Jessica Wells Russell

As any marketing professional today will tell you, executing a successful campaign doesn’t just happen. Consumers and business buyers are more picky and finicky than ever – drop the wrong message or attempt to connect with them on the wrong channel, and it’s all over.

On top of this, consumers are exposed to 5,000 OR MORE ads each and every day across the numerous digital touchpoints in daily life. (This is a sharp rise from the 500 or so ads Americans saw every day in the 1970s.)

Consumers are exposed to 5,000 or more ads each and every day.

What does all this mean for you and your brand? Frankly, there’s more marketing noise across every industry than ever before. In order to cut the clutter and get through to your target audience, your campaigns have to be catchy, clever and unique, and speak directly to consumers’ needs and preferences.

It certainly isn’t easy to strike this balance. But here’s the good news – marketers today (including you!) have all kinds of tools and strategies available at their disposal. It’s just a matter of weighing your options, understanding the penchants of your audience, and selecting the right mix of content and touchpoints to get their attention.

We all hit a creative wall at some point. But, fear not! We’re here to help you get over that hump with rapid-fire inspo, ideas, suggestions and examples to help kick start your next marketing campaign.

Getting started: Lay the foundation

1) Understand your audience

Before you put any effort into your marketing campaign strategy, you need to ensure that what you come up with will resonate with the people you’re looking to sell to. But who exactly are the individuals in your target audience, and what do they need and want? If you haven’t put the time and thought into customer buyer personas, now is an ideal time.

Benefit: Ooh, I could really go on and on here. What isn’t beneficial about understanding your target audience? I mean really? But, to lay a few advantages out there, creating personas will help you better see what your ideal customers look like, the touchpoints they use during their buyer journey and the pain points they need your brand to solve. Using all these details, you can craft campaigns that not only enable your brand to connect with target audiences, but also support positive ROI for your marketing efforts. And that’s a win-win situation.

Difficulty: Moderate. This step will take some time and research, but will be worth the effort.

2) Come up with a theme

Some of the best marketing campaigns include an overarching theme to tie everything together. This could be a key piece of messaging that finds its way into all related campaign collateral, or a seasonal theme that aligns with a holiday or other occasion.

Benefit: The advantage to having a theme or one “big idea” to unite your campaign is consistency and recognizability. Your audience will be able to pick out your campaign content and assets, since they’ll include the same messaging, and likely, color scheme and other uniting elements. Now that 60% of your millennial customers expect a consistent brand experience, leveraging a theme can help you appeal to these key shoppers.

Difficulty: Easy, so long as you can get your creative juices flowing. We’ll delve into some more specific theme ideas that you can apply a bit further into the article.

3. Boost brand awareness – Get your story out there

Educating your customers should be a key part of any campaign, and these efforts can also extend to spreading awareness about your own brand. Your brand story is unique – Did you meet your business partner in college and launch the company from your dorm? Or was it a lightning strike of an idea for your brand that you funded with the help of friends and family? However it happened, publicizing it and telling this story can help you forge an emotional connection with your audience.

If you want to get consumers’ attention, try telling a story. If you want to reach them where they’re already engaged, tell your story online.

Benefit: Telling your story means you won’t be just another faceless corporation in the market. This strategy can differentiate you from the competition. And, as a bonus, brands that are able to achieve this type of emotional connection also see more worth-of-mouth marketing from their loyal customer base.

Difficulty: Relatively easy. There are all different ways you can tell your brand’s story: an about page on your website, social media posts, a blog post on your backstory, the list goes on and on. However, make sure you tell this story in a way that humanizes your brand and doesn’t just toot your own horn.

4. ‘Ditch the competition’ comparison campaigns

This marketing idea is a relatively low-hanging fruit strategy that countless brands have used – and for good reason. In this approach, you compare your spotlight product or service to that of a competitor, showcasing all the reasons why yours is better.

You can do this through a chart comparing the features of your product to another in the same category, or through visual representation like a photo or video. However, facts work best here – if you can provide data-driven reasons for why your offering is better (Three times faster! Fifteen percent more product! Best value for your money! etc.), the greater the chances are that it’ll catch the attention of potential customers.

BLUE Life Protection Formula® vs. Purina ONE®

Benefit: People appreciate comparisons, and you can educate your customers about your product in the process.

Difficulty: Easy, although you want to be careful about disparaging your competition, and it’s best to back up your position with facts.

Support your campaign with content

Okay, so, full disclosure, I may be a little biased in this section. I am a writer, after all, so content is my bread and butter. I’ve seen content work miracles for clients and I recommend content strategies for all my friends and their businesses in real life.

Content should be the star of nearly any type of marketing campaign – from email marketing to blogging, videos and beyond. And, you can leverage all of these assets for your social posts (which we’ll get into a bit later.) Overall, though, content is king.

5. Educate with a blog post

The actual messaging within your campaign will likely be succinct and to the point. But chances are also good that you have a lot more to say on the subject. A blog post (or another longer written asset like an eBook or white paper) provides you a chance to add depth or character to your campaign.

Benefit: Tell the story behind your campaign, build on the messaging that customers have already seen, and use the blog to move leads through your campaign sales funnel (i.e., include a link to the blog on social, or within your email messaging.)

Difficulty: Easy. This cheap marketing idea is a staple, and as long as you have someone on your team with strong writing skills, creating a blog to support your campaign won’t be difficult to pull off. Here’s a little something to help you get started.

6. Make it visual with a video

People love videos – not only are they typically bite-sized and shareable, but they also allow you to show off your product or service in a more visual way.

Benefit: Photos are key, sure. But many customers complain – especially with online shopping – that they can’t adequately see or feel a product. Although video won’t help with the latter, it can offer customers a more in-depth look at what you’re selling than what they’ll get from a flat photo.

Difficulty: Moderate, depending on the subject and purpose of the video. Use video to demo the use of your product, showcase customer testimonials, and beyond. You’ll need the right video equipment and editing capabilities to create professional-level content here, though.

7. Build it out with an infographic

Here at Brafton, we looove infographics. When readers aren’t in the mood for a blog post, or more data-heavy white paper content, you can still offer something that will get their attention visually and provide them with memorable data points.

Benefit: Infographics can help break up the flow of more static content by providing something colorful and engaging. You can also cut a longer graphic into smaller, more shareable pieces and use them as jumping off points for email marketing campaigns or social posts, which then lead readers to the full graphic. Basically, the possibilities with infographics are endless.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate. You’ll need to do your research and dig up interesting and timely statistics to include. You’ll also need someone with the right design skills to tie your facts together with an eye-catching and flowing design. Check out our article here to learn more about infographic best practices.

8. Make it interactive

This marketing strategy can be applied to content marketing, or just about any other approach you decide to use to support your campaign. Interactive marketing involves providing a next step, or an available action for customers to take after seeing your ad or content. The idea here is to take your marketing a step further, and not just throw messaging at your audience, but provide them with something to do afterwards. This approach is also known as trigger-based or event-based marketing, and you can read more on it here.

Benefit: Interactive content makes marketing a two-way street between your brand and your target audience, which fosters positive engagement. These assets are also particularly memorable as they encourage interaction from shoppers.

Difficulty: Moderate. This approach requires a bit of planning to ensure that consumers can truly interact and engage with your brand. You need to offer them a next best action that makes sense and provides them with something to do. But, pull it off and you’ll create a lasting and memorable connection between current and potential customers and your company.

Marketing through social media platforms

Social media marketing holds nearly endless possibilities, many of which are low-cost marketing strategies. As with any type of digital marketing, though, it’s key to understand your audience and the particular social media channels that they use.

9. Repurpose what you’ve already created

Remember all the written and visual content you’ve created? Blogs, infographics, videos and the like? Social provides the perfect opportunity to repurpose these items and showcase them specifically on social.

Benefit: Get your content in front of more eyes, and make sure each piece gets as much exposure as possible. Plus, this is basically a free marketing idea, since you’re reusing what you already have.

Difficulty: Easy. This may be the simplest, lowest-effort approach on our list, since you’ve already put the work in. Take inspo from the individual piece of content you’re sharing, create a short but fresh teaser for your post, and voilà! Social marketing at its finest.

10. #Hashtag

This is another free marketing idea that can help get your brand in front of the eyes of your audience and potential customers. There are several approaches you can take here, including getting in on a popular hashtag that’s already trending, or creating your own and launching the buzz yourself.

Benefit: Boost brand awareness and get people talking. Encourage interactions between your audience and your brand.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Effective use of hashtags requires some strategizing, and isn’t just about wallpapering the end of your social post with as many hashtags as you can come up with. The hashtags you use need to be relevant to your audience and your brand, and make sense considering the content of your post.

11. User-created content: Unboxing videos, testimonials, reviews

This is another budget-friendly marketing strategy idea that can help you make good use of the user-created content you likely already have on-hand. If your customer base has written to you with glowing reviews of your product, or have created unboxing or reaction videos involving your brand’s creations, why not put that feedback on display?

Benefit: Not only is this one of our most impactful cheap marketing ideas, this approach also resonates with your social media followers. The vast majority of consumers – 92% – trust word-of-mouth marketing like reviews and testimonials from other customers over any other type of advertising.

Destination Canada followers came through with tons of photos and videos the organization could use to create this ad.

Difficulty: Easy. With a bit of digging – and permission from users, of course – you can spotlight user-created videos, reviews and recommendations on your own social media platforms. And, from your customers’ perspectives, these mean more since they’re coming from other shoppers in your own audience.

12. Quiz ‘em

People love quizzes, especially when the subject matter is fun, engaging, topical and shareworthy. These work particularly well on social media platforms, and when one user shares their quiz results, it encourages others to engage with your quiz as well.

Benefit: Don’t think of quizzes as just a fun activity with a pretty face – in the context of your marketing campaign, quizzes are more than just busy work to engage your audience. As Neil Patel pointed out, your quiz can represent a powerful marketing strategy that can support automated post-quiz interactions and help bring potential customers through your sales funnel.

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult. This strategy will take a bit more thinking, planning and automating to pull off. Patel outlined several different types of quizzes to consider as a jumping off point. It’s important to make sure that there is some sort of tie back to your business – a quiz that tells users what type of pasta they are sponsored by a company known for its cleaning products, for instance, won’t resonate well (unless the quiz concludes with the best stain remover for getting red sauce out of a bedspread … But, even still). A clear connection back to the brand will help keep your company name top-of-mind for users and better support brand recognition and campaign efforts.

13. Host a contest

Another engaging idea to try out involves hosting a contest for your followers. Similar to quizzes, there are several different types and formats to consider here, including:

  • Photo contests, where users provide their own photos of themselves enjoying a brand’s products. This user-generated content can also be repurposed for separate posts.
  • Caption contests, where the brand provides the image and users submit their own captions.
  • User upvote contests, where users vie for the votes of your audience followers, as well as from friends and family in their own social network channels. Voting contests are crazy popular, and can help your social content be shared further than you might have expected. As WordStream pointed out, you can also leverage this data for analysis on your social reach.

Benefit: A contest is one of the most sure-fire ways to spur engagement and interaction with your audience and followers. However, don’t forget that you have to offer something in return, whether it be a sneak peek at your next product unveiling, spotlighting users’ content across your social media platforms or a box of curated goodies from your brand.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate. This all depends on the type of contest you decide to host and the prize you give away. Contests can be simple, and remain completely on your social channels, whereas others may be more involved (see Cheez-It’s scavenger hunt, for example).

14. Influencer marketing

This is one of the newest and, when executed correctly, most effective social marketing strategies out there.

As Influencer MarketingHub’s study found, 92% of people feel that influencers are effective for brand marketing efforts. And now that more companies are engaging in this approach – and boosting their budgets accordingly – it’s worth a look, even for small brands who may not have considered it in the past.

influencer marketing

Benefit: Influencers can bring their own level of credibility to the marketing campaign and help expand brand awareness into new target audience segments. These campaigns can boost engagement, generate leads and strengthen brand image, as personal and corporate brand consultant Gabriela Cordoza pointed out in our Brafton article, linked below.

Difficulty: Difficult. This one definitely doesn’t fall within our free marketing ideas. It’s also one of the most involved strategies, and requires just the right partnership and planning to pull off without appearing inauthentic. Read more about the pros and cons of this strategy here in our blog.

Guerilla marketing: Big ideas for brick and mortar

While many marketing efforts these days are focused around digital channels, it’s important not to overlook physical marketing in the real world. Guerilla marketing approaches take regular real-world marketing to the next step – we’re not just talking about throwing a somewhat creative billboard together, slapping it up next to the highway and calling it a day.

Guerilla marketing can include indoor or outdoor promotions, and can take place at large-scale conferences or specific experiential events, HubSpot’s Amanda Zantal-Wiener pointed out.

15. On the street promotions

Some of the best guerilla marketing strategies take place on the street, within a brand’s local community or in an area where the company is looking to branch out. As these examples show, on-the-street promotions can be small, yet eye-catching:

On the street marketing: Barbecue ad

Or a bigger production:

On the street marketing: Giant orange Popsicle.

Benefit: These marketing ideas are almost sure to be talked about and posted on social channels. You might even get the attention of a local news channel. The buzz basically creates itself.

Difficulty: Moderate. This strategy requires considerable creativity, and a lightning strike-caliber big idea (that aligns with your brand image, offerings and services) in order to pull off. Typically, these campaigns are relatively low-cost, but provide a big return, particularly for brand awareness.

16. Event and experiential marketing

This is another more grandiose marketing idea, but one that can also pay off in spades. Organizations with larger marketing budgets – or those looking to create considerable buzz in a certain area – can host an event or create an experience for consumers with a specific outcome in mind. Events can be smaller scale, and include live on-site contests or activities, or include things like industry conferences with appearances from local influencers.

Benefit: Similar to creative on-the-street promos, event and experiential marketing really gets your audience talking. Depending on the type of event, the activity your brand provides for participants and the overarching theme or purpose, events can support a specific product launch or simply boost brand awareness.

Difficulty: Difficult. Event and experiential marketing depends on considerable planning and strategizing. You need to consider the purpose of the event, what you’ll offer attendees, how you’ll draw a crowd through content creation and other channels, and how you’ll maintain attention on your brand. There are scores of examples out there (including in our article here) that showcase the advantages of this kind of strategy – as well as what can happen when it goes wrong (*coughcough* Fyre Festival *coughcough*).

Bonus ideas! Just throwing ‘em out there

Just in case you haven’t found an idea in our list so far that strikes your interest, here are a few more to consider:

17. Freebies and trial size giveaways

This has happened to me a few times as a consumer, and I can confirm that it’s always unexpected and exciting. Consider combining this approach with an event-based marketing strategy – in other words, when customers order a certain product, it triggers your team to include a sample size of a similar or complementary product during shipping ordering printed shipping boxes.

Benefit: Who doesn’t love freebies? Including a sample exposes your customer base to other items or product lines from your brand that they might not have tried, and encourages them to buy the full size. Talk about return on investment.

Difficulty: Easy, and usually pretty cost-effective.

18. Gift guides or product comparisons

This is the perfect time to put together a holiday gift guide highlighting key products in your brand’s top lines. You can also create more evergreen gift guides or comparisons for segments of your target audience (i.e., comparing different products to your competitor’s similar lines, or a specially curated men’s gift guide).

Amazon has numerous gift guides to help users find products during the holiday season.

Benefit: A comparison between your own product line can educate customers and help ensure that shoppers buy the best items for their needs. A gift guide can also help you showcase specific products that might need a little more attention, or spotlight items that complement each other particularly well.

Difficulty: Easy. You can mine your existing product spec sheets and put something together relatively simply that will offer up good information to shoppers.

19. Take inspo from competitors

It’s always good to check up on what the Joneses are doing, especially when it comes to your marketing efforts. Your key competitors might be doing something particularly creative that you can build upon and apply to your own campaigns.

Benefit: A good idea can always be expanded on. Don’t be afraid to look to your competition for inspiration, take what they’ve done, and make it your own.

Difficulty: Easy. A bit of time and market research is all you need here.

20. The power of partnership

You can also consider forging a strategic partnership and launching a campaign around it. Some brand offerings just work better in tandem with the products of other companies, and organizations like Red Bull and GoPro, for example, aren’t afraid to capitalize on this. Who didn’t watch as Felix Baumgartner, armed with a space suit and GoPro and powered by Red Bull, jumped through the stratosphere?

Check out some other examples/inspo here in HubSpot’s article.

Benefit: Combine the marketing power of both brands while simultaneously exposing new audience segments to your companies’ offerings.

Difficulty: Difficult. This approach can quickly go awry if the partnership and strategy aren’t thought out just right. The partnership has to make sense, both from the perspective of business marketing and for loyal customers in order to achieve a win-win situation. But, when things fall into place, a strategic partnership can be like striking gold.

Kick that campaign into high gear

Awesome marketing ideas certainly don’t just grow on trees or fall right into our laps. Everyone needs a bit of help, inspo and a creative push. We hope you’re able to take this list and hit the ground running with your next campaign. Happy marketing!