5 Examples Of Innovative Marketing Strategies

Five great exam­ples of brands – IKEA, Vir­gin Amer­i­ca, Insta­gram, Net­flix, and L’Oréal – using inno­va­tion to pow­er their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 4 comments

Being able to adapt to con­sumer behav­ior and new tech­nolo­gies while main­tain­ing a strong cus­tomer focus is essen­tial to great mar­ket­ing. Cre­at­ing an incred­i­ble cus­tomer expe­ri­ence means giv­ing con­sumers what they may not even yet real­ize they want. How do IKEA, Vir­gin Amer­i­ca, Insta­gram, Net­flix, and L’Oréal use inno­va­tion in their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns?

What is the defin­ing qual­i­ty of your brand’s mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy?

Per­haps, as in the case of GoPro, it’s syn­er­gy. With a con­tent strat­e­gy that per­fect­ly com­ple­ments their prod­uct, GoPro exe­cutes one of the most impres­sive mar­ket­ing strate­gies in the world today.

Or per­haps, as for many brands from SAP to Harley David­son, it’s the strength of your brand com­mu­ni­ty, defined on the three pil­lars of feed­back, advo­ca­cy, and sup­port.

For Taco Bell, it’s their explor­er men­tal­i­ty which enables them to per­form bril­liant­ly when mar­ket­ing on new plat­forms, focus­ing on how and where their audi­ences are seek­ing and con­sum­ing con­tent.

One qual­i­ty that unites the mar­ket­ing strate­gies of all of these brands is inno­va­tion. Effec­tive dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing requires that brands have the abil­i­ty to adapt to change, and to grasp new oppor­tu­ni­ties. Being able to inno­vate allows brands to con­cep­tu­al­ize new ideas and put them into prac­tice.

While inno­va­tion has been acknowl­edged as a fun­da­men­tal qual­i­ty for prod­uct and tech teams for some time now, inno­v­a­tive prac­tices are also increas­ing­ly being applied to mar­ket­ing. As HBR ana­lyst Niraj Dawar put it:

The per­sis­tent belief that inno­va­tion is pri­mar­i­ly about build­ing bet­ter prod­ucts and tech­nolo­gies leads man­agers to an over­re­liance on upstream activ­i­ties and tools. But down­stream rea­son­ing sug­gests that man­agers should focus on mar­ket­place activ­i­ties and tools. Com­pet­i­tive bat­tles are won by offer­ing inno­va­tions that reduce cus­tomers’ costs and risks over the entire pur­chase, con­sump­tion, and dis­pos­al cycle.”

Even in the purest of sce­nar­ios, the ben­e­fits of inno­va­tion for brand mar­ket­ing efforts can be clear. Vol­vo, for exam­ple, estab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion for being an inno­va­tor of auto­mo­bile safe­ty, a mes­sage that has been effec­tive­ly reit­er­at­ed in their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns for decades.

Dawar also cites the exam­ple of how Hyundai, hav­ing received feed­back indi­cat­ing that reces­sion-hit con­sumers in the depths of the finan­cial cri­sis were refrain­ing from pur­chas­ing new auto­mo­biles due to job inse­cu­ri­ty, offered an assur­ance pro­gram that enabled con­sumers to return a vehi­cle with no finan­cial penal­ties if they lost their job or income with­in a year of buy­ing a Hyundai vehi­cle – a prac­tice that was still run­ning in 2013 for fed­er­al employ­ees expe­ri­enc­ing job inse­cu­ri­ty.

Inno­v­a­tive mar­ket­ing is undoubt­ed­ly an excit­ing propo­si­tion. Let’s look at five great exam­ples of brands employ­ing inno­v­a­tive mar­ket­ing prac­tices today.



IKEA has always had close ties with inno­va­tion. Found­ed in 1943 as a mail-order sales busi­ness, the com­pa­ny has grown into a glob­al multi­na­tion­al span­ning 46 coun­tries, built on the unique USP, and the momen­tous com­mer­cial­i­ty, of ready-to-assem­ble fur­ni­ture.

IKEA’s prod­ucts are renowned for the lev­el of detail that is put into their design – enabling their fur­ni­ture to be eas­i­ly assem­bled, often with­out tools – and equal­ly it’s in the detail of IKEA’s mar­ket­ing where the com­pa­ny is most inno­v­a­tive. The brand has put cus­tomer-expe­ri­ence at the heart of their mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, not just at indi­vid­ual needs and touch­points, but across the whole buy­ing cycle.

In 2013, for exam­ple, they launched the Cat­a­logue app, which not only gave users access to the com­pa­ny’s inven­to­ry, but via aug­ment­ed real­i­ty, actu­al­ly allowed them to view how items would look in their home spaces.

The app is a great resource for cus­tomers in the con­sid­er­a­tion stage of the buy­ing cycle.

Those who vis­it an IKEA store can look for­ward to a num­ber of inno­va­tions designed to make cre­ate excel­lent shop­ping expe­ri­ences.

Par­ents of young fam­i­lies can ben­e­fit from babysit­ting for 60 min­utes com­plete­ly free of charge. Cus­tomers can also enjoy the in-store restau­rants and bistros, for a taste of Swedish cui­sine, and with break­fast avail­able for as lit­tle as $1, and fam­i­ly-friend­ly offers such as buy-one-get-one-free frozen yogurt, it’s lit­tle won­der that IKEA’s fam­i­ly mem­ber­ships increased from 4.3 mil­lion to 6.9 mil­lion in 2014/2015.

Per­haps most impres­sive­ly of all, IKEA also make efforts to cater for cus­tomers’ post-pur­chase needs, even though it may have no direct rev­enue return for the brand. In pre­vi­ous years, for exam­ple, they intro­duced a plat­form that helped cus­tomer sell their sec­ond-hand fur­ni­ture, even going as far as help­ing users take pho­tos and open­ing up the brand’s Face­book page to act as an online mar­ket­place.

These are just a few exam­ples. It’s the col­lab­o­ra­tive impact of all of IKEA’s efforts that makes their mar­ket­ing so inno­v­a­tive.

Ini­tia­tives have been staunch­ly focused on improv­ing the com­plete buy­ing expe­ri­ences of their cus­tomers, with­out falling into estab­lished par­a­digms or typ­i­cal process­es. While many brands appre­ci­ate that cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is key to suc­cess­ful strat­e­gy, IKEA has man­aged to exe­cute on a lev­el of detail where numer­ous oth­ers fall short.

Virgin America

Vir­gin Amer­i­ca oper­ate in a com­pet­i­tive indus­try, where brand loy­al­ty and cus­tomer ser­vice are key. Nat­u­ral­ly, feed­back plays a cru­cial part, which is why Vir­gin intro­duced a focus group pro­gram, VX Next, a group of 30 fre­quent fly­ers and entre­pre­neurs who gen­er­ate ideas for the air­line in return for fly­er rewards.

As a direct result of their feed­back, Vir­gin Amer­i­ca intro­duced an in-flight social net­work enabling pas­sen­gers to con­nect dur­ing the dura­tion of a flight.

The air­line recent­ly pro­duced an incred­i­ble six-hour video detail­ing an entire in-flight expe­ri­ence on fic­tion­al Blah Air­lines. The (incred­i­bly) long-form con­tent was sup­port­ed by a web­site, and accounts on social media chan­nels includ­ing Twit­ter and Insta­gram.

Cre­at­ing a cam­paign around a fic­ti­tious com­pa­ny may have been unortho­dox, but it gave the brand reach in a high­ly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket, and the cam­paign cer­tain­ly made its mark dig­i­tal­ly, win­ning cov­er­age for being one of the longest ads ever cre­at­ed.


Insta­gram has a fan­tas­tic affin­i­ty with high­ly vis­cer­al indus­tries such as fash­ion, where the brand has already forged a great num­ber of strong part­ner­ships. The plat­form has pro­vid­ed the indus­try with the abil­i­ty to increase the depth of their sto­ry­telling and nar­ra­tives, show­ing back­stage pho­tos for exam­ple, or images of indus­try on the oth­er side of the lens such as that of the pho­tog­ra­phers, make-up artists, and blog­gers.

The plat­form has imple­ment­ed inno­v­a­tive prac­tices to improve user expe­ri­ences with­in this niche. The “Explore” func­tion dis­plays per­son­al­ized results of chan­nels users are like­ly to be inter­est­ed in, and the app’s Hyper­lapse video record­ing fea­tures are per­fect for cre­at­ing time-lapsed videos of hair of make-up rou­tines.

Recent­ly, Insta­gram have mas­sive­ly ramped up the adver­tis­ing pro­vi­sions with­in the app with new app APIs. It’s been a high­ly pos­i­tive devel­op­ment and brands in the fash­ion as well as wider indus­tries are begin­ning to enjoy the abil­i­ty to share con­tent, which users are engag­ing with just as they would with oth­er con­tent.

Today, 86 per­cent of the top glob­al brands are active on the plat­form, which is a pow­er­ful endorse­ment for the valid­i­ty of the plat­form as a mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing chan­nel.


Net­flix has become a house­hold name – no easy feat and one achieved large­ly because of the incred­i­ble qual­i­ty of con­tent pro­duced by the brand. After all, Net­flix isn’t just a stream­ing ser­vice and dis­tri­b­u­tion deliv­ery plat­form. Net­flix has also pro­duced some of the most pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion series of recent years.

Among the keys to Net­flix’s suc­cess has been the imple­men­ta­tion of data and ana­lyt­ics of con­sumer view­ing behav­ior and demand.

An arti­cle in The Atlantic gives some insight on the huge com­mit­ment the brand made to “reverse engi­neer Hol­ly­wood”, and the stun­ning insights they were able to gain. In short Net­flix “metic­u­lous­ly ana­lyzed and tagged every movie and TV show imag­in­able. They pos­sess a stock­pile of data about Hol­ly­wood enter­tain­ment that is absolute­ly unprece­dent­ed.”


It’s no mys­tery that Net­flix takes its data extreme­ly seri­ous­ly. Data informs their con­tent and pro­duc­tion endeav­ors, as well as their mar­ket­ing. But ana­lyz­ing their incred­i­ble data resources was just the first step. Net­flix invest­ed in orga­niz­ing this data into ideas that can inform their con­tent with a lev­el of detail that is incred­i­bly inno­v­a­tive.


L’Oréal under­stands that pro­vid­ing for dig­i­tal-era con­sumers pre-pur­chase, is just as impor­tant as allow­ing them to sam­ple prod­ucts at make­up stands and coun­ters. For this rea­son they designed an app.

L’Oréal’s Make­up Genius app allowed users to use their phones to do a dig­i­tal makeover. The brand recruit­ed the same team behind the make­up of “The Curi­ous Case of Ben­jamin But­ton” to pro­vide the real­is­tic visu­al effects need­ed. Con­sumers respond­ed pos­i­tive­ly; the app was down­loaded 7 mil­lion times.

The brand has also dis­played bold­ness in oth­er dig­i­tal chan­nels, cre­at­ing a unique line “Em-Cos­met­ics” for huge­ly influ­en­tial make­up blog­ger Michelle Phan. As Lubomi­ra Rochet, L’Oréal’s chief dig­i­tal offi­cer, stat­ed in an inter­view with Ad Age: “What con­sumers real­ly want is a con­sis­tent expe­ri­ence with the brand and prod­uct at all touch points.” Video-shar­ing plat­forms such as YouTube are rec­og­nized as being huge­ly influ­en­tial in mod­ern pur­chase jour­neys, and L’Oréal clear­ly rec­og­nizes this.

Final Thoughts

Judg­ing by the above exam­ples, it’s clear that inno­va­tion is an incred­i­bly valu­able com­mod­i­ty for dig­i­tal-era brands. All of the brands explored above dis­play a clear focus on cus­tomer-cen­tric expe­ri­ences, and inno­v­a­tive mar­ket­ing prac­tices enables them to design and pro­vide for con­sumers in ways that enhance those expe­ri­ences, in ways con­sumers may not yet even expect.

Ulti­mate­ly, inno­va­tion is cru­cial for great mar­ket­ing because there will always be room to improve brand rela­tion­ships and expe­ri­ence with con­sumers. Ensur­ing that inno­v­a­tive prac­tices are able to exert their influ­ence on a brand’s mar­ket­ing efforts allows brands to be con­sumer-cen­tric and chal­lenge for the future.

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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