Marketing Bootcamp

3 High-Risk Marketing Campaigns That Amazed Everybody by Working

The Internet enables marketers to promote their products and services to millions of consumers around the world. At the same time, it exposes brands to vocal and widespread criticism each time a company does anything remotely wrong.

Bold marketing attempts can quickly blow up in a business’s face. But there is still a number of brave marketers who know how to tactfully execute unconventional campaigns. Here are three anecdotes about companies that took large risks, all for the glory. In the end, they each elevated the overall standard of marketing and won over customers thanks to gutsy marketing.

1. Bathroom humor.

On July 30, 2014, Charmin declared, “While they're out guarding the galaxy, we'll take care of Uranus. #astronomy #tweetfromtheseat.” The tweet quickly spread throughout the Twitterverse. To-date, it has generated nearly 3,000 retweets. Its timing was impeccable, as it was sent out less than a week after the box office blockbuster Guardians for the Galaxy hit theaters.

Toilet jokes rarely turn out well. Despite those odds, Charmin executed this witty post in fewer than 140 characters only to receive praise for its work. While still nowhere near as popular as Oreo’s famous “dunk in the dark” tweet, Charmin’s Uranus quip is a textbook example of how brands can riff on popular culture and delight consumers.

To do the same, businesses do not necessarily need to wait for opportune moments like the next Super Bowl blackout or a newly released box office hit. In an interview with The Drum, Twitter’s UK Managing Director Bruce Daisley suggested that on social media, every-day moments were most neglected by brands. Daisley said, “Can you plan for these things? No you can't but you can build your capabilities and your real-time mindset to try to take advantage of them happening.”

By leveraging muscle memory, companies can craft brilliant and share worthy social posts while topics are still freshly trending.

Related: Top 10 Successful Marketing Stunts

2. Shock value.

Hearing the unabashed sales pitch, “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” would stop anyone in their tracks. It is that sort of audacity that helped Dollar Shave Club’s video go viral in the first place. With more than 18 million views, this is a classic case of a marketing campaign that could have gone really wrong but went really right.

While the video’s virality can be attributed to its funny and self-deprecating tone or even its use of expletives to get attention, one lesser-known secret to its success was a strategic launch date. The 94-second clip was released alongside the fledgling startup’s funding announcement. Having just raised $1 million from top investors in Silicon Valley, Dollar Shave Club was freshly in the limelight when the video first appeared on YouTube.

For marketers, it is important to remember that there are no silver bullets. The best campaigns tend to build off of earlier successes or momentum and are part of an integrated marketing strategy. One-hit wonders fall to the wayside quick, so brands that actively pursue a second windfall will have more staying power.

Related: How a Dollar Shave Club's Ad Went Viral

3. Sponsoring smut.

Porn is taboo, yet one brand decided to go “where no marketing team has gone before.” EAT24, a food delivery service, brazenly advertised on adult websites and let the world know what it did.

Most companies would hate to be associated with smut and those that are would never admit the connection. But EAT24 proudly flaunted its online ordering app in front of tens of thousands of -- ahem -- hungry Americans who happily clicked its ads.

The superb results are enviable. According to EAT24, the ads received three times the impressions earlier campaigns received on other channels and came at a tenth the cost per thousand views. Furthermore, app downloads and orders spiked when the creatives ran, and average order values were higher than ever.

If adult content is still banned from your marketing playbook, you can still follow in EAT24’s footsteps and look for advertising opportunities on relatively unchartered territory where brand competition won’t drive up prices and new customers are plenty.

Related: 5 Common Strategic Mistakes to Avoid When Using AdWords