Brands will do basically anything to sell their product. A lot of companies have really thought of strategies outside of the box. These disruptive tactics manage to weasel their into the public imagination and rapidly generate word of mouth. In an era of ad-blocking and skipping commercials, these are the 10 Legendary Marketing Stunts That Shocked The World:

ALS Association 

ice bucket challenge marketing ideaYes, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” was a marketing campaign. As one of the most viral social media stunts of all time, the campaign encouraged donations for the ALS Association. Participants posted a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water on themselves. After that, they would nominate others to participate within 24 hours or send funds to the ALS Association. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, Lebron James, and many others participated. 

In total, the ALS Association raised $115 million—an industry record for fundraising campaigns. 

Artisan Entertainment 

In terms of film marketing that went viral, no campaign was as effective as 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. In the early internet days, the micro-budget horror film lasted year-long, blending fact and fiction. Many who saw the picture were bamboozled that the film was real. Thus, the genre of “Found Footage Horror” was formed. Of course, the indie’s subject matter was entirely fictitious, but the stunts — including missing posters, fake news clippings, and a bogus website with backstories and rumors — propelled the film to make $248.6 million on an investment of just $35,000. 

McDonald’s Monopoly Game 

Since 1987, sales promotions have been the most popular sweepstakes any restaurant offers. Taking inspiration from the popular board game, menu items come with game pieces that give customers a chance to win numerous prizes. 

Over the years, the marketing stunt has generated big returns for the company. However, the contest is now synonymous with fraud, considering consumers’ astronomically low chances of winning bigger prizes. A recent HBO documentary recently detailed an insider who figured out how to scam the company out of $24 million. 

Pepsi Challenge 

It’s the first time a soda competitor has come close to toppling its cola rival. In the 1970s, Pepsi attempted to conquer Coca-Cola’s market dominance by conducting a series of blind taste tests, which were the first of their kind. 

Participants sampled two unmarked beverages and chose which they preferred. Obviously, the majority selected Pepsi over Coca-Cola. In response, Coke made arguably the worst decision in marketing and introduced the doomed New Coke. 

As of this writing, PepsiCo continues to be second in the U.S. carbonated Soft Drink Market Share, totaling 27.4%. 

Red Bull’s Skydive 

Arguably the most ambitious on this list, the Red Bull Stratos capsule took daredevil Felix Baumgartner to the edges of our atmosphere. In a livestream that has racked up hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, Baumgartner leaped from a vantage point of 127,852 feet, breaking the record for the highest-altitude jump. He also broke the sound barrier on his descent — the first human to accomplish this without engine power. 

Of course, the entire project was sponsored by Red Bull, which has continued to repurpose footage from the jump ever since. 

Barbie’s Dreamhouse On Airbnb

Overlooking the panoramic waves of Malibu, a Barbie-themed house was listed on Airbnb to promote the movie based on the beloved Mattel character. The pink mansion rapidly became Airbnb’s most popular listing ever, garnering over 13,000 press hits and a remarkable 250 million social media impressions. 

Decked out to resemble locations from the movie, the stunt assisted in a successful marketing campaign that propelled Barbie to $1.4 billion at the global box office, making it the highest-grossing film of 2023.  

KFC From Space

At the start of this millennium, KFC could literally be seen from the cosmos. 

In 2006, KFC acquired a large swath of land in the Nevada desert. Over six days, it gradually assembled a portrait made of 65,000 one-foot square tiles. When completed, Colonel Sanders’ face stared up at the heavens. 

The enormous mosaic of the KFC founder’s noggin could be seen on Google Maps. The marketing ploy was also a reveal for the KFC’s new logo, meant to appeal to a younger crowd. Observers could also earn coupons by locating the secret message “FINGER LICKIN’ GOOD” embedded in the portrait of the Colonel’s grinning face. 

Tesla’s First Car In Space 

Yet, even more, space stunts. 

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, combined both car and rocket for an out-of-this-world promo. Six years ago, Musk’s personal Tesla roadster was sent into outer space, where it will continue commuting for millennia to come. Despite its clear advertising implications, the Tesla was supposed to be a dummy payload for the first mission of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February 2018.  

As of this writing, the combined value of SpaceX and Tesla is worth an estimated $777 billion. 

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade 

Because ushering in the Thanksgiving holiday is such an American tradition, it’s easy to forget the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, which was created in 1924 to draw attention to the department store. Originally, employees walked six miles in fancy dresses, accompanied by animals from the zoo. 

The giant helium tradition started in 1928, featuring Felix the Cat as the first-ever character balloon. Across the two-and-a-half-mile walk, festivities include character balloons, novelty balloons, and musical performances.   

The Hollywood Sign 

Now the official sign for the movie industry, the iconic landmark was originally a large marketing stunt by a real estate developer trying to sell houses in an ignored suburb of Los Angeles. Originally built as ‘Hollywoodland,’ the billboard was 50 feet high and cost $21,000. Originally intended to last just a year and a half, the ‘Hollywood’ sign remains a cultural landmark, now lasting for over a century. 

From viral social media challenges to fast food space signage and all the other gonzo publicity disruptions in between, marketing has to think outside the box to continue to attract the attention of consumers inundated by distractions. Expect more and more companies to commit to marketing tactics that will shock, awe, and, most importantly, be remembered.