2017 has been a wild ride, filled with trending hashtags, viral videos, and a few branded campaigns for the record books. From selfie walls and social experiments to pink drinks and pizza registries, these 14 branded campaigns made a splash this year:

1. Heineken: Worlds Apart

Heineken invited people from diverse backgrounds and with vastly different worldviews to participate in team-building activities — and then discuss contentious political issues, of course. In the age of hyper-partisanship, the end result may surprise you, and it has a little something to do with sharing a beer.

2. Bacardi: Break Free

A play on the ubiquitous Boomerang videos we all know and love (or love to hate), the Bacardi “Break Free” campaign is a memorable take on what it feels like to break out of your routine and have a little fun.

3. Starbucks: Unicorn Frappuccino

While actually making this colorful concoction may have overwhelmed your barista, the limited edition Unicorn Frappuccino at Starbucks — unveiled back in April for just four short days — was a runaway success. The whimsical treat generated over 150,000 posts tagged with #UnicornFrappucino on Instagram. That’s a lot of whipped cream.

4. Denny’s: Zoom In

This tweet, considered one of the most successful brand tweets in media history, garnered over 119,000 retweets in just seven days. The ploy: when viewers zoom in on the syrup, they’ll find tiny text instructing them to zoom in on a different spot on the image, and then another, and then…you get it. Finally, you’ll land on this question, which captures Denny’s quintessential voice: “has this distracted you from overwhelming existential dread lol.”

5. Delta: Selfie Wall

You know the rule: if you stumble upon a whimsically painted wall, you’re obliged to take a selfie in front of it. Delta wanted in on the fun, so they painted nine scenic vistas from some of their most popular destinations on a wall in Brooklyn, New York, and waited for the selfies to come to them. Potential customers seized the chance to boost their selfie (read: Tinder) game, while Delta earned the tacit endorsement of thousands of consumers.

6. Domino’s: Wedding Registry

When registering for wedding gifts, why ask for a lazy Susan when you could get a delivery of piping hot pizza instead? In an effort to target the “unconventional” couple, Domino’s launched its own wedding registry to put some of the fun back into the tried-and-true nuptial tradition.

7. Heinz: Pass the Heinz

This ad campaign actually got its start way back in the 1960s. Well, kind of: it was the brainchild of Mad Men’s Don Draper, who pitched this very ad campaign to Heinz execs in a memorable episode of the 60s-era show. Although Draper’s pitch was rejected on the show, Heinz took it upon themselves to make this ketchup-less ad a reality in 2017. Better late than never!

8. GE: If Scientists Were Treated Like Celebrities

This inspiring TV spot announces GE’s plan to employ 20,000 women in STEM roles by 2020. The ad imagines a world in which the late female scientist Millie Dresselhaus was revered to the extent of our pop culture icons — inspiring thousands of mothers to name their newborn daughters Millie, alongside the production of graphic tees and special edition Barbies in her honor.

9. VW: America

In this moving VW ad set to the soundtrack of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” a widow heeds her late husband’s wishes and asks her family to join her for a road trip across the country. What follows is an unforgettable adventure, during which the family travels from sea to shining sea in a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

10. Wendy’s: #NuggsforCarter

Every now and then, the best ad campaigns aren’t planned at all. When Carter Wilkerson challenged Wendy’s to name their price for a year’s worth of free chicken nuggets, they gave him an answer. #NuggsforCarter was born, and although the teen didn’t quite make it all the way, Wendy’s acquiesced to his insatiable desire for nuggs — as the entire Twitter-sphere watched.

11. AirBnB: Until We All Belong

While the Australian government has now finally made marriage equality a reality, the delay in legalizing same-sex marriage drew wide criticism. For its part, AirBnB joined the conversation by marketing an incomplete ring to symbolize the continuing gap in marriage equality. While it’s difficult to say what effect this campaign actually had, we’re willing to bet that it played some part in tipping the scales in favor of this landmark vote.

12. Apple: Earth Shot on iPhone

With the goal of encouraging viewers to appreciate the beauty of planet earth (and engage in more responsible environmental practices to preserve it), Apple enlisted a group of photographers to capture beautiful natural landscapes using the iPhone 7. The result? A spectacular display of natural sights and sounds, showcasing the product’s new low-light camera and narrated by the now-deceased astronomer Carl Sagan (from his book, Pale Blue Dot — A Vision of the Human Future in Space).

13. University of Phoenix: To My Great Granddaughter

This University of Phoenix TV spot honors the power of education to transform not just one life, but many. It tells the heartwarming story of a woman meeting her newborn great-granddaughter for the first time as a lifetime of hardship, determination, and resilience flashes before the viewer. If this child grows up to achieve more than she could in her own life, she reasons, then all of the hardships will have been worth it.

14. Merriam-Webster: Twitter Trolling

If you’ve been keeping an eye on Twitter, you probably know that Merriam-Webster has risen to celebrity status for their incisive subtweets of the Trump administration, among other targets. From updating their profile banner to Götterdämmerung — definition: a collapse (as of a society or regime) marked by catastrophic violence and disorder — in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, to etymologically differing with Kellyanne Conway on “alternative facts,” Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account is a lesson in making waves.

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Author Jake Dawe

Jake works with our clients and L&T's content management team to create and publish cogent, effective marketing content. A recent graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in American Studies, Jake pursued independent research that traced the evolving voice of ``Shouts and Murmurs`` over ninety years. When he's not writing and editing, Jake is probably watching The Crown or making up for four years of lost pleasure reading. Thanks, college.

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