‘Riskovation’ – the new mantra for marketing daredevils

Changes in the media landscape have made it more difficult for brands to measure their markets and stand out among competitors. As a result, businesses have been forced to reach their audiences in more creative ways.

Today, the more risky, rebellious brands take creative marketing to a whole new level, enlisting a mantra that sometimes the only way to generate buzz is to create a scene.

However, creating a scene in the marketing world is often like playing with fire. The success and effectiveness of a campaign all depends on a harmonious balance of two factors: risk and innovation.

Three experts were asked to score “daredevil” campaigns based on their level of risk and amount of innovation (1=not risky/innovative at all, 5=extremely risky/innovative).

The panel of judges included Beth Bullock McGrail, senior director of brand communications for Friendly’s Ice Cream Co.; Bennett Jones,  marketing director for the Charleston Music Hall; and Kyle Victory, editorial/photo/video intern for Art Mag.

Average Risk rating: 2.0

Average Innovation rating: 2.4

Sugary soda and fruit drinks (like cranberry juice) have been criticized for their contribution to America’s obesity epidemic. Ocean Spray decided to combat this accusation and remind the public about the wholesome goodness of cranberry juice by revealing the natural bogs where the berries are grown and harvested.

Since it was not possible to allow millions of people to visit these bogs, they initiated a campaign to bring the bogs to them. For the main stunt, Ocean Spray created a simulated bog in the middle of Times Square for The Today Show.


Risk rating: 1“This idea is a logical extension of their ad campaign, so it fits into the consumer understanding of their brand based on recent advertising.”

Innovation rating: 1 “While bringing the bog to the city is an interesting way to leverage their ongoing campaign, I expect that this would make sense to the consumer based on their advertising.  Something that makes sense/that doesn’t cause a ‘wow’ from the customer would fall into low innovation.”


Risk rating: 2“Seems apropos to their overall shtick. The commercials consist of men standing in bogs, now men are standing in bogs with other men standing around them… not too risky.” 

Innovation rating: 2 “This is definitely a stunt, but not exactly innovative.  Things such as this have been done before.”


Risk rating: 3 “I don’t think the main idea is necessarily that ‘risky.’ I feel like it is pretty common to show where things are grown… like the orange juice brand Florida’s Natural. They did a campaign with the slogan ‘Florida’s Natural. It’s as close to the grove as you can get.’ At the same time though, the Manhattan bog was totally weird and unexpected.”

Innovation rating: 4 ­– “I think what made the campaign especially cool, was that they took the basic idea (showing where things are grown) and made the commercials really funny and slightly awkward. But above all, putting a cranberry bog in the middle of Manhattan was the winner.”

Average risk rating: 2.7

Average innovation rating: 3.2

Carlsberg decided to give its campaign a mission by developing a pranking strategy based on the slogan, “Standing up for a friend… that calls for a Carlsberg.”

The prank’s mission: to help people reveal whether or not their beer-drinking buddies were true, reliable “mates.”

They created a video where unsuspecting victims received phone calls from friends in the middle of the night, pleading for immediate bailout from a failed poker match. If the friend pulled through and arrived at the mock poker scene with cash in hand, Carlsberg unveiled the slogan, revealing the stunt and rewarding the loyal companion with an ice-cold beer. Carlsberg created a Facebook app as a supplement to the video pranks that allowed anyone to put their own friends to a similar test, driving traffic to the company’s social media presence as well.


Risk rating: 1 “This campaign is low risk if their target audience is a young demographic, which it appears it is.  Young people would really love this pranking approach and it would further dimensionalize the Brand personality.”

Innovation rating: 3.5“I don’t even fall under the target demographic and I actually loved this.  There are so many pieces in play, from the phone call – to the theatrics when the person shows up and has to navigate through the building to get to the poker game – to the ‘reveal’ at the end.  It hits on an age-old question: which friends really have your back?  Complicated to execute but true to the Brand positioning.”


Risk rating: 4 “This could go over some people’s heads if not explained. Executed well though.”

Innovation rating: 3“Prank shows have been done before, but this is a good idea and incorporates the sort of ‘slapstick-trickery’ of the Three Stooges for beer buddies.”


Risk rating: 3 ­– “This campaign is risky because it is dealing with real people. I always thought the Carlsberg slogan was kind of pointless, until I saw this commercial.”

Innovation rating: 3 ­“Carlsberg must have worked really hard on this campaign. The commercial was really long yet interesting, I don’t even want to know how much it cost to pay everyone that shows up at the end of the commercial. Also, developing an App was really creative.”

Average risk rating: 3.4

Average innovation rating: 2.4

SugarDaddie.com is actively determined to not only create a virtual community for singles online, but to OWN a real community.

The site offered the town of Woodside, Calif., $11.65 million to change its name from “Woodside” to “SugarDaddie.com.” This campaign is designed as an official proposal…not a stunt. The company wants its own town.

Besides a 10-year commitment to the name change, SugarDaddie.com also wants to rename specific institutions and street sings within the town to match the theme, build a life size statue in the town center of Hugh Hefner (or some other high profile “Sugar Daddy”) and the CEO of the website requires that he be awarded a key at a formal ceremony to initiate the name change… Sound demanding?

Apparently these outrageous requests have created a ton of buzz in the media. Woodside has still not accepted the offer, but the company plans to present the proposal to numerous other towns around the country.

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Risk rating: 3“While this is outrageous and has created buzz, what does it really do to help potential customers understand the Brand or create an affiliation with the Brand? Feels like an over the top idea for a company that has too much money to spend.”

Innovation rating: 3“It is innovative… I haven’t seen it done before. But innovation that isn’t grounded in an idea that is relatable to most feels a bit empty.”


Risk Rating: 2“My first reaction was to give this a high risk rating, but then I realized we were talking about a company named ‘SugardDaddie.com’ that has somehow accumulated $12 million dollars.  Welcome to America?”

Innovation rating: 4 “While I may be critical, I’ve never heard of something this extravagant; touché, SugardDaddie.com, touché.”


Risk rating: 5 ­– “Yeah, asking someone to name a town after you is like asking someone to get a logo tattooed on their face. Its a HUGE risk, and as the company, you better make it worth it, because if you don’t your reputation spirals down the drain.”

Innovation rating: 1 ­– “Can’t they think of anything else to name the town? I mean, even Sugar Daddie, CA would be better than SugarDaddie.com, CA. They obviously didn’t think about this very hard. They could have even made a commercial and employed a specific hashtag, such as #FinestPeople since the site claims to have ‘the finest people in Internet dating.’ I think a town would rather be called finest people than SugarDaddie.com.”

Average risk rating: 3.0

Average innovation rating: 4.4

Scope pulled off something truly incredible with bacon-flavored mouthwash: they tricked EVERYONE into believing this disgusting (or awesome, according to some bacon lovers) product was real.

The company launched the “sizzling” mouthwash flavor the same exact way they would any real product, complete with an official press release, online commercials, Twitter announcements and a company sponsored Facebook page.

The product was even advertised as having a “synthetic bacon flavor”, reminding consumers “No pigs are harmed during the making of Scope Bacon.”

The launch campaign went on for over two weeks until finally, on April 1st, Scope announced Bacon flavored mouthwash was in fact an April Fool’s prank and thanked consumers for “giving them the courage to laugh at themselves.”


Risk rating: 4“Mouthwash brands aren’t known for a sense of humor – this was risky, yet bold.”

Innovation rating: 4“I don’t even know how to put this on a scale… it is out there.  The question is: is this supposed to make us appreciate the REAL taste of scope after our minds thoroughly reject the bacon flavor version?  Still scratching my head… but it has me thinking, so they did something right!”


Risk rating: 1 “Bacon is everywhere, and there is bacon toothpaste on the market already, so if they were smart they would have pooled resources and made the campaign even larger.”

Innovation rating: 4“Convincing the world of bacon flavored mouthwash… They did it, and no one else has.”


Risk rating: 4 ­“I would give this campaign a 5 if it were for more than 2 weeks and if it were not strictly an April Fools joke. I thought it was awesome. I think making the Facebook page and press release and everything really made it seem real! It is especially risky because they are about being fresh and clean, not about being greasy and smelling like bacon.”

Innovation rating: 5 ­– “Scope could have done the joke with a ton of different flavors, like ‘nacho’ or ‘spaghetti.’ Choosing bacon was strategic because there was a huge, genuine bacon fad going on and they wanted to make their product seem believable, so they chose bacon. I’m sure some people inevitably got excited about the new flavor and MANY people thought it was real.”

Average risk rating: 4.0

Average innovation rating: 5.0

Behold the ultimate badass brand: Bodyform, a British feminine hygiene company, decided to take matters into their own hands after a consumer’s negative rant on their Facebook page went viral.

Richard Neill posted a comment that accused Bodyform of “lying” about the reality of female menstruation, claiming that the advertisements depicted this wonderful time of the month, when in actuality his girlfriend’s menstrual cycle transformed her into “the little girl from the exorcist.”

Instead of ignoring the comment and avoiding this inherently awkward subject entirely, Bodyform addressed the situation head on.

The company created a video in which CEO Caroline Williams directly apologizes to Richard Neill for “lying” to him about women’s periods. Her speech holds nothing (absolutely nothing) back and is shockingly unconventional in its nature.


Risk rating: 3“Facing a FB post head on – not what many brands are ready to do.  Drafting off that, they have deviated from the clinical positioning of most Brands within this product category, and they’ve ‘taken down the curtain’.  Bravo! Risky but so engaging, and Brand–differentiating!”

Innovation rating: 5 “The question is: did they ‘plant’ the FB post?  Either way, very innovative, and would make me want to align with their product simply because they ‘get it’.”


Risk Rating: 4“This type of move has to be done tastefully and with vindication or else it comes off as trite and childish.”

Innovation rating: 5“This is of the better uses of social media in advertising I have seen.”


Risk rating: 5 ­– “With this commercial, Body Form basically ran the risk of completely reinventing who they were, in a negative way, and causing criticism. Since menstruation is not a commonly chatted about topic in the media or even life, even making a more conservative commercial is tricky. There is also an obvious risk in responding to a real person’s post.”

Innovation rating: 5 ­– “This is cool because they did go out on a limb to respond to a critique, in front of millions of people. Lots of companies don’t think to start a commercial that way. I love how the CEO was classy, yet condescending… and then she just farts at the end. I’m sure the guy was either mortified or rolling on the floor with laughter.”

-by Sarah Hopkins

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