Category Archives: marketing

Marketing case studies

Real time marketing

Oreo Superbowl 2013
Samsung Oscars 2014

Culture Manipulation / Need Creation

Diamonds Are Forever
Consider The Lobster
Don’t Mess With Texas
Tulip Mania – conrad gessner poem
Aeron Chairs

exploiting new medium

Will It Blend?
2008 Obama Presidential Campaign
High School Musical / Disney / Myspace (?)


Red Bull Stratos
Victoria’s Secret Fashion
Apple Keynotes

Owning a space

Hacker News for YCombinator
Open by American Express

Referral Marketing


Catchy Slogans

Clairol Does she… or doesn’t she?
Tastes good like a cigarette should
Got Milk
It’s toasted
Campbell Soup
Just Do It
Nothing comes between me and my Calvins

Content Marketing

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
IKEA catalogues / showrooms
Red Bulletin
Lego Lego Club Magazine
Kraft Food & Family Magazine
P&G Home Made Simple


“Dove “”Real Beauty Sketches””””

Guiness – Phones down
Chipotle – The Scarecrow

Streisand Effect

Martha Payne girl who took pictures,


Sony Bottled Water
British Airways Interactive Billboard
Proshade offering to sponsor heritage
Taco Bell buys Liberty Bell

Social Media Marketing

Oreo Daily Twist
General Electric
Michael Kors
Whopper sacrifice friends
Grey Poupon
Lays’ Do Us A Flavor

Catchy / Funny / Entertaining

Evian – Baby & Me
Dumb Ways To Die
Volvo Trucks
“dollar shave club”
Old Spice

Guerilla Marketing

Blair Witch Project
Grand Theft Auto V
Best Job In The World


Climate change suffers from bad branding. While serious, it sounds trivial….
Feminism “Homophobia”. is unfortunately a semantically poisoned word….
Gasoline Cars. People used to argue about the definition of “autocar”, etc.

Goldieblox – Princess Machines Innovative product
Pantene – Labels against women Inspiring / Idealistic
Coke – America The Beautiful Idealistic / controversial / remarkable / shareworthy
P&G Inspiring / shareworthy
Apple – 1984 Picks a side
Think Small Unexpected focus
Avis – we try harder unexpected focus
Goodyear Blimp Colonized headspace
In Rainbows, Radiohead Unorthodox pricing / radical transparency
Louis CK Unorthodox pricing / radical transparency
Buffer Radical transparency
GrooveHQ Radical transparency
The Marlboro Man Aspirational
Mentos the Freshmaker Memorable / Funny
Black Milk Leggings Tribe-focused / Niche Centric
GoldieBlox – Princess Machines Tribe-focused / Niche Centric
Sisterhood travelling pants Tribe-focused / Niche Centric
Facebook Word of mouth
Google Word of Mouth
Little Miss Matched Word of Mouth
Zappos Word of Mouth
Nutella Obsessive Product Focus
Ron Popeil Obsessive Product Focus
Charles Atlas Hero’s Narrative
Tesla Motors Innovative product -> Word of mouth
Dr. Martens (?) Cultural zietgeist
Mary Kay Cosmetics Network Marketing, Pink Cadillacs

Outrage Marketing – Pick an enemy and offend them

My wife showed me an article recently that amused me.

It was written on LinkedIn, by Jacob Bass, a guy who makes and sells customized gun holsters: The Dying Breed of Real Men

It reminds me of “Reveal your Modesty“, by Jessica Rey.

What I found interesting to contemplate is – in both cases, neither of them would’ve gotten as much attention if they didn’t upset or offend some group of people along the way.

Jessica offended the people who feel that women should be allowed to wear whatever they like without feeling bad about it.

Jacob offended those who found his post veering into transphobic, homophobic territory.

Pick an enemy. Offend them.


Best Referral Campaigns

Originally posted on reddit.

Hey, this is my jam! me and my team have been writing about this for over 2 years now:

The most famous referral programs:

Aggregated lists of referral programs

Hardware referral programs:

Referral programs for services:

Referral programs in fashion:

Other interesting referral programs:

Let me know if there’s any particular thing you’re interested in and I’ll find you what ya need!

My favorite marketing campaigns

I like…

  • How Warby Parker hijacked New York Fashion Week by being a little naughty and a little ingenious.
  • How Red Bull completely sponsors entire sporting events and does crazy stunts like the Stratos jump
  • How Tesla pretends it doesn’t do any marketing while actually facilitating a massive word-of-mouth campaign, encouraging user-generated content and doing lots of interviews and such (big fan here both as a consumer and a marketer)
  • Steve Jobs’ epic product launches, of course. “One more thing…”
  • Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show– they managed to grow it into such an epic event, they actually make huge profits from tickets and advertising WITHOUT selling any product
  • Dropbox’s and PayPal’s referral programs. Ridiculously successful, and effectively launched both of those scrappy startups into billion dollar co’s.
  • TOMS, for the way they bake the social/storytelling aspect into their business model: “buy a pair, give a pair”. People are instantly willing to spend more because they get to feel good doing it
  • GoPro – “Be A Hero”. Creating user-generated content and framing it as something aspirational. (Their competitor Contour had arguably a better product when they were starting out, but the marketing wasn’t as powerful. Contour’s founder actually said so!)
  • Tinder – they had a chicken or egg problem when they were starting out, like all matching/marketplace type services do. The founders would go to sororities to give talks, and then get all the girls to sign up. Then they’d go to the boys and show them all these girls… bingo. Also they’d host parties where you had to download the app to get in.
  • CrossFit – the genius is in how it’s franchised out, allowing people to form their own little cults and clans all around the world. And there are all these little details that add to it– the workout of the day, which makes people feel like they have to keep up, and the annual games, which adds a competitive/aspirational streak
  • Gmail, Facebook – it’s easy to forget that both of these services were actually pretty hard to get into in the early days– they were exclusive and you had to get invites or have the right email address
  • BlendTec – have you seen the videos? You’ve seen the videos.
  • PornHub – PornHub just keeps churning out one genius marketing campaign after another. They’ve mastered the art of making newsworthy announcements (ie “Give America Wood” – for every X amount of views on a certain category, they’ll plant 100 trees, etc)

Best Ecommerce Products

I’ve spent the past 4 years working in ecommerce, and as a by-product of that I’ve had the opportunity to look at literally thousands of stores. Here are my some of personal favorites. Will update with more later.


Black Milk Clothing – great brand, great community

Bonobos – relentless focus on getting one thing right

Warby Parker – definitely read about their marketing backstory

TOMS – such clever marketing as a movement

Hard Graft – killer visuals

The Stiff Collar “Somewhat snooty English shirts”

Bellroy – great explainer

THINX – fantastic positioning, community buy-in

Valfre – tonnes of personality

Sivana – very well executed

Everlane – lovely minimalist principles

Cocaine Cowboys – personality overload – even more so

Household stuff:

ANTA – makes me homesick for a place I’ve never been


LIFX – cool product and nicely pitched

Pencil – fantastic sales pitch


Clay Christensen- what are we hiring this product to do?

  • Milkshakes. We hire products to do jobs for us. Motivating customers to buy what we’re offering. Market understanding that mirrors how customers experience life.
  • Customers that fit the model of the quintessential milkshake- you want it choclatier, chunkier, cheaper? No impact on profits/sales.
  • What job do you hire a milkshake for? What time, what were they wearing, were they alone? Did they buy other stuff?
  • half the milkshakes sold before 8am, alone, only thing they bought, drove off with it. Long and boring drive to work. “Somebody gave them another hand and they didn’t have anything to do.” Viscous milkshake- 20 minutes to suck it up the thin straw. I’m full all morning, fits in my cupholder.


This page is a work-in-progress, a list of people that I find helpful in thinking about marketing. 

Seth Godin

He understood why Google Maps wasn’t working, and helped them fix it. Initially it was just about the novelty factor of seeing where your house was, what it looked like from space – but for it to be truly useful to people, to be something people talked about, it needed to really be about directions.

Rory Sutherland

Appreciates that perception = reality.

Elon Musk

Appreciates value of superlatives. Knows how to play the media. Knows how to satisfy his tribe of nerds. Turned buying a luxury supercar into a status symbol AND an act of charity. Made people feel good.

Dietrich Mateschitz

The man behind Red Bull. Very strong personality. Real sense of adventure. Understood pricing. [More: 1]

David Ogilvy

Had a very clear sense of who he wanted to work with, well in advance. Personally wrote some great headlines.

“The customer is your wife” – appreciated that you can’t and shouldn’t screw around with customers.

Science Educators: Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Neil Tyson & Bill Nye

The best science educators have this beautiful sense of wonder about them. They have a low tolerance for bullshit or jargon. They explain things as simply as they can. They respect and honor their audiences, and have a sensitivity to their context. They’re all particularly great with children.

We Stopped Dreaming

Mr. Rogers


Jason Silva, MateusZ

Appreciates the power of spectacle, pacing, rhythm, buildup, etc.

Tim Urban (WaitButWhy), Mark Manson, Evan Pushak (NerdWriter), Bill Wurtz (History of Japan), Paul Ford (What is Code?)

Modern educators, longform writers.

Tim Ferriss, Elliott Hulse

Building a personality-centric brand.

Brian Balfour, Brian Dean, Neil Patel, Hiten Shah, Ramit Sethi, Andrew Chen

When these people talk about marketing, I usually pay attention.

Ed Gotham, Tom Albrighton, Dan Shipper 

I’ve liked their blogs.

Greg Ciotti. Noah Kagan. Tim Soulo. Kevan Lee. Courtney Seiter. 

Have encountered their stuff while working.

Back to Marketing.


I’ve always thought that self-promotion can actually be a really great thing as long as there’s an expectation that the person responsible is engaged – that is, they take the time to post not just the post itself, but their personal thoughts on the matter, questions they might have… and then respond/react to whatever other people are saying. Such posts and attitudes encourage discussion.

Really, every single point of interaction in a sub-reddit is an opportunity for a decent conversation, if people are willing to make it so. Even a shitty post can yield good discussions if people put in the effort.

The final form of any brand logo is hypersimplicity

The final form of any brand logo is hypersimplicity

“Can an illiterate child draw it from memory?”

I’m a writer, not a visual designer. But I have always been very particular about visuals.

Nike colonized a tick.

Google colonized a circle with a line.

You want a logo that anybody can draw and identify. If a child who doesn’t speak English can draw a recognizable version of your logo, you’re golden.

pretty but complicatd
way simpler, a child could replicate it

McDonald’s comes next with the golden M — no translation necessary.

Adidas did a good job with the three stripes

Instagram did a killer job with its redesign. It represented a camera with just three strokes:

The important thing isn’t the colors, but that it can now be represented so simply:

Facebook F

Chanel C’s

Nazi swastika



Yahoo Y! — Similar to Virgin logo




Star of David



I’m still not sure how I feel about Uber’s redesign.

The frills on the outside are redundant and can be removed, that’s a trivial thing. Square within a circle is easy to remember/visualize, but I’m not sure it means anything. Why is the line / hole on the left rather then up (where it would still be “U”)?

I would’ve voted for either of these instead:

by “Parallaxe”
by Arcoalex

Cisco is good

San francisco, bridge, wireless connectivity — genius.


I like it.

Of course, not all brands need to be hypersimple. Lamborghini, Ferrari, etc probably benefit from having complicated logos and would lose something if they oversimplified it.

Sensual brands like Victoria’s Secret or Lady Godiva or Magnum ice cream — they need their swirls and serifs to convey indulgence. Stripping that away would strip away the sex.

Disney deserves its swirls — it’s a stylized version of Walt Disney’s signature, and it’s very smart to use such an iconic founder’s identity as part of the product. and castle— but their simplicity comes from mickey.

It’s a very clever move of them to put in Mickey Mouse into the “corporate logo”, because it evokes emotions when you look at it:

Ogilvy uses a stylized version of it’s founder’s signature, which is a smart move despite the complexity.

YouTube — the red arrow. Perfect. You can make cushion covers out of it. All sorts of simple merchandise. They colonized a red triangle.


Starbucks — can’t get too simple too fast, but you can see they’ve been progressively simplifying

Could be better: NASA. Way too complicated. There’s a suggested redesign that cuts out too much of the text and makes it hard to read, but the slight


Burger King should exploit their crown. Rolex is currently colonizing the crown space (and Corona, I suppose, but that’s not obvious), and Hallmark.


Good / relevant / related links: – Your Logo as a design element (good blog overall, very happy to have discovered)  kena a little bit scooped but eh I have more to say