Every single day I get stupid, badly worded emails from people asking me to swap links with them.
They're usually badly worded and totally irrelevant to the site they're targetting (I've got more than a few .. )
However other companies do things that are probably marginally more expensive than sending an untargeted email but a hell of a lot more effective.
They manage to hit the right tone and engage.
For example, NameMedia (who run BuyDomains and Afternic) sent several people who are attending the next ICANN meeting in Toronto this:
Very simple. Very effective and I'll remember it for a long time - hell I'm blogging about it, aren't I?
Spike Badges sent me a sample pack of their products shortly after they launched. It was simple and I of course was delighted and told a load of people about it. I'll be taking a bunch of their product with me to Canada later this month for one of my American friends who saw me talking about them ..
And what about via.me? They sent some of their "early adopters" t-shirts.
They're slightly different - they stand out. People talk about them and the cost to the company doing the marketing isn't huge - while the benefit can be much bigger.
Yet we still see boring and conservative marketing every single day.
I work in IT. I'm not sure if our industry sector is worse than others, but a lot of the marketing that IT companies do is terrible.
It's boring. Bland. It doesn't inspire or excite me. One advert looks like another and their press releases make me sleepy .. assuming I can even get past the first couple of lines.
Not all "clever" marketing is cheap and not all of it will work, but if you don't give it a go you'll never find out.