4 Ways to Get Big Results on a Small Budget

To scale your company, an effective marketing strategy is key. But when you’re just starting a business, you’re likely working with a modest and cautious budget.

However, “the bigger the brand, the bigger the budget” is not necessarily a marketing maxim; here are some instances when established companies used comparatively small budgets to get big results.  

  1.   McDonald’s  

In 2012, McDonald’s (Canada) launched a marketing campaign titled “Our Food. Your Questions”. The aim was to answer consumer questions about the quality and safety of its food products via social media. 

Despite having assets worth over $34 billion and the capacity to execute big-budget marketing campaigns, this cost-effective strategy proved to be successful in engaging customers. Approximately 20,000 questions were asked and McDonald’s attempted to answer each one, no matter how cynical or speculative it may have been. 

Be Transparent 

As well as being immersive, this campaign enabled McDonald’s to shed light on some pressing issues, such as the effect McDonald’s food consumption has on customers’ health. 

For example, one customer submitted the question: “Why should I eat anything with Dimethylpolysiloxane in it?” McDonald’s explained that Dimethylpolysiloxane is a World Health Organization (WHO) approved, non-toxic additive used to prevent hot oil from foaming over and potentially burning workers. McDonald’s ended its response by directing the reader to its “food facts” page to promote further transparency. Most brands would be eager to sidestep such a direct question in fear of damaging their image. But the timely responses by McDonald’s during this campaign proved to be effective and highlighted McDonald’s’ approach to customer care.  

Such transparency can help build trust with consumers. In this instance, McDonald’s hoped that an “enlightened” customer would be more likely to consume its products compared to the “cynical” one.

If you’re working on a tight budget, you could implement a similar strategy. Request feedback via your Facebook page or direct Instagram users to your website via a link where they can submit questions. You could also answer them via video recordings for added credibility — customers love to see the faces behind a brand and this can increase engagement. 

  1.   Acclaim Entertainment 

In 2002, US video game developer Acclaim Entertainment offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who named their child after Turok — the lead character in the brand’s latest game.  

This peculiar request resulted in a lot of publicity, attracting added attention to the game Turok: Evolution. 

Think Outside the Box

Acclaim Entertainment truly “thought outside of the box” with this marketing strategy, and despite offering a substantial financial reward, it saved a lot of its advertising budget. No production or overhead costs were involved — just a little bravery. And since this was in 2002 — before the social media explosion that shortly followed — contemporary businesses could get a massive response via social media. 

That being said, it’s still not impossible to get these types of results today. If you’re looking to get big results from humble marketing strategies, you need to devise a similar approach. For example, you could ask users to upload a short video of them singing and professing their admiration for your company on Twitter and Facebook or send you a link to a YouTube upload. Reward the best post with a free product or cash reward (cash rewards are more likely to gain people’s attention). Be creative as you like here — you might ask customers to say something more “headline-worthy” to create a bigger buzz around your business.  

Acclaim Entertainment managed to infuse a little shock value with its tactic — and it definitely paid off. 

Note: Although your ultimate goal is to find daring ways to get people’s attention, be sure not to push the boundaries too far. Acclaim Entertainment found this out the hard way when it asked families to advertise its latest product on their loved ones’ headstones. Both the public and media were quick to criticise the company, which led to a hasty retraction from Acclaim Entertainment.  

However, the damage to its reputation had been done and Acclaim Entertainment filed for bankruptcy in 2004. 

  1.   Kmart 

Kmart is an American chain of department stores that counts retail heavyweights Walmart and Target among its competition. With such strong competitors, Kmart sought creative ways to bolster its marketing strategies without digging too deep into its budget. 

Kmart created a commercial titled “Ship My Pants”. In about a week, this 30-second video had received over 13 million views online. It was effective — not because of the budget but the catchy play on words. 

Get Creative 

The decision to go with such a contemporarily quirky catchphrase was ingenious, as it helped Kmart develop a distinct, personable and current brand image. 

Take a similar creative approach with your next marketing product. If you’re looking to spend a significant amount of your marketing budget on a commercial (radio or TV), consider a catchy slogan or seductive play on words — you never know, it may just go viral. 

Kmart followed the success of “Ship My Pants” with the equally clever and effective “Big Gas Savings,” perpetuating the brand’s tone — humorous and memorable. 

  1.   Lyft 

The number of next-gen taxi services has been increasing steadily over the past few years. In such a booming industry, US-based transportation company Lyft had to stand out from the crowd. It made the relatively inexpensive decision to decorate each of its vehicles with an instantly recognisable fuzzy pink moustache. As a result, the Lyft brand gained steady traction. Since its launch in 2012, Lyft now operates in over 200 US cities, including Los Angeles and New York.  

Aim to Stand Out 

In a crowded marketplace, the company that stands out the brightest stands out the loudest. Lyft is a prime example of this with its instantly recognisable “outfit”. After just a few years of being in business, Lyft is valued at over $15 billion. And the bright pink moustaches cost just a fraction of the company’s value, making this a very shrewd marketing ploy. 

Have a look where you can “brighten” your own company’s presence. If your company is lacking an instantly recognisable logo, consider brainstorming a few new ideas before making the hasty decision to spend huge sums of marketing money. 

If you run a small brick and mortar business, you could ask your staff to wear memorable, conspicuous uniforms that grab customers’ attention. You’ll be surprised how fast and far word of mouth can travel. If Lyft did not dress each vehicle with its distinct, quirky moustache, it would have lost one of the key factors that differentiate it from every other vehicle hiring service. 

The good news is you don’t need to match Chanel No. 5’s record-breaking £18million campaign in 2004, where actress Nicole Kidman was paid over £2 million for the “mini-film” TV ad. You can still achieve significant results through effective, creative marketing to build your brand name while respecting your budget.

When you’re trying to achieve big marketing results with modest finances, you have to rely on innovation. Bigger budgets allow you to advertise on a larger scale or stretch print campaigns for several months, but with smaller budgets, you have to really get those creative juices flowing to be effective. 

No matter how shallow your pockets may be, don’t be afraid to think big.