Swedish Startup Space

5 “alternative” advertising/PR ideas for startups

Written by on March 27, 2014

My university English professor once said “If everything is highlighted, then nothing is highlighted.”

What happens when Sweden’s teeming jungle of start-ups all pitch similar or identical advertising angles and marketing campaigns? Things start to get a little melded and monotonous. If you mix all the paint on your palette together, you’re going to end up with a dull gray ooze. Well I’m not letting the startup scene turn into a dull gray ooze. Not on my watch.

Your PR guys or gals are working their heart out, and they’re doing a good job. Good for you PR minions! Then there’s you. Your destination is the horizon. You know what? I like your style. And this list is just what you need.

Here are 5 ‘alternative’ advertising/PR ideas (listed in gradually-increasing levels of insanity) for those looking for something a little different. Just don’t do these all simultaneously, or else we might all turn into a dull gray ooze.

1. The ‘Out-sorcerer’:

Use a site like fiverr.com or similar for things you don’t have time to do yourself. Spend $5 [≈ 32SEK, as of publication] on any service. Heck, spend $100 [≈ 635SEK] on 20 different services. With the right imagination, this website can be a Wonka Factory of PR ideas. [Author’s note: additional tasks come at an extra cost. Bang-for-buck mileage may vary. Still though, this site is the McDonald’s of outsourcing. I mean that in a good way.]

2. The ‘Badge of Honor’:

Pay a bicycle courier to wear your big fat logo on their shirt or messenger bag. In return, sponsor their lunch for each day they wear your logo. If they bargain or negotiate then, well, you’re on your own I can’t think of everything. Couriers are seen by at least a thousand people each day, and let’s face it, the only way you’re going to get your logo into a dozen different office buildings during working hours is on a courier’s chest. Alternatively, find a boutique café in town and have the barista wear a (professional-looking) apron with your logo on it. (Pro-tip: pick a café near the offices of an investor you’re trying to lure.) Offer cold hard cash. Carbon-fiber Pelican case with security handcuffs optional. [Author’s note: remember to keep all monetary transactions above the table, or just tip your barista heavily.]

3. The ‘Powerballer’:

(If applicable) offer your social media followers (or even the general public) a random draw or engagement prize (once or every month or every quarter, etc.). And for the love of kittens be sure to get the green light from your legal department before you start handing out prizes like you’re running for public office. The prize should be something relevant to the interests of your followers. As for competition type, random means random, engagement means referral competitions or best-answer-wins. Random usually means more entrants. Engagement usually means better discourse. (Random = quantity, engagement = quality, in case I’m not being clear enough.)

4. The ‘Chillanthropist’:

(If applicable) offer your product or service as a onetime package donation to an NGO, humanitarian or environmental organization of your choice. Why? Because you’re one cool startup. There is no good karma or bad karma. There is only karma and the absence of karma. Insist that they press-release any cooperation between you two. Catalog the outcome (benefit) of your philanthropy and press-release it yourself. Milk it. Tell your friends. Feel good. Rinse and repeat for maximum effect.

And finally, my personal favorite,

5. The ‘Long-Distance Relationship’:

Hunt, track, locate and begin correspondence with a scientist at one of the permanent base-stations in Antarctica. (Keep reading.) Be honest with them and tell them what you want. Ask (beg?) them to install your app or use (or even just try) your service. Send a care package as a goodwill gesture (read: payment) if necessary. Brag about how your app/service exists on all seven continents. Press-release it. Remind everyone you meet of this awesome fact. Include it in your e-signature. Write it on your Christmas cards. Write a book. Retire wealthy and tanned.

Now go. Your startup needs you! But first to the pollmobile!

  • CMTB

    This article is a prime example of why an editor and language specialist shouldn’t be giving any marketing advice. Do not do any of these unless you have time to waste and/or don’t mind potentially harming your business.

    • Marwan Ayache

      Steve may be onto something. On a more serious note, if you’re the kind of entrepreneur who prefers disclaimers with the advice you receive, then it’s probably best you keep your advertising endeavors inside the proverbial ‘box’.

      • CMTB

        I’m sorry if I offended you Marwan but the fact is that you
        are not a marketer and some of the ideas you gave could be very harmful to a
        business, especially an online startup. Your ideas aren’t outside the box, they
        are harmful and in other cases not possible. If you had experience in marketing
        you would know this.

        • Marwan Ayache

          :) No offense taken, CMTB! I appreciate your concerns regarding potential harm, but I really do think that all of these are in fact possible to execute, and, done responsibly, can yield positive publicity. Remember, the premise of the article was to suggest how to avoid the common mediums of advertising that so many startups are accustomed to choosing, especially those with limited personnel or budgets. Out of curiosity, which of the idea(s) do you think are not possible?

          • CMTB

            Sorry for the long response. Just trying to cover the points.

            The one that could be harmful is in fact the first. Fiverr
            is cheap and there’s a lot to go around but most of what is offered is of the
            absolute lowest quality. A couple obvious examples would be (1) buying Facebook
            likes, this will seriously diminish your ability to market correctly through
            Facebook in the future (2) PR or SEO, both are long term investments. A $5
            investment will get you black hat links which in turn could obliterate your SEO.

            One that won’t work… The NGO suggestion for example.
            Most NGOs or at least those worth anything will have minimum donation
            requirements for any kind of listing or mention, and the only companies that
            are going to get a press release are in the 500 million a year and up revenue

            Others are just bad advice, the bike courier for example.
            You had based this almost entirely on quantity of audience, but quantity is
            completely meaningless. The only thing that matters is targeting.

            Outside the box ideas aren’t as simple as you’ve laid them
            out. For that matter no good marketing idea should be. You weren’t far off with
            the competitions but it’ll be useless if not optimized. This could be done by
            establishing a Facebook store where your audience can get the deal (or prize)directly,
            establishing a Facebook event through your page to offer the competition its
            own marketing but still tied to the page, and by promoting the post and the

          • Marwan Ayache

            All valid points!

            While fiverr does have all kinds of SEOers and purchasable FB likes/twitter followers, utilizing this site or similar need not be for ‘internet-centric’ marketing. For this article, I tried to direct readers to more off-line solutions (even if acquired online.) Sites like that can also offer things like promo ads, logos, creating flyers, videos, etc. for startups. This is what I meant by ‘services’.

            I’m not sure how things are in US (where I am guessing you’re from- apologies if not), NGOs seem like gigantic hard-to-approach corporations. Here in northern Europe, NGOs and charities have a more grassroots(?) feel. They are extremely approachable and sometimes pair up on one-time projects with local companies/celebs/groups etc.From large to small alike. This is definitely doable, but by the looks of it perhaps not in the US.

            I agree that targeting is key. While the courier may not seem as targeted (and thus, worth it). The reason I mention this is because here in Stockholm, the startup ‘scene’ is much smaller (presumably, than in your city) geographically speaking. The vast majority of startups and investors are all located within a 3km radius extending from the city center. This, together with the existence of so-called ‘office hotels’ means that many co-working spaces share the same office buildings/streets with other startups and (angel or firm) investors. The scene is rather “intimate” in this sense. This is why I believe that for the price of a lunch, a courier wouldn’t be a bad idea.

            Yeah, the idea for competitions should be (for example) to net new users. Of course, this is highly contingent on the what the startup is, and what their product/service but yes FB is a good medium, since most fans are already ‘onboard’ there.

  • Steve

    I don’t think CMTB got the joke.

    • CMTB

      Just because its ridiculous doesn’t mean the writer meant it as a joke, and unfortunately in this case I really don’t think he did.

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