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As marketers, we sometimes seek inspiration to fuel our creative juices. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but reading about the successful marketing stories of other brands can be a good starting point to get you thinking out-of-the-box.

This week’s reads show how four brands have leveraged creativity and insight-driven marketing to engage customers and ultimately drive the bottom line.  How are you obtaining marketing inspiration?

1.Kleenex uses new forecasting model to tell people where germs are.

The brand is preparing to roll out Achoo, which Kleenex Brand Manager Anna Elledge says is a proprietary forecasting model using Centers for Disease Control data. It will live at starting later this month. It goes beyond other cold and flu trackers like Google Flu Trends or the Cold-FX app, by predicting where germs will strike within the next three weeks -- not just showing where they already are, Ms. Elledge said. Preliminary tests suggest the tool is 90% accurate, she said.

"What we'll be able to show come late September is the top five to 10 cities predicted to be the hardest hit," she said. Consumers will also be able to enter their Zip Codes at the site to get regional cold and flu forecasts that the company hopes will go, well, viral, as people share them with friends. – Jack Neff, Ad Age

Tweet this: Proactive sales: #Kleenex creates tool to predict where flu will hit next via @jackneff. See @visioncritical roundup:

2.Kind uses cause marketing—and a focus on product quality—to drive growth.

"I don't think social purpose is what drives our company's growth," [Daniel Lubetzky, founder of Kind Healthy Snacks] said about the Kind brand of snack bars. "And in most cases for real sustainable brands, that's not what drives sales or long-term success. The product has to stand on its own merits and it has to be the best product in its category…

Mr. Lubetzky, who has traveled the world, launched Kind in 2003 because he was unhappy with his snacking options. The bar's proposition was to be "kind to your body, your taste buds and the world." But it's those first two goals that appear to be powering growth. "We lead with our product," Mr. Lubetzky said. "We don't want to try to convince everyone to buy our product because we are nice or because of our social mission." – E.J. Schultz, Ad Age

Tweet this: Marketers are rushing to cloak brands in social causes, according to @danlub. See @visioncritical roundup:

3.Unilever scores a viral hit by revisiting a winning big idea.

As Dove's growth slowed in 2007, "Real Beauty" went from being a theme in many product ads back to its roots as a public-relations and brand-equity-building campaign aimed at raising self-esteem in girls and women. In the meantime, product ads leaning heavily on traditional packaged-goods claims helped return Dove to global growth that's propelled Unilever to some of the best top-line numbers in personal care over recent years.

Despite appearances, however, Unilever never downplayed "Real Beauty," said Global Senior VP-Dove Steve Miles. All along, Ogilvy has had a global "open brief" to create new work in the campaign. This year, Ogilvy Brazil just happened to come up with a big winner.

So why eight years between big hits? "I don't think really great creativity is ever easy," Mr. Miles said, even if a strong insight behind "Sketches" made it look that way. – Jack Neff, Ad Age

Tweet this: Creating a #viral megahit twice isn’t easy, but @Unilever has shown it can happen with Dove. See @visioncritical roundup:

4.Taco Bell uses Snapchat for innovative storytelling.

Taco Bell is one of the first major brands to use a new Snapchat feature called Stories, which allows users to create 24-hour-long narratives by stitching together fast-disappearing photos and videos. The fast food chain ran a series of eight photos and videos that tell the story of a group of friends’ journey to Taco Bell.

Nick Tran, its social media lead, says fast food chain was “in contact with Snapchat the day they announced the Stories feature, and we let them know that we launched our first Story that day.”

Tran says Taco Bell thinks the “feature is a great way to connect on a personal level and share stories as they happen in real time with our friends.” – Zack Bergson, Digiday

Tweet this: Taco Bell uses #snapchat for innovative storytelling via @Digiday. See @visioncritical roundup:

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