Marketing, Public Relations, Strategy
March 16, 2018
Strangest marketing tactics: the Good, The Bad, the Ugly
Strangest marketing tactics: the Good, The Bad, the Ugly

Marketing at its best is when brands allow themselves to think outside of the box. If you want to make an impact with your marketing, you need to be memorable, which means doing things a bit different than your competitors. This can lead to some strange marketing tactics. Some of these marketing tactics are successful, and some crash and burn. (PRO TIP: Many of the failures out there could be easily avoided with careful planning.)

Here are a few examples of marketing tactics that brands have used that go beyond the expected – some that have worked, and some that haven’t.

Using the idea of dating for things other than dating

Who doesn’t want to talk about love, right? As multiple dating apps and dating trends pop up regularly, some organizations thought they would capitalize on society’s focus on love.

Sudan is the last male northern white rhino. While he lives with two female white rhinos at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Central Kenya, the species is in danger of complete extinction due to poaching. Sudan is very old, and he is now quite ill. Tinder partnered with the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to raise awareness of the plight of the northern white rhinos and to help raise funds for research and a breeding program. Listed as the “most eligible bachelor in the world” on Tinder, the program fell short of its fundraising goal, but it did raise awareness of this issue.

The other example of a campaign that recently received a lot of attention on social media is Timothy the hippo’s wooing of Fiona the hippo. Fiona has enjoyed social media fame since her premature birth at the Cincinnati Zoo. Her medical and care team has documented her journey online so people are invested in her life (it helps that she is adorable!). Timothy asked Fiona out on a date via social media and the internet loved it.

Using potty humour

Oh, potty humour. That thing that parents desperately try to get their young children to stop using. In the case of these two brands, they have embraced it to overcome discomfort of some of the most taboo discussion topics.

Poo-Pourri was among the first brands to address uncomfortable bathroom topics head on using humour and an “unlikely” spokesperson. Their initial 2013 commercial went viral because of it. While it catapulted their product into the public eye, the commercial itself received praise for its witty script and delivery that covered many stereotypical potty humour jokes. Delivered by a well-dressed British “lady,” the commercial was even more memorable. Poo-Pourri has gone on to create other commercials, none of which has quite captured the success of the first commercial.

Another brand that catapulted to viral fame using potty humour is Squatty Potty. Its pooping unicorn and British knight were both hilarious and uncomfortable to watch. Like Poo-Pourri, the Squatty Potty commercials use many uncomfortable stereotypes as jokes, however Squatty Potty uses visuals to really drive the joke home.

Squatty Potty has released multiple successful videos since, using the same formula for success. They even launched a competitor product to Poo-Pourri called Unicorn Gold.

Using animals in unusual ways

Animals will always be a popular way to really make a statement, especially if they are used in unusual ways (and treated well if they aren’t CG!).

This dancing pony video from Three that reminded people that silly things matter was well done, and they even created a follow up “mixer.” Personally, I must have watched this a thousand times – and it still makes me laugh. It has inspired parodies (some good, some bad), but most of all, it is memorable.

Chick-Fil-A is a brand that I don’t even have access to in Canada, but I absolutely love their campaigns featuring their cows. The first one that caught my eye was the video of the cow in the glamorous blonde wig. It is so simple, yet the visuals are so memorable.

The other campaign that spanned multiple commercials is the “Eat mor chikin” campaign.

In both cases, human characteristics are given to the animals and a sense of witty humour is used to place them in situations that are not unfamiliar to humans. Knowing that the cows are treated well makes these campaigns even more enjoyable to watch.

Capitalizing on tragedy (AKA The Ugly)

This is where the ugly comes in with strange marketing tactics. You wouldn’t hand out promotional flyers at a funeral, so why would you use death and tragedy as part of your marketing strategy? Sadly, there are too many brands that do this to name them all, but here are some of our stand out PR fails.

Celebrity deaths can affect people deeply. Whether you know them or not, as a fan, you feel connected. As you know people are behind brands and they often want to pay respect to the great legends. As Cheerios found out, even the simplest brand tie in will land you in hot water. After Prince’s death, their social media post, dotting the “i” with a Cheerio, didn’t go unnoticed and fans were not too happy with it.

Every year, there are a number of cringe-worthy reminders of tragedies past on anniversaries. 9/11 is one of the worst. In 2016, Miracle Mattress posted a very tasteless commercial to its social media channels featuring a “Twin Towers Sale.” They ended up shutting their doors for a week and having to backtrack to try to recuperate. People have clearly not let it go as there are still regular comments on their Facebook page. They have also used the “spokesperson” in content since the incident in spite of the owner of the store promising that he let all three go.

Another brand that missed the mark on an anniversary was Nike when paying respect to the Boston Bombing victims. While they took a serious note, they still made it about their brand and it took away from the authenticity of the tone.

Lastly, during Hurricane Sandy The Gap, among others, posted some shockingly insensitive sales posts on their social media channels.

There are some people that feel that brands shouldn’t even concern themselves with these types of acknowledgments on social media, but if you do decide to address these tragedies, you are treading on thin ice. Pay your respects, but don’t use it as a sales technique or bring branding into it at all. And always be prepared with a crisis strategy that allows you to be honest and authentic in case it goes south.

Are there any strange marketing tactics from this list that you are thinking of trying out? If you want to get creative, but you’re not sure how or you don’t think your budget allows for it, give us a call! We’ll hook you up.

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