I bet that when you think of stories about marketing, the first ones that come to mind are “The Old Spice Man” and “Talking Heads”. You may have heard of some recent marketing campaigns, like the Dove Real Beauty advert or any number of Toyota or Apple commercials with valiant marketing group glassdoor.
But there are a ton of stories about marketing that you probably haven’t heard before. In this article, I want to tell you 3 successful stories from marketers who conquered great challenges and succeeded in their industries.
1. “I hate all the characters from our branded game”
In 1999, a group of animators in Japan decided to create a branded game for Suntory, a big company that makes many types of alcoholic drinks. The group was desperate for money because they couldn’t pay their rent. To survive, many people took on different part-time jobs and worked very long hours.
The situation was grim and they had no energy left to brainstorm anything else but the deadline was approaching faster than they could handle – and so was the landlord. Their only hope was that Suntory would approve their proposal and provide them with the funding they needed to continue working on the project.
This is where things get tricky. Suntory’s president, Mr. Shinjiro Torii, was not impressed with the work that had been submitted so far and sent it back to be reworked. He would have no part of a game that did not include Suntory’s mascot, a character named “Mr.Drinky ”.
The animators were in quite a predicament since they had nothing else to offer… except for their secret weapon: “Suntory Time ”. As it happens, the animators were not in the best physical shape and had some health-related issues due to their heavy workload and lack of sleep. Two days before their deadline, they burst into Mr. Torii’s office.
Now imagine you are Mr.Torii and you see this group of unshaved, wobbly characters rush into your office, frantically shouting “Give us more time! Give us more time! We need more time! We need a month, maybe two!”. The scene was so surreal that the president thought they had lost their minds… or at least that’s what he wanted everyone to believe when he told the press: “I hated all the characters from our branded game. They came into my office and said ‘We are exhausted from working every day for seven days a week. Please give us a break.’. I was really surprised. The character by the name of Mr.Drinky was a really hard character to draw, so I ended up not using him at all”.
The animators were hired and the game launched on time without a hitch.
2. “We wanted to create a reliable brand that you could be proud of”
In the 1940’s Volkswagen went through some tough times as the American economy went into recession and sales plummeted due to strict import laws enforced by the American government. The situation was so dire that they were close to entering bankruptcy and it seemed as if the company would cease to exist altogether if something wasn’t done immediately.
To make things worse, Adolf Hitler’s regime was still in power in Germany and even though the company was based there, it couldn’t risk its reputation by continuing to sell vehicles to Germany.
On a stormy night at the end of March 1940, Franz-Josef Popp (VW’s chairman) sat down with his team at the Wolfsberg factory in East Germany and admitted that they were going to have to close their doors indefinitely (no more car production). They decided that they would use this time to try out a new concept: Get people excited about the idea of buying an affordable car.
“We decided that we would try to sell something that cost less than a Volkswagen Polo and was designed to fit the needs of a middle class family. The idea was not just to make money but also to create an outstanding brand, which you could be proud of.” – Mathias
The Beetle, as it is now known, was launched in Brazil just before the end of World War 2 and this is what they came up with:
3. “I cried as I watched my idea get turned into reality”
In 1995 Steven Spielberg released “Schindler’s List” with Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler and Ralph Fiennes as Amon Göth. These actors perfectly portrayed their roles as Oskar Schindler and Amon Göth in the film.
However, the story is so much more than just a good movie. It is actually a well-documented historical account of how Schindler saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by giving them jobs at his factory in Poland. He did this at great risk to himself (and his family), even going as far as bribing Nazi officials to ensure that they would leave his workers alone.
Although the events in the movie are true to life, the film never really explains how Oskar Schindler got his factory so quickly. This is why author and researcher Thomas Keneally wrote a book called “Schindler’s List: The Fate of One Hundred and Fifty Thousand People” which details how Schindler saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during World War 2.
The book was made into a movie which was released in 1993 and starred Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler and Ralph Fiennes as Amon Göth. When they first read the script they were puzzled because they felt it was not accurate to their actual life story. They exchanged some letters and decided to bring in documentary filmmaker Steven Spielberg to direct the film.
“I cried as I watched my idea get turned into reality” – Thomas Keneally
Creating the next big thing is not always easy. In some cases, it involves a lot of time and compromise but you have to remember that nothing great comes easy… and you can only achieve success if you keep going.
All the best