Seven Ridiculous Marketing Campaigns That Worked and Two That Didn’t

Sometimes, your team creates a marketing plan, and you’re confident it will be a success. But then, more ambitious projects are usually a hit-and-miss. Here are seven campaigns that shocked the advertising world with both novelty and success. To keep things in perspective, we’ll also share two campaigns that went wrong.

1. Tommy John’s honest underwear ad

Many men’s underwear ads push the idea of being sexy. The models have rock solid abs and impressive and somewhat unrealistic bulges. Tommy John launched a refreshing campaign that went in the opposite direction by addressing what matters in underwear – comfort.

The ad described men’s pain and suffering from underwear in excruciating detail. It talked about itching, comfort, and everything in between. The strategy might have been to make men so uncomfortable that they’d want a pair of underwear. It worked!

2. WHISKAS cat videos

Cat videos are simply adorable. They can hold anyone’s attention for as much as thirty minutes with nothing but cute eyes and shenanigans. Their effect is so powerful that it contributed to YouTube’s popularity.

WHISKAS, the cat food manufacturer, took advantage of this by creating a ‘Kitten Kollege’ YouTube series. The videos have cats attending school and displaying all kinds of cuteness. You may never find a better cat video.

3. BONDS’ story

If you thought Tommy John’s strategy was ridiculous, brace yourself. BONDS, the men’s underwear brand, launched a video illustrating two male testicles’ struggles. In it, two male models dressed in leotards sit on chairs and complain about how tough their life is.

Of course, their tunes change once their owner gets a pair of BONDS men’s underwear. The message is simple – BONDS is easier on your testicles. The genius of the campaign is that men can relate to it in the most personal way possible.

4. Totes McGoats ad

The past few campaigns used brilliant angles by looking at what people hate and love. Totes McGoats only explored what people hated, which is why its success is perplexing. The mayor of Niagara Falls launched the campaign when he discovered that only one in 25 town citizens recycled.

He decided to recruit a mascot, basically a man with a goat mask, Totes McGoats. It was perhaps one of the most disturbing sights you’ll ever see – a man with the head of a goat. The campaign worked, though, because a third of the town recycles today.

5.’s bargain, a car rental company, did what many companies dream of, but never found a way to achieve. They convinced a town to name itself after the company. The year was 1999, and the town was halfway to Oregon. The company gave the town stocks, Internet access, computers, and other giveaways in exchange for trading names.

The company’s logic was simple – a name change could open the town to more tourism opportunities and even put it on the map. The plan worked, and the rental company also earned a spot on the map. The news traveled so quickly that it was acquired the next year by eBay for $300 million.

6. Diamond Candles

Diamond Candles is a story of sheer marketing genius. The company was founded with a marketing strategy from the get-go. Instead of just selling candles, they were going to sell candles with diamond rings in them. The rings could be worth $10, $1000, or anything in between.

Who doesn’t want a diamond ring? The answer seems to be nobody because Diamond Candles’ sales took off. It grew to generate over a million in revenue in 18 months and won several e-commerce awards. It just goes to show that genius marketing can’t be ignored.


This example shows that effective marketing doesn’t have to require large advertising teams. It doesn’t need a ridiculous amount of money, either. Kyle Taylor, the genius behind this, showed that all you need is a little imagination.

He started a blog where he shares novel ways to make money. One of them was how he got paid to buy beer and audit liquor stores. To raise awareness about his blog, he purchased the domain ‘’ and set up a permanent redirect to his blog post.

He then printed stickers with the domain name and hired college students to paste them. The allure of free beer was too strong to resist because it got 300 new visitors by the second week. His blog is much more successful today than he could ever have expected.

The Lesson

Marketing is an exciting, but complicated subject. Companies spend millions on a campaign only to fall flat on their faces. Other entrepreneurs like Kyle Taylor spend a few bucks on domain registration and stickers and go on to find success.

One takeaway is to incorporate wacky tactics into your plan. People love novelty, and your crazy idea may just appeal to them. You could adopt an animal mascot, create a drinking game, or even rent a mobile kitchen trailer truck ( and give out free food.

Two Ridiculous Campaigns That Didn’t Work

Before you go on to make marketing history, let’s look at two campaigns that flopped. They can teach us something about planning, timing, and common sense.

1. Honda’s naming blunder

In 2001, Honda launched a new car and marketed it as the Honda Fit in Asian markets. In Europe, it sold the vehicle as the Honda Fitta. Unfortunately, ‘Fitta’ refers to female genitalia in Swedish.

Luckily, they corrected the embarrassing blunder and renamed the car to Honda Jazz. Without the swift reaction, there’s no telling what would have become of Honda’s market share.

2. Parker Pen’s bad translation

Translating languages is always a hassle. Some phrases don’t always transfer, and you may end up with embarrassing copies of the original. Parker Pen knows the feeling. The company launched a slogan for its ball pen that read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.”

Unfortunately, the slogan translated to “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant” in Spanish. Luckily, the company was able to recover from the embarrassing blunder.

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