Most of the time, we want to focus on “best practices” and proven strategies.  But sometimes it’s good to step out of our comfort zone and roll the dice with a campaign or a post that surprises. Here’s a look at some companies that have made being off-beat on-brand. For reasons that are still unclear to us, the list is heavy on fast-food restaurants.

Arby’s gets saucy

We’ve known Arby’s had a sense of humor for a while now, considering how well they took the unrelenting abuse Jon Stewart served them on The Daily Show for so many years. Instead of threatening to sue, the restaurant catered the show just about every time Jon made fun of them. Then when he announced his retirement, Arby’s reached out to him with a tweet, offering him a job, and ran a commercial that was a montage of his jokes about them.

They also got retweeted 80,000 times when they joked about the hat Pharrell wore to the 2014 Grammys  — “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs.”

More recently, they’ve gone completely sideways and created the Official Arby’s Sauce Fonts — Fancy AF and Saucy AF. (Get it? The kids all say AF, but it also stands for Arby’s Font.) They also took six people on a one-day trip to Hawaii.

Check out their Twitter feed. It’s way more than pictures of roast beef sandwiches, although there is no shortage of those either.

Netflix Canada tells offended followers to just chill

Let’s take a little detour from the fast food world to talk about Netflix, specifically Netflix Canada. Everyone knows that Netflix isn’t afraid to be a little sassy. They embraced the Netflix and Chill meme and made it part of their own marketing campaign. But Netflix Canada got themselves in a spot when they tweeted about Carly Rae Jepsen music being for “the gays.” Instead of issuing an apology, they introduced the two gay interns who do their social media posting and included their personal Twitter handles on the corporate account.

Wendy’s burns everything but the burgers

We couldn’t talk about social media accounts taking risks without mentioning Wendy’s. They are the masters of the sick burn. They love roasting competitors and fans almost as much as they love cooking burgers. Their CEO admits that giving the social media team the freedom to be cheeky means sometimes mistakes are made. Instead of abandoning the strategy at the first misstep, the social team has monthly meetings with the brand & insights team to discuss tone and generate ideas. It’s hard to determine how social media strategy affects sales, but Wendy’s picked up almost a million Twitter followers in a year. That’s not nothing.

Most recently, they took notice when Chance the Rapper lamented the absence of spicy chicken nuggets from Wendy’s menu. The social team issued a challenge to its followers to get two million likes for their tweet about it to bring the nuggets back. In less than three days, a Twitter account with 3.2 million followers had two million likes for their tweet. 

Four words: Kentucky fried hot tub

Ever since KFC decided fried chicken would make a great bun for a fried chicken sandwich (the Double Down, which is ten years old now), they’ve been coming up with ideas that aren’t even near the box. Not just one or two either. As you can see by the number of links here, KFC is a viral campaign machine. Recently, they put up five crowdfunding campaigns on IndieGoGo. The innovative ideas you could choose to support included a Kentucky Fried hot tub (hot tub in the shape and likeness of a bucket of chicken) and a smart cane remote control that you can shake at the TV to change the channel.

They also have offered a yule log scented with their famous 11 herbs and spices and (as a prize for an online Reddit contest) a Colonel Sanders bearskin rug. Heck, they even responded to a negative tweet by featuring it in an ad campaign. Plus they pulled off a slow-burn viral trick that required a random Twitter follower to actually figure it out. If you got to KFC’s Twitter page, you’ll see that they only follow 11 people — all five Spice Girls and six guys named Herb. Get it? 11 herbs and spices. It took more than a month for a follower to figure it out, but his tweet about it has been retweeted over 300,000 times and has more than 600,000 likes.

Burger King to customers: go to McDonald’s

Last, but most certainly not least, Burger King. Burger King does a lot right with their digital marketing (google it if you don’t believe us), but we’re only going to talk about one campaign here. The Whopper Detour campaign was the mother of all “wait, what are they doing here” marketing campaigns. The crux of it was that you could go to McDonald’s and order a Whopper for a penny. It was a massive undertaking that required them to completely revamp their mobile app and geo-fence all the Burger Kings and McDonald’s in the entire country (about 20,000 restaurants). The results were incredible. 1.5 million people downloaded the BK app during the nine-day promotion. Even factoring in the virtually free Whopper, the ROI for the campaign was 37:1. If you read the entire article (it’s long), you’ll be thinking to yourself, “Every single idea in this campaign should have caused it to fail.” Instead, not only was the promotion successful, but mobile sales have remained double what they were before the promotion.

How do you feel about this kind of marketing? Use the chat box to your right to let us know what you think. You can also reach out to us if you want help brainstorming and executing your next big idea. We want to help you break through.