The ingenious marketing moves that brought success: 8 examples from history


Posted on Sep 21, 2022      14


It is likely that you are now reading this article for a reason and you know what marketing is, so let’s do without the introductory theory.

We have tried to collect an interesting selection of marketing moves from the history of humanity, which helped to attract customers and increase sales. Enjoy reading!

Three Million Behind the Glass

About 15 years ago, the company ZM brought to life a cool marketing idea that the entire world was talking about. A manufacturer of heavy-duty glass installed a glass booth at a bus stop that contained $3 million in U.S. dollars. According to statements from representatives of the company, anyone could try to break the structure and, if successful, take the entire amount.

Hundreds of people tried to get rich by breaking the glass, but no one could do it during the promotional period.

Now on to the facts that not everyone knew. Even though the company was confident in the durability of its glass, they didn’t take any chances or maybe it wasn’t as reliable.

  1. Behind the sturdy glass was only $500 in $20 bills that lay on top. The rest of the bills were counterfeit.
  2. There was only one condition in all this action - it could not attack the installation with any tools, weapons or equipment. Only hands and feet were allowed.
  3. The action was never left unnoticed by the producer - on the other side of the street several guards watched what was going on. In case of non-compliance with the rules, the violator was taken under the white hands and led away to representatives of the law.

This peculiar publicity stunt cost the company only 6 thousand dollars, but everyone was talking about it.

Some might say, “Scammers!” But in fact, genius marketers who made cheap advertising all over the world and got a lot of new customers.

Cocoa ads before the execution

In 1828, Dutch engineer Conrad Van Gutten invented and patented a hydraulic press for grinding cocoa beans into powder.

Although coffee and tea were in great demand in Old World countries, he began to actively promote his product. But lectures on the benefits of cocoa and promises that it would make children strong and healthy helped a little.

Conrad realized he had to come up with an unusual trick to attract the attention of the customer. He offered the criminal, who had been sentenced to death, a good deal.

Executions then were carried out in squares in the presence of a crowd of spectators, so this publicity stunt did not go unnoticed.

The deal was based on the following conditions:

  • The perpetrator had to shout the following phrase as his last word: “Drink Van Gutten’s cocoa!
  • Conrad was to pay the family of the arrestee a handsome reward.

The Dutch businessman kept his word and paid the family of the executed man, and cocoa sales skyrocketed.

Among the most striking modern examples that are based on the same principle is the viral advertisement of the Belgian TV channel TNT when they put a “add drama” button in the town square.⬇

Beneficial pay raise

Henry Ford not only invented the first commercially successful automobile and the assembly line to assemble it, he actually became the founding father of the middle class in the United States.

In 1914, he introduced the highest minimum wage in the country, $5, at his factory.

At the time it seemed absurd: why pay so much for monotonous physical work? It was not profitable for business!

However, Ford’s decision quickly brought benefits.

  1. First, layoffs had almost completely stopped at his factories, so there was no need to spend money on finding and training workers.
  2. Second, the news of the fabulous wages served as excellent publicity for the company and its products.
  3. Third, the high wages in Ford’s factories contributed to the emergence of the famous American middle class - ordinary working people who could afford prestigious consumption. For example, a shop steward would earn enough to save up money over several years for the famous car that his subordinates assembled.

Creating artificial demand

Nikolai Shustov, a Russian entrepreneur, opened his first business in 1863. He was engaged in the production of vodka, but few people knew about it. In order to get his product talked about, Nikolai Leontyevich came up with an ingenious marketing ploy: he hired students who visited various drinking establishments and demanded “Shustov’s, the best vodka in the world”.

Naturally, it was not yet available in the establishments, and after the refusal to serve the right alcohol, they made scandals and even fights. Such cases immediately found their way to the press. Thus, people quickly learned about the Russian entrepreneur’s drinks, which soon appeared in all establishments that sold alcoholic beverages.

Why was such an aggressive advertising campaign a success? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Constant scandals could have dealt an irreparable blow to the reputation of the drinking establishment, so innkeepers were forced to purchase Shustov’s products.
  2. Newspaper readers wondered what kind of vodka it was and why people fought over it. Further, word of mouth did its work, and many people learned about Shustov’s alcohol.

Thirty-six years later, the same advertising scheme was used for Shustov’s cognac.

Cigarette packaging instead of a thousand posters

Originally, all cigarettes were produced in soft packs, but an innovation from Marlboro broke the tradition. Sales of these cigarettes had declined markedly by 1954, and Philip Morris International (the owner of Marlboro) began the revival of the brand with a change in packaging.

The flip-top cardboard packs that are now the standard were invented by Marlboro designer Frank Gianninoto. The innovative packaging was called “Flip-top”. After that, Marlboro’s business took off.

What was the reason for its success? Hardly just a stylish design and convenient packaging.

Unlike the soft packs, in which cigarettes could be taken out directly in the pocket, the new packaging had to be pulled out. Smokers were unwittingly showing their cigarette preferences to others, promoting Marlboro.

Environmental advertising from McDonald’s

It is not known which marketing genius in the famous company came up with this clever move, but its result was free advertising for McDonald’s not only on the main highway in California but also in many newspapers and magazines.

A few years ago, the company got somewhere in large quantities the seeds of rare yellow poppies, which are a protected plant in the United States. One night, under cover of night, the poppies were sown on a hillside near a national highway in California, forming the famous letter M.

Once all this beauty had taken root, sprouted and bloomed, no one had the right to mow, much less pluck these rare flowers. And the famous “golden arches” could grow by the highway for several more years until they blended into the landscape.

$25,000 to tie your shoelaces

It was 1970, at the height of the so-called “sneaker war” between Adidas and Puma. The two largest athletic shoe manufacturers at the time were spending vast sums of money on advertising, and in particular on the participation of famous athletes.

Only arguably the most famous person in the sporting world never received a single offer from the shoe giants. This was the legendary king of soccer, Pele.

The Brazilian was perplexed. The fact was that Adidas and Puma had made a secret “Pele pact”, in which they committed not to use the soccer superstar in advertising. The companies knew well that once they started haggling for his participation, the price could reach fabulous values that would bankrupt the industry.

During the 1970 World Cup in Italy, the secret pact was broken in a very creative and unexpected way. As the referee prepared to blow the whistle for the last match, which, of course, involved the Brazilians, Pele gestured for attention and asked for a moment’s delay.

All the television cameras turned to the king of soccer, who casually sat down and tied his boots securely. The Puma logo appeared on the screens of millions of television viewers!

Naturally, this gesture of Pele was staged. Its author was journalist Hans Henningsen, who had a lot of contacts with the soccer star. Pele had shared with Hans his bewilderment at the shoe giants’ indifference to him, and the journalist had some contacts at Puma.

Then ingenious Henningsen quickly thought of ways to make a close-up of the Brazilian footballer’s sneakers appear on millions of television screens during the World Cup.

This could not fully be considered advertising, but it worked just as well as a specially staged commercial. A week after these events, Puma’s sales soared.

Pele is said to have received $25,000 for his legendary sneaker tying, a substantial sum, but not a staggering amount of money.

Why do you need stickers on fruit?

In 1929, a large company, Fyffes, which exported bananas to Great Britain, faced a rival from Jamaica. To protect its market position, Fyffes launched a serious advertising campaign.

But, in retail sales, it was unclear which company the goods belonged to - on the shelves the company’s bananas looked exactly the same as those of its competitors. The advertising was not as effective as we would like it to be.

It was completely unclear how to brand exactly the same fruit to emphasize that the bananas of this supplier are healthy and tasty, and all the others are not worthy of the buyer’s attention.

It was then that the Irish company’s advertising department came up with the genius idea of supplying bananas with stickers. This is how the first banana stickers appeared in Europe, and with some modifications they are still in use today.


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