Kristen Fox – Director, Social Media & Digital Analytics, CP+B, judged the Effective Social Strategy category at this year’s WARC Awards. Here, she champions the winning work that sacrificed sexiness for an effective, well-executed and discoverable idea.

So the story goes, a market research company was conducting a focus group asking college students where and how they get their news and information, and one respondent from the group replied, “If the news is that important, it will find me.” For any marketer, this is one of the most frightening realities of advertising today.

Whether you’re trying to reach moms, millennials, people who smile, or men who breathe and the people who love them, you have a challenge that is getting harder and harder to buy your way out of, and that is “discoverability.”

Discoverability isn’t just about making sure you show up when someone is looking. That’s table stakes. Discoverability means presenting value you have which is relevant to a consumer, at the time and on the channel where it is most relevant to that consumer, in the most frictionless way possible, even if they aren’t looking for it or don’t realize they need it. Discoverability is hard, because to accomplish it successfully takes an intense amount of Engineering. And Engineering sounds nothing like Creative. So it’s not sexy, and it doesn’t win awards, right? Wrong.

I’m here to champion feats of engineering in the marketing realm. Those creative individuals who sacrificed the sexiness of spectacle and spend, for the quiet dedication to a well-executed and discoverable idea.

This year, I had the pleasure of reviewing a few campaigns that fell into this category: @GeoStories by Canada Historic Committee, “Like My Addiction” by Addict’Aide and “Denim” by Durex. In looking at their approach, I’ve found three characteristics they share, which contributed mightily to their success.

Each placed a ubiquitous social behavior at the center of its execution

This might sound obvious to some, but I’m always amazed how often we over-complicate executions (two words: Easter Eggs). The funny thing is we are consumer ourselves, and yet we expect our target to behave in ways we normally would not, because our idea is just that good. Rather than spending precious time and money on creating speed bumps, these marketers took what they understood about user behavior to pave a runway for natural conversation and sharing to occur.

The Geological Survey of Canada Historic Committee was turning 150 years old. Everything about that last sentence is boring, amiright? Well, that’s the beauty of this execution. To create discoverability with people who don’t know, don’t care, the Committee found a frictionless and relevant way to inject itself by using people’s natural habit for posting and tagging pictures of the places they visit and inserted little-known facts into the comments of a user’s post about what’s under the location they had just posted.

Addict’aide smartly used our voracious consumption of brag-worthy lifestyle imagery as a Trojan-horse for educating us on the insidious signs of alcoholism. It created a pretend person and gave her a pretend life on Instagram. Then, using carefully selected liking and following techniques this pretend life began looking very real to unsuspecting consumers by seeping into their feeds and subtly revealing the life of an alcoholic in a way that left us privately questioning our own behavior or that of our friends.

From Addict'aide

Durex understood the power an outrageous PR headline has to generate viral sharing and discussion across social media and used this to gain interest among a hard-to-reach audience who knew little about the brand. It planted a story from the company’s own marketing director about a bizarre and unexpected new product. By leaving out the punch line, it drove speculation, putting the rumor-mill into high gear and driving conversation across social media.

Each campaign was equipped with a pre-programmed content and community approach

Thinking through a comprehensive content and response plan is an arduous task. It takes planners, creatives and community managers working together to spitball scenarios and iterating assets. These creatives recognized the upside and used this tactic to extend their campaign lifecycles and drive organic reach.

@GeoStories mined the archives of the Canada History Committee to create compelling and highly credible bite-sized stories about the most popular Canadian locations. Then it monitored Instagram to find people posting about those locations to surprise-and-delight them with these unique facts at the moment they would be most relevant.

From Geostories

“Like My Addiction” designed a fully conceptualized life and lifestyle for its fictitious character, Louise Delange, equipped with 150 pre-programmed posts that mimicked a real user account, thinking through both every day and special occasion moments over the course of her six-week lifecycle. Using a bot, Louise’s handle also behaved like a real person by liking and following other users and posts.

Durex used a combination of third party partners (influencers) and its brand handle to stoke conversation by listening for the echo from its planted PR headline, and ignited trolling behavior in realtime using memes, tongue-in-cheek copy and innuendo.

Each piggybacked on highly visible opportunistic moments

 Even when you have media dollars to spend, it’s hard to find yourself where you need to be, when you need to be there in this “if it’s important, it will find me” world. These executions used newsjacking, rather than paid media, to slingshot content and drive discoverability.

@GeoStories took advantage of a massive media spend promoting Canada’s 150th birthday celebration, which prompted citizens to celebrate and explore their country. This yielded in a treasure-trove of location-based UGC for @GeoStories to respond to and generate visibility from.

“Like My Addiction” piggybacked on the most popular hashtags of the summer lifestyle season such as #passionpassport and #instatravel to spark organic discovery of Louise’s content.

Durex planted its outrageous PR headline on April Fool’s Day, which served to drive rumor and speculation about the legitimacy of the story.

From Durex

From personal experience, I can tell you that checking these boxes is not easy. It requires long-tail vision and a planning approach that goes far beyond the idea. Creative teams will have moved on to the next big thing, but you’ll still be there, tinkering with the communication and channel plans, developing and testing the listening queries, and populating the response matrix. The work may feel small and insignificant compared to the big ideas flowing from the above-the-line teams but do it anyway. I know I, for one, will be cheering for you.

This article is taken from the WARC Social Strategy Report.