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02 October 2023 • Resources

Outrageous marketing: 13 Examples of crazy campaign ideas + tips

Outrageous marketing: 13 Examples of crazy campaign ideas + tips

When it comes to standing out in a sea of competition to promote your product or service and pique internet users' curiosity, sometimes it's not enough for you to think outside the box—you may need to shatter the box entirely!

Welcome to the world of outrageous marketing, where unconventional, audacious, and sometimes downright crazy ideas leave a lasting impact on audiences. In this article, we're diving deep into the realm of marketing campaigns that defied convention and went viral for all the right reasons.

From guerrilla marketing stunts that had the whole world talking to bizarrely brilliant ad campaigns that left consumers both puzzled and delighted, we'll explore how audacity and creativity combined to drive unparalleled success. These examples showcase that, in an age of information overload, it takes a unique approach to capture attention, spark conversations, and ultimately achieve marketing goals.

So, whether you're an aspiring marketer seeking inspiration or simply intrigued by the wild and unexpected side of advertising, fasten your seatbelts. We're about to embark on a thrilling journey through some of the most outrageous marketing ideas that not only turned heads but also redefined the rules of the game.

Top examples of successful outrageous marketing campaigns

Launching an unusual campaign always comes at a risk, with some businesses faring better than others with their chosen strategies. Read on to learn about some stories of brands that were rewarded by their out-of-the-box thinking!

Burger King's "The Moldy Whopper" campaign (2020) 

Burger King unveiled an unconventional ad featuring a moldy Whopper to emphasize its commitment to removing artificial preservatives from its food. The shocking visual of a decaying burger aimed to convey the message of using only real ingredients. While it was a risky move, it generated extensive media coverage and discussions around food quality and freshness.

burger king moldy whopper

Source: USA Today

Virgin America's "First Class Shoe" (2016)

Virgin America's "First Class Shoe" campaign aimed to promote its first-class cabins and amenities. These limited-edition high-top sneakers featured innovative elements like a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, video display, USB charger, mood lighting, and a seat buckle. 

While they weren't a mainstream product, they garnered widespread attention on news sites and social media, emphasizing Virgin America's commitment to innovation and comfort in air travel. The sneakers were auctioned on eBay and fetched an impressive $97,877.77. Every dollar of the proceeds went to the charity Soles 4 Souls.

Popeyes' chicken sandwich Twitter feud (2019)

Popeyes sparked a Twitter feud with rival Chick-fil-A over their chicken sandwiches, with other fast-food franchises chiming in at times as well. The funny exchanges went viral, leading to massive engagement on social networks and heightened interest in Popeyes' own chicken sandwich, which sold out in many locations due to the increased demand.

Salesforce's mock protest (2011)

During Salesforce's quick ascent to a multi-billion-dollar company, founder Marc Benioff emphasized experiential marketing.

In one memorable move, during its early days, Salesforce boycotted its competitor Siebel Systems's annual conference at Moscone Center, deeming their traditional software obsolete. Salesforce staged a mock protest, even enlisting a fake TV crew that attracted real TV crews, amplifying the unconventional marketing stunt's impact.

salesforce fake protest

Source: Salesforce

IHOP's temporary name change to IHOb (2018)

IHOP (International House of Pancakes) is well known by its customer base for serving a variety of American breakfast dishes all day long. When the restaurant chain decided to branch out with new options on the menu, the company sought out a way to get the word out to consumers.

In a bold and playful stunt, IHOP temporarily changed its name to IHOb (International House of Burgers) to promote its new line of hamburgers. This move generated widespread buzz on social networks and conversations, drawing attention to the chain's expanded menu offerings.

Red Bull's Stratos space jump (2012) 

Red Bull sponsored Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking free fall from the stratosphere. The live-streamed event not only showcased Red Bull's "gives you wings" slogan but also achieved massive online and media attention, reinforcing Red Bull's image as an energy drink for daredevils.

Squatty Potty's legendary unicorn (2015)

While the Squatty Potty, designed to aid posture during bowel movements, may not seem glamorous, its marketing strategy was anything but ordinary. Their viral video featured a memorable unicorn producing rainbow soft-serve ice cream, striking a humorous and original chord.

This quirky ad resonated with audiences, amassing millions of views and a significant sales boost. Squatty Potty transformed from a niche product into a well-known brand by embracing humor to focus on a precarious topic.

Dollar Shave Club's "Our Blades Are F***ing Great" (2012)

Dollar Shave Club's founder, Michael Dubin, starred in a low-budget, irreverent video introducing the subscription service. The video went viral, driving millions of views and subscribers, disrupting the shaving industry, and leading to a successful acquisition by Unilever.

Adobe Stock Apparel (2016)

Marketers everywhere are all too familiar with the frustration of sifting through countless subpar stock photos in search of one that isn't cringe-worthy. To promote Adobe Stock, Adobe's new stock photo service, the company collaborated with the Swedish agency Abby Priest to create a humorous line of clothing for men and women, showcasing outdated and overused stock photos. 

adobe stock apparel

Source: Adobe

Skittles's "Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical" (2019)

The Super Bowl is crucial for advertising because it offers a massive and highly engaged viewership, making it an unparalleled platform to showcase creative and high-impact marketing campaigns to a vast audience. However, advertising time during this annual event comes at a premium price.

Skittles broke tradition by creating a full-length musical instead of a costly Super Bowl ad. This musical playfully mocked the advertising industry by portraying a world where marketing manipulates lives. Characters within the musical openly criticized how ads invaded their existence, humorously living in a giant Skittles commercial, delivering a satirical commentary on advertising's influence.

Blendtec's "Will It Blend?" series (2006-2020)

Blendtec, known for its blenders, launched a campaign where they blended unconventional items, everything from iPhones to golf balls, a Rubik's Cube, and more, to showcase the device's strength. Dubbed the "Will It Blend?" series, this bizarre and funny content went viral, amassing millions of views and a devoted fan base.

The ads conveyed the blender's durability and performance, while offering a unique and memorable consumer engagement. Blendtec's market share soared, solidifying its position as a leader in its industry.

Tips to review to use the power of outrageous marketing effectively

While the examples mentioned above were all from companies who all likely had large amounts of money to spend, you don't need loads of money to get crazy with your next campaign! 

Although most small or medium-sized businesses won't have the budgets to, for example, book famous stars to advertise their offerings, knowing how to tell a story in an unconventional manner can often be just as effective.

Using outrageous marketing can be a bold and attention-grabbing way to promote your business's products or services. That being said, it's essential to strike a balance between being outrageous and maintaining brand integrity. Here are some tips to help you make the most of this strategy!

Understand your audience

Outrageous marketing should resonate with your target audience to be effective. To connect with them, delve into their demographics, preferences, and pain points. Tailor your approach to what resonates with the people who make up your customer base, ensuring that your out-of-the-box message aligns with their sensibilities and values

This insight helps you craft a message that captures attention, incites curiosity, and drives engagement, increasing the likelihood of your campaign being well-received and achieving its intended impact.

Define your brand personality

Verify that your crazy marketing campaign aligns with your brand's personality and values. This foundation guides the tone and style of your outrageous campaigns, ensuring they remain authentic and consistent with your business's image.

Whether it's bold, irreverent, or humorous, aligning your outrageous messaging with your brand personality fosters trust and recognition, preventing your marketing efforts from feeling forced or disconnected, and helping your audience relate to and engage with your message.

Remember that creativity matters

Embrace creativity and originality to stand out. Think outside the box and push the boundaries of traditional marketing.

Creative campaigns have the power to captivate audiences, spark conversations, and go viral. They break through the noise and leave a lasting impression. 

Prioritize inventive ideas that not only shock and surprise but also resonate with your target audience, ensuring your business remains memorable and relevant in the ever-evolving marketing landscape.

Shock with purpose

Shock value should serve a purpose. It's not about being shocking for its own sake but using that shock factor to grab attention, communicate a meaningful message, or prompt a specific action from your audience.

When you shock with purpose, you create a memorable and impactful campaign that stands out, resonates with your audience, and ultimately drives the desired outcomes for your business.

Use humor wisely to prevent outrage

Humor can be a powerful tool to engage your audience, but it can also risk alienating or offending people if done poorly. It's therefore best to ensure that the humor aligns with your target audience's sensibilities, avoids controversial or sensitive topics, and doesn't undermine your business's integrity.

When used judiciously and with sensitivity, humor can enhance the appeal and memorability of your outrageous marketing campaigns.

Harness controversy

Harnessing controversy in outrageous marketing requires a delicate approach. It involves strategically addressing polarizing topics or taking bold stances that align with your brand's values.

However, it's essential to thoroughly research and understand the potential consequences and public sentiment surrounding the issue. Your stance should be authentic and well reasoned, as this can spark debates and conversations that draw attention to your campaign. 

Embrace virality

Embracing virality means creating content that's highly shareable and likely to go viral on social networks and other platforms. Craft campaigns that tap into current trends, capitalize on pop culture, or provoke conversations.

Encourage user participation and sharing through creative calls to action, contests, or challenges. Virality amplifies the reach of your outrageous message, expanding its impact and engagement, making it a powerful strategy to boost visibility and recognition for your business.

Test the waters

Consider starting with smaller, controlled campaigns to gauge audience reactions and minimize risks before going all-in. Taking this step allows you to assess the potential impact and reception of your audacious ideas without committing to a large-scale effort.

By monitoring initial feedback and adjusting your approach accordingly, you can best refine your strategy and make sure that it aligns better with the people in your target audience, reducing the chances of unintended negative consequences in larger campaigns.

Stay legal

It's essential that you take the time to check that your campaigns comply with all relevant laws and regulations to avoid legal repercussions and damage to your reputation. Comply with all applicable laws and regulations governing advertising, consumer protection, and intellectual property.

Avoid deceptive practices, false claims, or infringing on copyrights and trademarks. Carefully review content for compliance and consult with legal experts when necessary.

Operating within legal boundaries ensures that your promotion efforts remain a creative and attention-grabbing strategy without crossing into unethical or unlawful territory.

Monitor feedback

Keeping a close eye on feedback is essential for assessing the impact of your campaign. Regularly track social media, online discussions, and customer responses to gauge audience sentiment and reactions. 

Analyze data, including likes, shares, comments, and website traffic, to measure engagement and effectiveness. Be prepared to adapt and refine your strategy based on feedback, addressing concerns or capitalizing on positive responses.

Active monitoring allows you to stay agile and responsive, ensuring your outrageous marketing efforts align better with your audience's expectations and preferences.

Prepare for backlash

It's important to recognize that pushing boundaries may lead to controversy, criticism, or public backlash. Be ready to respond calmly and professionally to criticism, engage in constructive dialogue, and, if necessary, make amends.

A well-thought-out response strategy helps mitigate damage to your business's reputation and may even turn negative attention into an opportunity for growth and learning.

Measure success

Define clear key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your campaign, such as website traffic, sales, or engagement with users on social networks. Setting specific goals and tracking metrics will allow you to objectively assess whether your crazy campaign has achieved its intended results. 

This data-driven approach helps you refine future campaigns, optimize your messaging, and ensure that your audacious efforts contribute to your overall marketing objectives.

Have an exit strategy

Having an exit strategy is about knowing when to transition to a more conventional approach. Once your campaign has achieved its objectives or risks overexposure or backlash, be prepared to pivot.

Gradually shift towards a less provocative strategy, ensuring that your brand maintains its integrity and doesn't become solely associated with outrageous antics. This approach allows you to evolve and adapt while preventing your business from becoming one-dimensional or losing credibility in the long term.

Outrageous marketing tactics: Effective ways to promote products

In the world of marketing, the power of outrageousness cannot be underestimated. As we've explored various examples of outrageous marketing, it's evident that pushing the boundaries of creativity, humor, and unconventional thinking can yield remarkable results.

Outrageous marketing captures attention, sparks conversations, and goes viral, effectively breaking through the clutter of traditional advertising. By embracing the unexpected, brands can not only leave a lasting impression but also transform their image, engage audiences, and ultimately, achieve their marketing objectives in a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape.

Remember that outrageous marketing can be a high-risk, high-reward strategy. It can generate significant attention and buzz, but it also carries the potential for negative consequences. The secret is to always prioritize brand reputation and ethical considerations while pushing boundaries to stand out in the market!

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