Coming up with truly creative marketing ideas and campaigns is an art form; understanding the best way to execute them is a science.
But something I’m sure I’m not alone on is that the “creative” part of “creative marketing” isn’t always a straightforward process.
Coming up with fresh new ideas isn’t always easy and, sooner or later, even the best marketers in the world will hit a creative wall.
Typically, they find themselves unable to figure out the best way to introduce their brand to new customers and improve brand loyalty among existing customers.
Creative Marketing Ideas You Can Steal
Never fear though! I’ve always found that the best way to pull yourself out of a creative slump is to take a step back and take your cues from the best marketers in the game.
To get those creative juices flowing again, we’ve got six creative marketing ideas virtually any business can use to explode their brand awareness, engage their audience, and drive business growth.
Let’s get into it!
- Get Into the Education Space
- Engage Your Audience Directly With a Pop-Up Experience
- Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign
- Turn Gatekeepers Into Brand Advocates
- Encourage Employees To Become Advocates, Too
- Hack The News Cycle
1. Get Into the Education Space
First on our list of creative marketing ideas is Education. As always, the best way to build brand loyalty and authority is through consistently providing value to your audience.
What that value is will differ from business to business, but one thing that has remained consistent across all industries is the value of education.
No matter who your target audience is, everyone loves content that helps them grow and improve in some way.
Whenever you’re stumped on how to provide value to your audience, making education a part of your content marketing strategy is always a winner.
According to a report from DemandGen, a whopping 95% of B2B customers evaluate a company based on the quality of its content when making a purchasing decision.
Furthermore, another survey by the Content Marketing Institute found that the second most popular form of content to attract and nurture leads is educational content.
Image via Content Marketing Institute
But “educational content” can take on many forms, from in-depth blog posts (such as the one you’re reading now) to video tutorials.
While I encourage you to do your own research to find out what type of content works for you, here are some inexpensive and easy ways you can build your brand’s authority and educate your audience at the same time.
HubSpot’s Customer Education Program
Nothing demonstrates a commitment to your audience’s education more than creating a fully stocked knowledge base, and no one does it better than HubSpot.
Instead of just putting up a couple of customer service FAQs and calling it a day, HubSpot has gone above and beyond in their commitment to empowering their audience, going so far as to create full-fledged online courses, webinars and masterclasses that cover topics such as social media marketing, SEO, and content marketing.
On one hand, this knowledge hub is a fantastic way to teach their users how to best use their tools and services.
But where it really shines is in its ability to establish HubSpot’s reputation as one of the go-to authorities on inbound marketing and sales among their potential customers.
Keys to Scale by Insane Growth
When it comes to producing high-quality content, it doesn’t get easier than starting up your own podcast.
Podcasts are incredibly easy to produce; most of the time, all it requires is a couple hours of your time and some basic audio editing skills, and you’re good to go.
A project we’ve recently started is our Keys to Scale series, in which I interview high-profile entrepreneurs and founders about their key skills and how they developed them.
On another episode, since many people in our audience have questions around digital marketing, I reached out to Shane Barker, and we spoke at length about how brands can better leverage digital marketing.
What I love about showcasing these interviews is that it gives me the opportunity to go straight to the experts and find out what advice they have for our audience.
It’s incredibly straightforward, and I’ve found that a single interview can lead to a ton of content I can use later.
2. Engage Your Audience Directly With a Pop-Up Experience
While the world might be getting more digital, the desire for in-person experiences is greater than ever.
Even if you’re an eCommerce brand, the ability to connect with your customers offline is a powerful way to drive brand loyalty and engagement.
According to Forrester Research, customers are 57% more likely to become loyal to a brand that is able to demonstrate real human communication.
Pop-up experiences provide an easy way for businesses to connect with their audiences offline for a relatively low cost, as well as giving their customers the ability to fully engage and experience a brand’s personality, mission, and values in a unique and creative way.
Image via Business2Community
Hosting branded events is nothing new, but what is new is the variety of events and experiences brands are crafting for their audiences.
Despite being an online store, the pet supplies company BARK wanted to be able to differentiate themselves from the rest of the competition by engaging with their customers — and their dogs — directly.
To do this, they created a unique pop-up experience called BarkShop Live, setting up a pop-up shop made specifically for dogs where they were allowed to play with all manner of squeaky, bouncy, and chewable toys.
To make the event even more personal, each dog was given a special RFID vest to wear so owners could keep track of which toys their pups played with the most.
Owners were able to purchase any of their dogs’ favorite toys directly through BarkShop’s branded mobile app.
With this one event, Bark & Co were able to not only develop a huge amount of loyalty amongst event attendees, but they were able to introduce their brand to thousands of potential new customers through the marketing of the event.
Marketing School Live
Before you strike down the idea of pop-up experiences as being too costly or expensive for your business, the great news is that pop-up events don’t have to be these huge events that require thousands of dollars for them to be effective.
This simple event gave hosts Eric Siu and Neil Patel a way to engage with their listeners in a more personal and meaningful way.
For attendees, the event allowed them to take a look behind the scenes at how their favorite podcast was made and gave them a chance to engage directly with the hosts themselves.
3. Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign
However, more and more brands these days are embracing crowdfunding campaigns as a powerful marketing tool for building brand awareness, collecting consumer insights, and developing a loyal community.
What makes crowdfunding so powerful is that it allows businesses to interact with audiences who are already on the lookout for something new.
Launching a crowdfunding campaign gives brands the ability to get their message out to a wider audience and develop a customer base that are actively invested in the brand’s success.
Image via TheIngProject
Check out some the creative ways brands have used crowdfunding as part of their marketing strategy.
Veri Veri Teriyaki
As a company that brings in billions of dollars in annual sales, The Clorox Company isn’t exactly hurting for money.
Nevertheless, that didn’t stop them from turning to Kickstarter to announce the launch of their newest packaged food line, Veri Veri Teriyaki Jerky.
But, in order to cut through the noise that is the food and beverage industry, Clorox and Three Jerks decided the best way to launch their latest product was through a crowdfunding campaign.
“It made sense as an awareness driver, as a way to build one-to-one connections with consumers in a way that’s very important to us and, frankly, as a way to cut against the grain of typical product launches.” – Adam Simons, former Head of Emerging Brands at Clorox.
The campaign ended up raising just over $29,000 from 715 backers, nearly tripling it’s $10,000 funding goal.
While they obviously didn’t need the money, the campaign achieved its main goal of driving huge consumer interest into Veri Veri Teriyaki Jerky upon its release, making it a very successful campaign indeed.
DC’s We Can Be Heroes
Beyond using crowdfunding platforms to generate buzz and interest around new products, brands have also begun experimenting with crowdfunding as a way to build support for charitable causes.
Instead of simply asking their fans to donate money, DC chose to promote their We Can Be Heroes campaign through Indiegogo.
It rasied money for impoverished communities in the Horn of Africa by offering backer rewards such as the opportunity to be drawn into a Batman comic, a tour of Warner Bros Animation studio, and passes to San Diego Comic-Con, among others.
The crowdfunding campaign made it possible for DC to form a unique and intimate relationship with their backers.
Customers felt like they were working together with the brand instead of simply being another customer — creating a connection that would have been otherwise impossible through other means.
To date, the We Can Be Heroes campaign has raised over $2 million in funds for charity by tapping into a baked-in community of super-fans with Indiegogo.
4. Turn Gatekeepers Into Brand Advocates
The holy grail of marketing is the brand advocate: someone that is not only just a fan of your brand, but such a fan that they’re more than happy to tell other people about your business.
A study by Oglivy-Cannes found that word-of-mouth marketing is a key influencer in purchasing decisions for 74% of consumers.
Another study by Nielsen discovered that 83% of people will trust recommendations from friends and family, more than any other marketing channel.
Image via Nielsen
Typically, the strategy behind finding potential brand advocates is to identify who your happiest customers are and see if you can convince them to promote your brand for you.
But an even more effective way of finding brand advocates is to find the people who your customers will turn to when looking for advice about your product.
These people are the gatekeepers, and getting them on your side early is a powerful way to win new customers.
What founder Abigail Forsyth realized, though, was that the biggest gatekeeper to their product were the baristas and coffee shops themselves.
“People were going to be guided by what their coffee shop did, so we knew we had to target them. If you walk into the cafe and you hand over a reusable, and the barista rolls their eyes, you’re not going to do it again,” says Forsyth.
Understanding this, Forsyth reached out to hundreds of independent cafes and asked if they’d be willing to become affiliates to sell KeepCups.
In return, the cafes would get a percentage of each sale — and KeepCup had successfully managed to convince their biggest gatekeepers to become their biggest brand advocates.
It was a simple strategy, but one that paved the way for KeepCup’s explosive growth, allowing them to sell over 10,000,000 units in just 10 years!
Influencer marketing is quickly becoming one of the go-to marketing strategies for many brands.
But before you start sliding into the DMs of accounts with millions of followers, let’s not forget about the humble micro-influencer, influencers with less than 100,000 followers.
LaCroix has had a long history of working with micro-influencers to great effect.
What they found was that micro-influencers actually provided a much better ROI than more well-known influencers.
In fact, research by MediaHub discovered that accounts with 1,000 followers generated an 85% higher engagement rate than those with 100,000 followers!
The reason behind this is that micro-influencers are viewed as being more accessible — and therefore influential — to their followers. They’re not mega pop stars with millions of screaming fans; they’re regular people like me and you.
Understanding this, LaCroix goes out of its way to work specifically with influencers who have less than 10,000 followers.
By working with micro-influencers, LaCroix is able to forge a deeper connection with potential customers and has managed to dominate the millennial market over competitors such as Perrier and Poland Springs.
5. Encourage Employees to Become Brand Advocates, Too
Another untapped resource when it comes to brand advocates is the people you work with every single day.
Employee advocacy, in a nutshell, is when a brand’s workforce openly talks about their work to others. It could be as simple as sharing a Facebook post about specific products or tweeting about the office they’re working out of.
Image via Oktopost
While some brands might be afraid of having their employees talk openly about what’s going on behind the scenes, the reality is that encouraging employee advocacy doesn’t just have a positive effect on employee morale — it also boosts your bottom line, with 64% of businesses crediting their employee advocacy programs for bringing in new business.
Just like with micro-influencers, your audience is more likely to respond positively to a post shared by an employee than one shared over a branded company account.
Not only does it come off as more authentic and trustworthy, but it also highlights the positive culture of your business.
Shipping container giant Maersk wanted to reach a wider audience than just people who were in the maritime industry.
To achieve this, and almost by complete accident, Maersk began encouraging the thousands of employees that worked for them to share their stories.
To get started, Maersk’s head of social media, Jonathan Wichmann, asked key executives such as their chief commercial officer and head of anti-piracy to start tweeting about their day-to-day lives working at Maersk.
Once the ball got rolling, Wichmann then used the company intranet to see if he could find any potential advocates.
This would involve finding someone who was creatively inclined, asking if they’d like to become an advocate, giving them some guidelines on what to post, and then giving them free reign.
This strategy eventually evolved into Maersk establishing a presence on over 30 different social media accounts across every social network available, from Facebook and Instagram to Vimeo and LinkedIn.
In less than 11 months, Maersk managed to organically acquire over 800,000 followers on Facebook, 40,000 Twitter followers, and 22,000 Instagram followers.
By having their employee become the face of the brand, Maersk was able to greatly improve their reputation within the maritime industry and attract hundreds of new customers who only became aware of Maersk through their social media.
A knock-on effect of employee advocacy is that any personal authority and influence your employees build will naturally transfer back to your business, too.
There is no clearer case of this than with how IBM helps position their employees as thought leaders and influencers in their respective fields.
To do this, IBM launched their IBM Social Business program, which 200 employees from across all departments were invited to be a part of.
IBM built a special hub for these employees, in which they would be given access to high-quality content they could share across their own social media channels.
This in turn built up the personal brand of each of these employees, to the point where they would be invited to speak at events and be considered experts.
The key thing to note is that almost all of these employees identified themselves as representatives of IBM, greatly enhancing IBM’s own corporate reputation.
From a purely ROI standpoint, through creating an employee advocacy program, they were able to greatly amplify their content at no extra cost.
6. Hack the News Cycle
Depending on who you ask, public relations and marketing are either the same thing, opposite sides of the same coin, or two completely different beasts altogether.
While I have no horse in that particular race, I do believe it’s now easier than ever for small businesses and startups to become newsworthy.
It used to be that in order to get your businesses mentioned on the news, you needed to have a huge PR budget and relationships with dozens of key journalists and reporters.
Image via Newsjacking
As long as you have a story to tell and you have the right tools at your disposal, you can easily make the news work for you and drive hundreds of thousands of potential customers to your business.
Image via American Apparel
When it comes to controversial marketing, the undisputed king is Ryan Holiday. As the director of marketing for American Apparel, Holiday made it his mission to drive as much interest as possible as he could to the fashion brand.
Taking us behind the scenes in his book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, Holiday reveals how he leveraged controversy to gain free publicity on a minuscule budget.
He cites one example in which he hired adult film star Sasha Grey for a series of purposefully controversial ads that he never would have been able to publicly run.
Instead, he “leaked” those images to small blogs, who then began posting about them. The story then was shared many more times, until it was eventually picked up by major news outlets.
Even though this advertisement was never officially released by American Apparel, it still drove continuous sharing and discussion across the internet and ultimately generated hundreds of thousands of people visiting the American Apparel site.
During his tenure at American Apparel, Holiday planned and executed multiple controversial marketing campaigns that generated thousands of dollars worth of free advertising, ultimately growing American Apparel’s online sales from $40 million to $60+ million within a year.
For the team collaboration tool Chanty, getting featured in the news isn’t just a way to establish their brand’s authority but a powerful way to improve their SEO.
To achieve this, Chanty leverages the HARO platform, a tool designed to help journalists find reputable sources for their stories.
HARO works by having various people sign up as sources. They’ll then be sent three email newsletters a day, containing dozens of queries from journalists writing for any number of publications (such as Business Insider and Entrepreneur).
The team at Chanty then worked out a system in which they would respond to several HARO queries a day, with team members devoting around 1-2 hours per day to just responding to HARO queries.
While there is no guarantee that the journalist will use your pitch, ever since starting this process, Chanty has successfully been featured as an expert on a number of high-profile publications, acquiring five to 10 high-quality backlinks every week.
Concluding Thoughts on Creative Marketing Ideas
Marketing isn’t always easy.
But the one thing that I’ve found to be true over and over again is that the best marketing strategies are always the ones that think outside-the-box and try something new.
If you’re finding yourself in a creative marketing rut, then I sincerely hope that this article has been able to spark a few new ideas for you.
Coming up with creative marketing ideas isn’t always easy, but it’s a lot easier when you learn from the best.