Inexpensive, small scale, non-traditional marketing can be extremely effective methods for promotion. It's all about using a simple idea to catch the public's attention. From PR stunts to viral videos, the ALS ice bucket challenge to whatever the meme of the day is, there's no shortage of great viral marketing campaigns. And no matter what your business is, there are four core tactics you need to harness and unlock this real power. They may seem simple when you read them, but applying them right can be the difference between brand traction and brand failure. Here they are:

1. Build A Hook. If your product or cause is something everyone can use, a problem that everyone suffers from, it's going to have a much wider appeal, and thus, easier to get people to use it. But if it doesn't, if it's niche, or speciality, or only a certain segment of the population is affected by it, it's time to get creative. That's what a hook is, a tool to get outsiders interested. And that means engagement. As Nir Eyal said in his book Hooked, it's all about building habit forming tools that literally "hook" users. The reason the ice bucket challenge was so successful, despite the fact that most people who engaged didn't suffer from the disease, is that the hook was attention grabbing. It was shareable. It was fun. Same with the Dollar Shave Club's low budget YouTube videos. We don't really need mail order razors, but the dry, deadpan videos became a hit because they were damn funny.

2. Don't Sell Your Product. Sell Your Idea. Everyone wants to make money, it's a basic tenet of modern capitalism. But in order to do that, you have to live and breathe what you do. Quadruple that if you have a startup: you must have passion. That passion is what will soft sell your product or cause. Use emotion. Take Salesforce, for example. Their No Software logo branded their company's core culture: straightforward, affordable, cloud services. Forget what the product actually does, get the market to buy into the basics and you can hook them with the rest after they're already onboard.

3. Make It Real. Online and print campaigns are great, but when you're able to turn your ideas into tangible experiences, that's how you achieve a competitive edge--and win. That means translating ideas into live events, useable objects, tools that can help explain and benefit your product or services. What does that look like, you ask? Imagine an actual Pinterest board in a mall. This gets people talking, and sharing online.If you can turn an online product into a physical one, then replicate it back online, you've hit the online trifecta. This is called the viral multiplier effect. And the results can be delicious.

4. Take A Leap Of Faith. OK, picture this: you're on the edge, you're not sure this is going to work, but you're desperate. Desparate enough to do anything if it can get results. So what do you do? You jump. What? That's right, jump. Take a risk. You won't know if your idea is a hit or a failure until you try. So try. The reason many guerrilla campaigns get attention is precisely because they're so unorthodox and weird. For once, it's a real positive if people raise an eyebrow and laugh at you. In fact, the weirder the better. Think Uber delivering ice cream, or even puppies. Or a startup that sends glitter to your enemies. The list goes on and on. I'm not advocating doing anything illegal, or even being a jerk, but be bold enough to stand out. You might just wrack up a whole of laughs--and likes.

Published on: Mar 3, 2015
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