8 Highly Successful Advertising Campaigns

The catchiest slogans don't just stick in your head; they can also change the way you think about the product being advertised. A good advertisement persuades you to buy the product or service being advertised. But a highly successful advertising campaign solidifies a new catchphrase and becomes a cultural reference.

This is the ultimate goal of marketers when they develop their advertising campaigns. The eight successful advertising campaigns below demonstrate how integral clever slogans are for a company's brand recognition.

Key Takeaways

  • Successful advertising campaigns manage to tie the products being sold to a catchy slogan.
  • The most successful advertising campaigns solidify a new catchphrase and become a point of cultural reference.
  • Notable advertising campaigns for Apple, McDonald's, De Beers, "Got Milk?", American Express, Nike, Kit Kat candy bars, and Volkswagen have all become part of popular culture.

1. "Just Do It"

Nike, Inc. (NKE) adopted this slogan in 1988 while the company was in the midst of financial difficulties. This simple saying is now inseparable from the brand's athletic gear. It could be said that "Just Do It" is a perfect saying for a company selling athletic clothing and merchandise because it inspires a feeling of boldness and encourages consumers to try harder. The success of this slogan is now regarded as a crucial part of Nike's success in the years since it was launched.

2. "Think Small"

Volkswagen AG (VLKAF) has produced many clever advertising slogans and campaigns over the years, but perhaps their most highly regarded slogan is from 1959: "Think Small." This campaign was created by the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) and was ranked as the best advertising campaign of the twentieth century by Advertising Age in a survey of North American advertisements.

At the time, big cars with lots of luxury features were highly coveted by Americans, and Volkswagen was trying to sell their small Beetle model. For Americans obsessed with luxury cars and muscle cars, it was challenging to market the appeal of a small, durable car. Their understated advertisements included a small image of a car surrounded by a lot of white space and toted the practical features of the car.

3. "Have You Had Your Break Today?"

In 1995, McDonald's (MCD) asked consumers a simple question in their advertisements: "Have You Had Your Break Today?" This slogan was an evolution of their previous slogan: "You Deserve a Break Today."

The "You Deserve a Break Today" slogan made its debut in a 1971 television commercial. It ran in print and television ads throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The modified version of the slogan—"Have You Had Your Break Today?"—was recognized by Advertising Age in 1999 as the number one advertising jingle of the century. When McDonald's introduced their "Have You Had Your Break Today?" slogan in 1995, it was at least the company's 30th slogan in three decades.

4. "A Diamond Is Forever"

De Beers launched this simple slogan in 1947 and it's still in use today, making it one of the longest-running advertising campaigns of all time. The slogan "A Diamond Is Forever" was written by Frances Gerety from the Philadelphia advertising agency NW Ayer. During the Great Depression, the sales of diamonds had gone down. De Beers's slogan changed most of America's relationship with diamonds. Before the slogan, it was not commonplace to propose with a diamond engagement ring.

Ian Fleming's fourth novel featuring the protagonist James Bond was published in 1956 with the title "Diamonds Are Forever," further solidifying De Beers's slogan into the cultural zeitgeist. (The book was eventually made into a movie in 1971.) To sell their pricey diamonds, De Beers continues to rely on simple black-and-white advertisements that convey a feeling of timelessness.

5. "Gimme a Break"

This slogan for the Kit Kat candy bar was part of an even catchier jingle from a commercial launched in 1986. "Gimme a Break" was a variation of Kit Kat's 1957 slogan "Have a Break … Have a Kit Kat." The television commercials that featured the "Gimme a Break" song included images of workplaces singing while breaking off pieces of Kit Kat candy bars.

Although the 1957 slogan was coined by Donald Gilles of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, the jingle was written by Ken Shuldman and Michale A. Levine. The move to associate the Kit Kat bar with a break from a long workday resonated with a consumer audience.

However, in 2004, the makers of Kit Kat decided to "have a break" from the slogan, replacing it with a new slogan, "Make the Most of Your Break."

6. "Think Different"

Although Apple's advertising slogan was criticized for being grammatically incorrect, it still managed to make its way into the minds of consumers. Apple, Inc. (AAPL) launched this slogan in 1997 in a mix of print advertisements and commercials. The motto asked consumers to act rebelliously and defy expectations in order to achieve greatness. Since this was the inspiring story of the founding of the company by Steve Jobs (and its rise to success), it resonated with many consumers.

Some of the advertisements in this campaign paired black-and-white images of other historical figures who have come to be regarded as visionaries with the "Think Different" line.

7. "Got Milk?"

The slogan "Got Milk?" was first launched in 1993 in an effort to encourage consumers to drink more milk. The California Milk Processor Board hired the advertising firm Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in order to boost their sales. While the "Got Milk?" campaign started as an advertisement, it quickly became an indelible part of popular culture.

Many of the advertisements featured celebrities with milk mustaches. From model Naomi Campbell to the Simpsons characters to Dennis Rodman, the figures at the apex of celebrity culture in the 1990s became part of the "Got Milk?" brand.

8. "Don't Leave Home Without It"

American Express Co. (AXP) first advised consumers that they shouldn't leave home without them in 1975. The slogan was originally used to promote American Express Traveler's Checks and the commercials featured the Academy Award-winning actor Karl Malden.

The slogan evolved from "Don't Leave Home Without Them" into "Don't Leave Home Without Out" to refer to American Express's credit cards. Although Malden was the brand's ambassador for over two decades, more recently other celebrities such as Stephen King and Jerry Seinfeld have been featured in advertisements for American Express.

Securing a Place in the Consumer Psyche

The ultimate goal of advertisers is to secure a place in the consumer psyche; every advertisement is an attempt to get consumers to take notice. The most successful advertising campaigns manage to tie the products being sold to a catchy slogan. Whether it's through a short-and-sweet phrase that logically fits with the product or an outlandish statement that makes consumers take a second look, this is never an easy task for advertisers.

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  1. AdAge. "Ad Age Advertising Century: Top 10 Jingles." (Login required.) Accessed June 25, 2021.

  2. De Beers Group. "A Diamond Is Forever." Accessed June 25, 2021.

  3. Ian Fleming. "Diamonds Are Forever." Accessed June 25, 2021.