Some of the most successful marketing ideas 2021
Some of the most successful marketing ideas are somewhat unconventional or unusual. The more traditional forms of media, such as newspapers, radio and television, are often the first to come to mind when people start to plan their advertising but there are many more options that will produce great results, often for a much smaller outlay.
Table of Contents
- Get behind a wacky promotion
- Life in the chicken suit
- Enjoy the benefits of ‘brainstorming’
- Use inflatable toys to build your business
- Remember the good old bumper sticker
- a spruiker to draw in the crowds
- Offer prizes in competitions
- Get your business in the Guinness Book of Records
- Use the local pizza company to generate business
- Take ownership of an event
- Think differently about marketing your business
- Use industry publications to collect ideas
- Start a marketing ideas box
- Take your message on the road with a mobile billboard
- Use a blackboard to get attention
1.Get behind a wacky promotion
One of the greatest ideas I have heard about recently was a farmer in England who sold advertising on his cows. A local ice-cream company approached the farmer. They made up blanket-like banners for the cows to wear featuring the message: ‘Our main ingredient comes from here’ (or something similar to this). The farm was located next to one of England’s busiest highways, which meant that tens of thousands of people saw these ‘cows with signs’ every day.
That was the small part. The advertising cows were so unusual they were featured on television around the world. The ice-cream company received incredible exposure and the cost of the promotion was minimal when you consider the interest it generated.
This is a very clever idea with lots of applications to anyone in business. Every once in a while you may be approached to get involved in some bizarre promotion, such as a kissing competition. We often write these ideas off as being too far from planet earth—well guess again.
Crazy sporting events like Extreme Games are viewed by 250 million people around the world. People love crazy— the top rating television shows include Funniest Home Videos, Cops, The World’s Craziest People and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Most of the time when people approach you about getting involved in promotions like this they are after donations of products or time. Don’t write these ideas off. Get behind them and make sure that your company name is all over the promotion.
Why don’t you be the one to come up with the idea? Make sure it is obtainable and try to get a few people involved in the planning stages to make sure you keep your feet on the ground. The worst that can happen is that you have a lot of fun.
2.Life in the chicken suit
It’s corny and somewhat embarrassing but it does work. Walt Disney built an empire on a similar idea. For some reason a person in a crazy suit makes us all smile. If you have no shame (remember no one can recognise you in a clown costume) put on the suit, grab some flyers and hit the streets.
It is a good idea to make the costume relevant to your business and try to make it a good quality suit. A rough homemade job can have the opposite effect and tell people that your business is also a bit rough around the edges. Most cities have someone who makes costumes like this. Once again have a look at previous costumes they have made to make certain that you will receive a professional looking end result.
You can build an entire advertising campaign around the character that you develop. Don’t try to be too clever, as the character needs to be instantly recognisable and it should tie in with your business. The aim is to try and get people to think of your business the minute they see the costume figure. Many small businesses have developed a character like this which has gone on to become a prominent feature in parades, at local charity days and during sporting events.
Imagine the free publicity these companies receive. McDonald’s is probably the most famous with Ronald McDonald and the team.
When making a costume, once again take the advice of those that are super successful. Don’t make the costume too big or kids will be scared. Try to make it easy to get into and out of and as cool as possible. Dress costumes like this can be extremely hot, requiring the people inside to have regular, frequent breaks.
3.Enjoy the benefits of ‘brainstorming’
If you want an influx of ideas about what you need to do to increase your business have a brainstorming session. A friend of mine rang me recently inviting me to lunch. She mentioned that there were a few people coming along and she was hoping to generate a few ideas regarding a Lifestyle Expo she was in the midst of planning. As it was a free lunch, how could I say no?
I turned up to a tasteful and quiet restaurant. There were ten people there; most of them I knew but some I did not. There were salespeople, managers, consultants and a few other mixed professions. My friend began the lunch explaining why she had invited everyone there, explaining some of the problems she was experiencing and asking for ideas that would help her Expo to be a success.
The lunch lasted for two hours. My friend left with a list of 44 excellent ideas that would help make the Expo a success. Lunch cost about $300 so for a few hundred dollars and two hours of her time she had a business plan full of fresh ideas donated by professional, intelligent business people.
Perhaps you could do the same thing. A slight variation to this theme is to get ten people together every month and take it in turns brainstorming one business per month. Your turn will come up and, in exchange for giving your time and energy to helping other people solve their business problems, you may solve yours. Every brainstorming session will provide great ideas that can generally be applied to any business, so even if it isn’t your turn you may well pick up a few ideas that will help.
4.Use inflatable toys to build your business
This form of marketing is growing in popularity, especially over the past two to three years as competition for outdoor signage increases. There is no doubt that having an enormous blow up dinosaur or clown or balloon on your roof will attract attention. These novelties can be hired, once again relatively inexpensively, in most capital cities. They can be used for a grand opening, during a sale or for any other celebration where you want to catch people’s attention. They can be particularly effective if your business is located on a major road.
When you realise how much money can be spent on advertising a sale, the novelty idea like the blimp can be a very cost-effective addition to your marketing campaign.
Flags are also popular as they encourage a festive feel to any event and can be seen from quite a distance away.
Blow-up castles are another excellent idea to help build the atmosphere and they also keep the kids occupied while Mum and Dad go shopping.
Unfortunately some balloons and inflatable characters have been used a lot and they start to look very worn, dirty and shabby. Before committing, try to see the inflatable device set up to make certain that all is OK. Another point to check on is local government regulations. Make sure you are allowed to have an inflatable toy on display.
The best place to find these types of novelty items is in the Yellow Pages under ‘Promotions’, or if you are out and you see an inflatable product that you like, the number will probably be printed on it somewhere. If worst comes to worst, I would recommend walking into the shop being promoted and ask them where they hired the inflatable from.
5.Remember the good old bumper sticker
One of the simplest marketing concepts is the reliable old bumper sticker. While this form of communication is slowly dying as people tend to drive new, sleek-looking cars, there is still life left in the bumper sticker. This is a very cheap and visible way to advertise your business simply by producing a few stickers and handing them out to friends, family and customers.
When making a bumper sticker it can be a good idea to make it funny, nice and colourful and, most important of all, easy to read. Try to keep the words to a minimum and if possible only really use your company name. Another idea is to keep it clean (if you can) as you want to promote a professional image, not a smutty one.
I know a few businesses that offer their customers a discount on products and services in return for a bumper sticker on their car. I have seen a panel beater, an electrician, a tyre seller and a restaurant use this method and they have ended up with hundreds of mini-advertisements driving throughout the city.
Kids love stickers and this is also a way to encourage parents to use your business. They may not be used on car bumpers but there is no doubt that they will be used.
6.Use a spruiker to draw in the crowds
If your business is in the right location, ideally one with plenty of passing traffic, a ‘spruiker’ can really draw a crowd. Spruikers are the people on the end of the microphone normally used to promote a sale within a store. Sometimes the spruiker will roam from one ‘red light special’ to another, driving the crowd into a buying frenzy.
Spruikers can be dressed in costume, amplified, animated on video screens or a combination of all, so long as they are good on a microphone and not afraid to interact with the public.
Before employing the services of a spruiker it is always a good idea to check local regulations, particularly if your business is in a shopping centre. There may be limitations on the amount of noise you can make.
One business I know of uses a spruiker to walk around the shopping centre handing out flyers. For an exercise they stopped the spruiker for one month and found that business dropped by 30 per cent. Obviously for this particular company it works and it is considered an essential component of the company’s marketing activity.
If you have never used a spruiker before and you are planning a big sale or promotion of some sort, give it some consideration. If you do use a spruiker try and compare figures to a similar sale held previously to determine if it works for your business.
A word of warning: some spruikers are shocking. Try to check them out first. If you get one back to your business and you have the unfortunate experience of finding they are scaring people or using the microphone to chat up passers-by, gently give them the rest of the day off.
7.Offer prizes in competitions
Charities and sporting clubs are always looking for businesses to donate prizes in the form of a sponsorship. Companies that donate goods or services are generally offered exposure in the form of publicity such as logos on promotional material.
When these requests arrive on the fax or over the phone most of us tend to classify them as a minor irritation rather than a marketing opportunity. It is time to retrain those thoughts.
Generally the person seeking sponsorship is after a service or product that your company sells. By donating this you are giving away something with a retail value that you only pay the cost price for. As long as the organisation can offer you good exposure (in writing) this is a good deal. As always, the more publicity the competition or event is promising, the better value you receive for your advertising dollar.
Quite often prizes that you donate are also tax deductible as an advertising expense.
The next time someone calls you asking for a prize or sponsorship, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the real cost of the prize that you will be donating?
- What publicity will you receive for participating?
- How many people will see your company name (approximately)?
- Can you reach this many people for the cost of the prize with conventional advertising?
Most of the time you will see that these types of sponsorships reach a lot of people, they make your business appear a part of the local community (which it should be) and they return good exposure for a very small outlay.
People love to win things. Most of us rarely win but when we do it’s a lot of fun. We live with the hope of winning, hence we buy lottery tickets, gamble at casinos, punt at the races and generally live in hope of winning the big one.
Try sitting down and putting a competition together to encourage people to use your business. There are a few guidelines to consider before embarking on this project:
- Check on gaming regulations to make sure that you can run a competition in your area.
- Make the prize something that you would want to win.
- Make it easy for people to enter.
- Let people enter as many times as they want to.
- Make certain that you promote the competition.
Competitions don’t necessarily have to offer huge prizes but they do need to be prizes that people would like to win. A friend of mine owns a country hotel. Every week she gives away a carton of beer and a meat tray in a raffle that is free to enter. This promotion costs her about $50 per week. One of the conditions of winning is that you have to be at the hotel when the prize is drawn somewhere between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on the Friday. As you can imagine the pub is crowded and the draw is a big part of the evening.
There is nothing to stop you giving away a prize every week and in some ways lots of small prizes can be better than one big one as you will end up with more happy winners. Quite often sponsors can be found who supply the prizes free of charge in return for the publicity.
Another added bonus of having a competition where people leave their name, telephone number and mailing address is that you now have a mailing list that can be used in direct marketing campaigns.
I have never been to a doctor’s surgery where they offer a free consultation as a prize or a mechanic where one lucky
TRY A FEW UNUSUAL IDEAS customer per week wins a car detailing or a free service and tune-up.
Be imaginative and remember that every person who enters the competition is a potential customer.
8.Get your business in the Guinness Book of Records
For those not familiar with the Guinness Book of Records it is basically the official record for all manner of facts and figures and outlandish feats. If you want to know anything about the biggest, largest, longest, fastest, heaviest or oldest of anything you will find what you are looking for in the Guinness Book of Records.
The publishers of this incredibly popular book travel the world to verify records and record attempts. While they cover all manner of natural phenomenon they also cover all forms of human craziness. If you can get a record into the Guinness Book of Records you are virtually guaranteed to get international press coverage.
A client of mine runs a pie making company. This company has been established for a long time and they are trying to sell their pies further afield. For a local promotion they held a free pie day where everyone who came to their bakery received a pie for free and in return they were asked for a gold coin for charity. They raised over $10 000 in one day, which I thought was a fantastic effort. They also received excellent exposure locally.
To get more national awareness they needed an idea that would be different. Hence I suggested making the world’s largest meat pie. After our initial research we discovered that to be a world record this pie would have to be over 6 metres in diameter (that’s a lot of pie). The size was not the real problem, but finding an oven large enough to fit the pie in was. At the time of writing this book the world’s largest pie was still on the drawing board but I have no doubt that it will become a reality that will be seen on television very soon. The pie company is planning to cut the world record pie up and sell pieces for charity. Once again everyone wins.
world record. The key is to use your imagination. I recently read about the world’s largest guacamole dip. There were a few tonnes of avocados involved and a truckload of corn chips.
One of the great things about making world record attempts is that suppliers are normally happy to get behind these kinds of promotions in return for some recognition.
But don’t feel you have to be limited to making something. World records are equally applicable to doing lots of things for long periods of time, such as dancing competitions. The best way to get a feel for the kind of records that you can attempt is to buy a copy of the Guinness Book of Records and start working your way through it. With a little bit of planning and good team effort you could be on the front of hundreds of newspapers around the world.
So how do you get in touch with the Guinness Book of Records? The best way is via their website at www.guinnessrecords.com
9.Use the local pizza company to generate business
An idea that I came across recently was a convenience store placing promotional flyers in pizza boxes being home delivered. The convenience store promoted their free home delivery service and the fact that they would also deliver a range of items including milk, pet food and alcohol. The convenience store paid the pizza shop per brochure delivered which helped to offset their costs. This idea is quite clever as you are already targeting a customer that is obviously comfortable with the idea of home delivery.
An extension of this idea is to actually print an advertisement on the pizza box. This helps offset the cost of producing the boxes for the pizza restaurant and it ensures that your message is passed on to prospective customers in your geographical region once again.
Talk to your local takeaway service and see what they say. These days many restaurants offer a home delivery service that you might be able to capitalise on. Perhaps this would be another opportunity for a joint venture promotion where you give out their flyers and they give out yours.
10.Take ownership of an event
An event is another name for the celebration of a special occasion of some sort. It can be anything including a wedding, a band in the park, a parade, a concert, a fair, a festival or any one of a thousand other special occasions.
Everyone thinks that to sponsor an event you need to be a major telecommunications company or an airline. This is not true. Once again, look at what big business does. Why do they sponsor events and competitions? Because they receive excellent exposure. The amount of publicity is relative to the value of the sponsorship.
Sponsoring an event can be anything from the local school fete through to the Olympic Games. If it is good enough for the Fortune 500 companies to sponsor events, why shouldn’t you?
The degree of sponsorship you contribute to an event could be anything from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. You may be offering sponsorship in the form of goods or services your business produces.
Look at the region you are trying to attract customers from and then look at what events are held periodically and, most importantly, advertised periodically. Send a letter to all of the local schools expressing your interest in sponsoring an event. In return you can offer cash, services or products to a level that will make you the major sponsor. In many instances this may only be a few hundred dollars. Be a bit cheeky and ask for naming rights so that the local beauty pageant now becomes your business name’s beauty pageant. For example, the local beauty pageant now becomes ‘Jan’s Salon Beauty Pageant’.
The exposure you can get from sponsoring events such as this is widespread. Not only are you a good business for supporting a local event but you also get mentioned in advertising for the event, signage at the event, in media releases for the event and on promotional material produced for the event.
So next time someone comes to talk to you about an event, have an open mind and look at all of the far-reaching benefits to your business compared to the minimal outlay required.
11.Think differently about marketing your business
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given (and passed on) is to look outside your own industry for marketing ideas. This may not sound like much of a marketing idea but believe me it is. If you spend all day focusing on what you do and what your competitors do and what your customers do, you can become very insular.
The end result of this is that all businesses within a particular industry start to look the same. For example, have a look at a few dental surgeries. They are all exactly the same. Car rental offices all look the same. Lawyers’ offices, doctors, chemists, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers all start to look the same. Is there anything wrong with this? Not really. However, if you look outside of your particular industry you may discover a world of marketing ideas that would work wonderfully for your business.
I experienced this first hand when I had a SCUBA diving shop many years ago. At the time there was a trend for dive shops to be absolutely full of gear, with a fish tank, an old fishing net on the wall with the mandatory plastic fish and crabs and a few pretty cool-looking dudes running the place with earrings and ponytails. My business was struggling. I was very young with absolutely no idea of how to run my own life let alone a business.
To cut a long story short I was desperate. One day a man pulled up in front of the store in a red Porsche. He came inside and introduced himself saying that a friend of mine recommended that he pay me a call. He offered to turn my business around for a flat fee of $5000 (at the time I would have been lucky to have five dollars). I politely said thanks but no thanks.
The months rolled by and business was going from bad to worse. In a bizarre turn of events I joined a lotto syndicate that was advertised in the paper and I won $5000. Rather than paying a few bills I called the guy who
had paid me a visit and said that I wanted his help as fast as possible. Of course after I paid him (cash up front I might add) I started to have deep reservations.
My new found saviour came to the shop and spent a few days hanging around and writing things down furiously. He didn’t say a word, he just observed. A week later he handed me a small document with a few pages of suggestions for what I should do to turn my business around. As I read through his recommendations my heart sank. His ideas and recommendations were crazy and I thought I was gone.
A few months later I was really on the verge of closing down. I pulled out the document that I had been given earlier and read through the recommendations. The main ones are listed below:
- halve the amount of stock that we carry;
- double the price of everything;
- paint the shop sky blue and hang artwork from the walls;
- introduce a 100 per cent money back guarantee on everything;
- get rid of the ponytails and earrings and put all staff in a suit and tie;
- start selling dive gear on finance;
- offer the absolute best service for everything we do; and
- offer SCUBA tank refills free of charge.
By this stage I had nothing left to lose so I did everything on his list. Basically I turned the store from a dive shop into a ‘dive boutique’. Our turnover tripled in the first month. The change was remarkable and I learned probably the most valuable lesson in my business life—the ability to look from the outside in at your business instead of from the inside out (like a goldfish).
Unfortunately I had partnership problems a few months later and the business ended up closing anyway but I knew
that it had been turned around. If only I had made the changes six months earlier (or perhaps not had partners).
Why did my business advisor’s strange recommendations work? Because he looked at the dive shop as a business, not as a dive shop. The suggestions he made were to fix up an ailing retail business, not an ailing dive shop. In short, he used his experience from all other industries to offer remedies to fix mine.
As a marketing consultant I always find it very easy to offer advice for ailing businesses because their problems are so clear to me. For the people that own these businesses, their days are spent balancing staff, customers, bank accounts, the kids and everything else. It is very difficult to be able to look objectively at what you are doing when you are in the middle of this madness. Hence it is sometimes easier to look at other businesses outside your own industry to see what they are doing and, most importantly, what they are doing well. Look for ideas that you can use and then adapt them to suit your business regardless of whether it is the industry norm. These ideas are not restricted to marketing ideas and they cover anything from the way you answer the phone to the way you serve customers.
By the way, I never saw Mr Red Porsche again and I never had the opportunity to thank him. If by some chance he is reading this I hope it brings a smile to his face.
12.Use industry publications to collect ideas
I subscribe to lots of magazines. It is often hard to find the time to read them all but when I do (normally once per month) I always find practical, helpful business ideas that I can use in my business.
One of the best magazines I receive every month is a specialist marketing magazine. It constantly provides me with a source of ideas to try with my customers and it keeps me informed about the industry as a whole.
Industry publications can contain the answers to many problems that you face on a day-to-day basis. For the minimal cost of a yearly subscription you can be updated on relevant information including access to surveys conducted by the publication and the industry. These surveys can often help you plan your marketing, giving answers to questions like:
- What age group buys my products?
- What is the most successful advertising medium for my product?
- What products are emerging as market leaders?
Other information that will prove invaluable includes consumer trends, new products and technology, information on overseas markets, general business advice, marketing tips, possible suppliers of new products etc.
There are few industries that do not have their own publications to specifically target areas of interest. Often it is simply a matter of tracking down the publication. Information is a powerful business and marketing tool. If you have better information than your competitors then you have the advantage. Subscribe today.
13.Start a marketing ideas box
I often find myself tearing advertisements out of newspapers and magazines, collecting junk mail that has caught my eye or rummaging through boxes of brochures that I have collected over the years. A while back I started to get sick of having all of this hoarded junk falling out of cupboards onto my head so I decided to throw it all away.
As I started to throw the offending material into the bin I discovered that I had a wealth of information including sample advertisements, brochures and marketing ideas that I thought were very, very well done. I culled the pile considerably and ended up with a box of material that has formed the basis of my marketing ideas box.
Whenever I am stuck for an idea I rummage through the box and invariably I will find an advertisement or a brochure that will suit my intended task perfectly. As I read the papers and magazines that work their way onto my desk I keep a pair of scissors handy to snip out a particularly effective or unusual advertisement or an article that may be of use later.
I hate to say this but if the house was on fire this box is the first thing that I would throw to the rescuing firefighters (much to my wife’s anger). This box stores all the information and ideas that don’t fit into my brain.
My advice to you is simple. Start a marketing ideas box today. Continually add to it and continually throw out the junk. If you find yourself buying something based on an advertisement or direct mail letter you received keep it, because if it worked on you, perhaps it can also work for you.
14.Take your message on the road with a mobile billboard
Local government restrictions can limit the size and location of signs in public places. Always consider this before putting any signs in high profile locations. Several years ago I built a mobile billboard. It was exactly the same size as a normal roadside billboard except that I could hook it up to the back of a four wheel drive and tow it all over the city. It was a very high profile advertising tool that I hired out for a daily rate of about $300. The billboard cost approximately $6000 to build so it soon paid for itself.
Now there are a number of companies offering this service. Mobile billboards are an accepted part of any outdoor advertising campaign.
You can always do this on a smaller scale by putting some signs on the side of your average box trailer and parking it near your business. As mentioned, local governments may not be happy about it but in most cases they cannot stop you from doing it. Remember a few points to avoid complaints—don’t block driveways or lines of sight on corners, park it out of the way after hours and if someone complains always move the sign.
I adopted these principles when hiring out my mobile billboard and I never had a single complaint. After I sold the business the new operator made a few mistakes. First, the new owner would leave the billboard unattended for days on end, often in public places, blocking lines of sight at intersections and traffic lights. The complaints started to roll in. The next mistake they made was during a promotion for a shopping centre. One centre was advertised on the billboard and the operators of the mobile sign then proceeded to park it in front of a competing centre. This resulted in a lot of complaints, as one would expect, and now the local government authorities will probably ban the mobile billboard operator.
The moral to the story is: if you are doing high profile advertising like a mobile billboard be courteous and considerate, otherwise it will be short-lived. On the upside, mobile billboards are high impact, very visual and relatively inexpensive.