4 Risky Marketing Ideas That Paid Off

When was the last time your business took a risk?


In the marketing world, it often pays to take risks. But many marketers and entrepreneurs are intimidated at the idea of taking a bold action. That's reasonable cause for reluctance, especially for new businesses with limited experience or limited resources with which to fund a campaign.

Related: 5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Risk-Taking

However, risk-taking is vitally important if you want your marketing strategies to pay off in the long term; and countless brand examples are proof.

Why risk-taking Is important

First, let's take a look at some of the reasons why risk taking is important in marketing in the first place:

  • Distinguish yourself. One of the most important considerations for any marketing campaign is how you're going to stand out from the competition and become more visible to your customers. Without that distinction, your campaign won't generate enough visibility or recognition to be effective. Taking a risk automatically distinguishes you -- if for no other reason than the fact that so few others have taken this risk.
  • Break plateaus. Taking risks also allows you to break through the plateaus of your marketing initiatives. When you rely on the same old marketing strategies, over and over, you're going to see the same results, over and over. This is safe, and it might even give you a decent return, but it won't allow you to live up to your full potential.
  • Encourage loyalty. Many marketers fear taking risks because those risks might polarize their audiences, but this polarization can actually be a good thing. You might end up alienating some portion of your audience with your risks, but the portion that remains may be much more loyal to you as a result -- and that can often be well worth the tradeoff.

Examples of Risk-taking success

Consider the following brands, which took major risks and saw some huge payoffs:

1. Domino's changes everything.

Domino's pizza pivoted hard a few years ago when it decided to change everything about its pizza -- and its image. To do this, the company completely upgraded its product line, using new ingredients and new recipes to appeal to a new crowd. More importantly, Domino's chose to criticize and even make fun of its old products, referring to its earlier crust as "cardboard." That self-deprecating move was a bold one that really paid off for the brand.

Related: 3 Ways Companies Can Encourage Smart Risk-Taking

2. Uber capitalizes on stunts.

Uber's advertising campaign has been unconventional from the start. The company is known for pulling stunts, often related to holidays and celebrations, which increase the visibility and even the functionality of its car service app. For example, the company celebrates National Ice Cream Month with a strange, specialized "ice cream service" that delivers ice cream to customers. It's a risky move, because it's an entirely new service, but at the same time, it's generated tons of new visibility.

3. Dove's 'real beauty' campaign.

In retrospect, this seems like a brilliant marketing move -- but at the time, it was a major risk to take. Back in 2006, Dove launched its Evolution video, prompting a series of follow-up advertisements that explored the notion of "real" beauty by rejecting the physical standards of female models in skincare, clothing and other advertising.

Instead, Dove chose to feature women who reflected more realistic "average" body types, ethnicities, ages and demographics. Today, this commitment to real beauty is indistinguishable from the Dove brand, and a powerful part of its rhetoric, but in the planning stages, there was no way to tell whether this would blow up or fizzle out.

4. LEGO does more than Legos.

LEGO bricks are a simple toy; you piece together the plastic bricks to build unique creations. This is the basic concept that's kept the company going for decades -- but within the last decade or so, the LEGO brand has become much more than that. LEGO has secured licenses for many popular franchises, including Star Wars and Marvel, and has used this to turn its once-limited toy brand into a full-fledged entertainment empire.

There are now dozens of Lego video games, many of which have earned fantastic reviews. There's The Lego Movie, which grossed almost $470 million. And there are many more movies and video games in the pipeline. This change in direction was a bold venture for the company, and it definitely worked out.

Related: 4 Steps to Taking Calculated Risks That Move Your Business Forward

How to get started.

Even seeing these examples, you'll likely be reluctant to take more risks in your marketing campaign. After all, you probably have some set strategies that you know work well -- at least to an extent. But if you want to challenge yourself and achieve even better, higher-reaching results, challenge yourself to take a risk -- and see what happens.

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