proud to partner with the official founders — Save the Children — to convey this message through our Christmas offering this year. We anticipate that the campaign will drive a sales uplift for retailers as we remind consumers that KP Nuts are the original finger food for Christmas," Sue Mackay, KP Nuts marketing manager, told Campaign.
The sweater and promotional Facebook video were created by agency BMB. "Some people wander to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas. We wandered to a nut factory, a knitting facility, a children's charity and a Soho boutique. The resulting marriage of the world's best Christmas jumper and a fantastic cause is one that even Mary and Joseph would be proud of," Matt Lever, chief creative officer at BMB, told Campaign.
The results: The snack-stocked jumper gets KP Nuts — a U.K. brand bought by German company Intersnack in 2012 — into the ugly Christmas sweater trend, which has blossomed into a profitable niche on Etsy and eBay. The style is particularly well-suited for branded apparel, which ramps up the camp and kitsch factor. For proof, look no further than Pillsbury's recent sweater release, which sold out within two hours.
The fact that KP's sweater includes its actual product only ups the novelty factor. The useful (if cumbersome) feature puts the sweater in the same holiday memorabilia class as Esurance's Dennis Quaid wrapping paper, KFC's chicken-scented firelog and Busch's "soothing" holiday button. At the rate these novelties tend to sell out, we can expect to see merchandise like this in the future, around the holidays and beyond.
Plus, KP and agency BMB were smart to add a charity element to the campaign, which allows the company to burnish its purpose-driven bona fides, a key focus over the past year or so as brands try to find new approaches to appeal to conscious consumers.