5 Marketing Hacks That Will Make You Question Everything

Jeff Lizik
7 min readSep 4, 2019

Marketing, especially digital marketing, is a game of rules. The web is littered with best practices and how-to guide that follow established structures. Set your goal, find your audience, and build your tactics. Start with your subject line, and end with a call to action. Use actionable language and remove buyer’s journey friction.

I’m not saying that any of these strategies are wrong. Plenty of companies have found lots of success in following them to the T. That doesn’t mean you have to.

Hear me out. Especially in marketing, which is both creative and strategic, rules should be fluid. For decades, brands have succeeded by breaking the norm and making use of marketing hacks. Remember when Volkswagen entered the U.S. through messaging that essentially trashed its own product?

Yes, you can get creative. No, that doesn’t necessarily tank your brand. These 5 marketing hacks may make you question everything at first, but they’re actually proven ways that other brands are using to break through the clutter.

1) Take Your Brand Voice to the Limit

You’ve heard about brand voice. You know that, in order to be successful in a crowded environment, you have to establish your personality in a way that makes you unique. But here’s a secret: most brands are playing their brand voice way too safe.

You can understand why that happens. After all, you have to make sure that your messaging doesn’t offend anyone. If you drive over the edge, you may have your board of directors on your back.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get close to the edge. How else would you enjoy the view? Dollar Shave Club is a perfect example of hitting that sweet spot. Its now-iconic viral spot from 2012 isn’t afraid to play with language, and even get a little bit frisky. 25 million views later, Dollar Shave Club is a billion-dollar brand under the Unilever umbrella.

You’ve probably seen (and even implemented) at least one guide on building your brand voice. Now, it’s your turn to take it further. Consider:

  • How does your target audience talk when they’re in a comfortable environment?
  • How are your competitors trying to reach that customer?
  • Would your audience feel comfortable if you talked to them like they talk to each other?

Next, do your research. Don’t be afraid to run surveys or focus groups with various messaging samples. Take some safe ones and some that are clearly over the line. Then, hone in on the perfect balance to take your brand voice to the edge and enjoy the view without crashing.

2) Truly Embrace Video Tactics

With these marketing hacks, you’re often taking an established truth and stretching further than you might think possible. You know that video is the most effective form on content, as its visuals and moving images tend to draw your audiences in better than any other tactic. Chances are you even feature it throughout your online tactics.

I have another secret for you: you’re not taking the strategy far enough. Here are just a few of the possibilities you might not yet embrace:

These are not just brands making videos, or even adding flashy special effects. They’re playing with the medium to the point where it’s impossible to look away. That’s what it means to truly embrace video tactics.

Given the immense creativity involved in these videos, it can be difficult to wrap your head around where to even start. Getting inspiration from examples like the above means you’re halfway there. Next, consider your own brand. What are the core messages you want to get across? How can you communicate these messages in ways that might be unexpected?

3) Personalize the Entire Web Experience

Modern audiences want and expect personalization. They’re not satisfied with broad messaging that doesn’t actually speak to their unique needs and pain points. And yet, most brands still stick to only basic personalization efforts, from inserting a custom name in the email to segmenting their communication flows.

These are the types of tips you get from a best practices guide. They’re not wrong. But why not go further than that?

With the right tools and marketing hacks, you can personalize almost the entire web experience. Amazon, of course, remains the non plus ultra for digital personalization. From the moment you visit the site, it gives you recommendations on products to check out, reminders about your shopping cart, and complimentary items.

You don’t have to be a billion dollar company to accomplish the same thing. DoggyLoot, for instance, prompts users to enter a range of data about their furry friends. After hitting the submit button, the website customizes entirely according to that dog’s needs. That way, a German Shepard owner will never have to browse through products designed for Chihuahuas.

You can establish a similar type of personalization even without knowing a single thing about your audience. The British eCommerce site Very, for instance, customizes its homepage based on the current weather in the area of the user. Other geo-fenced targeting options are just as easily possible. You just have to build it the right way.

4) Incorporate Real-Time Information into Your Static Communication

Email remains extremely effective. But that doesn’t mitigate its biggest drawback: you’re at the mercy of your audience. The content will be static, and if they happen to open a time-sensitive message after the promotion or event is over, you’re out of luck.

At least that’s how it used to be. Here’s a newsflash: the email game is changing rapidly. Among the many things you can do now is feed real-time information into otherwise static messages.

A number of tools now allow you to embed code in your emails that feeds content into the message at the time the audience reads it, not the time you send it. As Adobe outlines in this blog post, you can leverage anything from weather data to recent site visits on behalf of your audience.

For example, insurance and travel agency AAA has used the concept to show current weather data of potential destinations for its promoted destinations. Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons have led the way among professional sports teams in showing live scores and ticket sales in its promotional messaging to fans. To achieve similar success, you have to:

  • Understand what type of data your audience is actually looking for.
  • Make sure you can gather the desired data reliably and with a focus on accuracy.
  • Work with email clients that can embed real-time data in your messages.
  • Build an email strategy around the data, making sure you use it in ways that actually enhance user experience.

5) Gamify the Buyer’s Journey

Modern marketers build their efforts around the buyer’s journey. They understand the various stages their audiences have to go through to become customers. Then, they build content designed to answer pain points and guide their audience along the way through each step.

But what if, considered in its entirety, that process is actually boring? We never stop to think about the same exact process from our audience’s perspective. They don’t just strategically move from step to step. They get distracted, bored, and change their mind. Keeping them engaged is key to success.

That’s why I’m proposing marketing hack #5: gamify your buyer’s journey. You may know about gamification in other areas of marketing, but it’s astounding just how few marketers have embraced it prior to conversions.

One classic example is Magnum’s pleasure hunt, a digital game in which users hunt for ice cream bars. Social integration ensured maximum exposure while acknowledging the casualness with which we tend to make our ice cream decisions. Meanwhile, the James Bond promotion “Unlock the 007 in You” took gamification offline, immersing its audiences into real-life secret agent missions that ultimately created brand loyalty and desire to see the upcoming movie.

If you want to accomplish similar success, you have to be strategic. That includes:

  • Truly understanding your buyer’s journey, and the mindset of your audience in each step.
  • Building a scope of work, which can range from simple online experience to complex installation.
  • Test-driving your gamification efforts before rolling them out on the grand stage.
  • Quality control to make sure your gamified buyer’s journey remains true to your brand voice.

Are You Ready to Try These Marketing Hacks?

You might have noticed that upon further inspection, none of the above marketing hacks is actually revolutionary. Instead, they build on established best practices. What makes these marketing hacks different is that they take them further.

That’s the essential part of modern marketing, you have to push the envelope, constantly making sure that you’re different from and ahead of your competition. Yes, that might mean questioning everything. But it also means a more reliable way to achieve long-term success and distinction in the marketplace.

Can you take your brand to the limit? Do you have what it takes to personalize your entire web experience? It’s time to start asking these questions now. Rather than being stuck in established formats, don’t be afraid to take them further, break out of the norm, and play your part in moving your marketing into 2019 and beyond.

This article first appeared on Jefflizik.com



Jeff Lizik

Chronicles of the journey of a digital marketing entrepreneur. Sharing lessons learned and insights on marketing, entrepreneurship and productivity.