It’s time to push the boundaries of your average marketing campaign. Quality marketing doesn’t need to be a carbon copy of safe ‘best practice’. Sometimes the true rewards go to the brave and creative souls who peek over the heads of their competitors and do something truly different.

After all, quality marketing is about standing out.

Just because you’re a smaller business with a budget to match, doesn’t mean you can’t take inspiration from the leaders in creative marketing.

So, who’s been pushing boundaries with their marketing in the last few years? What can we learn from their success? Let’s get interesting.

1) Volkswagen brings the fun to Stockholm

What is it that truly engages people from all walks of life? What do humans universally enjoy and connect with? The answer is ‘fun’, and Volkswagen took full advantage of that insight with their Swedish campaign. They even called the campaign the ‘Theory of Fun’.

What did they do?

In a marketing move designed to boost exercise levels in the community, and of course develop great brand association, they tactically deployed some fun on the subway in Stockholm to encourage people to take the stairs instead of the escalator.

Overnight, under the secrecy of darkness, Volkswagen replaced the stairs at Odenplan station in Stockholm with oversized musical piano keys. Every step would emit a different note when activated by trampling commuters.

It was a hit.

The result? A 66% increase in people taking the stairs and a whole lot of smiles. Volkswagen not only changed people’s behaviour through fun, they associated themselves neatly with the concept and reaped the branding benefits of a truly creative marketing campaign.

Check out the result:

How can you inject fun into your marketing efforts? It doesn’t require a huge budget, just some creativity. It’s not all about solving customer problems.

2) Zappos gets cheeky

Clever, clever Zappos.

Having caught wind of a Google marketing campaign involving a food truck and free cupcakes, they decided to cheekily highjack Google’s efforts and score some cheap promotion.

After all, riding the coattails of a giant, done responsibly of course, is an extremely shrewd and creative way of racking up tons of cheap attention.

What did they do?

When Google started giving away cupcakes in exchange for sharing pictures on their new platform, Zappos went guerrilla with their marketing.

They made a low budget ‘vending machine’ (which was actually nothing more than a dude in a box) and set it up right next to Google’s cupcake truck.

The ‘vending machine’ would accept Google’s cupcakes as currency and would dispense Zappos’ much more valuable shoes, backpacks and watches as the prize! Genius.

Watch these sneaky marketing legends in action here as they ride the wake of a monster company and steal the show. All without crossing the line.

3) SNCF opens a doorway to Europe

France’s national rail network SNCF are a seriously clever bunch. Take a look around and you’ll find travel marketing strewn about like confetti.

Images of palm lined beaches, medieval lanes, bikini models and verdant jungles abound. Travel promotion is everywhere in traditional advertising, from billboards and TV to Instagram (a lot of Instagram).

It takes quite a lot to soar above the littered landscape, yet that’s exactly what SNCF has achieved.

What did they do?

Instead of rolling out a bus stop poster, the innovative company made use of freestanding ‘doorways’ and placed them throughout the cities of Europe. They capitalised on technology to create a two-way, live streamed video ‘doorway’ where people from different cities could peek into another world. They did a ‘Narnia’.

You could look through a doorway in Barcelona and interact live with people milling in a square in Paris. It worked like a charm.

Check out their incredible doorways:

Think about how you can work with prevailing technology in new and interesting ways to create truly engaging and interactive experiences. Connecting with multiple senses and getting people physically involved in shared moments will always trump a passive advertisement.

Need a budget boost to create an engaging campaign? NSW government is here to help

If this has got your brain whirring and you’ve come up with some new and interesting marketing ideas, would you like some help funding them?

In NSW, Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello announced a new recovery initiative to combat the effects of COVID-19 and get small businesses churning again. To that end, you can now apply for $3,000 grants for purposes such as marketing, advertising and fit outs.

“Applying for this new grant will be simple and easy, so businesses can focus on reopening safely and welcoming back customers,” Mr. Dominello said of the scheme.

Applications are now open on the Service NSW website until Sunday 16 August 2020.