Some like to reduce marketing to nothing more than ROI calculations and spreadsheets. Tracking marketing expenditures is vital as keeping within budget is a concern. And a savvy marketer is always going to look at the results of any campaign. But simply boiling down marketing to just numbers and data is always a mistake. There is a lot more to it than that.

Marketing is as much of an art as it is science. Dealing with the human psyche brings a host of variables that are hard to quantify in an Excel file. Tapping into human behavior and purchasing desires can be more about psychology, intuition and experience than hard numbers. And looking for nothing other than maximizing ROI can lead to short-term decisions that do nothing for a brand and not being open to new ideas.

Marketing ideas can be effective without nicely fitting on a spreadsheet. While they might not immediately add to the bottom line and some ROI-obsessed marketers dismiss them, they can be great for brand building and creating buzz. And out-of-the-box strategies can also help kickstart marketing efforts that have hit walls or become dormant. Let’s look at six alternative marketing ideas that are worth exploring.


NFTs are no longer just for crypto enthusiasts and tech dorks with disposable income but have entered the mainstream. What is an NFT? A non-fungible token is a unique digital item part of the Ethereum blockchain. As the popularity of NFTs exploded, other blockchains have implemented their own versions of NFTs. Check out our past blog article for a deeper dive into NFTs.

NFTs really started to take off as a way to collect digital art. For those that might think NFTs are small-time or pointless, Beeple’s “Everydays – The First 5000 Days” sold for $69 million at a Christie’s auction. Yes, you read that correctly. The staggering price was $15 million more than Monet’s “Nympheas” sold for in 2014. And it wasn’t an anomaly either, with Pak’s “Clock” fetching $52.7 million and “HUMAN ONE,” another work by Beeple, selling for $28.9 million. Check out this list for the most expensive NFTs ever sold, and prepare to have your jaw hit the floor.

Beyond the world of digital art, major companies like Taco Bell, Gucci, Burger King, Dolce & Gabbana, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut are now using NFTs as part of their marketing efforts. ROI on an NFT can be difficult to measure and they only make sense for specific demographics. But the barrier to creating an NFT is fairly low, and they can create significant buzz. You have to put marketing effort and dollars behind creating that buzz, but it is possible to recoup those dollars. Dulce & Gabbana’s NFT collection of nine digital outfits recently sold for $6 million, netting the company a nice profit and lots of media coverage.


No, it’s not another new reality television series. Ghost kitchens are restaurants that have no brick-and-mortar locations and only focus on deliveries. You have never eaten in one, but you may have ordered from a ghost kitchen without even knowing it. Thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumer habits shifted to eating in, ghost kitchens are not oddities. Former Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick’s new venture CloudKitchens, a company that builds and operates ghost kitchen facilities, is now valued at $15 billion. Ordermark, a software company that helps restaurants manage virtual kitchens, received $120 million in funding. And Euromonitor, a market research firm, estimates the industry could reach $1 trillion by 2030. This article from Eater takes a closer look at an industry many know nothing about.

The rise of ghost kitchens is an opportunity for an out-of-the-box way to grow brand awareness. In an ever-grow field of competition, ghost kitchens can struggle to stand out. Pairing with a more established brand, such as yours, can be a boon for their sales. These pairings don’t have to be permanent either, allowing your company to have its own branded food available for delivery at locales and dates of major consumer or industry events. This strategy might not immediately grow sales, but it can boost your brand and shows innovation.


Collaborating with other brands can be a powerful way to expand marketing efforts. Teaming with the right partner can quickly boost reach and engagement on social media to levels that would take years to achieve as a single company. Brands can also pool their efforts and costs for industry or consumer events, gain sales by tapping into their partner’s market, and even launch complementary products together. Collaboration can be anything from working together on a single project to fully integrating all marketing endeavors.

Increasing sales and finding new customers should be the goal of any collaboration. Working with a brand that competes directly with yours is usually not a way to achieve that. But partnering with a brand too far removed from yours also doesn’t make sense. Instead, think of who your customers are and what other products they tend to buy. Then team with a brand that offers those products and whose customers have a similar profile to yours. For more tips on brand collaboration, check out this article from Forbes.


If a full-blown collaboration sounds like too much, teaming with another brand to place your product in their packaging can be a great way to find new customers. There are obvious limitations, such as the size and cost of your product. If you make surfboards, you might be out of luck. But for smaller, lower-cost products, or those that can be made into sample sizes, the strategy can work. Offering exclusive discount codes or coupons inside packaging is an option for larger or more expensive products. Just like with a larger collaboration, you want to partner with a brand that compliments yours.

Meal delivery companies, such as Hello Fresh, do this by offering small sample sizes of sauces, snacks or other treats they think their customers might like. While a company on the scale of Hello Fresh probably charges to be part of its packages, plenty of others see it as adding value and will do it at no cost. Adding to the effectiveness is most customers don’t see it as overt marketing but getting a free bonus with whatever they ordered.


Pop-up restaurants are a trendy but effective marketing tactic. The concept works when eateries or a chef temporarily take over a space and visit an area outside of where they usually operate. Effective use of social media before the event creates a significant buzz around it. People’s fear of missing out and a desire to try something new usually makes pop-ups successful. And the people attending it are often new customers that might have heard of the restaurant or chef but never tried the food.

Pop-Ups aren’t just for restaurants as you can apply the same tactics to your marketing efforts. Lots of retail space is currently unoccupied, with owners willing to entertain short-term rental offers. You don’t even need to rent space as a complementary brand may let you open a mini-store within their store. Best Buy does this well with the Samsung Experience Shops located within select Best Buy locations. Food trucks are basically mobile pop-ups, and you can replicate them with your own portable retail experience on wheels. The idea is to expand out of your usual market and meet new customers.


Lots of marketing efforts focus on getting a customer to buy something. Beyond making sure someone receives a product and bombing them with promotional emails, very few focus on customers post-purchase. That is a serious mistake as satisfied customers are the best influencers you can have. Most will gladly recommend your product or service to others on social media, forums, family or friends as long as they are happy with it and your brand.

One easy way to ensure your customers are happy is to follow up with them. Most expect a generic email, but a personalized message can go a long way. Apps like Loom make sharing a quick video easier than ever that thanks them for their purchase and reaches out to make sure they are satisfied. Even a handwritten note or a text message can help show that you care about your customers. It is a simple way to hopefully retain customers, gain new ones and spread positive impressions to others about your brand.