8 Marketing Ideas to Grow Your Start Up to Mythic Proportions


Ever wonder what companies like Apple or Nike did to become worldwide icons? Or how they created devoted followers? Their success almost seems like a miracle.

But trust me, it’s not. Their success can be copied!

Here are 8 ideas that can inspire you to create marketing campaigns that generate tremendous buzz, resonate with people, and eventually become a part of your customers’ life.

Idea #1: Place your product in an unexpected marketing channel

Did you know that M&M’s was originally offered the opportunity to appear in the movie E.T.? Yet, for whatever reason, they turned it down. Spielberg then approached Reese’s Pieces who jumped on the chance, and their product then became a legend.

If your start up has a physical product, start thinking about unexpected places to promote it.

Maybe you know a rock band that’s pretty successful on a regional level that creates popular music videos. Why not ask them if you can get your product into one of their videos?

Another example I saw recently is when the video chat room Chill teamed up with Snoop Dogg to allow people to hang out with the rapper while he shared videos. This was a great way to introduce a different audience to their product.

Idea #2: Use humor

Some of the weirdest commercials out there are the ones by Old Spice. But I also think they’re the funniest. So do tens of millions of people!

Whether it’s the sea captain with a wife who wants to kiss his lips more than normal or Isaiah Mustafa telling ladies that their men could smell like him, these videos on YouTube are a sensation.

How could you come up with ideas for your start up? A good place to start is by watching a show like “The Funniest Commercials of the Year.”

You could also watch stand-up comics on Netflix or spend some time on a site like Funny or Die. The trick is to pay attention to what is popular.

The nice thing about a site like YouTube is that it makes it cheap to produce a viral commercial. All you have to have is a video recorder and simple editing software, and you are in business!

By the way, you don’t always have to come up with an original idea. Sometimes you can modify a current idea to fit your product or service like First Round Capital did with the Old Spice ad, which got them press in Mashable and TechCrunch.

Idea #3: Create an unforgettable promotional gimmick

When Lance Armstrong got cancer back in the 1990s, he started the Livestrong Foundation to help raise money for a cancer cure. To help support this foundation, he started selling the yellow bands you now see everywhere.

Why did this idea work so well?

The reason this idea took off is because the bands supported a great cause and were fairly inexpensive and simple for people to wear.

The bands also tapped into the deep human emotion of wanting to belong. People who wore the bands and saw other people wearing the bands felt proud of the cause they were supporting together.

Clothing items are probably one of the most popular ways to create a viral promotional gimmick for your start up.

The reason this is true is because people like to express themselves and stand out, so if you have a unique t-shirt with a unique saying on it, people will scramble to get one. And once people start wearing your t-shirt or hat, they then become a walking advertisement for you!

For example, walk around San Francisco long enough, and you’re bound to see someone wearing a t-shirt from the online company Zaarly.

Idea #4: Communicate to your customers in unexpected ways

The Goodyear Blimp is a great example of a company who has become a big part of our lives because of the clever way they advertise. You get excited when you see the blimp and want to tell your friends or children right away.

If you want to create a clever and unexpected way to communicate with your customers, try thinking about things that stand out and fascinate people.

One way the Yellow Cab Pizza Co. grew its business was by delivering pizzas on mopeds painted yellow and black like a cab. If you’ve ever seen one, you know how much they stand out.

Maybe you can’t afford a fleet of yellow and black mopeds. Then try blogging in a unique way. That’s what two amateur chefs did when they opened their Manhattan store The Brooklyn Kitchen.

The pair focuses their blog on providing useful and targeted information to their readers, which includes videos on how to saber a champagne bottle or shuck an oyster.

Idea #5: Keep it simple

Sometimes the best ideas are very simple, like the Nike swoosh. That little curled check mark was designed in 1971, and to this day people all across the world recognize it.

Google’s search engine interface is another example of simplicity becoming legendary.

When Page and Brin started the company, one of their ideas was to keep the home page free of just about anything except the search box. This immediately stood out to people because other search engine home pages were cluttered.

In fact, in the early days, there was a Google user who kept a daily count of the character count on the home page and would email the company with a complaint if it got too high.

It doesn’t matter if your product is complex or if you provide a complicated service. You can still keep your logo or message simple, like the social media productivity tool TaskRabbit did.

Idea #6: Go to the media your audience is using

A partnership with MySpace helped the movie High School Musical get the attention and the buzz it needed to make it big. This made sense because a lot of high-schoolers were spending time on MySpace.

Do you know where your customers are spending most of their time? Is it on Facebook? Or at the movies?

Don’t know where your customer is spending his or her time? Here are a few simple ways to find out:

  1. Ask your target customer – pick up the phone and call a few friends or family who you think might be interested in your product.
  2. Create a survey – this is really easy to do online with tools like SurveyMonkey or KISSinsights.
  3. Research – Companies like eMarketer, Forresters and Neilson provide excellent research data on people’s media habits.

Idea #7: Look for slogans that will last

You probably have heard of the catchphrase “Where’s the Beef?” Did you know that it started as an advertising slogan in 1984 for a Wendy’s commercial with a little grandmother demanding a big burger?

It got so popular that 1984 presidential candidates Gary Hart and Walter Mondale used it against each other during their debates.

So, what makes a good slogan? A good slogan isn’t just a neat saying, motto, elevator pitch or your mission statement summarized in four or five words.

A good slogan shows your customers how you are positioned against your competitors. Your slogan is communicating your value to the world, and you have to say it quickly.

To give you another idea of how this works, here’s Blendtec’s slogan: “The world’s most powerful blenders make the best smoothies!”

But the slogan alone won’t get the job of getting attention done. You have to be creative with how you deliver your value proposition.

Idea #8: Use tools creatively to spread the word

Let’s look at Blendtec again. When the company’s founder Tom Dickinson dropped an iPhone into one of his blenders and put the video online, it became famous on YouTube.

That single video started an entire series of now famous episodes of Tom dropping all sorts of items into his blenders.

What this taught his customers was how much more powerful his blender was than his competitors’. And he did it in a simple way that didn’t cost a lot of money.

What can you do to teach your customers about how you are different from your competitors? The company Common Craft did it by explaining difficult or strange concepts with white boards, cut outs and video.

The photo app Instagram did it by allowing users to share their photos on just about every social media tool. Each time you share a photo, it’s an advertisement for Instagram.


It’s usually not just one single factor that will create a devoted following for a product or turn a company into a worldwide phenomenon. Most often, it’s a combination of all of the above.

What other great ideas do you think can help a start up gain attention and buzz?