Friday, 4 November 2011

Lack of marketing budget? Time to think smarter

Many of you may have seen the recent furore about the number of ad breaks in the X Factor and the current series of Downtown Abbey. Many have complained how the sheer volume of ad breaks and sponsorship slots was ruining their enjoyment of the programmes. I will leave you to decide whether that is either possible or true.

I suspect though that along with concerned of Surbiton there may have been a few individuals either watching the shows or reading about the controversy who simply wished they could afford that level of marketing. Lets put it this way, the estimated cost for a 30 second slot in the final of X Factor last year was in excess of £250,000 and that is without the cost of making the ad in the first place. So this style of advertising is just for the big boys with big pockets which makes it difficult for a local advertiser to stand out.

So if you are a small company looking to promote its products on a tight budget how do you compete with the big boys? The answer is you have to think smart.

My favourite two examples of this are from very different industries. The first is from Scottish brewer Brew Dog who have made a name for themselves not on the basis of its beers but for its ability to get a lot of coverage by being clever. They launched a beer described as the "UK's Strongest beer", Tokyo beer, at an incredible 18.2% abv.

This created a huge backlash from a number of alcohol issue related charities and bodies concerned over the need and glamorisation of such a high strength beer. I suspect though that they have missed the point. This launch has nothing to do with selling a few bottles of beer and everything to do with gaining profile for Brew Dog. In fact they only brewed 3,000 bottles as a special edition. In reality over 29 millions barrels of beer are sold in the UK every year. You can now see brewdog beers in most supermarkets, a big win for a small company.

My other favourite example is from American clothing company Betabrand ( Like the drinks industry, fashion is dominated by big brands and big retailers so its very difficult for a small online only brand to standout. The founder of Betabrand knew he had to come up with something different so last year they created the seven deadly sins series of trousers. It started with the “Gluttony Pants” which included three expander buttons labelled piglet, sow and boar. Trousers were then created for each sin. For envy for example they created just one unique pair of trousers for an auction so others would envy the winner.

Clever idea, clever product and clever marketing generated social media and press coverage and took sales to over $1m in just a couple of years. With ongoing product innovations such as horizontal cord trousers and trousers with reflective turn ups for cyclists they continue to carve a name for themselves in a difficult market place.

Sometimes it does not take millions thrown at marketing to make a brand. It takes creativity, thought and perseverance and a good product to start with.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on twitter @timyoungman