As a small business owner, you’re hopefully already adept at the a-b-c’s of basic marketing. You’ve probably got your socials covered, your email campaigns firing and are likely dropping a bit of coin on paid ads. But are you missing some clever marketing techniques that will help you stand out from the crowd?

So, what’s next? Even with tight budgets, if you’re equipped some sharp thinking and creative juices, anyone can think outside the box and stand above the competition. Market smarter, not harder.

1) IKEA: Pinterest boards

IKEA need no introduction. The renowned Swedish furniture brand, purveyor of frustrating instructional manuals and slinger of meatballs, recently encountered an issue.

They had a problem with their increasingly weighty catalogue, which had already evolved from print to website to email campaign. It was stale, unwieldy, and lacked a streamlined route to sales.

What was their marketing tactic?

After surveying popular social media sites and eCommerce solutions – they landed on Pinterest.

By posting their catalogue on Pinterest, under a host of separate ‘boards’ they successfully embraced an already familiar shopping and styling platform.

By embracing the popular online ‘scrapbooking’ site they hit several different notes at once:

  • They tapped into the idea of making your own ‘boards’ with furniture and interior decorating ideas. Which is quite different from an online catalogue and much more personal.
  • They were able to show their products, through genuine user activity, in real life settings.
  • They simultaneously offered a direct route to sale.

As media project manager Kerri Longarzo said of the idea,

“We didn’t want to just copy and paste – we already have a digital catalogue online. “But promotions in the past felt a little stale. We were running out of ways to show the catalogue to people online, so we sought out something different.”

The marketing lesson?

By cleverly diversifying the way you display and sell your products, you can tap into something far more powerful than your own website. Concurrently, by using real people’s experiences, ideas and imagery, you lend authenticity to your marketing efforts.

2) TESCO: QR codes

TESCO had begun to lose market share and sales in their South Korean stores. The issue? Time poor and tech savvy South Koreans had begun eschewing physical stores in favour of online shopping and home delivery.

What was their marketing tactic?

In a very clever notion, driven by the uptick in QR code use (now even more prominent since the pandemic) they created virtual stores in train stations. malls and public spaces.

Wrapped signage and billboards in accessible spaces were distributed around Seoul. They were in effect, virtual shelves with highly detailed photographic images of their most popular products, which looked exactly like real life TESCO supermarket shelves.

The difference of course, was that a QR code was assigned to each visual product on the ‘shelf’ and the public could simply scan them, add them to their cart and have them delivered to their homes.

The marketing lesson?

By embracing new modes of commerce and popular technology, such as QR codes, you can transform old marketing tactics.

By reinventing the humble (and passive) print ad by adding QR code links to a shopping cart or website, you can combine the effectiveness of the old and the new. This will drive fresh sales through innovative marketing.

3) Copenhagen Zoo: Bus ads

Copenhagen Zoo had recently installed a new reptile exhibit and were looking to increase their visitors.

What was their marketing tactic?

They took the well-trodden route of trotting out some bus wrap ads. Nothing too exciting, right? But the design they chose to go with used an eye-catching 3D approach, which made the chosen buses look as though they were being physically squeezed by a titanic boa constrictor.

The high attention to detail and unique design saw the ads stand out among the sea of pedestrian ads which littered the cityscape. Copenhagen Zoo experienced a 30% uptick in sales for their efforts.

The marketing lesson?

When you design a print ad, social post, physical ad or any type of image-based marketing – don’t be shy.

You’ll be competing with a host of other businesses keen for eyeballs, so if you can concoct a genuinely original design, especially one which utilises optical illusion aspects, your ad will pop out.

For the same outlay as everyone else, you can dominate the space with a truly clever design.

4) Offsetters: Global warming awareness campaign

Offsetters is a not-for-profit organisation, operating on a tight budget, which aims to address the global climate crisis.

The organisation pursues their altruistic mission by advising businesses and individuals on realistic ways to offset carbon emissions while remaining profitable. To this end, they were in search of an offbeat way to draw attention to their services and the issue of climate change at large.

What was their marketing tactic?

Throughout key areas of the city of Vancouver, they hung life rafts on the side of buildings and manned city parks with fake volunteer lifeguards and towers. They placed lifejackets under park benches and distributed ‘Lifeguard on Duty’ signs throughout the city.

The clever guerrilla marketing campaign brought attention to the very real threat of coastal inundation from climate change and brought about a host of news coverage, blogs and viral social media attention.

The marketing lesson?

While you may not have a huge budget, with some clever physical guerrilla marketing, you can generate attention through harnessing other people’s social media.

If you create photo-worthy ‘spectacles’ in public spaces, the public becomes your own media marketing agents by spreading the message on your behalf.