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The best startup marketing campaigns of 2019

Here’s a roundup of marketing done right. We’ve found some campaigns that are worth writing home about – why not see them for yourself?


Once upon a time, brands would create an identity via word of mouth, a good product, and some strategically placed print-out advertisements. Then came the dawn of the digital age, which changed the landscape of business promotion forevermore.

Startups.co.uk has been scouring the internet. And, in amongst a plentitude of cat videos and memes, we’ve stumbled upon a few campaigns we think you should know about.

From free beers (yes, you read that right) to animations made by the creators of hit TV show Rick and Morty, we’ve got the inside scoop on what makes innovative small business marketing tick.

Read on for the top four startup marketing campaigns of 2019, detailing what went well (and what went wrong) and providing the perfect source of inspiration for when you roll up your sleeves and get stuck into your very own digital marketing campaign.

Or, if you'd like a boost from the pros, get in touch with top UK digital marketing agencies that can help bring your small business's campaigns to the next level; just fill-out the two-minute form at the top of this page to get the ball rolling.


1. Cuvva (Bubble Man)

Cuvva bubble man

This campaign had us in absolute stitches. If you haven’t watched the wonders of Cuvva’s Bubble Man, then we suggest you do so at your earliest convenience.

Cuvva’s video campaign features well-known YouTuber Thomas Gray, a.k.a. ‘Stag Do’ Guy. With a not-too-shabby 40.3K subscribers, Thomas proves the perfect canvas upon which to paint Cuvva’s amusing character: Bubble Man.

Using Thomas’ humorous style (and pre-established following), Cuvva has a direct line through which to resonate with its target market – travel enthused, yet savings-savvy millennials.

Having already accumulated 13,948 views on YouTube and 4000 Facebook views since its publication on the 19th August 2019, Cuvva’s first steps into the world of YouTube influencer marketing have proven successful. Indeed, its success cements the statistic that video content generates 80% more engagement than written content.

We spoke to Kim Camilleri and Loren Gould from the Cuvva team to get the scoop on the behind-the-scenes Bubble Man action:

Could you explain the concept of the campaign?

Cuvva launched single trip travel insurance recently via its mobile app. This is our first foray into a new insurance vertical, and therefore we were eager to celebrate it with our community.

“Gen Z and millennials are a key target market. We wanted to make sure we delivered creative and engaging content across digital and social media platforms, in order to reach and resonate with our audiences.

“Creating awareness around our single trip travel insurance amongst our audiences was of top priority.”

How did you achieve your goals?

“Many millennials choose not to buy travel insurance because it's so complicated, and they think nothing will happen to them while on holiday. This means many UK residents travel abroad completely unprotected. We wanted to make light of this by highlighting that there are, in fact, easier ways to protect oneself on holiday.

“Our character, Tom Gray, doesn't buy travel insurance. Tom went on holiday to Lisbon, but we couldn't let him go on holiday completely unprotected, so we covered him in a bubblewrap suit.

“The creative video hit the spot, and seemed to resonate with key audiences. Tom was a great sport, and his humour was well received by both current and prospective customers.”

“The video reached over 20,000 views across platforms, and other supporting creatives have had over 10 million impressions.”

Did you encounter any problems along the way?

“We were very fortunate, and the execution of the campaign was smooth sailing from beginning to end. We would attribute this to having a great team working on it, and it being a fairly simple concept to film. Of course, there is always an element of luck as well!

“Although, it’s probably worth mentioning that the video was filmed right in the middle of the record-breaking heat wave in Europe, and poor Tom (a.k.a. Bubble Man) unfortunately developed a heat rash as a result of the bubble wrap suit.”

Was the campaign run in-house or out of house?

“The Cuvva team worked closely with Imagine That, a team of creative freelancers who conceptualised and executed the Bubble Man campaign.”

Would you choose to run a YouTube campaign again?

“Yes – YouTube is a great platform to leverage content as part of a digital marketing platform mix, especially if utilising video content aimed at engaging Gen Z and millennials.”  

What has this campaign taught you that you'll take on board for next time you create a digital marketing campaign?

“Understanding your target audience before staging a digital campaign is of highest priority. Also, partnering with the right digital performance manager to support the campaign is as important as the creative itself.”


2. Habito (Hell or Habito)

hell or habito campaign

Touted as “the Rick and Morty of mortgages”, Habito is making a splash in the housing sector with a totally fresh and oh-so-unique campaign. You might have spied Habito’s quirky take on digital marketing when perusing your newsfeed, or whilst watching TV.

The hellish heaps of paperwork that mortgages create are a common pain point for both UK mortgage holders and wannabe homeowners – a pain point that  the Hell or Habito campaign exploits perfectly.

In one animated clip, a man suffers such extreme anxiety that he nearly drowns in a piranha-infested pool of his own sweat. In another, a woman is encased by a grotesque tentacled beast emerging from stacks of remortgage paperwork. All sounds a bit weird, right? That’s the intended vibe.

We had a chat with Habito to fully understand the whys and wherefores behind such an attention grabbing campaign. Here’s what Abba Newbery, Habito CMO, had to say:

Please can you briefly explain the campaign to us?

“We wanted to move away from the usual clichés associated with the mortgage market, as we found that others in the sector are constantly depicting the happiness at the end of the purchase – or horses running on a beach. What’s swept under the carpet with these depictions of home-buying is the soul-destroying, hellish process of getting a mortgage – which is where Habito steps in.

“Animations of characters being flummoxed by unreadable contracts, plagued by piranhas, and trapped by pools of their own sweat – all set to thumping bass music – dramatise the stressful, nightmarish battle people face as they fight through the mortgage landscape.

“The scenes of distress are then offset by Habito providing an easy resolution – pitching Habito as the heavenly alternative to an otherwise hellish situation.”

How did you achieve your goals?

“A process of trial and error, and sheer perseverance from everyone involved!  Since I started at Habito in September 2017, we tweaked the marketing strategy every single month until we finally hit the winning formula.

“The campaign follows the ‘peak-end rule’ theory, which suggests that humans tend to recall how they felt about something at the end of it, along with the worst thing about it.

“We wanted the campaign to help build a brand, so we hoped that humorously depicting the terrible process would resonate with people. In the end, it was actually the consumers who said to us, ‘go do Rick and Morty for mortgages’ – which is exactly what we did.”

Did you encounter any problems along the way?

“When I first joined Habito, they’d just gone live with their first TV ad, which depicted the algorithm from Habito’s sorting code to visualise the product. Did anyone care? No.

“Most people in the UK haven’t got a clue what an algorithm is, and the real issue was making the age-old mistake of making an ad about the product. It didn't move the dial in terms of our web traffic, but it was a great lesson – and led us to the Hell or Habito campaign.”

Was the campaign run in-house or out of house?

“The campaign was run in partnership with an external agency, Uncommon, and enlisted the skills of animation studio Strange Beast, the creative team behind the Rick and Morty cartoon series.”

Would you choose to run a YouTube campaign again?

“Yes – with the Hell or Habito campaign, we're trying to build a brand in a category (mortgage broking) that has almost no brand recognition for any player in it. We've found YouTube has helped support our efforts when it comes to brand building like this.

“It also complements Habito’s TV strategy, increasing our reach and allowing us to retarget home-buyers who've already been to the Habito website.”

What has this campaign taught you that you'll take on board for next time you create a digital marketing campaign?

“When we moved to the ‘Hell or Habito’ campaign, we’d learned from our mistakes with the algorithm ad, and decided to produce something much more emotive.

“Rather than trying to only reach the very few consumers actively seeking out a mortgage each month with a product-led advert, we drew on shared human experiences – in this case, the pain of home buying – in the hope that consumers would remember us when they were in the market for their mortgage.

“This thinking has been much more successful in helping to build Habito's brand.”


3. Camden Town Brewery (Can-for-a-Can)

can for a can campaign

In September 2019, Camden Town Brewery partnered with The Felix Project, a charity working to reduce food poverty in the UK, to run their Harvest the Hells campaign – and we’ve completely fall-en in love with this charity/publicity blend. More food for the harvest collection, more beers for the good drinkers of Camden… Consequentialism at its finest.

The campaign itself operated on a ‘can-for-a-can’ concept, encouraging keen customers to bring forth an offering of tinned food, such as baked beans or soup, in exchange for a can of Harvest Hells (a delicious autumnal lager).
The campaign’s success is partially down to its seasonality – autumn is the traditional time for harvest, and what better way to market an autumnal beverage than by running a campaign shrouded in auburn hues? This, combined with a quirky giveaway and strong social coverage, produces a winning campaign.

camden town brewery

(The Lager-Mobile)

But, the best part of this stunt isn’t the funky Lager-Mobile that’s travelling around the country, nor is it the lovely lager itself – it’s the fact that this philanthropic campaign was rooted in a worthy cause.

By supporting the Felix Project in its mission to help disadvantaged adults and children gain access to high quality, nutritious food, Camden Town Brewery has gathered all the ingredients required for a truly unique campaign.

That’s great, but how is this marketing?

In this day and age, no publicity stunt is complete without some strong digital content to build hype, commentate on the progress, and sustain the noise generated by the campaign itself.

For example, the Harvest Hells campaign has its own hashtag (#harvesthells) for social coverage, while camdentownbrewery.com also created some great online content regarding the event. Plus, working with the Felix Project culminates in a content double whammy, since both parties are working to build a digital hype around the mutually beneficial campaign.

In short, the success of the Harvest Hells campaign is down to Camden Town Brewery’s utilisation of both digital and physical footfalls, maximising the visibility of its seasonal product and the brand as a whole. By combining philanthropy with publicity in a fun beans-for-booze exchange , the brewery has come up with a heartwarmingly wholesome way to get a new product into the public eye.

This is a particularly creative campaign from a company based in London's highly competitive business landscape; if you're a small business owners who's set up shop in the UK capital, it would be worth reading our list of the best digital marketing agencies for London-based businesses.


4. Farillio (Let’s Get You To Brave)

farillio let's get you to brave
Farillio, a small business legal service, has also stepped into the world of video with its swish  #Let’sGetYouToBrave campaign.

The creative itself is sleek, stylish, and awe-inspiring. It sparks curiosity, leaving you keen to know more about a service that promises to push you to achieve greatness.

Farillio’s video authentically encourages wannabe business owners to achieve their ambitions, playing on the ‘fear factor’ pain point by positioning itself as the guiding voice of hope throughout the realisation of an entrepreneurial dream.

‘Panic’ is also pitched as “the swansong of those who give in and listen [to their doubts]”, whilst Farillio is presented as the guiding light of reassurance, fuelling the “escalating glimmer of hope” bubbling throughout the UK’s small business community.

Grand orchestral music and short shots of people reaching for, then achieving their goals makes for a truly inspiring digital push – engaging and motivating a whole new category of potential customers targeted via a cross-platform strategy.

Here’s what Gregory Zulmat from Farillio’s marketing department had to say about the reasoning behind the campaign, and what Farillio learned from the experience:

Could you explain the idea behind the campaign?

“Farillio’s Let’s Get You To Brave campaign was intended to inspire entrepreneurs who have a burning desire to become a business owner, but feel that they lack the experience and specific know-how to feel confident and brave enough to make that first step to starting their business venture.

“With this campaign, Farillio presents itself as the solution to this problem. Our service empowers entrepreneurs by granting access to the legal and business information that’s essential to building a successful business.

“The aim of the campaign was to reach and educate as many aspiring entrepreneurs as possible. To achieve this, we developed a custom landing page containing all the relevant information, allowing interested parties to learn more about Farillio and easily sign up to the service.”

How did you achieve your goals?

“We launched a coordinated campaign via our social media channels, including teasers which went live gradually in a countdown-style release. This created a sense of anticipation around the video for when it went live. This approach meant that we were able to engage with our audience more regularly via social media.

“At the conclusion of the countdown, we launched the full video, making full use of our partner brands’ social media channels to share video with their followers to reach a much wider network of people – thus increasing traffic to Farillio’s website.”

Did you encounter any problems along the way?           

“After we launched the campaign, we noticed that there were a few minor glitches, which had a knock-on effect on the customer signup process. However, this was soon rectified, and we’ve since managed to make the signup a seamless and glitch-free process.”

Was the campaign run in-house or out of house?

“The campaign video was created out of house, but the campaign itself was fully run in-house. We’ve built our own landing page, and developed our content for social media ads.”

Would you choose to run a YouTube campaign again?

“Yes – we believe that video is currently the most powerful medium to connect with and educate our audience, and YouTube provides a great set of tools to accommodate these types of promotions.”

What has this experience taught you?

“We very much used this campaign as an initial test to gauge the audience response to video content campaigns. As a result of running a video campaign, we found that the video drove more people to take action. This means that our website traffic, social media engagement, and customer sign-ups all increased: a positive, if not somewhat anticipated, result.”


What makes a successful marketing campaign in 2019?

Overall, 2019 has seen some pretty cool campaigns flying around the small business world. Imaginative, bold, and memorable messages are transmitted to the consumer via a variety of digital mediums, with video coming in as the firm favourite.

Here is Startups.co.uk’s round-up list of the three main keys to a winning startup marketing campaign in 2019:

  1. Humour – makes campaigns more memorable, catchy, accessible, engaging and entertaining
  2. Seasonality – improves a campaign's immediacy, relevancy and ‘shareability'
  3. Influencers (a familiar face) – boosts a marketing a campaign's outreach and awards it a stamp of approval from a popular figure

Humour

Firstly, we noticed that humour plays a massive part in most of the featured campaigns – Habito’s humorous ‘hell’ is laughably absurd, as is Cuvva’s bumbling Bubble Man. Making light of serious ‘grown-up’ stuff like mortgages and travel insurance will increase the accessibility factor of stereotypically tough topics.

Using humour as a hook is a clever way of entertaining and informing customers. The funny factor engages the audience, ensuring they take all the key need-to-knows from the content, and inspires them to like/share it on social platforms. Think of it like this: laughs mean likes, and, as we all know, ‘likes’ are the 21st century’s currency of acceptance.

Seasonality

Seasonality is another key observation here. Both Camden Town Brewery’s Can-for-a-Can campaign and Cuvva’s Bubble Man were seasonally appropriate – one tapping into the autumn harvest, the other coinciding with summer holiday time.

Seasonality equates to shareability, since both depend on being relevant and immediate. Upon seeing a seasonal campaign, an audience feels compelled to share it digitally, so that their friends can make the most of a time-sensitive offer (as seen with the Can-for-a-Can campaign).

Influencers

A familiar face is always helpful, too. Using an influencer (someone with lots of followers on social media) to promote your brand really enhances the shareability of your campaign – a strategy that Habito and Cuvva have niftily applied.

Through working with Thomas Gray, Cuvva can immediately tap into a channel of previously unreached customers. Similarly, in employing the skills of famed cartoonist Jimbo Phillips, Habito’s campaign will not only resonate with their intended demographic, but also reach fans and followers of Phillips.

Influencer tactics, like adding a badge of fame, can really boost a campaign’s outreach. They can get your message into corners of the social consciousness that are unreachable without the helping hand of someone with a pre-established following.


With all this groovy marketing inspiration in mind, it's your turn. Head to our collection on digital marketing for all the information you might need to make marketing history; or, learn about the UK's top 10 digital marketing agencies and what they can offer your business to make sure you're remembered.


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