What Lit Us Up: The Best Marketing Moments of 2023

A group of women celebrate and blow confetti toward the viewer.

Our newsletter The Spark includes a feature we call “What Lit Us Up," spotlighting a recent digital marketing moment that caught our attention. For the sake of auld lang syne, we’re reviewing some of the most inspiring moments from 2023. 

Pink Outside the Box

Mattel and Warner Bros. partnered to build anticipation for the record-breaking Barbie film by pushing the boundaries of movie marketing moves. From  a tour of Barbie’s Dreamhouse to  Barbie-themed pop-up cafés, the wide-ranging marketing powers behind Barbie turned the film into a cultural phenomenon.

What Struck: It’s safe for businesses to stick to what works: there’s little risk, and your audiences know what to expect. But let Barbie’s strategy be an example of how your brand can incorporate unique, immersive experiences that surprise and excite your audience.

A photo of Barbie's massive pink Dreamhouse from the movie Barbie.

Barbie's meticulously designed Dreamhouse has enough detail to delight nostalgic Barbie-lovers and new fans alike.

Stop, Drop and ... Tumble

A Stanley customer’s viral TikTok showed the charred aftermath of a car fire that left only one of their tumblers standing. The trendy company’s response gave the brand a chance to show off its values, personality, and adaptability. It was quick to jump on the moment without exploiting the customer by offering to replace her car … and supply her with more Stanleys. (A post from Stanley's president on LinkedIn emphasized the successful delivery of the car, keeping the story top-of-mind.)

What Struck: Stanley’s gesture demonstrates the importance of adhering to brand values and shows marketers how to handle unexpected marketing opportunities the right way.

Swift Thinking

Heinz cooked up a new condiment in just 24 hours to capitalize on a  viral tweet that speculated on Taylor Swift’s culinary habits. The timing was right, as all eyes were on the musician amidst her then-budding relationship with NFL superstar Travis Kelce. Though “Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch” wasn’t available in stores, fans could enter to win one of 100 bottles on Instagram.

What Struck: This creative move emphasizes how strategic listening can help inform quick turnarounds when it comes to jumping on the next sweeping cultural moment.

A photo collage of Taylor Swift smiling next to a photo of Heinz's "Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch" product.

Marketers rushed to keep pace with Taylor Swift's fervent fan base in a year where she owned the spotlight.

Birds of a Feather

Butterball and Bumble For Friends (BFF) launched the #FindYourTable campaign just in time for the Thanksgiving season, aiming to connect people looking for a crew to spend the holiday with. Bumble added a Friendsgiving feature to the BFF app where users could register for in-person and virtual cooking demos, tastings, and more.

What Struck: Don’t be afraid to look outside your industry for collaborators who can connect you with a new audience. This unlikely pair took the leap and created a holiday experience that was both social and delicious.

🔮 Feeling nostalgic? You can also teleport to 2019, 2020, 2021, or 2022.

The Surreal World

Keto cereal company Surreal turned heads with a viral campaign that featured regular customers with big names: Serena Williams loves their cereal, just not that Serena Williams. But it appears the campaign may have also attracted a fair amount of legal scrutiny. The brand appears to have removed the original campaign from their social accounts but followed up with a new, lawyer-friendly campaign.

What Struck: This interesting series of events is an excellent example of building awareness (and having awareness) by taking risks, leaning into humor, and embracing the ability to laugh at yourself. Surreal came up with creative strategies that turned apparent disadvantages into advantages.

A billboard advertising cereal that says "We're Dwayne Johnson's favorite cereal. *Dwayne is a bus driver from London."

Taking a real risk with your brand campaign means you'll have to be ready to take the heat, too. 

Keep Your Favorite Brands Close, and Your Dupes Closer

Lululemon turned the Gen Z #dupe trend on its head by inviting people to trade in their copycats for real Lululemon leggings for free. They exchanged $96,000 worth of leggings and, in return, reached new customers, showed off the quality of their product, and gained significant attention from the press and on social media.

What Struck: When you're confident in your product offerings, facing your competition head-on with a daring and creative campaign is a great way to inspire trust from your potential customers.


In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, L.L. Bean paused all social media activity in May and partnered with fitness-tracking app Strava for its “Feel-Good Challenge,” encouraging people to get outside. Their pledge to donate $25,000 to Mental Health America when challenge participants tracked 500,000 outdoor hours was met in the first 10 days, ultimately reaching 1 million hours by the end of the month.

What Struck: Though a social media break may not make sense for your brand, it’s important to recognize opportunities for offline marketing strategies. It’s not the first time L.L. Bean took a pause for the month, and it shows both strategic thinking (their announcement post saw a 95% surge in impressions compared to last year’s) and a desire to improve their audience’s wellbeing.

A group photo of people making s'mores while camping.

Remember that your audiences are people, and they're not always online.

Beating B2B Buzzwords

This LinkedIn campaign uses humor to address the complex topic of B2B marketing jargon — while making it accessible to its audience. The series of videos features parents navigating the buzzwords they need in order to explain what their B2B kids do, brilliantly connecting with those in the industry.

What Struck: A strategy that pulls in humor and breaks down complicated ideas can reinforce your brand’s thought-leadership power. By recognizing your audience’s pain points, you can find a new way to connect and offer valuable information.

Poking fun at your brand shows you have confidence in your offerings — and that your customers
should, too. 

Are You Feeling the Spark?

Micro-trends are getting smaller and hype cycles are getting shorter, so marketers are going to need to stay attentive and creative in the new year. We’re excited for the bold moves that are sure to come in 2024. Stay tuned by subscribing to The Spark.

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