5 Clever Marketing Campaigns That Cost Next to Nothing

April 23, 2021


Justin Kerby

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Clever Marketing Campaign Examples

If we learned one thing from the amazing run put on by Jeopardy James, it’s that the best kind of wager is low risk, high reward.

Businesses should think the same way when it comes to their marketing. Low risk, high reward marketing is how some of the best brands stay relevant. These initiatives take time to put together, and obviously, time isn’t free, but in terms of promotion dollars campaigns that cost next to nothing can help brands maximize their reach and minimize their budget at the same time.

When it comes to growing your business, low cost, high reward marketing should always be on your mind. We recommend devoting some time every month to come up with ideas that could amplify your brand without costing you a fortune. The problem is, where do you begin?

One of the best ways to get your creative juices flowing is to analyze some of the past successes of the world’s best brands. When you investigate how they conduct their most successful campaigns, you’re sure to draw some ideas for promoting your own brand.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most clever marketing campaigns from the last few years. Then get your pen and paper out and see if you can drum up some new clever marketing ideas for your own business.

1. The Great Burger King Mystery

Clever marketing because it leveraged another audience

Casey Neistat is one of the biggest celebrities online. His YouTube channel has over 11 million subscribers, and each video he publishes reaches millions of viewers.

On January 23, 2019, he took to Twitter to try to solve a mystery.

Why was Burger King liking his tweets from 2010?

clever marketing examples

Verified accounts on Twitter can be notified when other verified accounts interact with them, and Burger King clearly got Neistat’s attention.

It left him, and the hundreds of thousands of people who saw his tweet, perplexed.

And it wasn’t just Neistat. Burger King also liked other online influencer’s tweets, including Brant Daugherty and Nadeshot, who also tweeted about the confusion.

The story went, for the lack of a better word, viral.

News outlets picked it up, YouTube creators made videos about it, and thousands of people tweeted about it. Everyone was dying to know: why?!?!

Eventually, the internet got the answer it was looking for.

great marketing examples

This is the definition of clever marketing, but the story doesn’t end here.

Neistat created a video titled “EXPLOITED BY BURGER KING” and directed the video at the social media agency working on behalf of Burger King. He brought his viewers up to speed on the mystery and asked Burger King to make it right. He suggested Burger King make a donation to the two charities he supports: The Boys and Girls Club and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which they happily contributed to (by the way, Neistat made yet another video praising them for doing so where they reached another 2.6 million people).

Almost 3 million people watched the original video, where Neistat admitted: the stunt was pretty genius. He also suggested that whoever came up with the idea should get a big raise.

Millions learned that Burger King was bringing back funnel cake fries, and the campaign cost Burger King less than an order of funnel cake fries (donations aside). Brilliant marketing.

2. Detective Pikachu is a Troll

Clever marketing because it grabbed attention

We saw a great example of low cost, high reward marketing last month from Warner Brothers in their effort to promote Pokemon: Detective Pikachu.

Warner Brothers had lots of inactive YouTube and Twitter accounts and decided to test out a very low-risk marketing campaign. They created a video titled “Detective Pikachu: Full Picture” and posted it on YouTube three days before the movie premiered.

They also had Ryan Reynolds, the star of the movie and voice of Pikachu, tweet out the link and announce that the movie had been leaked.

clever marketing campaigns that worked

The video, of course, wasn’t actually the 1 hour and 42-minute long full motion picture, but a Rick-Roll-esque 2 hour video of Pikachu dancing after a pretty convincing opening sequence.

The video garnered 22 million views on YouTube and received 100,000+ likes on Twitter.

This entire idea cost next to nothing – not a dollar was spent in paid promotion, and if the idea flopped and no one watched the video, nothing was lost. Extremely clever marketing from the Detective Pikachu team here.

It turned out that there was a lot to gain, however. Millions of viewers watched and shared the video 3 days before the premiere, which is exactly what Warner Brothers would typically spend thousands of dollars on in the form of TV spots.

Take a lesson from Pikachu. When you have the opportunity to run a low risk, high reward campaign, don’t be afraid to experiment.

3. Straight Outta Memes

Clever marketing by design

In 2018 digital ads represented only 14% of movie advertising budgets, even though digital has been shown to drive 46% of revenue. This campaign from Beats By Dre is a great example of how movies and brands can work together. When Beats by Dre needed to promote their products, they looked to the release of “Straight Outta Compton” and focused on digital. They didn’t sink their entire budget into a digital channel, though. They got clever.

To promote the brand, they decided to create a simple widget that was low cost, high reward. The idea was to get social media users to create their own content and share it across their networks.

The meme generator they created allowed users to fill in the blank for the phrase “Straight Outta [insert caption]”.

Here’s a look at a few of the gems users created with the meme generator.

straight outta compton marketing
straight outta compton marketing campaign
ideas for low cost marketing

All of these images drew attention to the Beats By Dre brand and the movie release, generating a ton of buzz for Straight Outta Compton. The cost was low to create the widget, and the rewards were huge, with millions seeing the memes shared.

4. Fearless Girl

Clever marketing that took a stand

On the eve of International Women’s Day in 2017, Wall Street received a new look that took the world by storm.

State Street Global Advisors, which manages $2.5 trillion in assets, generated a ton of press coverage by siding with demonstrators and placing a statue at the site of the famous Charging Bull in New York City. The statue they placed, dubbed “The Fearless Girl”, was created by artist Kristen Visbal and served as a powerful reminder that women are grossly underrepresented on the boards of companies.

fearless girl marketing campaign

State Street’s clever marketing campaign was a huge success. They followed it up by sending letters to thousands of companies that comprise the Russel 3000 Index, asking them to take action and increase the diversity on their boards.

The New York Times, Washington Post, and nearly every other major news outlet picked up on the story and shared the images across their channels. This generated a news cycle that highlighted State Street’s product, an index fund comprised of gender-diverse companies that have a relatively high percentage of women among their senior leadership.

While the statue was relocated in 2018, it’s commissioning was wildly successful as a marketing campaign for State Street, and all it cost was the creation of a statue.

5. Nuggs for Carter

Clever marketing because it had nothing to lose

In April 2017, Carter Wilkerson had a simple question for Wendy’s. How many retweets would it take for him to get free nuggets for one year?

Wendy’s took full advantage of this question. A 10 character tweet – which may be the lowest cost marketing activity of any of the examples on this list – sent them viral.

“18 Million” was their response.

From here, the internet did its magic. Carter’s tweet was shared millions of times on Twitter, and the viral stunt was picked up by all of the major news outlets in the US.

clever marketing campaigns

If no one retweeted this tweet, Wendy’s was out nothing but 10 characters – that’s what made it such a clever marketing campaign. Since Twitter replies aren’t often seen by users, they had nothing to lose. But what happened garnered Wendy’s a huge increase in social followers and brand impressions that would normally cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s a great example of the power of social media, and the importance of having your brand managed by a creative, responsive team.

These five marketing campaigns all have two things in common: they had very little costs associated with them, and the rewards were massive. They’re great examples of what a little creativity can do to amplify your brand’s message.

What are your favorite low cost, high reward marketing campaigns? Follow us on Facebook for more marketing insights. If you need help setting up a marketing plan, contact us today.

Written by

Justin Kerby

Justin is the founder of Something Great Marketing, leading our Vancouver marketing agency. He specializes in content strategy, website design, and branding.

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