Gary Goodman here. We’re diverging from our normal programming to share a new voice and perspective this week.

Even if you don’t know Rob Matthews, you’ve certainly felt the waves created by his work at either Xbox or Nintendo as the former head of global integrated marketing at Xbox. He’s also the founder and managing partner of Swiftwater Group. Take it away Rob!

There are brands that create waves of change and those that simply ride the waves of others.

The brands that people love, the ones that change the world, create big waves. But that requires courage—to get out of the wake of others and find your own open water. Conviction—knowing who you are and why you matter. And a clear vision—one that will inspire others and create relevancy. 

The three campaigns highlighted below are radically different, yet they share a common attribute—they come from brands that create big waves in popular culture. As a marketer, I always try to find an intersection between strategy and imagination. Where the narrative rings true for my brand and product but also strikes an emotional chord with my audience. 

These campaigns find that intersection. They each remain true to their respective brands and will speak volumes to their fans. But they also tap into a bigger concept that everyone can relate to, regardless of whether or not you use their products. Two of them do it with a sense of bigness and scale. One does it more intimately. But all three tap into the current cultural ethos.

Apple: “Vertical Cinema”

Apple’s latest “shot on iPhone” campaign redefines the concept of cinema.  For years they have been rewriting the rules of photography, giving everyone with an iPhone the ability to take professional-quality images. Now they are doing the same with film. 

Historically, there has been a clear distinction between “shooting a video” and producing “cinematic film.” But their new campaign blurs the lines between the two. And for good reason, vertical video is rapidly growing as more people are using their phones to tell their stories. But Apple wanted to go beyond the six-to-ten-second videos that tend to dominate the vertical landscape. They set out to prove that their phones could produce Hollywood-quality cinema, while also pushing content creators to raise the bar.

The timing is not lost on me. As Hollywood struggles to come back to life, and the flow of new cinematic content slows, more and more people are turning to their phones for their video entertainment. Apple is leaning into that void by demonstrating that the historical concept of “cinema” is no longer valid. Previously defined by its wide-screen format and expansive canvas, cinema is now vertical. 

Why it matters: By leaning into their heritage with content creators and tastemakers, Apple is once again redefining a category and positioning themselves as the quality bar to beat. They have done this for years, dominating popular culture and driving mindshare far greater than their market share would dictate. This holds true today, with Apple coming in a distant second in share to Android globally. But market share has never stopped Apple from behaving like a leader. Which is why they continue to be the brand of choice for creators who take their craft seriously. 

The details: The 9-minute launch film was created by TBWA/Media Arts Lab and was directed by Academy Award-winning director, Damien Chazelle, whose previous works include Whiplash and La La Land. It takes viewers on a journey through numerous film genres and is packed with amazing stunts and camera techniques. All shot on iPhone.

Burger King: Safe Order Masks

I love a great stunt. Let me rephrase that—I love a great stunt that is done well. Burger King Belgium is about to launch a social campaign that caught my eye because of its authenticity. Now Burger King is no stranger to game-changing creativity and stunts that drive virality. But this one is a bit different because of how personal it is to their fans.

We have all seen a lot of marketing lately with face masks. And every brand is trying to figure out how to balance their need to market with a desire to be sensitive to the situation we are all going through. But few have found a way to do so with such a laser-sharp focus. 

As more and more people are moving about, interacting with others through a mask can be challenging. It is particularly difficult to talk or to be heard. I find myself constantly asking people to repeat themselves. I can only imagine how this is magnified for restaurant and hospitality workers. 

Burger King decided to have a little fun with the current state of human interaction, by creating masks with people’s orders written on the front. So instead of engaging in an awkward conversation, you simply pull up to a drive-thru wearing your mask. It is a great way to let the personality of their brand shine through, even in the face of a difficult situation. 

One thing I have learned over the years is this—fans use products, but they love brands. Burger King understands that and has created something here that not only ignites fan passion but also empowers their advocacy. Because the way you get one of these limited-edition face masks is to engage with their brand in social media. It is a great example of how you can create energy out of obstacles. 

Why it matters: This campaign brings emotion back into an otherwise emotionless experience. It is hard to interact with people without seeing 50% of their face. But it would be hard not to smile when wearing this mask. It brings life and energy back into Burger King stores and will create a massive wave of sharable moments for their brand.

The details: The campaign was developed by Burger King Belgium. Fans comment on social media to claim one of 500 masks featuring their order. The campaign will begin in early September. And while 500 seems like a low number, might I remind you that you are reading this in a newsletter written on the other side of the world from where this is happening. The number of masks is not the number that matters most. 

Nike: “You Can’t Stop Us”

Admittedly, I am a little late to the party on this one. This ad has been discussed for a few weeks now. The inspirational message is timely, and the editing is quite simply, brilliant. I have no doubt this will be an awards magnet in the coming year. But even though I love both the message and method, that is not why I included it here.

The beauty of this video is how its complexity is masked by its simplicity and flow. Having spent more than 25 years in marketing, I know how difficult it is to make something feel simple and elegant. But that is what sets Nike apart. They are experts at subtraction. Much like a sculptor that strips away anything that does not belong, Nike keeps only what is necessary for the narrative. And they resist the common urge to say more.  The result is powerful.

Athletes are very familiar with the concept of “flow”—when everything is in perfect balance, working the way it was designed and you are at your peak performance. But this is the first time I have seen the concept of flow brought to life in advertising. It is not something that is spoken about or perhaps even intended. But it is present nonetheless. The connection between one scene to the next. The relationship between one athlete and another. Disparate scenes from 24 sports pulled from decades of footage all coming together in perfect harmony.  

Why it matters: While others aim their marketing at their products, Nike aims theirs at life. Their narratives are through the lens of sport, but rarely about the sport itself. In a world that emphasizes our differences over the things we share in common, sport is a thread that binds us together. And even though there are far more things that unite us than divide us, we tend to shine a spotlight on the latter vs. the former. Nike understands the unifying power of sport and tackles tough issues using sport as a common language. Because movements require a starting point. 

The details: To create “You Can’t Stop Us,” Wieden+Kennedy went through 4,000 hours of footage to find the perfect scenes to stitch together. There are 24 different sports represented in the video that is eloquently narrated by soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

Robert Matthews is the founder and managing partner of Swiftwater Group and former head of global integrated marketing at Xbox. His company helps leaders “create bigger waves” for their businesses, brands and the world–building iconic brands people love, creating desire with modern storytelling and igniting fan passion to drive cultural relevancy.