Real Or Cake? The Rise of Unique Marketing Tactics

How has the rise of social media shaped the unique marketing tactics brands use nowadays? It’s no longer enough to have a catchy jingle or a memorable TV ad. Instead, social media marketers have to think about reach and engagement, which can translate into strategizing to go viral or capitalize on viral trends, collab-ing with brands and influencers, and going big or going home. 

Basic Marketing Tactics: What You Need to Know

Marketing trends have gone through just as many changes as the internet itself, but some basic techniques still retain their guiding presence. The 7 Ps of marketing are a great place to start and include: 

  1. Product: How appropriate is your product for the current market?
  2. Price: Will your product make a profit? Is it priced too low or too high?
  3. Promotion: How will you promote your product? Has it been effective so far?
  4. Place: Where are you marketing your product?
  5. Packaging: How does your product packaging look? How does your product look visually?
  6. Positioning: How do people think about your product? Warmly? Nostalgically? Suspiciously?
  7. People: Who is creating your product, and who are you marketing to? Are there any content gaps you can close?

While there are variations between marketing techniques, each of the 7 Ps and their overall questions always return to the fundamentals: who, what, where, when, why, and how are you marketing your product? Once a brand has nailed down the basics of its marketing strategy, it might be time to get more creative. 

Real or Cake? Mind-tricks and More

A common marketing tactic of late is to have content go viral. Virality goes beyond simply showing off and describing a product, often involving an element of the surreal and messing with your head. For example, in 2015, a Buzzfeed article went viral when it explained an optical illusion that sparked heated debates about whether a dress was blue and black or white and gold, sparking a years-long debate. 

In the summer of 2020, a similar mind trick went viral. Viral memes became a guessing game over whether an object was a real object or one made of cake. Netflix eventually caught on to the trend and green-lit a reality-tv baking show that came out in March of 2022, called “Is It Cake?” allowing this major streaming platform to capitalize on the meme and increase its internet presence with free-marketing from the meme. In the show, contestant-bakers competed to create the most hyper-realistic cake and try to trick the judges into choosing it as a real object. But the internet has been obsessed with mind-tricking memes for years. Mind-tricks and familiar brands using unique collaborations and viral memes to increase their internet presence don’t seem surprising given the history of the 2010s and 2020s meme culture.

An Introduction to Brand Collaborations 

Brand collaborations can be traced years ago, far predating the internet. Yet, these mainstream media-based collaborations continue to this day. Recent mainstream collaborations have focused on home, fashion, and beauty. For example, Joanna and Chip Gaines (of HGTV’s Fixer Upper-fame) collabed with Target for a home goods line. 

However, the internet has spawned new types of collaborations, particularly with the rise of social media influencers on apps like YouTube in the 2010s and eventually TikTok since its explosion in 2019. In the age of the influencer, brands seek out internet-famous content creators to market their products to viewers. Beauty gurus like Michelle Phan and Bethany Mota on Youtube in its initial phases led the way for later influencers like Charlie D’Amelio and Addison Rae on Tiktok. Bethany Mota had collaborations with the retailer-giant Target and pre-teen clothing classic Aeropostale, and Charlie D’Amelio now has partnerships with Hollister, Hulu, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Just about any app can be used to market products, but it’s what brands do with these collaborations that catch their audience’s attention.   

The Bigger the Internet, the Bigger the Collab

From the ’80s to the 2020s, the internet has drastically changed. You can find almost anything you want online and through in-app purchases. Throughout this timeline, consumers have wanted to see celebrities and public figures they trust when purchasing. As a result, social media has changed who counts as a celebrity and whom we trust. 

Social media’s increasing popularity means that celebrities and already-established brands love to get sponsorship and influencer deals as a marketing tactic with the newest up-and-comers and older, more seasoned artists and entertainers. Some examples include actor Paul Newman’s salad dressing line, singer Rihanna’s makeup line, Fenty, and singer Lizzo’s size-inclusive shapewear brand, Yitty. Yet other brands have garnered attention merely by celebrity association: classic-film actor Groucho Marx collaborated with Frosted Flakes cereal in the 1950s, modern celebrities like Taylor Swift and Stella McCartney, and Lana Condor with Vera Bradley. The bigger the internet grows, the bigger the collaboration has to be. But celebrity collaborations aren’t the only thing trending.  

Unique Marketing Tactics & Collaborations

Celebrity endorsements are one marketing tactic to catch consumers’ attention. Still, the internet has allowed creative minds to explore their wildest dreams, from Jeff Goldblum as a dinosaur on a mug to 3-D printed furniture. Yet this expansion has expedited brands’ need to keep up with their consumer’s wants and needs. No longer can brands only put out the basics—despite the recent popularity of capsule wardrobes and the clean girl” aesthetic—to be successful. Now brands must go above and beyond, staying trendy and following their consumers’ rapidly changing interests. 

Popular brands you wouldn’t expect to collaborate have formed unexpected alliances to reach new audiences. These collaborations include Dunkin Donuts’ and e.l.f creating a makeup line together, Taco Bell and Calpak creating a luggage line, Dolce & Gabbana and Smeg kitchen appliances, and Nike and Sharpie shoes. A viral TikTok sound about the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurant (it’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it?) showed how much the internet enjoys seemingly random combinations and spawned new takes on the original. The combination of old and new, classic and modern, immediately grabs attention wherever it goes. The power of the internet and its fickle nature has created a monster of deliciously weird yet effective collaborations for our consumption.  

Use Unique Marketing Collaborations to Increase Your Social Media Reach

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