All too often, it is the unplanned or more unconventional marketing that changes the game and suddenly elevates a brand to new heights. Let's take a look...

Brand directors and managers spend much of their year defining their marketing strategies and planning tactical implementation, carefully crafting content and channel plans that will allow them to achieve objectives and KPIs.

But it doesn't always go to plan...

When a brand gets into the news for a funny story or incident, very often it garners more PR, awareness and, ultimately, sales than could ever be attained from a paid-for, planned marketing campaign.

Of course, today's digital world facilitates this type of unconventional marketing. With most consumers now in possession of a smartphone, individuals can capture and record the things that appeal to them – and share that content immediately with a vast number of followers. The power to spread messages is transferred from the brand to the individual. And the results can be really fascinating.

Accidental Marketing

One great example of accidental marketing is the GoPro 'bear eating' incident. A GoPro user put his camera down and a grizzly bear attempted to eat it while footage was being recorded. The resulting video was shared widely on social media and did more for brand awareness and sales than any planned campaign could have done.

'A Grizzly Almost Ate My GoPro [with audio]' - by Brad Josephs

Similarly, an SFX whizz at Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks, Daniel Hashimoto, put the brand on the map by creating special-effects-laden videos of his three-year-old son, superimposing famous movie scenes and effects over his everyday photos. The resulting work went viral - and it's easy to see why! Take a look at this!

"...and the Coolest Dad award goes to..." Daniel Hashimoto literally puts his son in the movies.

But this kind of marketing doesn't rely solely on digital communication methods. Consider something as simple as the town centre cafe that puts its chairs outside to show that it is open. Customers see the chairs, recognise that the cafe is open for business and are subsequently inclined to go in and visit.

Guerrilla Marketing

There is another cheeky technique called guerrilla marketing that marketers must consider. It's also known as ambush marketing and is often seen at music and sports events. As an example, think back to Michael Johnson's famous Nike shoes, which became more memorable than Reebok's official sponsorship of the 1996 Olympics and allowed Nike to win the sports branding battle for one of the biggest sporting fixtures in the world. FIAT also memorably photobombed the VW offices in Google Street View, winning them a new legion of fans in the process. Likewise, Newcastle Brown mocked Stella Artois with its 'Who uses the word chalice?' campaign.

Fiat photobombs Volkswagen...

One interesting feature of these campaigns is that they tend to start small and take scale from humble beginnings. Sometimes the side project can actually outgrow the original central product, such as Twitter and Odeo. Which of those brands have you heard of…?

Gift Marketing

Another form of unconventional marketing is gift marketing – a powerful means of capturing user attention. By using the 'power of free' and principles of reciprocity, brands that give away freebies can find that their customers talk about their gifts and are willing to share them with others.

This method works if the product is memorable or used on a repeat basis – and, crucially, it will only work if the service or product on offer is worth knowing about in the customer's eyes.

Viral Marketing

One final unexpected and unconventional form of marketing is viral marketing. Again, it uses the power of digital to share created video content in the hope that it catches on and gets spread widely. However, authenticity and true viral sharing is key here. The more brands attempt to make a campaign go viral, the less likely it is to do so!

So, for today's marketers, it's perhaps time to take a break from complex, over-planned campaign strategies and to start thinking about how unplanned and accidental tactics could lead to desirable results.

A good starting point? Get online and start seeking out the content that your users are sharing about your products. Start giving away freebies. Start having fun with the brand and listen to the creative and innovative ideas of your team. It just needs a spark of a great idea, and that viral, accidental or guerrilla campaign could spring out of nowhere and become a future business case study for success!