In order to scale your company to the heights you’ve imagined, you need to invest in marketing endeavours. However, when you’ve just launched your business, it’s safe to assume that you’re working with a modest budget.
The good news is that you don’t need to match Chanel No. 5’s record breaking $33 million campaign in 2004, where Nicole Kidman was paid $3 million for the “mini-film” TV ad. You can still achieve significant results through effective, creative marketing that will engage users and build your brand name, while respecting your budget.
4 Examples and Their Takeaways
When it comes to marketing, you would think that the bigger the brand, the more they spend. Although this is often the case, there are some instances when established companies use comparatively small budgets for specific campaigns. Here are a few:
1. McDonald’s (Canada)
One of McDonald’s marketing campaigns was to answer consumer questions about the quality and safety of its food products via social media.
Despite having assets worth over $34 billion and the capacity to execute big budget marketing campaigns, this particular strategy by McDonald’s Canada proved to be very effective in engaging customers and was inexpensive to run.
Almost 20,000 questions were asked and McDonald’s attempted to answer each one, no matter how cynical or speculative it may have been.
The Takeaway: BE HONEST
McDonald’s used this campaign to not only interact with customers, but to also shed some light on pressing issues, such as customers’ health in relation to their product consumption. This transparency helped to build trust amongst McDonald’s consumers; an enlightened customer may be more likely to consume McDonald’s products in comparison to the cynical one.
For example, one audience member submitted the question: “Why should I eat anything with Dimethylpolysiloxane in it?”
Most brands would be eager to sidestep such a question in the fear of damaging their image. But the timely responses offered by McDonald’s in this campaign proved to be effective by using a platform to give detailed answers that educated its customers, thus highlighting their concern for their customers’ well being.
McDonald’s answered the above question in an informative, yet conversational, tone. They explained that Dimethylpolysiloxane is a World Health Organization approved, non-toxic additive that is used to prevent hot oil from foaming over and potentially burning workers. They ended the response by directing the reader to its ‘food-facts’ page in order to promote more of its transparency.
If you’re working with a tight budget, you could create a similar platform for customers to ask questions. You can upload a request on your Facebook page or direct Instagram users to a link on your website where you accept questions. You could also answer them via video recordings so that customers can see you and hear your voice for added credibility.
2. Acclaim Entertainment
In 2002, U.S. video game developer Acclaim Entertainment offered a $10,000 reward to anyone that named their child after Turok—the lead character in the brand’s latest game.
This peculiar request resulted in a lot of publicity and gained the game, Turok: Evolution, a lot of customer attention.
The Takeaway: BE DARING
Acclaim Entertainment truly “thought outside the box” with this marketing strategy and saved a lot of money, even though they offered a substantial financial reward. No production or or overhead costs were involved—just a little bravery.
This happened in 2002, before the social media explosion. The number of people they could attract with the appropriate use of hashtags and Twitter handles could easily double if implemented today.
You could take advantage of the many social media platforms available by adopting a similar, inexpensive marketing strategy. Ask users to upload a short video of them singing, “I love [your product name here],” on Twitter and Facebook, or to send you a link of their YouTube upload. You can reward the best uploader with a free product or a cash reward (cash rewards are more likely to gain people’s attention!). You could always up the ante by asking customers to say something slightly more “headline-worthy”. Consider the success of the charity-driven “ice-bucket” challenge.
Acclaim Entertainment managed to infuse a little shock value with their tactic and it worked wonders.
Note: Although your ultimate goal is to find daring ways to get people’s attention, be sure not to push the boundaries so far that it’s offensive. Acclaim Entertainment found this out the hard way when they asked families to advertise their latest product on their loved ones’ headstones. Both the public and media were quick to criticize the company for this tactic, which led to a hasty retraction from Acclaim Entertainment. However, the damage to their reputation had been done and Acclaim Entertainment filed for bankruptcy in 2004.
Kmart is a chain of discounted department stores with heavyweight competition from Walmart and Target. Such strong competition meant that Kmart needed to look at creative ways to bolster their marketing strategies without digging too deep into their wallets.
Kmart created their “Ship My Pants” commercial, which became wildly popular. In about a week, Kmart’s 30-second “Ship My Pants” spot received over 13 million views online. It was effective, not because of the budget of the commercial, but because of the catchy play on words, which costed nothing to implement but a few creative brain cells!
The Takeaway: BE CREATIVE
The creative decision to go with such a contemporarily quirky catchphrase was ingenious. Also, the commercial helped Kmart to develop a distinct brand character that is personable and current; something a lot of today’s consumers can relate to.
Take a similar approach by being creative with your next marketing product. If you’re looking to spend a significant amount of your marketing’s budget on a commercial (radio or TV), consider using a creative play on words or a catchy slogan. Hire a creative team who could transform your campaign into a well-crafted piece. And you never know; it may just go viral.
Kmart followed the success of “Ship My Pants” with the equally clever and effective “Big Gas Savings,” perpetuating their brand’s character.
Next-gen taxi services have been increasing steadily over the past few years. With such a booming industry, it’s important to stand out however you can.
Lyft took the relatively inexpensive decision to decorate each of its vehicles with a fuzzy pink moustache that is instantly recognizable. It’s proven to be very effective, with the company seeing rapid growth recently. Since its launch in 2012, Lyft now operates in over 200 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and New York.
The Takeaway: BE CONSPICUOUS
In a crowded marketplace, the company that stands out brightest, stands out loudest. Lyft is a prime example of that with its instantly recognizable “outfit,” turning its sales into favorable readings. In fact, after only four years of being in business, Lyft now has a valuation of $2.5 billion. And the bright pink moustaches cost just a fraction of what the company is valued at, making this particular marketing decision a very shrewd one.
If your company is lacking an instantly recognizable logo, then you should consider brainstorming a few ideas before parting ways with huge sums of money for marketing.
For example, if you run a small brick and mortar business, you could have your staff wear memorable, conspicuous uniforms that grab customers’ attention. You’ll be surprised how fast and far word-of-mouth can travel. If Lyft did not dress each vehicle with its distinct, quirky moustache, it would have lost one of its differentiating factors from every other vehicle hiring service.
Find ways in which you can stand out from your competition, whether it’s through visual means or by providing some pioneering offers for your products.
The most important thing to remember when you’re trying to achieve big marketing results with small budgets, is that you have to be innovative with your ideas. Bigger budgets allow you to advertise on a larger scale or stretch print campaigns for several months, but smaller budgets mean you have to really get those creative juices flowing and find ways in which you can still be effective.
No matter how shallow your pockets may be, always think big.