There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
Oscar Wilde

The key to any marketing endeavour is of course to stand out. And as any art lover will tell you, nothing goes against the grain better than a good bit of surrealism.

Personally I love anything that dares to be strange. I love marketing too, so when a new weird and wonderful marketing campaign comes along, I’m in my element.

Lets take a look at 5 awesome surreal marketing efforts, and see what we can learn from them daring to be different.

NSFW WARNING: Depending on how cool your workplace is, some of these examples may be non-work-safe. There’s no sex or nudity, but there’s poop jokes, pectoral muscles and… pizza rolls. You have been warned.

5. Deezer

I really enjoy Deezer’s crazy ad campaigns to date; they’re silly, colourful, and just that little bit awkward.

Ad Agency Credit: PD3 [Please Note That Clicking Play Sends Usage Data to YouTube]

I love a good non-sequitur (as you will probably gather from this list) and Deezer’s got them in spades. Though their initial TV ad “The Geezer” was a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it affair (at least in our household), Deezer saw a 300% spike in downloads from the endeavour.

What this teaches us: Being a bit weird grabs people’s attention and provides an undeniable stand out factor.

4. The Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter Account

You would think that the official Twitter account of a beloved videogame character would be carefully managed by a PR team, resulting in a cheesy, sanitised projection of Sonic in 140 characters or fewer. But no.

Some @sonic_hedgehog tweets are kinda normal marketing-announcement fare:

A Tweet from Sonic the Hedgehog promoting The Sonic Mania Collector's Edition.

Some are mildly humourous references to the franchise and its characters:

A Tweet from Sonic the Hedgehog making a joke about Dr Robotnik's resemblance to Teddy Roosevelt.

And some tweets are examples in all-out irreverent memery:

Sonic the Hedgehog Tweet that reads "If you can dream it, you can do it. Except dreaming that the earth is flat, because that just makes you look silly."

This often surreal and refreshingly unconstrained Twitter account is credited to SEGA employee Aaron Webber, a known name in the Sonic fanbase. Many of us gamers can’t resist a good meme; and Webber’s love of Sonic combines with his love of the jokes that have grown around the Sonic franchise. This in turn creates something that adds value to the franchise and the fandom. Aaron may work for SEGA, but ultimately he is a fan – he’s one of us.

What this teaches us: Knowing your audience closely helps you create memorable content that speaks to them on their level.

From pectoral muscles to pizza rolls: 5 examples of excellent surreal marketing. Click To Tweet

3. Poo Pourri

This may be one you’ve heard about and – ahem – it created a bit of a splash a few years ago.

Ad Agency Credit: Ackerman Creative [Please Note That Clicking Play Sends Usage Data to YouTube]

These ads gladly fly in the face of the usual mealy-mouthed marketing of other toilet products. The fact that the character is a perfectly kempt, well-spoken lady only serves to confound the absurdity. It’s this kind of silliness that the the Internet loves, so of course the brand went viral – y’know, because poo jokes.

Poo Pourri’s ad scripts are among some of my favourite copywriting. It could be the careful timing and perfect delivery of the gags, or more likely because I’m a 7 year old in a 31 year old’s body.

What this teaches us: Sometimes it’s best not to pussy-foot around the heart of an issue. There are naturally exceptions around particularly sensitive topics, but if it’s otherwise something people generally avoid talking about, is there a way to make a joke about it?

2. Old Spice with Terry Crews

Here’s another one you might have seen before.

Ad Agency Credit: Wieden + Kennedy [Please Note That Clicking Play Sends Usage Data to YouTube]

Adverts for fragrances and shower gel historically don’t allow for much variety. In the past they’ve been generally macho power-fantasy missives implying that their brand of dude-smell will transform its users cool, confident lady-magnets. However Old Spice took this odd machismo to an even odder place in these TV spots, thanks to musclebound actor Terry Crews and some awesomely strange animation work, directed by a certain comedy duo who happen to be next on our list…

What this teaches us: If you’re bored with the same tack that you and your competitors are taking in your marketing, try taking that same concept to an absurd and wacky conclusion.

1. Totinos Pizza Rolls “Pizza Freaks Unite”

And at number 1 we have arguably the weirdest entry on this list; and as such, my own personal favourite.

Ad Agency Credit: Zeus Jones [Please Note That Clicking Play Sends Usage Data to YouTube]

This campaign comes to us thanks to surrealist comedy double act Tim & Eric, and is one of those ads where you can’t help but ask yourself “is this a real advert or did I stumble across that side of YouTube again?” No, you didn’t. This is an actual video from the official Totinos YouTube channel. According to this account over at Contently, Totinos challenged the duo to use their pizza rolls in as many ways as possible, and the above video is the result.

Now, I’m well aware that Tim & Eric’s kind of comedy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; and most likely – so are those at Totinos. Being memorable sometimes means knowing you are going to confuse or annoy some people, but other people are going to love it. Knowing your audience and getting the balance of weirdness right is essential.

What this teaches us: Don’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers in your weirdness. Know that you aren’t going to appeal to everyone. – you’re aiming for visibility and memorability. However, you need to know your audience and assess whether weirdness is appropriate for them.

And it also teaches us that a feminine pizza bag is a stylish and practical way of transporting pizza related snacks.

So, over to you. What weird and wonderful marketing campaigns have you observed in the wild? Do you approve of the surreal in advertising? Or has it all got a bit too silly? Please share this article – and your thoughts – over on Twitter!

From pectoral muscles to pizza rolls: 5 examples of excellent surreal marketing. Click To Tweet