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Risky Business

Wacky marketing moves put these businesses on the map.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the August 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Pulling a wild marketing stunt is a risk that can pay off. "Controversy is a well-tried and trusted mechanism for brand building," says Simon Williams, founder of brand consultancy Sterling Group in New York City. "It [can be] an integral part of the brand's DNA."

  • When Cary Williams Nunez wanted press for Prime Time LLC, which she owns with husband Angelo, she competed on the TV show Fear Factor.
  • Williams Nunez lost, and any mention of her Sacramento, California-based boxing and fitness facility was edited out, but local radio stations and The Sacramento Bee interviewed her. She said revenue increased 35 to 40 percent, and she still gets calls from folks who had seen, read or heard about her experience. The couple opened a second location and began franchising, but Williams Nunez isn't done. "I hate to say it, but sex sells," says Williams Nunez, 32, who's touting the business with a bikini layout in lad mag FHM's June issue. Fear Factor has also invited Williams Nunez and Angelo, 37, to appear in their "couple's edition;" they've yet to accept.
  • Running against a bodybuilder-turned-movie star and a former child actor, the founders of Butt Monkey Beer weren't the most shocking candidates in last fall's California governor re-election race.
  • Not intent on winning, but rather taking an opportunity to gain interest, Kelly Kimball and Scott Mednick are serious entrepreneurs. Kimball, 46, founded a tech firm, and Mednick, 48, started many marketing companies before launching their Calabasas, California, brewing and apparel company, Primate Partners, in 2003. Primate fielded beer requests worldwide after newspapers around the globe wrote about their antics. The partners say the gubernatorial campaign created PR value of about $3 million and has gained interest among distributors and investors for the March 2005 rollout.
  • When Mark Hughes found Halfway, Oregon, on the map, he convinced the town (for a fee) to change its name to name of the Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, startup where he was vice president of marketing.
  • Despite the uproar his proposal caused in the town, the deal was sealed on January 18, 2000. The next day, the site launched with a flurry of media interest, including a segment on the Today show. With about 5,000 paying customers that first day, online retailer-caught the eye of eBay, which purchased it for more than $300 million. Hughes recently left to start alternative marketing venture, where he has yet another wacky marketing stunt in the works.

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