10 marketing experiments that worked: 10 unconventional use cases that paid off in 2022
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You’re running the same old campaigns, barely meeting your expectations and boring your buyers out of their skins. It’s getting harder and harder to justify the marketing spend, and you’re leaving money on the table—for your competitors.
The world of eCommerce marketing is like a jungle, densely packed with mainstream content for as far as the eye can see. You need an appetite for experimentation to survive this saturated eCommerce space and create a standout brand name.
With strategically designed marketing experiments, you can create mind-blowing campaigns to deliver a great customer experience that gives consumers a reason to hit the “buy” button. It’s a great way to test your risk tolerance, go beyond generic marketing tactics, and discover new solutions to maximize your marketing ROI.
We've listed 10 of the most unconventional marketing campaigns that started as risky experiments but unlocked incredible results.
1: Creating a new commerce experience with shoppable videos and live streaming
The Fresh Market took its marketing strategy to the next level with its immersive, video-driven shopping experience, thus tapping into social commerce. The supermarket brand announced a collaboration with Firework, a live-commerce video platform, back in late 2021. The partnership was part of the brand’s larger goal of extending its reach to next-gen shoppers through a differentiated customer experience.
Buyers could watch videos about different TFM products and hit the “Shop Now” button to buy any item in the video.
Since launching this video-centric marketing experiment, TFM has seen incredible results:
- A 97% increase in the conversion rate for videos when compared to the overall average rate before the Firework partnership
- A 47% increase in email click-through rates when compared to the CTR before the partnership
- 4.8x more views on a live stream on TFM's owned channels than other social media streams running simultaneously
TFM’s success with shoppable video shows that shoppers demand more than just an app or a website to shop online. It shows how video can be an instrument for driving sales, leading viewers to the product pages directly.
2. Piquing curiosity and loyalty with a unique text-to-claim experience
Chipotle ran an experimental marketing campaign during the NBA finals to offer 50,000 buy-one-get-one (BOGO) deals to their rewards program members.
But the exciting part was how the brand gave away these offers. They hid a unique code in their TV ads during the four NBA games. Chipotle's loyalty program members had to share this code via SMS to win a BOGO offer.
Chipotle activated its 28-million-strong loyalty program with this intriguing text-to-claim campaign. It became a huge hit and generated remarkable buzz, especially when members claimed over 10,000 offers within the first two minutes of the first game.
Besides skyrocketing Chipotle's popularity, this marketing experiment spotlighted its rapidly growing loyalty program, gaining valuable first-party data about its customers in the process.
3. Experimenting with audio content for community building
Maybelline started a podcast titled “I’m Fine, You?” to drive meaningful conversations around mental health and support its community of shoppers.
With guests like Dr. Kathleen Pike, Aly Raisman, and Rachel Cargle, the podcast gives listeners thought-provoking conversations on mental health.. The brand also donates to a mental health organization of the speakers' choice at the end of every episode.
While a podcast is not the newest marketing trick in the book, Maybelline set itself apart from the competition by focusing on social messaging relevant to its core target audience: modern women. More importantly, the podcast helped them nurture a healthier relationship with its community and build a more positive brand image.
4. Marketing through metaverse experiences for a future-ready brand
With an entirely virtual presence and no physical stores, the brand created a one-of-its-kind metaverse gaming experience to reach its tween audience on Roblox, a global gaming platform.
With 67% of users in the <16 age bracket, Roblox is among tweens' most popular online destinations. So, VS designed a game with three obstacle courses, each focusing on brand values of sustainability, charity, and community.
This marketing experiment allowed Happy Nation to meet its tech-savvy audience where they are: the metaverse. It’s also an attempt to future-proof the brand and make the best of the largely unexplored metaverse space. The game also highlights VS’s rebrand into a diverse and inclusive brand—a win-win!
5. Pairing outdoor experiences with purpose-driven influencer marketing
Wild Turkey created an offbeat marketing campaign, thanking people for preserving the wilderness through a limited edition camping experience.
The “Wild Turkey x Homecamp Trust Your Spirit tent" is a two-person camping tent in the Australian outdoors, conceptualized by the brand's creative director, Matthew McConaughey. Guests can scan a QR code to listen to McConaughey's campfire stories and relish the natural ambiance.
The brand also donates a portion of proceeds from every sale to a charity dedicated to wildlife conservation.
While the campaign's social theme is compelling, Matthew McConaughey's contribution to the initiative is as unconventional as it gets. Unlike most influencer marketing campaigns, Wild Turkey offered McConaughey the creative freedom to design the experience himself, creating a level of authenticity that buyers could resonate with and a positive brand image rooted in sustainability and environmental conversation.
The best part: the brand strategically launched this campaign right after the government lifted months of lockdown, and Australians finally had the chance to plan their next travel adventure.
6. Delivering a community-first experience to drive demand
Express saw demand climbing up by a whopping 72% in 2021 thanks to its community-driven marketing strategy. The fashion retailer launched the Express Community Commerce program to give micro-influencers and regular shoppers the chance to earn commissions through their content.
The program is simple. Anyone can apply to be a Style Editor in the Express community. Once accepted, they must create content using Express products and bring new customers to the platform to win commissions.
The program is an extension of Express's larger goal to become a brand synonymous with self-expression. It also helps build a unique community of loyal customers and brand ambassadors along with a network of fashion enthusiasts.
The program has produced excellent results in 2022, including:
- A 40% increase in online sales
- A 19% increase in conversions
- An 18% increase in website traffic
What started as an experimental take on influencer marketing has now become a part of the brand’s long-term vision. The program will gradually offer Style Editors more exposure and benefits, like their own storefronts and an exclusive app.
7. Holding a gaming tournament to engage and uplift shoppers
Benefit Cosmetics organizes a year-long gaming tournament for female gamers in a one-of-its-kind campaign that represents the brand’s commitment to supporting its community in a male-dominated space. This marketing experiment aims to increase viewership and attract new shoppers for Benefit Cosmetics.
The brand wants to enhance the concept of Gameup—the intersection of gaming and makeup—through this first-ever gaming event in the beauty industry.
It’s a unique way for the beauty brand to support female gamers and give them a platform to level up their careers. The event will give away a prize pool of over $13,500 in the first edition to gamers from underrepresented backgrounds.
8. Turning to TikTok to engage the next generation of buyers
Goldfish Crackers, a family-friendly cracker brand by Pepperidge Farm, made headlines with its viral TikTok marketing campaign targeting adult snackers. The #GoForTheHandful challenge encouraged TikTokers to create videos showing the number of Goldfish crackers they can hold in their hands at a time.
The brand partnered with NBA player Boban Marjanovic, known for the largest hands in NBA history, to spice up the campaign. Users made duet videos with Boban’s TikTok to break his record of holding 301 crackers.
Goldfish also upped the ante for this campaign with in-feed ads, creator collabs, and One Day Max ads to maximize participation.
The campaign produced phenomenal results, with over 2.9 billion video views for the hashtag. It also led to:
- More than 1.8 million videos from 923,000 creators
- Over 548 million engagements
- 19% engagement rate (way above the benchmark of 4.1%)
- A 19.2% increase in ad recall
This TikTok experiment helped the brand re-engage its adult audience and expand its customer base beyond young kids and mothers.
9.Tapping into app eCommerce to own your marketing and messaging
Aviator Nation collaborated with Tapcart to launch its mobile app and create a more impactful customer experience. The brand used the app as more than just a shopping platform, running experiments to build a hyper-engaged customer base.
The brand uses the app to bridge the gap between digital and in-person interaction. Whenever they host or participate in an event, people have the option to scan a QR code and download the app to get some discount codes.
Aviator Nation is also using the app's push notifications to deliver a more user-centric customer experience instead of a purely transactional relationship via SMS marketing.
The lifestyle brand has seen massive success with app adoption rates, creating exclusivity through app-exclusive discounts, product collections, and rewards. It’s an opportunity for them to build a core customer base with deep brand loyalty. The app is now driving 10-30% of the total orders, with the numbers going up to 60% at times.
10. Throwing it back to the past for brand revival
Pabst Blue Ribbon created a PBR-themed motel in Michigan to take its customers back to the 80s. Inspired by the decor and lifestyle of the 80s, the campaign attempted to bring back the beer brand's popularity during that time and recreate its classic tagline, Pabst is the Place.
The themed motel offered guests a first-hand experience of the PBR life with retro decor elements, like a neon arcade, a dive bar, and string lights across the place.
Through this experimental campaign, PBR cashed in on people's desire to travel and embrace new adventures. This nostalgic experience also helped spread awareness about the brand. Its success is evident: all rooms are booked out for a month in just five days since launch.
Changing the game for eCommerce marketing
Old tricks won't work if you want to sweep your buyers off their feet and create a positive impact. Experimentation is the name of the game for eCommerce businesses looking to try something unconventional and win their audience's trust.
Design your experiment by defining the hypothesis and parameters for success. Create a plan to run this experiment at a smaller scale first. Then evaluate the results to refine them for the final launch.
Remember that data and insights lie at the core of marketing experimentation. You might not see groundbreaking results in the first few attempts. But you can refine your ideas by using data to identify what’s working and what’s not. The key to success is in testing and iterating.