Canadians are embracing extreme marketing in creative ways

These Canadian extreme marketing campaigns might inspire you to market your business in a wild and wacky way.

Marketing is evolving. But even as it evolves, there are benchmarks and best practices, tools and processes that are common from one company to another.

Yes, tools and channels evolve, but almost all real estate agents across the continent market in the same way. Almost all pizzarias across the continent market in the same way. Almost all hair salons across the continent market in the same way.

But some do things very differently. And a very, very few go to great extremes to do things differently. These are the extreme marketers, and some are Canadian.

Here are their campaigns, to inspire the extreme in you. The marketers include:

  • a church
  • a restaurant
  • a wedding (yes, a wedding!)
  • outer space, or at least its proxy

Seat reservations for Christmas service at church

Some churches actually do marketing. That might come as a surprise to most church-goers. But how far would a church go to market itself?

What Southgate Church did

They printed cardboard simulations of a DVD, with their message on either side. The message was simple:

“Join us for Christmas. Reserve your seats online.”


They handed these out to everybody at the Winchester Parade of Lights (and possibly elsewhere). I was in the crowd in Winchester, so I was given a copy. Here’s what the two sides look like.

Christmas marketing for Southgate Church in Winchester and Kemptville

What makes this marketing extreme

This was not an eight-and-a-half-by-eleven printed in black and white. This was full-colour, two-sided, custom-cut on very sturdy stock. They paid a lot for this, and went out proactively handing them out to parade spectators. For a church, this is extreme.

Extreme, but fitting, given that their website proclaims:

“Church doesn’t have to be boring, that’s why the Southgate family is committed to creativity and innovation in our ministries.”


What makes this marketing smart

Good marketing targets the right people in the right context. Context is important.

The people watching the parade were almost all within the right geographic area. They tended to be families with an interest in Christmas. If you want to invite people to your Christmas service, there could not be a more ideal crowd.

The context was right, too. People were in a good mood (always best to market to people when they are happy) and thinking about Christmas. It was December 1, so the timing was perfect for reserving a seat for Christmas service.

The Garlic King stands out in Ottawa traffic

Every city has more than its share of restaurants. Many don’t last a year. While location, atmosphere, service and flavour are the main things to keep customers coming back, a high profile doesn’t hurt.

Extreme marketing from The garlic King in Ottawa, Canada

What The Garlic King did

I was driving along Highway 417, when the most outlandish vehicle merged into the lane in front of me. The car was in full body paint, with what looked like a royal figure and a giant head of garlic. But what really caught out attention was the glass tube sticking out the top.

“A transporter pod!” I exclaimed.

“A giant light bulb!” my daughter added.

Then we snickered and giggled over the thought of the vehicle passing under a low overpass. And we wondered if a person would actually sit in the glass tube. As it turns out, the answer is “yes”.

The Garlic KIng in his bulb

What makes this marketing extreme

A car in full body paint is nothing new. Lots of businesses do that. OK, not lots. Probably not even one tenth of a percent of them. But there are a few in every city.

But the glass tube is extreme. Is it Cinderella’s carriage? Is it the Popemobile? No, it’s the Garlic King!

That he would ride in the tube going through town makes it all the more extreme.

What makes this marketing smart

Once you’ve seen this vehicle, you won’t forget it. And the images re-inforce the name. Furthermore, it shows off and reinforces the mascot (the owner, I presume). Very few businesses have fully painted vehicles. Very few have mascots. This is the first one I have seen that effectively combines the two.

It’s playful. It’s fun. It’s memorable.

I wonder if the food is as extreme as the marketing.

Elizabeth May’s “green” wedding dress

Elizabeth May is leader of Canada’s Green Party, and until recently, its only sitting member of Parliament at the federal level. Her wedding dress was actually white in colour, but green in theme.

What Elizabeth May did

Well, she got married. She wed fellow long-time Green Party member (and candidate in the upcoming election) John Kidder, brother of the late actress Margot Kidder.

Her dress includes greenery – yes, plants – crawling up the side of her dress. Sue Earle, the designer based in Salt Spring Island, said, “She said she would like to have some greenery on the bottom of it, so it looked like she just walked through a garden.”

Eliabeth May's green wedding dress

What makes this marketing extreme

It’s a wedding dress. She carried her personal branding onto her wedding dress. What’s not extreme about that?

What makes this marketing smart

Anybody whose career is based on their personal brand knows that everything they do in public either supports that brand or dilutes it. That applies to coaches, consultants, speakers, celebrities and artists…and to politicians.

In this case, the brand is true. I first met Elizabeth May back when she was working for Friends of the Earth. That was about three decades and a head-full-of-hair ago (my hair, not hers – she still has plenty of it).

Elizabeth May is green through and through. Her brand is who she is – no posturing.

She is fortunate to be marrying someone who also lives that brand, so he made no objection (we assume) to a garden crawling up her wedding dress. Nor to making post-wedding comments such as “We intend to be gloriously happy — and very Green.” In fact, he joked about his upcoming run as a Green Party candidate:

“If you don’t elect me, I’ll never see my wife again.”


The Universe Needs More Canada

You’ve probably seen the motto “The World Needs More Canada” many times. President Obama said it.

Heather Reisman’s book says it, too.

As of writing, 29,100 web pages are saying it, too.

And then there are the banners in Chapters stores. I snapped this pic at the downtown Ottawa location.

The world needs more Canada

In a world of conflict and turbulence, we could all use a little more peace, a little more civility, a little more politeness. At least, that’s how Canadians see it.

What the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada did

A group of Canadian space promoters, including companies and academics with an interest in space, gave that motto a twist:

“The Universe Needs More Canada”.

This is the basis of a campaign to convince the federal government to fund more space-related projects. The line means that space would benefit from Canada being more involved.

I’ve seen the slogan on the backs and sides of buses, on billboards and on posters. I’ve seen the ads in publications.

The universe needs more Canada - extreme marketing of space

What makes this marketing extreme

This is extreme because it is a pretty cheeky claim, that the universe needs more Canada. We are not all that big a country. But we have been in space, notably with the CanadArm, so we have history on our side. In fact, Canada was the third country in space, with the Alouette-1 satelite. And we are not the smallest country in space, witness Israel’s recent foray.

Canadarm - Canada in space

Even more so, this marketing is extreme because it’s pretty rare for positive advocacy campaigns like this. Most well-funded campaigns are to stop the government from regulating the industry.

But most of all, it’s extreme by the whole scale of it – outer space. Marketing just doesn’t get more extreme than that.

What makes this marketing smart

This campaign harnesses Canada’s national pride, an understated patriotism. It also sets out a vision of how Canada can play a role bigger than its size, something that Canada is proud of doing in other fields.

Is extreme marketing for you?

If your business would benefit from standing out from the crowd, extreme marketing could be for you.

To make extreme marketing most successful, find a way to convey your brand. In other words, don’t just make a splash; make the splash that will remind people who you are, what you stand for and why they should care.

About David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, a published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt

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