This year, the marketing campaigns we most liked from global restaurant brands were high impact, playful, memorable and of course had a bit of cool factor. If there was a common theme for 2014 it was seamlessly incorporating and playing with—but not entirely leaning on—today’s technology. Marketers used smartphones, 3-D printing and social media in novel and compelling ways that broke from the traditional to connect with today’s consumer.
Not just in the U.S., but also all over the map—we saw edgy, forward-thinking creative from Brazil and Canada to Japan, Malaysia and Australia. And many of these campaigns contain one or more elements that could transition well into other markets.
Here, in no particular order, are seven of our favorite globe-spanning marketing efforts from 2014:
Giraffas managed to leverage their customers’ smartphone addiction in a new and very engaging way during the World Cup frenzy in Brazil. The concept was fairly simple: a paper tray liner became a soccer field and wadded paper became the soccer ball. Customers flicked the ball towards their smartphone, where a downloaded app simulated a goalie. Users could share their scores on social media, further marketing the brand.
It’s no small feat to be whimsical and hipster at the same time, but that’s pretty much what McDonald’s pulled off in Australia with its Big Lunchbox campaign. In promoting its new 100% Aussie Rump Steak sandwiches and wraps, the chain set up a giant outdoor lunchbox-shaped pop-up restaurant decked out in its trade colors. The chain gave out samples of the new steak as it toured the pop-up across Australia.
Immortalise Yourself Tour
What’s more over the top than the KFC Double Down? Its breakfast counterpart, the Hashbrown Double. In this campaign, KFC figured out how to market the sandwich in a way that got people talking about something other than its calorie count—the chance to immortalize themselves eating the sandwich as a 3-D printed bronze statue. Who wouldn’t want that on their mantle?
Burger King Malaysia
Burger King gave us many memorable efforts this year. We had the unexpected Proud Whopper in the U.S., the semi-risqué Motel BK in New Zealand and the #QUEMCRIOU statue promo in Brazil. But it was this video from Malaysia—high in production value, brand message, new-product showcase and youth appeal—that stood out the most. Oh—and it might feature the best use ever of french fries as a musical instrument.
Tim’s Next Door
Tim Hortons Canada
Tim Hortons literally wanted its customers to feel at home in this next campaign. Residents in a Calgary neighborhood woke up to a fully functional Tim Hortons pop-up restaurant in a neighborhood home. The house was completely decked out in Tim Hortons décor and offered neighbors free treats and coffee. The stunt was planned to stir interest in job opportunities at the chain.
Taco Bell U.S.
Brands want lots of social media followers, right? Not Taco Bell. In this well-executed stunt, Taco Bell completely wiped its social media accounts, leaving only a few followers and the hashtag #onlyintheapp. The brazen ploy helped kick off the introduction of the chain’s new mobile-payment app. And it worked. Taco Bell’s CMO said that 75% of all stores processed a mobile order within 24 hours of its launch.
KFC Colonel’s Day
Japan had so many interesting promos coming out this year that it was hard to pick just one. Pizza Hut gave us the mysterious pizza cat crew, we saw tofu nuggets from McDonald’s and black bun burgers from Burger King. In the end, it was this neat collection of fried-chicken-themed computer and smartphone accessories (and wacky head pillow) that are the most memorable and likeliest to inspire something similar in a market near you.