The Magic Behind this Year’s Most Stunning Marketing Hit

How Pseudo-Products systematically make your brand go viral.

© Overkill Kreuzberg

© Overkill Kreuzberg

It’s small, kind of rectangular and this year’s first marketing gag — shoes.

But not just any shoes. Shoes designed by Berlin’s public transport provider ‘BVG’. In cooperation with Adidas, the German transportation company has produced 500 limited sneakers. They all come in BVG’s ugly yet culty cover seat design and function as an annual subscription (no joke!). And in Germany, everybody is going crazy for them.

That’s great. The idea is genius. However, it follows a systematic logic. Its success is reproducible. It’s a marketing concept and everybody can use it.

We call it: Pseudo-Products.

What are Pseudo-Products?

Pseudo-Products are commercial objects that are only available for a very limited period of time, in a very limited number at only some geographically limited locations. As these products are only limitedly available, they don’t follow the capitalistic maxim to add financial growth to a business. The BVG sneakers will neither make BVG nor Adidas rich. So, what’s the rationale behind them?

1. Awareness

The shoes create buzz! Everybody is talking about them. People on social media, newspapers, magazines, politicians and even designers. BVG immidiately became “The Talk of Town” and dominates the German media agenda. That’s pretty awesome. Particularly in our cluttered communication age where brands can only survive if they make a difference and stand out. People have to know your brand in order to be able to buy it .

2. Spill over effect

BVG is not a boring public transport. They position themselves as ironic, funny, cheeky, young and hip. By launching these weird shoes, the BVG translated its brand image into an external, physical product. The shoes function as a vehicle to dramatise the brand’s core associations and to strengthen its image. They link BVG to the realm of youth culture, fashion and street credibility while still celebrating its self-ironic character.

3. Creativity

As BVG’s sneakers are Pseudo-Products, they don’t have to be produced on a large scale. They don’t have to sell well (although they’re going to do so). They just have to stand out and build awareness. In this way, Pseudo-Products become a platform where you can unleash your creative genius. Moreover, Pseudo-Products don’t even have to exist. They could just be fictional. For instance, IKEA showed in an online video how engineers were working on the first wireless bungee jump. However, this entire documentary was just a “fake” in order to promote IKEA’s wireless charging feature available in some furnitures.

Pseudo-Product Concept | © charles&charlotte

Pseudo-Product Concept | © charles&charlotte

To sum up, BVG’s sneakers are a great marketing gag. Even better, their success can be reproduced. They follow the concept of Pseudo-Products that employs three easy rules: First, be sure of your brand’s core associations. Second, leverage these associations through an outstanding creative idea. Third, become “The Talk of The Town” and see your brand going viral.


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