Hashtags are a contentious subject. We recently showed that they have the potential to be ineffective. Heck, in some cases they can be downright disastrous.

But these campaigns show that, with a solid concept and good execution, hashtags can be a serious weapon in any marketer’s arsenal. You don’t need to have a ‘sexy’ product – sure, Calvin Klein made the cut, but we’ve also included incredibly successful campaigns from insurance and toilet paper brands. So, without further ado, the most successful hashtag campaigns ever and why they worked:

The Most Successful Hashtag Campaigns Ever And Why They Worked

Esurance: #EsuranceSave30

Last year, Esurance bought the first ad directly after the Superbowl and deployed their #EsuranceSave30 campaign. According to the commercial, they saved roughly thirty percent by opting for an ad spot after instead of during the game – a cool 1.5 million dollars.

They then used the ad to announce a Twitter sweepstakes of epic proportions using the money they saved. Contestants entered by tweeting with the hashtag #EsuranceSave30 and, after thirty-six hours, one (extremely) lucky person was picked to win the entire pot.

The social numbers this generated were nothing short of staggering:

  • 5.4 million uses of the #EsuranceSave30 hashtag
  • More than 200,000 entries within the first minute of the commercial airing
  • 2.6 billion impressions on Twitter
  • 261,000 new followers on the Esurance Twitter account – an increase of nearly 3,000 percent

esurance

Clearly, the campaign was a success, and for a few reasons.

First of all, the sheer scale of the campaign assured that people would participate. In addition, the extremely simple process of tweeting to enter made participation that much easier. It was obvious from the concept that people would get involved, but what makes the campaign even more brilliant is that it matched perfectly with the message they wanted to send to consumers – that Esurance can save them thirty percent.

In the words of the commercial’s spokesperson, John Krasinski: “They saved 1.5 million dollars, about thirty percent. Which is what they say they can save you. And since they like passing on their savings, that’s what they’re going to do right now.”

2) Charmin: #TweetFromTheSeat

Charmin’s irreverent #tweetfromtheseat hashtag is often talked about in marketing circles for one very good reason: it successfully makes something as unglamorous as toilet paper fun, approachable, and appealing to young people. Not an easy feat.

Here’s how it works. The company’s official Twitter account posts funny quips with the hashtag, and encourages users to do the same. Toilet humor might be a bit juvenile (okay, it’s very juvenile) but it takes advantage of the fact that 40% of people aged 18-24 use social media in the bathroom, and gives them a reason to engage with an otherwise strictly utilitarian product.

charmin

It’s working too – how else would you explain a toilet paper brand having over 68 thousand followers on Twitter?
https://twitter.com/Charmin/status/664483050835808256

3) Expedia: #ThrowMeBack

Expedia’s Thrown Back Thursdays campaign is a prime example of how brands can take existing trends and leverage them to create trends of their own. The travel company played off of what was already the fourth most utilized hashtag on Instagram – #tbt (or Throwback Thursday, for the uninitiated) – and came up with the #ThrowMeBack hashtag.

It was a great concept. They asked users to tag their nostalgic #tbt posts with the hashtag #ThrowMeBack, and vowed to give ten lucky winners the opportunity to revisit the places where the photos were taken and recreate them in the modern day.

The imagery that the campaign spawned was pretty darn cool, and Expedia showed it off in a promotional video of the first winners’ trip to recreate their photo. Submissions for the contest subsequently doubled weekly over a ten-week period until all the winners had been chosen.

It was a rousing success. According to the campaign’s entry for social media’s Shorty Awards (where it won Best on Instagram): “In the end, Thrown Back Thursdays worked because Expedia tapped into the emotion of how travel makes people feel – it’s not about how you get from A to B, it’s the experience and memories you create.”

The campaign generated:

  • Over 5 million impressions
  • 300,000 total engagements
  • 96% Instagram growth over the 10 week period

expedia

4) Calvin Klein: #MyCalvins

The marketing machine that is Calvin Klein outdid itself last February with its extremely popular #MyCalvins campaign. Taking its name from a classic 1981 Calvin Klein Jeans ad, the hashtag calls upon Instagram users to post images of themselves wearing underwear bearing the company’s iconic logo. The response has been tremendous, with almost 200,000 uses of the hashtag on Instagram.

It’s certainly worth noting that the majority of users who utilized the hashtag were young and physically attractive. You know, the kind of person that would be comfortable photographing themselves in their underwear and publishing it in a public space. It’s not a stretch to imagine that this is the type of participant they were hoping to attract, so count it as a big marketing win for Calvin Klein. In fact, they probably anticipated it. Calvin Klein knows their market and how they behave online.

That the young and beautiful were quick to latch onto the campaign is one of the key reasons why it was so powerful. As Racked rightfully noted, “an unpaid, authentic post by a friend endorsing a brand is more powerful to young people than obviously paid-for influencer posts, a print ad, or a celebrity endorsement.”

Which isn’t to say that they didn’t use these things – they did. Justin Bieber was one of their biggest celebrity endorsers and hundreds of influencers were brought into the fold. But the fact that thousands of regular, stylish people participated is what made the campaign’s appeal so far-reaching.

The numbers speak for themselves. By July of this year, the campaign generated:

  • Global reach of over 469 million
  • 23.5 million interactions
  • 2.2 million Facebook fan growth
  • 1.8 million Instagram follower growth
  • 1 million Twitter follower growth

https://www.instagram.com/p/-SDPuGkVU8/?taken-by=geesbutt_

calvin klein

5) Audi: #WantAnR8

When Audi launched their #WantAnR8 campaign in 2011, it received an unprecedented response from fans. In 2012, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo called it the most successful Twitter campaign ever. Why all the hype?

The #WantAnR8 campaign was similar to Esurance’s Twitter sweepstakes in that it promised an awesome reward – a weekend-long love affair with an Audi R8 – for the simple action of tweeting with a hashtag. But that’s where the similarities end.

While the #EsuranceSave30 campaign was purely the creation of a clever marketing team, #WantAnR8 was originally created by an eager fan who persistently tweeted at Audi with the hashtag. The automakers saw the opportunity and entered the dialogue by granting the fan her wish and lending her the keys to a brand new R8. It then turned #WantAnR8 into a promoted trend and gave five more people the opportunity to drive their dream car for a weekend.

Here are the numbers:

  • 50,000 people tweeted in first 24 hours
  • Twitter account grew over 200% during week of promoted trend
  • Over 100,000,000 impressions since inception
  • Generated one of the most engaging tweets of all time (50.4% engagement)

lewis bowden

It’s a testament to the importance of listening to your audience. After seeing such an overwhelming response, they extended the campaign even further and featured the hashtag in a nationally broadcast television commercial.

All users had to do was tweet to enter. According to campaign leader Andy White, it was so successful for two reasons: “simplicity + the ultimate halo car = aspiration, engagement, demand”.

The hashtag has since endured beyond the initial contest and continues to be widely used by both Audi and its admirers.
https://twitter.com/LordLewisBowden/status/667144814853554176

6) Make-A-Wish: #SFBatKid

When Make-A-Wish decided to grant one child’s wish of becoming Batkid, it created a global sensation. The stunt itself was worthy of media coverage – they fulfilled Miles’ wish by creating an elaborate narrative complete with damsels in distress, a Lamborghini batmobile, and of course Batman.

But what they probably did not anticipate is that it would become one of the world’s most high-profile social campaigns ever, with commentary from former and future Batman actors Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and even a congratulatory Vine clip from Barrack Obama.

The key to #SFBatKid’s success was that Make-A-Wish prioritized social and organized an incredibly coordinated campaign. It secured two dedicated handles for the event, employed a team of a dozen people to monitor and engage with the hashtag, and planned a significant amount of content beforehand with scripted Tweets. This meant that the event was tweeted seamlessly in real-time, amplifying engagement and creating an immense global dialogue. The results were amazing, with 1.7 billion social impressions and 500,000 tweets using #SFBatKid.

7) Coca Cola: #ShareaCoke

Coca Cola’s #ShareaCoke campaign is one of the most visible in recent memory. Just about everyone has seen Coke’s new bottles bearing ordinary names instead of its logo. And indeed, many of those people have found their own name or those of their friends. The natural response? Take a picture and post it on social media – obviously!

Coke has always excelled at making its brand likeable with a history of savvy marketing. This campaign is no different.

By developing packaging that speaks directly to the consumer, it managed to boost sales significantly – the 2014 campaign drew in 28% more customers than during the same period in 2013. Not bad, if you ask us.

Last year’s iteration of the campaign also inspired 250,000 social posts with the #ShareaCoke hashtag. This year it cast an even bigger net and quadrupled the number of names printed on the bottles.

In September, Coca Cola took the #ShareaCoke campaign one step further by partnering with Twitter to launch the platform’s first paid brand emoji, otherwise known as a ‘hashflag’. Each time someone used the hashtag, it automatically generated an emoticon of two coke bottles clinking together. The stunt was a success, and 170,500 mentions were recorded within just the first 24 hours of the hashflag’s launch.

https://twitter.com/Seahawks/status/667497920514539521

coke

Key Takeaways:

Hashtags are easy to get wrong, but these campaigns demonstrate just how powerful they can be in the right hands. Learn from these incredible success stories and:

  • Go big and make contests easy to enter by using hashtags (Esurance)
  • Use funny hashtags and encourage your audience to participate (Charmin)
  • Capitalize on existing trends and great imagery (Expedia)
  • Know your audience and let them market your product for you (Calvin Klein)
  • Listen to your audience and always look out for opportunities (Audi)
  • Coordinate your campaign and keep a conversation going (Make-A-Wish)
  • Make your consumer feel special with personalized products (Coca Cola)

If you’re serious about launching your own hashtag campaign, you’ll need a powerful tool to help you track its progress. Locowise offers deep hashtag analysis so you can pull all the stats you need to make your campaign a success. Sign up for a free 14-day trial and get started today.

Read More: How To Have A Sexy Campaign In An Unsexy Industry