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Unconventional marketing lessons
👉 this had me stumped
Today’s burning question comes from Stephen:
What's the most unconventional or out-of-the-box marketing tactic or email strategy you've seen succeed, and how can I adapt it to make my coaching and advisory services stand out?
I have to admit, this question had me stumped.
I’ve seen quite a bit of unconventional marketing but in truth, it’s difficult to know if a lot of it actually worked unless you have insider access to the results - which you rarely get.
There are a few good public examples though. Usually of little brands taking a stand.
I guess the most obvious example of unconventional marketing is Richard Branson’s many stunts.
From driving a tank down 5th Avenue to his round-the-world balloon flights to flying a “BA Can’t Get it Up” blimp over the not-yet-erected London Eye (plus a whole bunch of other very questionable ones). Branson got a lot of PR - and it got him and his businesses on the map.
Another famous example: Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy This Jacket” Black Friday campaign from 2011 which ironically (or perhaps deliberately) sold a lot of jackets while raising awareness for their Common Threads campaign.
On the Black Friday theme, Cards Against Humanity game creator Max Temkin apparently really hates it so the firm does a prank promotion each year.
They’ve put their prices up, sold an 8ft long gummy python, an actual box of literal crap, a Ford Fiesta for $100 and perhaps their best ever prank, selling absolutely nothing for $5 a pop in 2015 - making over $70,000 as a result.
So quite a few outrageous and successful examples. But the reason I was a bit stumped is the bit about applying them to other businesses.
Branson’s maverick stunts reinforce the maverick image he projects for his businesses. Patagonia’s demand not to buy their jacket was in line with their ethical stance on reuse and not buying what you don’t need.
And Cards Against Humanity - well, their customers are just a bit weird.
Are those examples applicable outside their own narrow world.
Not directly of course.
But thinking about it, I feel there are two things we can learn.
One is the obvious one: attention is the most valuable commodity these days and getting it in a big way needs you to be radically different.
All these examples didn’t just do something a bit different. They did something a lot different.
But the more I thought about it, the more I latched on to what Branson does and how reproducible that is.
If you listen to Branson talk about how he chooses a new market sector to enter he’ll talk about targeting “big bad wolves”.
Often driven by personal experience he’d seek out markets where the dominant players were overcharging and underserving customers. In other words he targeted customers who really disliked their current suppliers but didn’t see any alternatives. He then positioned his business as offering exactly what the incumbents weren’t.
He then used his outrageous stunts to make that visible to everyone from the get go. To focus attention on the fact that his business was very different to everyone else’s.
And I think this is reproducible in any industry. If you’re brave.
Talk to your potential clients about what they really hate about their current suppliers.
Not just what could be be improved. What they hate. What annoys the hell out of them.
Make sure you can deliver the absolute opposite and then make sure everyone knows about it.
Do a youtube video parodying the awful things your competitors do (and mentioning you don’t). Show it to the people who complained and get them to share it.
For example, if their projects are dull, show meetings with clients falling asleep. If they never deliver their original promises, do an exaggerated version with them promising the moon to a client and delivering a bit of cheese instead.
Go wild. Make it funny. Really take the p*ss.
If clients really hate what’s currently happening they’ll latch on to these videos. You’ll get attention pretty fast.
But here’s why it needs a bit of bravery.
You’re not going to make any friends doing this.
The people you used to hang around at the bar with after conferences won’t want to hang around with you any more. You might get a few “Hey Stephen, what the f*ck?" calls and emails.
BA famously waged a dirty tricks campaign against Virgin. You might face the same.
My gut feel is that this approach could well work rather well. But as I say - at a price.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll talk about a powerful but different approach to winning this game based on ideas from Charles Ellis and Simon Ramo.
But until then, even if you decide not to pursue a Bransonesque approach, you can have a smile just thinking about it :)