5 Examples of Shock and Awe Advertising Techniques That Work

Have you ever felt the need to reach out and shake your customers awake, leaving a permanent mark on their subconscious? This might sound violent, but cutting through the 5,000+ ads consumers come into contact with on a daily basis is difficult. For small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), it's not uncommon to feel like the marketing department just isn't pulling their weight. But, before you start pulling the plug on your marketing department, try some of these advertising strategies on for size.

1. Universally Different, and Better for It

25.5 million views and counting, Google's Android division released one of the most viral ads in history: "Android: Friends Furever". The message is powerful; we don't all need to be the same in order to get along and thrive together. Positively adorable, the ad went viral because it was packed full of cute clips of different animals playing together.

With Google's vast treasure-trove of user data, it's no surprise that they were able to create something that was so universally loved. And, part of the genius was in avoiding any branding until the last second; keeping the message pure and lovable. Viewers were bought-into the premise before Android became the driving force behind the message.

2. Poking Fun at Current Events

Saturday Night Live is no stranger to controversy, and this election year has created an incredible amount of polarizing drama within the United States. SNL has capitalized on the events of this election cycle by posting their "cold opens" on their YouTube channel. By taking something that is usually hidden behind a paywall and strategically offering bite-sized pieces free of charge, SNL has been able to dramatically increase their reach, organically online.

3. Shock Ads - Designed to Jolt the Viewer Awake

Shock advertising is a strategy centered around being memorable because the ad is impossible to ignore. It's either offensive, surprising or a combination of the two. For example, SISLEY - Fashion Junkie ads certainly caught reader attention by comparing the addiction to their products to cocaine addiction. It was edgy, but the point was made; their products are so good, they're like crack for lovers of fashion.

Shock ads have the ability to go viral for generations at a time. IP Press Men's Magazine printed an ad featuring a reenactment of the JFK assassination; only the intended target wasn't hit by the bullet. Their point is that if your goal is to reach mean, you better advertise with them, or else your ad may go to women by accident. Crass, in poor taste and largely denounced, the ad did its job. It became a conversation piece that kept IP Press in the public's consciousness.

4. Extravagant Free Giveaways via Social Media Share Campaigns

On the opposite end of the spectrum from shock advertising, you'll find posts on social media which offer a chance at winning a highly valuable prize, in return for a share and / or like. While many of these advertising efforts turn out to be scams, they are incredibly effective at generating buzz on social media.

For a legitimate example, you'll find Conan O'Brien's FB page recently offered fans a chance at winning the new XBOX One. In order to raise money for charity, The Breast Cancer Site offered their Facebook fans a chance at a $500 shopping spree.

If your company is going to attempt to follow in their footsteps, make sure you announce the winners publicly after the contest has ended. It's important that your audience understands that the contest was legitimate. If there's a sense that the entire campaign may have been fraudulent or a scam, your followers may become disillusioned with your brand; turning a social media branding win into a serious brand loyalty disaster.

5. Star Powered Giveaways

Social media isn't the only place for building awareness through strategic product giveaways. Just ask Oprah! In 2004, she gave away an entire studio's worth of Pontiac G6's. GM spent millions on the giveaway, trading on Oprah's star power.

$8 million worth of free cars and promotional consideration might be a little bit outside of your company's advertising budget, but the same type of promotion can be done on a smaller scale. For example, you'll find a variety of YouTube channels offering the ability for individuals or corporations to sponsor their show.

If your marketing team can strike-up a rapport with the influencers that your customer-base turns to for trusted guidance, you have an opportunity to place your product directly in-front of your target consumer.

No matter which of the five strategies you choose to follow, it's important to find a strategy that is consistent with your brand voice. From short, inspirational videos designed to organically go viral, to the shock ads that create immediate shock and potential backlash, it's up to you and your marketing team to find the right balance between shock and value.