Wicked Campers vehicle

Edgy, or offensive? What we can learn about marketing from Wicked Campers

Sylvia Pennington

Looking to build a big name for your start-up or small business on a modest marketing budget?

Wicked Campers could write a book on it. The budget campervan supplier has achieved national notoriety, courtesy of its practice of emblazoning its fleet of vehicles aimed at the backpacker market with gregarious and outlandish messages, often criticised for causing offence.  

But last month (JULY), in response to continuing public outrage about its marketing modus operandi, new legislation was afoot in Queensland to ban vans bearing slogans which don’t comply with Advertising Standards from the road.

So what are the keys to achieving a wicked degree of exposure without the accompanying infamy? How can business owners tread the line between marketing that’s edgy and effective and downright offensive?

“It’s no good getting out there and doing something wacky and crazy for the sake of it."

Start by considering your target audience, advises small business marketing specialist and Video Experts founder Marcus Seegar – will they be amused, or alienated, by a campaign that pushes the bounds?

“It can be a great strategy but it needs to be done thoughtfully and deliberately,” Seegar says.

“It’s no good getting out there and doing something wacky and crazy for the sake of it – you need to consider how it fits with your company culture and brand and how it might impact your customers.

“Have fun with it and look at ideas that will delight and intrigue your audience, not offend them.”

Bootstrapping start-ups are ideally placed to hack a clever or quirky message for broader appeal, according to PoweredLocal CEO and small budget marketer Michael Jankie.

Like Wicked, entrepreneurs should keep their eyes peeled for free or low cost opportunities to expose their business in a memorable way to customers who aren’t familiar with the brand, he says.

“If you don’t truly believe in it, or it just doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it."

Think covering premises, motor vehicles and clothing with signage or logos, ensuring there’s a marketing message on the bottom of every email that goes out and using advertising remarketing campaigns to follow folk who’ve taken an interest in your offering around on the net.

Is there a taste-o-meter that lets you know if your efforts to stand out have gone too close to the bad form frontier?

“Go with your gut,” Seegar says.

“We all agree standing out is critical to brand recognition and being edgy is one way to do this – but don’t go so far you become memorable for the wrong reasons.

“If you don’t truly believe in it, or it just doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. Make sure you stay true to your core values. 

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

Image: Wicked Campers Facebook page 

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