Side project marketing is a ridiculously effective marketing strategy that some of the planet’s fastest-growing brands are utilizing to amplify word-of-mouth, garner large very devote followings, create trunk loads of content and drive absurd amounts of organic PR.
And, odds are, you’ve never heard of it.
What the hell is side project marketing?
Side project marketing is when a brand does an interesting project that is separate from its core products and services and then shares the project with the world.
John Hegarty, co-founder and creative director of world-renowned advertising agency BBH, once said…
“Do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you.”
While Hegarty certainly didn’t invent “side project marketing” — I believe the Bull Brothers over at Email Octopus (affiliate link) did — his above quote sums up the benefits of the strategy perfectly.
In a lot of ways, side project marketing is about simply doing cool interesting shit, sharing it with your customers and watching as cool interesting shit happens to you in return.
Or, at least this has been my experience.
How side project marketing has helped me rapidly scale my creative writing shop.
I’ll use myself and my creative writing shop as an example.
At Honey Copy, I make money in two ways:
- Writing pretty words for badass brands — articles, ebooks, landing pages, sales emails, billboard copy, etc.
- Selling my copywriting guide which helps marketers, entrepreneurs and snow cone vendors write words their customers actually want to read.
As you know, there are multiple ways I can go about marketing the two money makers above and scaling Honey Copy as a whole…
I can be like McDonald’s, taking a more traditional route, gluing my logo on every billboard across the country…
I can be like the small town car lot, screaming my piping hot deals on every radio network that will let me…
I can be like so many of the annoying ass LinkedIn thought leaders, sharing corny Pinterest-y customer testimonials…
Or, I can follow Hegarty’s advice and do interesting things.
A month or so back, I decided to listen to Hegarty and try my hand at this whole side project marketing thing.
As you can probably tell, I’m a marketing geek. Like, the geekiest of marketing geeks.
So, I decided to harness some of this geekiness and create a weekly newsletter type project thingy where I would hunt down a bat shit crazy marketing idea that made a brand a whole lot of moolah, write a story about it and share the story with the world.
I called this project Stranger Than Fiction.
Thus far, I’ve written seven short stories, which you can read here. 1,000 people have liked them enough that they’ve given me their email address so I can send them more in the future.
I consider that alone a win.
But, the cherry on top is that every once in awhile I’ll blurb my copywriting guide in the newsletter and land a sale or two.
Maybe, Hegarty was right.
But, that’s not even the strangest part.
As I began hunting for bat shit crazy marketing ideas that have made brands an assload of money, what I found was that tons of them fell into the category of side project marketing.
Here are two striking examples…
Airbnb’s cereal box side project.
After the founders over at Airbnb found themselves in some serious debt whilst starting what is today a $31 billion empire, they decided to hit pause and do a side project during the Obama-McCain election.
They bought a bunch of Cheerios and Captain Crunch cereal, contacted a print shop and had 1,000 custom boxes printed. They then put the boxes together with a hot glue gun in their apartment and slapped a $40 price tag on them.
Their lucky asses somehow got featured on national television and in 24-hours sold 1,000 cereal boxes and with it… pocketed $30,000 in profit.
But, that’s not all…
Away Luggage’s coffee table book project also kicked some serious ass.
The team over at Away crafted a coffee table book curating 40 influential people and their favorite spots to vacation.
They interviewed them. Wrote stories about them. And, used each individual’s vacation photos as imagery for the book.
They then threw a price tag of $225 on the coffee table book and told folks who were interested that they could redeem the voucher in the book for a suitcase in the future…
They sold 2,000 of them, making $450,000 in the process.
Maybe it’s time for your marketing team to start a side project.
Today, customers are getting bombarded with advertisements like never before.
Between radio, TV, podcasts, Google, Facebook, Instagram and a billboard at every intersection… they just can’t get away from all the sales pitches.
Side project marketing is a refreshing way to get in front of your customers whilst offering them something a hell of a lot more valuable than a billboard.
Every brand, in my opinion, should have a Hegarty budget, where they invest in doing cool interesting shit annually.
And, if they’re lucky, cool interesting shit might happen to them in return.
But, I digress.
By Cole Schafer.
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