If you’re one of those people who sits down to the Superbowl for the commercials more than the sport, you’ve likely seen a more than a few wacky ads. In fact, some companies thrive by branding themselves in weird ways. Freelance writer Johnny Rowntree has noted a few examples. Read on for the weirdest brands of today.
It’s interesting to see how things come full circle. Eons ago, products were marketed with a homely, personal touch, only to be replaced with a mass-produced, corporate angle that exuded professionalism and excess at the same time. Now, marketing campaigns have met the consumer demand for locally sourced goods with a return to the organic and domestic. The personal touch approach has had a revival—albeit with a touch of weird added into the mix.
Liberation and Fearlessness
Some of the most impactful marketing campaigns include the energy drink revolution. Take a look at Red Bull, for example: The allusion to wing symbolism, suggesting a sense of ascension, liberation and stamina, is a metaphor that has found its place throughout history, but Red Bull goes the extra mile by using the wings as a slogan. The product’s main logo features two bulls and a sun. It’s also one of the few companies to truly maximise its credentials as a sponsor of record-breaking adventurers, whether it’s Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel or epic skydiver Felix Baumgartner. In the same token, a fearless potency and relentless energy is exuded in the Monster drink brand: Heavy uppercase typography, bold, striking colors and fierce claw marks suggest that a beast is lurking inside the beverage, waiting to be unleashed. This is a diversion from what usually lines the shelves of the drink aisle.
Positivity and Empowerment
When Bert and John Jacobs decided to “spread optimism” in 1994 with the launch of their company, Life is Good, the world embraced the New England grassroots company. Their messages of positivity and empowerment, as demonstrated in short, pithy statements and cute images ranging from stick figures to bacon, captured the hearts of casual wear folks. Rustic T-shirts with cheesy quotes and cute smiley faces go a long way, and the Jacobs brothers expanded their successful line into accessories and even pets. Another example of continuing community involvement, Life is Good keeps things personal by holding music festivals and raising money for charities like Kids in Need.
Quirky and Profane
Particularly during Halloween season, anything from the grotesque to the bewildering suffices, and brands love to dip into the quirky and garnish their usually traditional sweets with blood-curdling images of ghouls and slime. Ironically enough, these seemingly unappetizing endeavors appear to work. Halloween has become more about the goodies than dressing up—at least for kids. But some companies follow this peculiar trend year-round. Take a look at Jelly Belly’s Gross Flavors, for instance, where skunk spray, barf and moldy cheese are the star players. Who on earth would want to eat that? Jelly Belly was wise to bring out this particular line only after it had achieved success as one of the world’s most ingenious producers of flavor. Bite into any glossy candy from one of their boxes, and you’ll understand just how intuitive the master alchemists at the company truly are. Gross Flavors appears to be the next step up in terms of keeping things fresh and new—and it sort of worked. Thankfully the company had the sense to let the names speak for themselves and didn’t include real-life images of the “inspirations” in question on the packaging.
Funny and Functional
Whether you like authentic Bailey’s or an Aldi’s knockoff, there is no denying that the Which 2013 Supermarket of the Year nails it when it comes to hilarity. There is nothing remarkable about Aldi’s garish logo, or the basic layout of its store. But the point is that Aldi is about getting what you see: quality for a discounted price, no gimmicks. This is exactly what Aldi had in mind when it released a series of advertisements on TV with wise-cracking youngsters, elderly folks and even dead explorers. This doesn’t necessarily make Aldi an unusual brand, but its ads are excellent examples of how a media strategy can be unique and hit a chord with the audience at the same time. Where most supermarkets are above simple humor and tend to choose conventional methods of advertising, Aldi decided to stand out from the crowd with cleverly crafted wit.
Similarly, Ikea’s stints on the television have dabbled with ads that are endearing, use dry humor or are slightly mystical. Whether it’s partying with life-size toys or the supposedly terrifying take on Barbie, Ikea doesn’t try to sell the product. Instead, the company ventures into spots about how people who have Ikea products are strange and awesome. The massive popularity of this rapidly growing retailer hasn’t diminished its capacity for out-there advertising.
Of course, it’s not just the big corporations that get to play. For smaller businesses, such as Life is Good when it first started, a unique brand identity is key to the survival of a small-scale venture. Hair salons and vintage apparel and accessories shops or music stores are, as a rule, more inventive when it comes to bespoke themes. And it’s these steps into the crazier reaches of marketing that celebrate the artistic process in one of its finest elements.
Written by Jonny Rowntree, a freelance writer from Northern England, working with Elanders UK, the worldwide digital printing partner. Jonny has worked with some of the top media outlets including The Next Web, Creative Bloq and Buffer.
Want to increase your branding expert street credit? Check out Common Mistakes Designers Make with Branding (and How to Fix Them).