Hello, lean marketing

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This article originally appeared on The Economist LeanBack blog.

Oh what little you can do with a lot. And what a lot you can do with little.

Faced with mounting issues and diminishing funds during World War II, Winston Churchill famously said, “we have no money, we must think.” What a magnificent principle to use as an approach to wringing the very last drop out of any budget.

With audiences dotted hither and thither and media ever elongated, today’s smart Chief Marketing Officer needs to be smarter, tighter and cuter than ever before. Or so it seems. Hello, Lean Marketing.

Marketing leaders that propel their brands to take a stand, act unexpectedly, make us laugh or simply make life more convenient, add up to a lot less dosh spent per sale.

When brands not only engage with culture, but add to it too (which incidentally is what consumers increasingly expect) then social media—basically efficient word of mouth—takes care of the rest.

Here’s some that have done just that:

Snickers created the ingenious “you’re not you when you’re hungry” U.K. campaign using Twitter as a medium. Celebrities were asked to tweet “out of character” as if they were sincere. The model and TV personality Katie Price tweeted about macro-economics, cricketer Ian Botham about playing the cello, footballer Rio Ferdinand about knitting and boxer Amir Khan tweeted about stamp collecting.

These “out of character” tweets were noticed and created a buzz, even getting mentioned in Parliament. By sending out just 25 tweets, they managed to reach 26 million people and sold over 705,000 more bars than the year before. Snickers may not be offering much leanness to the nation’s waistlines but they sure are to their CMO’s budget with such a viral approach as this.

Sometimes, as Growth Hackers would attest, partnering with another brand to gain maximum exposure is just the trick.

Look at Moschino and its McDonald’s mash-up, wonderfully ironic high fashion with the High Street. Fast food can be funny, maybe.

Still in the world of fashion (a sector proving adroit in this game) but in a tamer way, Anya Hindmarch’s Frosties, Daz and Ship bags do a nice job of extending that brand’s reach while helping nostalgic cereal, washing powder and match brands of our youth make a packet too. Very clever.

Guinness made lots of unpaid-for noise recently, pulling out of the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York to protest the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender exclusion from the parade. St. Paddy’s with no Guinness? That’ll make a fecking noise.

Or for those concerned about all things hair, Unilever have created a YouTube hair care tips channel that responds in real time to Google Analytics trends, apparently.

All these activities and initiatives appeal in different ways. But using the criteria required to patent a new idea (always a useful way to test validity) are all scoring highly. Are they new, non-obvious and useful? Yes, yes and yes.

Label these brands the work of what you will—Lean Marketers, Growth Hackers or Whomever. But what they are doing is showing a clean pair of spiked, agile heels to the flat, worn-down pumps of the plump, the excessive and the cumbersome world of tried and tired, oft-repeated media plans full of the big, the glossy and all we’ve seen before.

To re-tread Mr. Churchill’s phrase, it looks like those that do think will be those that do make the money.

Philip Davies is president, EMEA. Follow him on Twitter for more insights: @PhilipDavies10

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