The Branding Benefits of Taking Risks

Last weekend I, like many others across the world, found myself in a cinema watching Deadpool. It wasn’t my first viewing though, it was the second. It’s looking like I’ll be going to see it for a third time later this week, but why? Have the pressures of life driven me to ceaselessly relive the same film in the pursuit of escapism? Not quite.

Sure the film’s good, great even, but it’s not £30 good. What forces me back to the cinema is the hype and conversation. The friends only just catching on and looking for willing companions. I’ve become a slave to the spectacular marketing plan they pulled off despite all the risks.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have access to the marketing budget of a Hollywood blockbuster. However, there are lessons we can all take from the campaign, which ultimately took an overall budget of $50 million and turned it into over $132 million in a weekend making it the biggest 20th Century Fox debut ever.

Don’t be afraid to expand your audience

While you want to keep your audience pinpointed, sometimes being too narrow can alienate other potential markets.

Deadpool may be a new character to most, but the character did already have a fervent following before the movie’s launch. For the fans that were already hooked, the trailers, fourth wall breaks and assaults on TV hosts claiming the movie wouldn’t be rated-R only added to the anticipation.

However, they didn’t just stick to the lovers of the comics. As the film opened on Valentine’s Day weekend, they could take the romantic avenue and target loved-up couples with movie posters depicting the film as a romantic comedy.

The posters and more were tweeted out by Ryan Reynolds throughout the entire lead up to the film. The leading man was tweeting exclusively about the movie to his millions of followers, creating even more impressions and interest.

Alongside this, the marketing also took advantage of any awareness days that loosely fit in with the Deadpool brand. These included a Australia Day video, which parodied Hugh Jackman’s role as Wolverine, while other efforts helped to raise awareness for breast and testicular cancer.

There was always a chance that the strategies could come across as crude or even offensive, but the campaign was just right for a character developed from parody and violence. It certainly contributed to the resulting box office success.

Step out of the box

When executed well, throwing around a few brave ideas and going for something totally different can lead to remarkable results.

Facebook users have been targeted with countless ‘invite your friends for free stuff’ campaigns over the years. However, Burger King decided to turn that concept on its head and provide users with an ultimatum to decide how much their friends were really worth.

In 2009, their Whopper Sacrifice app challenged Facebook users to unfriend 10 people for a free Whopper. An easy trade, right? We all have those friends we don’t really know, it’s an essential cull. However, the Whopper came with a cost, it alerted each and every friend that you deemed them less valuable than a burger.

Burger King eventually had to remove the functionality of the site as Facebook believed it violated user’s privacy, but not before over 200,000 users shortened their friends list.

Creating an app (even one that doesn’t encourage social sacrifices) comes with various risks regarding functionality and performance, but BK were openly asking people to decide what was stronger, their friendships or their love for burgers. The campaign received plenty of coverage despite only being available for a week.

Connect with a personal pain point

Remember when Lynx deodorant used to be synonymous with high school changing rooms? Well as of 2016 they’re repositioning their target audience and going after the entire male market.

Rik Strubel, the global vice president of Lynx and Axe explained their repositioning as a maturing of the brand: "We have been catering to teenage guys and we are now talking to his older brother, who is in university."

The latest campaign, ‘Find Your Magic’ actually had more research than you may realise. The brand surveyed 3,500 men throughout ten different markets to discover that only 5% of the UK’s respondents actually saw themselves as attractive.

This prompted the brand to shift their marketing towards empowering men to embrace the things that make them stand out from the crowd. They saw that plenty of men weren’t feeling confident, so they addressed it by doing away with the six pack and replaced it with a range of quirks from noses to hair colour that everyday people were pulling off.

Lynx ran a risk when they changed marketing agencies and their branding message. However, this new stance could remove the teenage stigma and help them become a brand for all men. Just like the ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ ads did for Old Spice.


When you’re looking for your next campaign idea, don’t immediately rule out anything that isn’t ‘safe’. Experiment with different messages, designs and mediums to make something truly unique. Use guerrilla approaches and subvert peoples’ expectations to your advantage.

In marketing, taking risks and getting noticed are inherently linked.

Flickr Creative Commons Image: josemanuelerre

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