Marketing is the lifeblood of any business entity. It has the power to dazzle or irritate, to entice or repel, and it can make or break an entire company. Here are three cases of effective advertising campaigns that threw life preservers around their drowning businesses.


1. J. Crew

In 2003, J. Crew — a clothing company alternately praised as elegant and criticized as snobbish — was floundering. The United States economy was in the thick of a devastating recession, and luxury items like high-end clothing were prone to falling by the wayside. But with a little presidential endorsement, the tides were soon to turn for the beleaguered retailer. New C.E.O. Millard Drexler of Gap fame seized opportunity when the entire Obama family appeared at Barack Obama’s first inauguration wearing J. Crew garb. In 2008, Michelle Obama made an appearance on the Tonight Show and quipped to Jay Leno, “You can get some good stuff online.” With the American equivalent of the royal family endorsing the brand, J. Crew’s profits boomed.

2. McDonald’s

Alright, so McDonald’s was never really in danger of going under completely. Nonetheless, the fast food giant was hurting — badly. In 2004, mustached filmmaker Morgan Spurlock dealt a devastating blow to the golden arches with his hugely successful documentary Supersize Me. Despite the exaggerated nature of the eating habits tested out in the film — nothing but McD’s for a month — millions of Americans watched in horror as a healthy man become bloated, exhausted, and prone to vomiting and other health issues. In 2005, the year following Supersize Me, McDonald’s profits tanked. In England, profits after the film were at about a quarter of their previous levels. To combat the crisis, McDonald’s filled their “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign with slim, active young people, and reinvented their image to be more oriented toward “fresh ingredients,” and menu offerings like salads, yogurt, and oatmeal. Today, McDonald’s is back on top, surpassing competitors like Wendy’s and Burger King.


3. Apple

While members of the technorati can argue Apple versus Microsoft until they’re blue in the face, in 2013, for many consumers Apple is synonymous with quality, style, fun, and functionality. Overnight lines of campers form around the block when new products are unveiled, and the death of C.E.O. Steve Jobs in 2011 was national news for weeks. (Can you name or even picture the C.E.O. of most companies?) But in 1997, Apple was full of worms. The company was teetering on the knife-edge of bankruptcy, with shares selling for a paltry $6 apiece. Now, Apple stock is worth hundreds — largely thanks to an ad campaign that focused on empowering the consumer with a versatile product that was easy to use and aesthetically pleasing. Apple ads and products immediately identifiable — making for easy recall when it’s time to go shopping.

If you would like to find out more about ways to improve your advertising and marketing, I invite you to contact me. I have been helping professional service providers such as CPAs, attorneys, and financial services providers focus their business development efforts on profitable micro-niches for over 10 years. Email me at



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