A look at bold and unusual marketing campaigns from Ben & Jerry's, Pizza Patron, and Virgin
Over three decades, Inc. has seen entrepreneurs, often with little cash but lots of creativity, produce clever marketing campaigns time and again. Here are 30 classic examples from the archives.
1. ¡Bienvenidos! As the demographics of Miami change, Expressway Toyota changes with them, adding Spanish-speaking salespeople and sponsoring Latino community events. Revenue jumps 400 percent from 1980 to 1986.
2. This is what we do In 1981, Ashton, Maryland's Ruppert Landscape turns its training program into an annual Field Day, on which employees spruce up public spaces for free.
3. Cosmic sponsorship In 1983, Owen Ryan gets attention for his marketing agency by launching a promotional campaign for Halley's comet.
4. Never cross a hippie Upstart Ben & Jerry's learns in 1984 that Pillsbury, owner of Häagen-Dazs, is pressing distributors to drop the new brand. B&J kicks off a campaign asking, "What's the Doughboy Afraid Of?"
5. Two birds, one stone In the mid-'80s, the Rochester, New York, pizzeria Mr. Shoes gets a little wicked: Rip a Domino's ad out of the yellow pages and get $2 off a Mr. Shoes pie.
6. Y'all enjoy Since the mid-'80s, customers have flocked to Amy's Ice Creams stores in Texas for a cone and a show. The counter staff juggle, sing, and break dance.
7. Virgin voyage Promoting his new airline, in 1987, Richard Branson crosses the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon.
8. Got it Suzanne Somers launches the ThighMaster in 1988 with a stroke-of-genius slogan: "Great legs!"
9. Experts love it Magellan Systems's challenge in 1989 is getting customers to trust this new GPS thing. The company places units with a few tastemakers, including a team of botanists exploring the Amazon. Articles and TV mentions follow; sales go through the roof.
10. Killer instinct In 1989, knowing there is no salesman like a competitive kid, Suntex International promotes its math game 24 via local tournaments.
11. No affectations The Body Shop's marketing in the late '80s takes the tone of an education program about animal testing.
12. Newbies love freebies Sunday River Skiway builds a business in the late '80s by courting novices. Buy a lesson and everything else is free.
13. Use what you have In the late '80s, Springfield ReManufacturing starts a fishing tournament in the bass lakes near its home in Springfield, Missouri.
14. Not gonna take it Reeling from a frivolous lawsuit, in 1991, the owners of Providence, Rhode Island, temp agency Job Link run a mock PSA: "Call us and we'll sue someone for you." Business is up 30 percent within a year.
15. It's on us In 1994, Canyon Cafe outlets in Dallas send an offer for free champagne to local workers who receive promotions.
16. Overcaffeinated In the late '90s, Maine Roasters Coffee hammers on the fact that Starbucks isn't from Maine. It works perhaps a little too well: A rash of vandalism breaks out against Starbucks locations.
17. Represent To promote his urban clothing line, Madsoul, in 2000, Marc D'Amelio distributes hip-hop mix tapes. Between tracks, artists give shout-outs to the fledgling brand.
18. Know your audience Equipment manufacturer Brooks Instrument promotes a big product launch in 2001 via an online comic strip packed with engineering humor.
19. My new favorite In 2002, Cisco Brewers needs a way to launch Triple Eight vodka. Forget the drinkers -- Cisco goes after the bartenders, via a contest with lavish prizes.
20. Bare essentials The soapmakers at Method introduce themselves in 2003 by placing booklets in magazines. Pretty conventional -- except for the naked man on the cover.
21. "Cheese!" In the early 2000s, Dov Charney showcases his employees in prurient American Apparel ads.
22. Mission accomplished For its first Super Bowl ad, in 2005, Web hosting company Go Daddy settles on a busty girl in a too-tight T-shirt. When the media howl, it's a runaway success.
23. The value of eeewww! Jones Soda makes waves in 2005 with revolting Thanksgiving flavors like Brussels Sprout.
24. We'll make dinner Internet grocery store Peapod fights back against the summer sales slump in 2006 by distributing coupons with the paychecks of Chicago-area office workers.
25. Reading the market In 2006, New Hampshire discontinues toll tokens. Bookseller Richard Mori starts his own redemption program, accepting tokens for up to half a book's value.
26. Captive audience Cold-fx introduces its cold-busting supplements to Americans in 2006 by way of a board game attached to airplane tray tables.
27. Dinero es dinero In 2007, Dallas-based Pizza Patrón casually starts accepting pesos left in Latino customers' wallets after Christmas trips home. An avalanche of media coverage ensues.
28. Model behavior In 2007, Ford Models notches up its brand awareness via YouTube. It gets millions of hits on clips of glamazons shopping and applying makeup.
29. Prime time A year of promoting its products for TV placement pays off for NeuroLogica. The producers of ER discover the company's new scanner and place it in a 2007 episode.
30. Engage the consumer In 2008, TerraCycle, the eco-friendly fertilizer maker, runs an ad on the cover of Newsweek that people can rip off, fold into an envelope, and redeem for a reusable tote bag.