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Four Key Elements of Innovative Marketing

November 27th, 2010 by admin Leave a reply »

A tradition at my U.C. Berkeley class “Creativity & Innovation & The Entrepreneur” (ICE) is to set aside one class each semester to discuss “innovations in Marketing”.  I ask the students to each contribute 1-2 examples of highly creative, imaginative and innovative marketing and post them to a WIKI.  This year, we had over 70 postings and great discussion in class about the nature of the “creative” advertising agency, and what makes a marketing campaign highly innovative.

As a former marketing exec (IBM, Apple, Yahoo, Netchannel, Overture and others), I’ve worked with hundreds of highly creative people  – in fact, at a place like Apple, marketing seemed to be a never-ending game between creatives as to who could create the most innovative plan.

I learned that sometimes, just simple ingenuity and the element of surprise and delight works wonders…for example the simplicity of the Apple logo, the release of the Mac in 1984, the irreverence of the iPod and simplicity of iPhone advertisements, all underscore the innovative culture of Apple. Our class found several great examples of creative, yet highly simple, marketing campaigns in every-day advertising:

The game in marketing is to figure out who can create the most innovative ad campaigns, the most effective lead drivers, and the best branding and positioning. Naturally, with so many creative people in this industry, lots of creative ideas occur.  How many are truly innovative?

Top Four Elements of Innovative Marketing
This year in class, we tore apart several of the marketing campaigns to figure out what makes for truly innovative marketing.  Here are the five elements of innovative marketing that came from our Wiki this year:

1. Highly innovative marketing campaigns employ the age-old craft of story-telling, sometimes allowing the user to fill in the missing pieces of the story. Everyone loves a good story.  And, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites are perfect viral channels for the spread of a good story.  Here are several examples of highly viral campaigns that tell a great (and personal) story:

Google posted a particularly clever campaign during a period when it was under fire from the press for some of its practices.  5 million viewers have watched the viral video.  The video shows the “human” (softer) side of Google (often said to be a bit “tc in its culture) and the viewer is pulled into the story with a certain “that could be me” feel.

Not to be out-marketed, Facebook posted a similar video recently, although its viral effects have been minimal so far. But still, it’s fun to watch.

Another very effective campaign that tells a poignant story to get its point across is the Dove Evolution campaign that hit the ‘Net in October, 2006.  This innovative marketing example used stop photography to get its point across, leaving the reader to think about Dove in an entirely new light.

2. Highly innovative campaigns draw the user in …often engaging the user in the story or campaign. Given the nature of the social web today, the best way to engage many users is to draw them in on a personal level.  One of my all-time favorite viral videos “Where the Hell Is Matt?” (33 million views) does an amazing job at this.

One great example of this is the Pepsi Refresh project, which has (as of this writing) attracted 640,000 viewers. The project engages entrepreneurs around the country in submitting socially beneficial business plans.  The music and visuals suck you in and tell a motivating story.

This Nissan Sentra advertisement highlights the takes personalization to an new level, but actually showing the main character living out of his Nissan.  Young audiences could relate well to this.

3. Innovative campaigns draw their creativity from the intersection of 2 or more marketing devices. When one discovers the power of a new medium but leverages the legacy of an older medium, great things happen.  For example, Paranormal Activity was a run-away low-budget box-office smash, based on the incredible viral marketing the film used prior to theatrical introduction.  One key element of this was the combination of Twitter and viral video.  People “tweeted their screams”.

Here are several other, more recent, examples:

  • Groupon is combining crowd-sourcing with location-based marketing to craft campaigns that draw big crowds into locations for on-the-spot promotions
  • Volvo – teamed up with Double-Click to create innovative banner ads that incorporate live Twitter feeds
  • Ikea came up with a completely novel use for Facebook “tagging” by allowing users to claim prizes

The campaigns that are most innovative will come up with novel ways of combining 2 or more forms of existing marketing to arrive at new combinations.

4. Highly innovative marketing utilizes an element of surprise and delight , which crosses the expected with the unexpected.  The result is a campaign that people want to share among themselves and watch over and over.

  • Coke used this highly effective campaign to brand itself to happiness and fun – and who doesn’t want happiness and fun?
  • Burger King allowed people to “have it their way” by personalizing the experience, delighting and surprising their customers in the process
  • A favorite among the 20-something crowd is the Old Spice viral videos from 2009 which used surprise and humor to re-build the brand’s image.

These are four approaches to creating innovation in Marketing.  What other examples match up to these four findings?  What other sources of innovation defines the Marketing field?



  1. Hoi says:

    We’re trying to do something which enables people to try to be creative as well as well as utilising new tech trends. Currently running a Greenpeace clean water awareness project using mobile photo sharing as the medium by taking a water themed photo.
    Sharing photos using mobile is currently one of the more talked about topics at the moment, so we are trying it out as a marketing medium using a good cause to see if it works. At the same time, trying to tap into people’s creativity with their water themed photo.

  2. Clara Nagy says:

    Another coupon website, LivingSocial is using audio marketing within Pandora. While advertising within Pandora is not novel, the approach is: LivingSocial recognizes that all the listener wants to hear is their music and acknowledges the interruption. The sympathy to the listener was what struck me–it drew me in!
    In using 2 or more marketing devices, you see many companies now advertising for consumers to make come up with an ad/campaign for the product, and then reward the winner. For example: Viva Bikes ( is using their viewers to name their ad and for the best name, the ‘namer’ gets a free bike. This encourages viewers to share the ad with their friends, and may end up with a reward.

  3. Christine Leon says:

    I want to comment on the innovation in the Pepsi Refresh advertisement in particular. What I found so innovative was that they “draw the user in” but in multiple forms. This ad is not only compelling with its heartwarming story but it motivates our inner entrepreneur, allows us to be proactive about causes we passionate about, share our ideas and offers financial incentive. I know I would like to win a pepsi refresh grant for my favorite cause.

  4. Sean Dee says:

    I debated back and forth about how “innovative” the “Old Spice Guy” was in my journal. Mainly because the use of humor and surprise has been used for at least 20-30 years in the beer market ( I think combining humor and surprise (especially with masculine themes) is a strategy for marketing that has been used for quite some time, old spice just might have taken it to a new level of quirkiness.

    I think keys to successful marketing have to include applicability to a broad range of audiences. I think humor is an area that is very subjective, and dependent on the demographic that is being targeted. But some ads (similar to the google and facebook ad) seem to transcend a target demographic. I tried to think of a few others…

    I think the newest GM commercial is clever and well put together, regardless of how you feel about GM.

    Nike is a company that I think does a good job of creating commercials that appeal to a broad demographic. You don’t need to be a sports fan, or interested in buying their products to have an opinion on their commercials, since many times they are about more than simply sports. Often they can appeal and be thought provoking to both children/athletes, and the “keyholders” aka parents/coaches.
    “Barkely: I am not a role model” –
    “Jordan: Maybe it’s my fault” –
    “Jordan Failure” –
    “Tiger and Earl: Did you learn anything?” –
    “My better is better than your better: –

  5. Kandra Chan says:

    Another interesting example for (Pt. 4) highly innovative marketing that utilizes an element of surprise and delight is Dos Equis’ famous “The most interesting man alive” media series. Most liquor commercials showcase young men and women drinking and partying constantly. However, the uniqueness in the Dos Equis media is the humor of being “the most interesting man” combined with the extreme judgment, that he doesn’t drink often, but when he does, he only drinks Dos Equis. Thereby, he saves Dos Equis for only those most important occasions instead of drinking daily (as a standard beer), thus crossing the expected with the unexpected.

  6. Emma says:

    I think innovative public service advertising would also fall under Pt. #4, only instead of “surprise and delight” it’s more like “surprise and disgust.” Examples of guerilla marketing that include images that are surprisingly gross get the audience thinking about public health issues like hand washing. (Examples: Lifebuoy Soap Campaign, print ads shown here - ).

    I’d much rather be targeted with “surprise and delight” ads like the Dos Equis campaign, than these “surprise and disgust” campaigns – but as for effectiveness, I’ll let the reader decide. Either way, I do feel the need to go wash my hands . . .

  7. Peter Kwan says:

    I thought Google’s Superbowl ad was an interesting example of intersection in that it used traditional marketing ideas, i.e. telling a story via the TV advertising channel, to market a modern product (internet search) to an audience that could have included 12-year old Twitter enthusiasts or 70-year football fans that have never used email. In a way, it fits elements #1, 2, and 3 above, and depending on how you reacted to “Parisian Love,” #4 as well.

    “Paranormal Activity” reminds me of a film that gained traction by marketing itself on the internet when I was younger: The Blair Witch Project. The film had its own website which launched on April Fool’s Day with snippets of “lost footage” of the film’s protagonists, a group of film students lost in the woods. The website also included content describing the “history of the Blair Witch Legend” to make the film seem like a true story with authentic recovered footage. On top of this, the film’s trailers premiered on the “Ain’t It Cool News” website instead of on television or in theaters. This was a particularly innovative marketing campaign at the time, and I remember waiting in a massive line to see the film. However, it’s a shame I was nauseous from the shaky camera work and didn’t pay attention to the film…

  8. Fanny Sjoberg says:

    A campaign that fits the both approach number two and four is the campaign for Swedish tv-on-demand company ComHem that has been very popular in Sweden. In this series of commercials ComHem do fun remakes of established pop-cultural phenomena to communicate the company’s message of accessible entertainment. By using familiar concepts they draw the user in on a personal level, and by doing it with the funny, unexpected characters they add an element of surprise and delight. The campaign has been highly successful so far.

    In this video clip that is now showing on Swedish tv, the theme is tv shows (The song is in Swedish, but the text translates to “whenever you want”, and the message is “tv that starts whenever you want it to”)

  9. Dan Parker says:

    I believe that a lot of innovation in marketing is happening beyond the realm of advertisements. In particular, as online, interactive and social media advertising become more commonplace and sophisticated, it opens a world of possibilities in terms of how impressions, engagement and conversion are tracked. At the same time, we are viewing advertisements through a wider variety of devices – our computer, smart phones, e-readers, social media, and soon interactive television and other connected devices. So, this presents a conundrum (or opportunity) – we can now track more on more devices, but that makes the attribution and effectiveness much more complicated to measure, understand and act upon. This is why the field of marketing is ripe for companies that offer compelling analytics with user-friendly interfaces and tools that make insights actionable. The legacy providers out there (Omniture, for example) is old and clunky – it hasn’t kept up, and it isn’t affordable or manageable for smaller businesses. So, I think that we will increasingly see innovations from analytic companies that will help us not only do better advertising, but SMARTER advertising.

  10. Buzz Bonneau says:

    I believe the most effective and innovative marketing campaigns are ongoing uses of unusual characters – Gieco’s brittish Gecko, the Afflac duck, the etrade baby, and even the Mac/PC characters. My hunch is that the first add in all those campaigns was probably not highly effective, but as those characters became associated with the brands and message, they became icons and the amount of brand awareness they have created is remarkable. The question then is why dont more companies do this? I believe its because its not just the characters, its the subtlety of the message and the campaign creation that makes them stick – but once they stick they can create years and years of successful advertising. One thing that does shock me is the lack of ongoing campaigns – I think this may be due to tepid response to the initial campaign platform – I think innovative campaigns such as these leave the viewer with a feeling of “what????” the first time they are viewed.

  11. Florian Strasser says:

    I believe its interesting that our discussion about innovation in marketing is focusing so much on the communication part of it. While this is the most fun part to observe, there have been many trials to innovate the distribution piece of marketing as well. Here I think Nespresso is a great example. While the single serving concept for coffee has been around since the 80s, the innovative delivery model with a mix of company owned boutiques, online store, and call centers helped the Nestle unit to take off (currently around 3bn in revenues).There are many other examples where marketing innovation originates in innovative delivery models. Hyundai for example recently launched a luxury sedan. We all know that Hyundai is not quite a luxury brand and that competing with a Mercedes S class might be some kind of stretch. The marketing innovation Hyundai came up with is quite compelling: they offer a valet service that is in my opinion a new kind of delivery model for a car. The customer does not need to go to a dealership anymore – the car is coming to (e.g., for test drives) or is picked up and brought back to (e.g., from servicing) the customers home/work.
    I believe that the discussion about marketing innovation should consider distribution aspects as well as they might help to differentiate the respective company even more than pure communication efforts (and it is obviously even more compelling when both parts go hand in hand).

  12. Rahul Barwani says:

    One thing not mentioned in this posts work noting is the new modes and methods that advertising is distributed to. I don’t think any of the marketing campaigns would have as much exposure if youtube and facebook weren’t around. All the examples given were links to youtube videos and I posted a lot of them to my facebook right after watching and have already received a variety of comments on them. I think a lot more work can be done, though, on innovative ways to distribute advertisements. We are moving away from magazines and billboards. The stuff that makes the most impact now is that which is accessible and in your face.

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