Doing The Unexpected: The Key To Winning With Food & Beverage Marketing

In a world with millions of brands, one of the most creative ways to stand out is to engage in unexpected food & beverage marketing. When a business does something that their customers don’t expect, it grabs their attention. And, it makes people remember you. Today, more and more brands are doing the unexpected, and this is especially seen in throughout the food and beverage industry.

The Greatest, Yet Unexpected Food & Beverage Marketing Campaigns

Brandon Rochon, Chief Creative Officer at Kastner Los Angeles believes that, “Unexpected storytelling is a key to capturing an audience, but it will backfire unless the foundation is built on human truth.”

“Unexpected storytelling is a key to capturing an audience, but it will backfire unless the foundation is built on human truth.”

– Brandon Rochon, CCO, Kastner Agency

He continues to explain how any brand can do something unexpected, but the key is: “…when you can lead someone down a relatable path grounded in culture and authenticity, the uncomfortable surprise you throw at them is that much more powerful and memorable.”

It’s All About The Letters

Food & Beverage Marketing


Everyone is more than familiar with IHOP’s name change to IHOb to generate awareness of their burgers. This is a perfect example of a campaign that was so creative that it was unexpected. This viral stunt generated so much publicity, and was honestly one of the greatest marketing campaigns in recent years.

Jayme Kostelnik, Account Director at Brokaw explains, “This campaign created some clever brand buzz to draw attention to an overlooked menu item.”

It is undeniable that this stunt was a success. In addition to capturing world’s attention, IHOP’s burger sales quadrupled in the first three weeks after their name change.²

KFC Delivers An Unforgettable Apology

Even though this example is more along the lines of PR and crisis management, it was nonetheless an extremely unexpected way to handle the situation. In 2018, KFC’s United Kingdom locations found themselves facing a chicken shortage. A huge PR crisis for a fast food restaurant that is solely centered around fried chicken.

Instead of issuing a bland press release, KFC decided to respond with an unbelievably creative ad. They ran this full-page ad in London newspapers. One letter away from a cuss word is daring and unexpected of a family-friendly brand. But this ad is brilliant in that it apologizes for the situation and hints how a chicken restaurant without chicken is the opposite of ideal.

However, this ad works because it grabs attention and allows individuals to appreciate the humor that comes with it.³

Goodbye Labels

Imagine taking your logo off your product. Sounds crazy, completed unexpected even. But, this is exactly what Diet Coke has done. They have released label-free cans as way to challenge stereotypes.

Kerri Kopp, group director, Diet Coke stated, “The [unlabeled] platform is meant to facilitate a conversation across a variety of groups and mediums to explore the complexities of labels. By unpacking various labels, we hope to champion acceptance and create more meaningful connections.” ⁴

A Brand Centered Around The Unexpected

Red Bull is a brand that is centered around taking everything to the extreme. And, this is no different for their approach to marketing. Their social media is just one prime example of taking an unexpected approach to marketing. Rather than posting images of their product all over their feed, they provide their followers with unexpected content that serves to engage them.

One Of A Kind Events

In addition to their social strategy, Red Bull holds many events to help bring their motto “Gives You Wings” to life.⁵ The Red Bull Air Race World Championship and Red Bull Flugtag are a few past events they’ve held. Both of these are very unexpected of a beverage brand.

Below is a video that highlights the best of the Red Bull Flugtag. Brandon and the team Kastner Los Angeles often work with Red Bull to help them create, advertise, and brand events such as this one.

Learn more about how Kastner Los Angeles worked with Red Bull to create this unique event here. 

Innovative Campagins

In addition to creating unique events, Red Bull does a great job with innovation and experiential marketing. The goal of this is to create a lasting impression on consumers. And, by doing this also increase brand loyalty as well.

Jayme Kostelnik and the team at Brokaw has also worked with Red Bull to develop innovative campaigns for the brand. They worked with a Moxy Hotel to create an unexpected experience for guests.

Learn more about how Brokaw helped Red Bull create an all-in-one bar and bike.

Food & Beverage Marketing

Tips To Keep In Mind

Creating something unexpected doesn’t necessarily always mean it will be a good thing. Or, that it will go over well with the public. This is why it’s important to remember the following tips if your brand is wishing to create an unexpected yet creative campaign.

Tip 1: Stay On Brand

It’s important to remember that if your brand plans to do something unexpected, it should make sense with who your brand is. This is why engaging in research prior to creating campaigns is so crucial. It’s important to know who your brand is and what they stand for. This can help gauge how people will perceive a campaign.

Jayme at Brokaw warns, “But to be clear, “unexpected” should also very much be on brand. If you’re going to draw attention to your business, it’s important to do it in a way that aligns with your communication objectives and personality.”

Tip 2: Implement Properly

Remember the KFC example mentioned above? Think about how easily people could have been offended by the ad. However, they timed it perfectly because they made sure to implement it as a way to apologize for their mistake.

Bailey Thompson, Marketing Manager at Response Media believes that brands should tread lightly when delivering the unexpected. She said, “It can seem off-brand or a publicity stunt if implemented poorly. The worst-case scenario is that the marketing causes serious damage to the brand’s image.”

Tip 3: Research, Research, Research

Research is a crucial aspect of marketing. It helps you better understand your target audience and even prevent branding blunders. Bailey indicated that research such as surveys, focus groups, and more is very important in developing a foundation for the unexpected.

“No great campaign is born in thin air.”

– Brandon Rochon, CCO, Kastner Agency

Brandon at Kastner Los Angeles believes that, “No great campaign is born in thin air. The beauty of storytelling in 2019 is that research is as passive as it is active. Making connections between disparate strategies, concepts and executions is easier than it’s ever been. The negative aspect of that untamable accessibility of information is that the truth can be twisted, diluted or misinterpreted.”

Tip 4: Find The Right Partner

All the brands mentioned in this article worked with agencies to develop these unexpected food & beverage marketing campaigns. Agencies exist to provide you with some extra creative brainpower to help ensure that your brand stands out amongst the others. So what’s stopping your from finding the perfect agency for you? With Agency Spotter, it’s easier than ever to find your ideal agency. Search by location, budget, service, industry experience, and so much more.



¹ LinkedIn Learning | ² THP | ³ HUFFPOST | ⁴ Coca-Cola Journey | ⁵ Digital Organics


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Nicole Schuster
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