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6 Lessons From the Best Marketing Campaign Ever

Last month an unlikely underdog stunned the marketing world at the International Cannes Advertising Festival. At the show, a single marketing campaign took home a Grand Prix award in three categories simultaneously—direct, cyber and PR— something that had never happened before in the 50+ year history of the show. Contrary to what you might expect, the unanimous winner of this unprecedented victory was not a Fortune50 brand with an advertising budget of millions, but a small Tourism board promoting a little known island off the Great Barrier Reef.

best job

The winning campaign was called the "Best Job in the World" and was essentially a big online job search conducted through social media for a new "caretaker" for Hamilton Island in Queensland, Australia. Done on a comparatively paltry marketing budget of just $1.7 million dollars and reliant on fortuitous PR and word of mouth, the campaign achieved stunning results, including over 34,000 video entries from applicants in 200 countries, and more than 7 million visitors to the site who generated nearly 500,000 votes.

<a href=Ben Southall" width="159" height="240" />Just two weeks ago on July 1, the winner of the competition—a 34-year-old British man named Ben Southall started blogging and touring around Queensland, finally bringing the competition to a close. For the next six months, he will be touring around Queensland, sharing his adventures through a video blog, writing, Twitter account and Flickr photos— generating even more interest in Hamilton Island and all of Queensland in the process. The tangible results for the island are rolling in as well: Amway Australia chose it as the site of their upcoming annual conference, and domestic Aussie airline Virgin Blue just started flying a direct flight between Sydney and Hamilton Island, due to the rise in demand from travelers wanting to get to the island.

I realize that tourism and the travel industry may seem far removed from your business. Unfortunately, we don't all have the natural beauty of Hamilton Island to fall back on when starting our marketing campaigns. Still, a big part of the reason for the amazing success of this campaign was not what they were marketing, but how they used social media to do it. In that, there are some lessons anyone trying to promote a product or service could use:

  1. Make it believable. Many marketing groups would never make a claim if they can't provide substantial evidence. How might Tourism Queensland prove that their job is the best in the world? They can't. But it is believable because it is a beautiful place and fits what many people's definition of a dream job might be.
  2. It's not about how much you spend. One of the major benefits of smart public relations and social media is that it scales in a way that advertising typically doesn't. In other words, you don't have to pay more to get more. The real trick is to have something worthwhile to say that people can't help talking about. You need a good story.
  3. Focus on content, not traffic. The typical marketing campaign focuses on traffic to some kind of site. For Tourism Queensland, the biggest payoff of this campaign was having over 34,000 videos on YouTube from people around the world talking about how much they love Queensland. Aggregate the views of all those videos, and multiply them over the long term and you'll start to understand the true impact of their campaign.
  4. Create an inherent reason for people to share. Another element of this campaign that worked extremely well was the fact that there was voting enabled on the videos. What this meant was that after someone submitted their video, they had an incentive to share it with everyone in their social network online to try and get more votes.
  5. Don't underestimate the power of content creators Most recent statistics point to some number between 1% and 10% of the user base of any social network are the active content creators. Though these percentages may seem small, the potential impact of some of these individuals are vast online. It could easily become the secret weapon for your next marketing campaign.
  6. Give your promotion a shelf life. The best thing about this campaign may just be the content yet to come. Ben, the winner, just started blogging and sharing videos and photos, but the content is already engaging, high quality and inspires you to dream of making it to Queensland yourself. Over the next six months, his itinerary will take him across the state of Queensland and unlock many other unique opportunities. Best of all, this content will live on far beyond the time span of the campaign.

Read more of Rohit Bhargava's Influential Marketing blog on Fast Company.

rohit bhargavaRohit Bhargava is SVP of Digital Strategy at Ogilvy PR and author of the award-winning book Personality Not Included, a guide for brands to be more authentic. He writes the popular non-obvious marketing blog Influential Marketing and speaks frequently around the world on social media, marketing and the power of personality. Follow him on Twitter at @rohitbhargava or become a fan on Facebook before July 31 to be among the first to get a free download of his new ebook on August 1.

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  • Justin Royce

    I actually loved this marketing campaign when it first came out - genius. I, myself, actually remember watching about 100 entries to see what all the hubbub was about.

    1.7 million is a pretty penny, even for this campaign. I'm actually surprised that it took that much to do it.

    Now, if only a small business, such as my own, would have the cash to create something like this. Even a tenth of the budget would be an amazing amount.


  • Roy Peter

    The six lessons are very good and i would recommend all to follow these methods. very useful tips.
    Roy Peter - Marketing

  • Phill Barufkin

    With abundance of content and clutter that exists online, crucial to an effective i-marketing program is a relevant purpose that disrupts and affects actions. To which I would add two more lessons to consider: #7) Set measurable marketing objectives that have a desired action that advances the business. #8) Focus on results by monitoring the performance, which is a Herculean benefit of marketing in the virtual realm.

    Phill Barufkin

  • Rohit Bhargava

    @Guillaume - Thanks for sharing the lastminute campaign, it's a good effort.

    @Julian - I hadn't seen that fake video story, but that is interesting. Making sure to live up the authenticity promise, and scaling are two great issues and lessons to add to the mix.

    @Michael - Excellent addition about the importance of the fun factor.

    @Charles - Good question on the involvement or level of input that PR folks have into what Ben writes. I don't have the answer, but reading some of his content it does seem like he has relatively free reign to create content. The added benefit is that they chose someone for the role who does have a skill for writing, photographing and using video ... it helps when you have talent on your side!

    @Tom - Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading.

    @William - Well, maybe if it crashed once, but consistently being slow or happening for an extended period of time would probably have hurt more than helped.

    @John - I'd say the purpose of this campaign was to convince people that Hamilton Island and Queensland in general are the ideal destination for their next trip. Judging by the addition of the Virgin Blue route, increased interest in the region, and anecdotal reports from over 34,000 videos and many millions of people watching them that Australia and Queensland are now firmly at or near the top of their lists for their next extended vacation - I would argue that the campaign more than achieved their goal.

    Rohit Bhargava

  • John Ribbler

    Here's the thing. I always thought that the purpose of marketing was to motivate a customer to purchase a product so that your company could earn enough to pay bills, get more business, prepare for the future. I guess the lesson of the economic collapse is that if no one has money to buy anything, a $1.7 million marketing campaign's just has to deliver "stunning results, including over 34,000 video entries from applicants in 200 countries, and more than 7 million visitors to the site who generated nearly 500,000 votes."

  • William Bakker

    RE: Julian. I think if your lesson #8: "make sure your server is up to the mark" was followed, it might ironically have hurt the campaign. The fact that the website crashed a few times added to the hype and conversation (especially in traditional media).

  • Tom Ferry

    Whwn "all things collide", successful marketing campaigns can be a home run! I remember when this campaign was spread like wildfires ... it felt like the "peak" of the recession, when every news story you read was about the dismal job market. There was some hope and fun in this story that made us all take a second look. Well done and they deserve the kudos!

    Rohit- great read my friend!


  • Charles Erdman

    What a terrific effort and correctly identified by Rohit as a content campaign. Authentic stories that activate the imagination is what we are all seeking. Every marketing campaign must now enable storytelling through participatory means. It may be digital and it may be utilizing new tools of the trade, but this one reality still holds true from traditional advertising- know where the reader is and engage them in a story.

    One question for Rohit is how much "coaching" and content crafting has the PR firm been responsible for. Is each twitter post supporting a script? What do you think the balance is between formal and informal communications from Ben Southall?

    Charles Erdman, digital strategist,

  • Michael Lum


    Thanks for providing some fresh insights into what was a truly remarkable marketing achievement. Perhaps as an addendum to #4, "make it fun!" These days, with so many things competing for our attention, the things that grab us have to be entertaining.

    My Blog on Society/Technology:

  • Charles Yarbrough

    Wow the winner had a great video, we actually did one for this. Great campaign!

  • Julian Matthews

    Two more lessons you may want to add:

    7. DON'T FAKE IT: Tourism Queensland almost derailed its own campaign when it posted a fake video resume of a woman named "Tegan" getting a reef tattoo in order to win the job. The woman was a staff of the advertising agency linked to the authority, and even the tattoo was a transfer.

    8. MAKE SURE SERVER IS UP TO MARK: The overwhelming number of applications slowed down the server leaving many left out in the cold. Link:


  • Guillaume Foutry

    This campaign was amazing and it shows that the more important thing nowadays is content: Come up with valuable content and people will do the job for you!

    You could also mention what last minute is doing in the UK with Heck of a summer

    This is very smart as well.