The Basics of Marketing in the 21st Century: from Zero to Zillions

Who has millions or billions to spend on world-class communication? Turns out you won’t need that for your buck to make a massive bang.

Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike: all committed astronomical sums for advertising in 2015. Apple raised its ad budget to $1.8 billion; Coca-Cola spent close to $4 billion; Nike’s endorsement dollars reportedly soared above $6 billion.1, 2, 3

No doubt these monoliths have built solid brand recognition over the years and decades. But what about a brand-new company with minimal seed money?

The first step is to understand the BASICS OF MARKETING, as L. Ron Hubbard described in his article of 7 February 1979:

“Survey for the public and then survey that public with regard to any product.”

Let’s take an example of a new company that is using a simple yet innovative strategy to disrupt a market:

On the Inc. 5000 list—#51 overall, #4 retail, with a three-year growth rate of 4,900 percent, and $21.6 million revenue for 2015—is a company called Man Crates.4

Launched in a garage in 2011 with a marketing budget of zero, now with a 50,000-square-foot facility in Redwood City, CA, Man Crates infiltrated the omnipresent (and often boring) gift-basket market by creating boxes centered around themes of golf, beef jerky, whiskey, cigars, grilling, sports, tools, outdoors and more.5, 6

The Man Crates user-friendly online store conveys a sense of humor essential to their culture, but they’re dead serious about surpassing customer expectations in quality and speed. They’ve partnered with FedEx, offer a money-back guarantee, have an open channel for suggestions, and they offer a standing discount for active military and veterans.

Man Crates found an untapped niche in the $150 billion men’s gift market—packages that men want and are majorly (65–70 percent) purchased by women.7 They keep detailed metrics of customer behavior, seasonal spikes and dips, plot these against ROI and adjust strategy without detracting from their core mission.8

Hubbard continued in the same article, saying:

“Do your homework.”

The “Man Crates Manifesto” is published boldly without reservation or regret. Their gift packages are shipped in a wooden crate with a laser-etched crowbar that the recipient must use to open the crate; and they’ve considered using duct tape as holiday wrapping with no regard for how difficult it is to open.

Their overall positioning is consistent and integrated, while each gift crate has its own unique and slightly off-kilter angle. Boxes include titles like Wild Alaskan Jerkygram, Grill Master Crate, Whiskey Connoisseur Crate, Outdoor Survival Crate, Zombie Annihilation Crate, Game Night Crate, and many others.

One of the next steps, according to Mr. Hubbard, is

“Direct people’s attention.”

The company has a presence on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter, with imagery and message consistent with their online store, and they’ve been featured on major news outlets NBC, U.S. News, Fox and the Wall Street Journal.

Man Crates sums up their approach: “We believe men deserve better gifts. Gifts that stir a primal craze of chest bumps and cheers, not polite half-smiles. We believe gifts should be just as exciting to give as they are to receive; the gifts of water cooler legend. We are Man Crates, and we do awesome gifts for men.”

Enter the site and you’re drawn into the Man Crates aesthetic. They pay considerable attention to presentation and lighting in their photographs, while the crates and their contents get routinely excellent reviews from customers. Man Crates’ communication is clear and concise with a dash of whimsy. There is no mistaking who they are or what they do.

The emotion in all their marketing is conveyed by the image of a man—surrounded by friends and family—opening a wooden crate with a crowbar in anticipation of this being something new and extraordinary.

Man Crates discovered that people were not getting what they wanted, came up with a unique idea, focused on the overall customer experience, and attracted more and more people to their brand.

If you were to plot the strategy of this company against Mr. Hubbard’s points above, you’d see how the BASICS, smartly applied to the twenty-first-century digital landscape, result in exponential growth.


  1. Spanier, Gideon. “Apple Ad Spend Rises 50% to Record $1.8 Billion.” Campaign US. com. Haymarket Media Group, 30 Oct. 2016. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
  2. refis Team. “Coca-Cola’s Advertising and Marketing Efforts Are Helping It to Stay on Top.” com.Forbes Media, 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
  3. aplan, Daniel. “Nike Commits $6.2B to Sports Deals.” SportsBusiness Journal. Street & Smith’s Sports Group, 3 Aug. 2015. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
  4. Man Crates: #51 on 2016 Inc. 5000.” com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
  5. ovellino, Teresa. “3 Tactics Man Crates Uses to Crush the Men’s Gift Market (video).” Business Journals, 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
  6. an Crates | The Most Awesome Gifts in the World. com. Rep. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
  7. allace, Tracey. “Online Store Hits Record Holiday Sales via Customer Experience.” BigCommerce Blog. N.p., 12 Jan. 2016. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
  8. Marketing Nation Success Series—Man Crates.” Case Study—Man Crates—Marketo (video). com.N.p., 26 Jan. 2016. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.


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