Brands built without advertising, it sounds impossible right? I can’t imagine anyone saying you should never advertise, and when is not a good time to advertise? It’s a mystery for sure, but there are some huge brands out there that indeed did not advertise, and you know them very well. What a concept, that’s like saying, let’s give everything away and we will make money. Well, that is true also, competing with major companies by giving away core product and services is hard to walk away from, it’s even harder to compete against FREE.

But I’m not interested in talking about free, I want to talk about free from advertising, as in not advertising and still making billions. Imagine that, no advertising and creating a huge cash machine at the same time. How you ask, that’s the 64 million dollar question isn’t it? I mean, if you knew the answer, if we all knew the answer, we would have these mass fortunes ourselves. It’s not as simple as not advertising, but it’s close, it’s called Word Of Mouth, sound familiar? We practice it everyday on Social Networks.

Have you heard of Wayne Gould? He is the creator of Sudoku, the secret of Sudoku’s success was this, he offered the Times an endless supply of puzzles at no cost, there’s that FREE again. He offered the free puzzles with one request, that the times put a tiny credit on each puzzle, his website URL. Mr. Gould never purchased any advertising, it was a barter of sorts. The rest as you know it, is history.

Imagine this, you can’t just walk in a buy this car, you are selected. That’s right, no matter how much money you have or the position you hold will get you in the door. This brand has yet to purchase advertising, not one dime. Why? Because their customers are their marketing. They rely on word of mouth, special events and Social Media. The car? Ferrari.

With over 90 Billion in sales, this company has yet to purchase advertising, and you most likely are a card holder. COSTCO. Imagine gaining 66 million members that pay $55 or more for the privilege to shop, access to the COSTCO buying power is at your finger tips too.

This next one surprised me, The Body Shop. You’ve seen these stores everywhere, in every mall, and they don’t buy advertising. With no marketing department, they relied on one thing, a clearly stated purpose that the public could align their values to, not too mention word of mouth. With over 2,500 stores in over 60 markets worldwide, the business model seems to be working. I love this quote, I grabbed it off the Body Shop website:

“The business of business should not just be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”
-Dame Anita Roddick. Human Rights Activist. Founder of The Body Shop.

As crazy as it sounds, using FREE and Word Of Mouth can build a massive brand, maybe even an incredible way of life for you and the many being served by your business. It’s all possible, it also comes with a price tag called work, lot’s of it. In building anything there is always some level of risk, but these are examples of how a simple idea can lead to something far bigger than you ever dreamed of.

You don’t have to build a business of this magnitude, but you can build a legacy that provides a modest living. What’s your dream dynasty, what does it stand for and against?

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About Owen Greaves

I'm a Futurist, I write, speak, and teach the open & free business model, the future of business. Create. Differentiate. Deliver.  


  1. thebrandbuilder on January 30, 2012 at 9:36 PM

    Starbucks has hardly ever advertised, believe it or not.

    • Owen Greaves on January 30, 2012 at 10:17 PM

      I’ll have to look into that, there are a few others as well, Lululemon, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Icecream, I’m sure there other great brands that never advertised. McDonalds is not one of them though : )

      Thanks for being here bro.

  2. Pamela on April 5, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    These companies used very clever ways to promote their brand. Free is always good, and that’s what cause the massive word or mouth advertising. I’m really glad I read this article. 

    • owengreaves on April 8, 2012 at 5:33 PM

      Glad you enjoyed it, spread the word by sharing the blog post.

  3. The Future Of Business – Pay Attention on March 11, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    […] Brands Built Without Advertising ( […]

  4. Lisa Greaves on January 12, 2015 at 4:34 PM

    Costco ‘ s approach is interesting. They set about keeping their employees so happy with decent wages and benefits, they would do the advertising for the company.

    • Owen Greaves on January 12, 2015 at 5:16 PM

      WOM (Word of Mouth) – that mode is as old as dirt, and it still works today. : )