Focusing on usefulness and promoting brand values, rather than products, will help your marketing succeed, as brands like Google, Volvo and Always did in Cannes.

Now that annual rosé consumption quotas have been met and we're safely settled back at our desks this side of the Atlantic, it's time to reflect on the fun, moving, and wondrous campaigns that took home Grand Prix awards at the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

What lessons can we learn from these powerful, often high-budget campaigns to help improve our own?

Lower the Barrier to Entry

Google took home the Mobile Grand Prix for "Cardboard," its beautifully simple foldout cardboard mount that makes virtual reality accessible to anyone with a mobile device. (Disclosure: I have worked at Google, and my firm has consulted for the company.) At a $15 price point, Google Cardboard effectively democratized VR, much as the FlipCam, iPhone and iMac democratized video production years ago. As VR shifts from experimental to mainstream for brands, broad consumer access will be essential. Unlike more expensive solutions from Oculus Rift, Google took a nifty, DIY approach that scales.

Expert tip: Make participation easy. Skew efforts toward simple solutions. Offer free trials and multi-tiered service options to grow adoption.


Promote Brand Values, Not Just Products

Volvo's "Life Paint," from Grey London, showed that brand building is about more than promoting your products. Volvo, long associated with consumer safety, helped keep nighttime cyclists safe with free reflective spray paint. The paint, invisible during daylight, becomes highly visible under the shine of a headlight and washes out without damaging fabric. Beyond generating good will, Volvo helped solidify its leadership position as a brand that cares about safety - inside its cars and out.

Expert tip: What values do you want to (Read more...) associated with your brand? How can you promote those values in ways that are useful and scale?

Female Empowerment is a Winning Strategy

I've written about marketing to women and how much I like this campaign before, but I was glad to see Always' "Like a Girl" take home the PR Grand Prix. The campaign didn't condescend to women, and it didn't treat women as a monolithic group. Instead, it marketed to women by celebrating them as they are, and in doing so, reached not just girls, but women of all ages, fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons.

As PR Lions Jury President Lynne Anne Davis of FleishmanHillard said, "This is a campaign that marries a brand promise with brand purpose and commercial pursuit." The creative was honest, eye-opening, and moving. We rarely get to find out what happened inside the Jury Rooms at Cannes, but reports say jurors had shown the ad to their children and believed it would make a difference in their lives. How many ads can you say that about?

Expert tip: Market to women as they are.

Be Useful

Following on the theme of female empowerment (this year saw the first Glass Lion awards), Y&R and Vodafone took home a Media Grand Prix for an app that lets women call for help by shaking their phones. The app, live in Turkey, is deceptively simple - with a simple shake, help is on the way.

Like the winning Volvo campaign, Vodafone's campaign isn't immediately revenue-driving. Instead, it goes a long way toward building goodwill, loyalty and brand engagement with a telecom brand, while potentially saving lives. And it's gaining traction: reports say one-quarter of women in Turkey with smartphones have downloaded the app.

Expert tip: What utility can you provide your customers and prospects? What simple solutions can you offer to make their lives easier or better?


Let Others Speak for You

We talk a lot about "eating your own dog food" in the startup world, but there is no better example than this year's Outdoor Grand Prix for Billboards winner, "Shot on iPhone 6," awarded to Apple & TWBA. The campaign featured stunning photography supplied by real iPhone 6 users that showcased the quality of the device's camera and image capabilities. The campaign proved that, with the right equipment, user-generated content can mean high-quality content.

Expert tip: How can you use your product to market your product? How can you involve users to help tell your brand story?


These are just a few of my favorite Grand Prix winners. What are yours? Tweet me @kristinkovner.

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