12 Unusually Incredible Marketing Campaigns

by on July 15, 2010 | posted in Marketing

There’s a lot of people on the internet fitting tightly into some preset “templates” of how they should act. They’re doing this thing or the other because this thing or the other has proven to work en masse, and because of that, this thing or the other has saturated the market.

Believe it or not, there’s room for innovation on the internet, and I don’t mean innovation like a good idea for an infographic. I mean innovation in the form of completely unique ways to market a promotional product, service or person. It took me a little bit, but I found more than a few examples of marketing campaigns (and more holistically, businesses in general) that deserve acclaim and praise for their fearlessness, ingenuity, and effectiveness.

The Old Spice Guy


Old Spice has taken the internet by storm with their recent marketing campaign, in which a scantily clad, muscled  debonair referred to as “The Old Spice Guy” has responded, en masse, to many internet commenters through short videos on Youtube.

The Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa, is a teeming comedic genius (with other comedic talents around him for support, no doubt) as he has been unable to pump out hundreds of hilarious videos at alarming pace in response to Old Spice video commentators. “The Old Spice Guy” even went as far as to create a Reddit thread to respond to others, bringing the fan connectivity to all-new levels.

The Old Spice Guy marketing campaign is something that will be studied and emulated extensively moving forward, as its viral success is something that hasn’t been matched in the short history of the internet.

My hypothesis for its success is the combination of speed — some videos were being uploaded five minutes apart — and unexpectedness — few expected a response rate like that and were greatly impressed by it, spreading the word with ferocity. Also, the medium created remarkability, as “customer service” responses are never by video. Many marketing campaigns online are inherently clever, but they are often one-and-done affairs, with only a few ads that are randomly shuffled about the internet.

Unlike those, Old Spice launched a true marketing campaign, and an online marketing campaign of a nature the internet has never seen. Some 55 million video views later, Old Spice has proven it works – and has proven it works extremely well.

Iceland Wants to Be Your Friend

Have you ever been marketed to by a country? I haven’t, either. At least, not until Iceland came along.

I was swooned through The Deck Network by an Iceland ad which I had to check out. The complete product was intriguing – here was a country speaking in the first person, and doing so in a way that was engaging and remarkable.

The “Iceland” marketing theme to draw tourists to the country is incredibly well done. The Facebook and Twitter page both speak through the “identity” of Iceland, which they maintain in a way that you find cohesive with how you might expect a country would actually communicate (if you ever thought a country could communicate).

As an SEO, I have special respect for a campaign like this because ROI is really, really tough to measure right away. Similarly, social media is tough to measure as well and the Iceland marketing effort takes things to a whole new level. The goal of this campaign is to create that trigger in your brain for the next time you go on a trip. And those inter-continental trips don’t come often, so they’re booking on a potential one-to-two year return on this social media effort.

Consider me sold. If I’m ever in the area, I’ll stop, evaluate, and contemplate. If I end up going, I might even tweet at Iceland and ask if it wants to meet for coffee while I’m there. Or maybe some Iceland liver sausage.

The Deck Network

While we’re on the topic of the Deck Network, I thought I’d address its genius. This is the one and only ad network I have ever paid attention to. Yes – I actually look at the ads. Besides Iceland, I have found many other great blogs simply by looking through the listing of websites they advertise on.

The Deck Network, for the uninformed, is this elitist ad network that hand-picks the websites it’s going to show its ads on. Most are based around design (or are well designed), and in general, most of the websites are the crème de la crème of the internet.

Similarly, the advertisers that work with them are nearly as elite. The claim on their website is that they won’t take an ad unless they have paid for or used the service. So, it makes the people that advertise with them nearly as pimp as the display websites themselves.

So, I stand here astonished, in the grasp of an ad network of elite websites being advertised only on OTHER elite websites. Somehow, at the inception of this thing, there was a chicken or the egg problem. How did they get the elite websites and elite advertisers to coalign? I have no idea. My guess is that the people that run the thing are really, really well connected. And they gave out some free ads. And the ball started rolling.

And now we have the best ad network on the internet.

Elizabeth Potts Weinstein and the #lytchat and #epicchat on Twitter

I don’t actually participate in the chats, but I have been especially impressed with Potts Weinstein’s Twitter campaigns. Weinstein runs an online business based on “living your truth”, and she also offers tips on how to create great videos.

Her chats aren’t difficult to execute. The viral machine does that. But what’s difficult to do, and what she does without fear, is disregard the lizard brain. When this thing started, I have no doubt that this lizard brain yelled strongly in Elizabeth’s ear and said “nobody will chat”, “this will be embarrassing”, “everyone will unfollow me”. But she did it. And it works like a virus.

One person participates, and based on the interesting responses to those questions, a person in that network joins. And it crawls out. And then suddenly, she has fourteen thousand followers and weekly chats people actually look forward to.

(In non-marketing news, Elizabeth’s daughter recently had surgery to remove a brain tumor. Offer some support to her over on her blog or on Twitter. I can’t imagine what she’s going through.)

Hugh MacLeod’s Daily Bizcard

Hugh MacLeod is a professional cartoonist, whose themes revolve around business and his experience in advertising and New York and being really really pissed off. He recently released a succession of Daily Bizcards, in which each cartoon is specifically targeted and named for a particular individual. Hugh targets random people, celebrities and business types, but he always targets someone. And really, it’s genius.

MacLeod’s market is pretty large. His cartoons can appeal to pretty much anybody that’s mildly intelligent with a slightly sarcastic sense of humor/outlook on life. So, by appealing to the particular ego and influence of several large names on the internet, he allowed the opportunity for said people to be flattered by the outreach, release the notification of the cartoon to their tribe, and have said tribe then latch on to MacLeod’s cartoons. If he stayed in his little box and just created for himself, he’d only have the natural flow and spread of his cartoons to do that. And they are difficult to spread, despite their awesome nature.

The Daily Bizcard is the virality MacLeod needs. In many ways, the Bizcard campaign has similar factors that the Old Spice campaign does – have a product that applies to many, appeal to the influencers, and then let the magic happen.

Facebook Bounce Ads

Facebook has a recent, and rather clever, addition to their interface. When scrolling through photos, a “recommended pages” box pops up in the upper right hand corner, which combines various metrics to supply you something of interest to look at. What’s great (and slightly invasive) about these pulls is that they serve as inflator of time on page – frequently, many people will bounce from Facebook after scrolling a photo album, because often there is no call to action after they’ve already cycled through the pictures.

This little nudge in the upper-right is the best way for Facebook to prevent this. At certain points during photo album scrolling, the graphic will actually recycle to a new one, on the intuition that you have no interest in the current recommendations, so the best bet is to offer you new people, images, or pages to look at.

The second reason this little ad box is so great is that it allows Facebook ads to become relevant. Because Facebook does a decent enough job of supplying things I might want to look at, my eyes occasionally wander to this upper right location. And because this recommended pages widget also takes on the same look as their sponsored ads, it dramatically increases the likliehood I’ll click on one – as seamless integration is one of the best qualities ads can take on.

12 Degrees of Social Media Success – Billshrink.com

So, you might have noticed by the rapidly shrinking sidebar and the not-so-numerous list of unorthodox marketing techniques that this list isn’t 12 examples long. Nopenopenope.  I numerated this piece with 12 as an ode to Billshrink.

As you can see, there’s a bit of a pattern to the social media pieces Billshrink creates – many of them are started with the number 12. As a marketing mind and an inquisitive fellow, I have to see some causation here. Undoubtedly, Billshrink has seen some past success/has research to back up the frequent selection of the number 12 for their social pieces.

This tactic is effective for the following reasons:

  • The number 12 hasn’t been overdone like 10-25-50 have, so when Diggers see these articles, they don’t immediately feel like they’re being sold to.
  • Lists 12 points long aren’t too time consuming to create, but are still long enough to be viewed as substantial by social readers.
  • Numbers like 11/13/15/16 are awkward in comparison. There’s a reason we use a dozen as a normal measurement value, and not 16.

Actions for Change

So, what can we, as marketers, learn from these popular and unique success stories? A lot. Although each instance is not something we can emulate directly, they have common thematic undercurrents that we can emulate to make our own campaigns successful.

  • Ignore the Lizard Brain. The Lizard Brain is one of the biggest problems that face not only marketers, but the world in general. Many of the marketers in this segment (Old Spice, Elizabeth Potts Weinstein) dared to be different and also risked failure, and because of that, succeeded wildly in their efforts.
  • Establish your target market, and then find the influencers within it you aren’t reaching.  Hugh MacLeod and Old Spice both found influencers within their target market and found ways to appeal to them. By offering them something of value, they reciprocated the exchange to their tribe, which created a downhill effect of amazingness rarely seen. Karaoke music is a great example of this – they searched out relevant music bloggers and used them to reach to spread the word about their niche – and also get more links.
  • Understand browsing tendencies. Beyond “finding users”, you, as a product/blogger/business, need to look at how to turn visitors into users. Sometimes, many visitors are on the verge of converting into users, but they aren’t given the incentive to convert, and no call-to-action to continue on the site. Do whatever you can to keep people on page and grab their attention.
  • Differentiate yourself. There’s that niche thing everyone talks about – but who knew? It’s true. Iceland and The Deck Network both separated themselves in ingenuity, and it caused their success. Iceland’s social promotion model isn’t something that’s crazy or overly innovative – but the actual idea is sensational and worth grabbing on to.
  • There are patterns within the mass data influx. Billshrink ran the numbers and saw the virality the number 12 offered their social promotion pieces. If they had stuck to many of the social promotion standards of 10-25-50, it’s likely many of those pieces would have puttered out. By putting data behind the content and applying it, they allowed themselves to succeed not based on “build great content” alone, but also on the basis of “the numbers make sense”. Within the millions upon millions of tweets and pieces of content being created every day, there’s a lot of data that is going to lend to more than just the thought that “lists work”. Care enough to find those patterns and you might just find yourself a competitive advantage.

I’m infinitely impressed by all the people on this list. Please, go out there and crush it so I can be infinitely impressed by you, too. Beyond making my day better, you’ll also do us all a favor by making the entire internet better as well.

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