17 popular brands and companies that don’t advertise but remain successful

Companies That Don’t Advertise

Companies that don’t advertise are destined to fail – or so you might think. Talk to any business expert or consultant and they’ll usually tell you advertising is the key to success. After all, what good is a great brand, product, or service if no-one knows about it?

So, why are there so many articles out that celebrating brands that don’t advertise?

Come to think of it – why are there so many big names, like Rolls Royce and Trader Joe, that never appear on traditional marketing channels? When’s the last time you saw a Lamborghini ad on the TV?

The answer are there are popular brands out there that don’t advertise – at least not in a traditional sense. These companies might have a tiny marketing budget, but they raise brand awareness in other ways. 

Here’s your guide to the most successful companies, with (almost) no advertising strategy.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

Do brands that don’t advertise actually exist?

Ok, so let’s start with a bit of a disclaimer. 

Technically, there’s no such thing as a successful brand that doesn’t advertise. At least, not that we know of. Your business consultant is right – you do need to advertise to connect with your target audience and generate sales. 

But there’s a difference between “conventional advertising”, and what some of the biggest companies in the world do to cultivate success. 

Some successful brands like Coca-Cola and Nike invest heavily in traditional marketing. They have their own TV ads, social campaigns, and even email marketing strategies. 

But there are some major companies that have earned market share in a less traditional way, relying on word of mouth marketing and brand equity for growth. In fact, some of the biggest luxury brands in the world earn billions without even having a social media presence. 

These companies don’t have a conventional marketing budget, and they rarely use traditional media to interact with their customers, so we could say they don’t advertise at all – or at least not much.

So how do these outliers thrive in such a competitive world? 

Let’s find out.

17 Companies that don’t advertise (much)

Again, all companies rely on marketing to a certain extent, to convince customers that they have the best product or service for their needs. However, not all businesses use the same type of advertising. 

Let’s take a closer look at the major brands that have gotten by without conventional advertising.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

1. Lamborghini

Technically you can find some “traditional” types of advertising from Lamborghini if you look hard enough. You’ve probably never seen an ad for the luxurious car company on TV, but there are plenty of eye-catching videos on YouTube to showcase the brand’s products.

Still, Lamborghini really doesn’t invest much in any kind of structured marketing strategy. They don’t create standard commercials, or design comprehensive social campaigns. 

Why? Because the wealthy clientele interested in Lamborghini cars don’t spend a lot of time sitting in front of a TV, or making decisions based on billboards.

Lamborghini earns customers because it has a massive amount of brand equity. It’s known as the go-to luxury brand for automotive fans, and it maintains that reputation with carefully crafted web-based media, sponsorships, and vendor advertising campaigns. 

Companies That Don’t Advertise

2. Zara

In the fashion world, Zara is one of the most successful companies that doesn’t advertise – at least not in a traditional sense. So, how did it end up with 2,000 stores in 77 different regions?

Simple, through psychological promotional tactics. Zara targets customers in highly populated urban communities, with both in-person and online stores. They also produce a limited number of pieces for each collection, which creates a sense of urgency among shoppers.

Since there’s only a limited number of each piece available, customers interested in fashion trends are keen to get their hands on the latest product. 

Zara is also an expert in working with influencers. The Duchess of Cambridge even wore a Zara dress the day after the Royal wedding.

Zara’s “marketing strategy” if you can call it that, centers around word of mouth, and high levels of visibility. Plus, their on-trend offerings make them extremely appealing to fashion fans.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

3. Naturals Ice Cream

Revolutionary brand Naturals Ice Cream was first launched in 1984, and since then, it’s done very little to promote itself to customers through traditional channels. 

Like many of the top brands that don’t advertise, Naturals relies heavily on word of mouth marketing to connect with its target audience. It’s very transparent about its brand values and goals, highlighting its unique ice cream formula and “healthy ingredients”.

That instantly makes the company stand out from big companies that use more additives and chemicals in their food. 

Plus, Natural’s is particularly good at tailoring its products to local markets. It personalizes products to the tastes of its target audience, which helps make it more compelling in local supermarkets and grocery stores. 

Companies That Don’t Advertise

4. Rolls-Royce

British luxury automobile maker brand, Rolls-Royce, is similar to Lamborghini in a lot of ways – at least from a marketing perspective. It’s not the kind of company you’ll see promoting standard TV ads, or talking about new products on the radio.

But even without a conventional promotional strategy, Rolls-Royce managed to beat a 107-year-old sales record in 2012, and remains one of the biggest automotive brands to this day.

How? Because Rolls-Royce is a well-known name. In terms of brand equity, has some of the best recognition of any luxury brand in the world. It’s known for creating the cars that appear in James Bond movies and other film series. 

Plus, it has a positive image among its existing audience. The emotional connection Rolls-Royce has with its customers means it can rely on them to promote the company for it. Who doesn’t want to brag about owning a Rolls-Royce?

Companies That Don’t Advertise

5. Tupperware

Tupperware has achieved great success with virtually no traditional marketing strategy. Sure it has its own website and social media profiles. But it’s never really relied on traditional marketing, even when it was growing in the early days of the 1950s. 

Once again, Tupperware is a brand that uses its customers to do its selling for it. The retail giant activates brand advocates as salespeople, asking them to sell products directly to their friends.

Earl Tupper, the creator of Tupperware chose a business model which allowed everyday people to spread the brand name through their communities, with direct sales.

As a result, men and women around the world are all familiar with the Tupperware brand name. Some of the women-only parties that launched Tupperware into the spotlight have even been featured in movies and television series. 

Companies That Don’t Advertise

6. Trader Joe’s

You’re probably familiar with Trader Joe’s if you live in the United States. It’s one of the better-known supermarkets in the region. However, Trader Joe’s is one of the most silent companies on this list. It has a basic social media presence, and a website, but that’s about it.

What makes Trader Joe’s stand out is its approach to customer experience. The company creates an experience for shoppers, using sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that separate it from every other grocery retailer in the US. 

Probably the only traditional piece of marketing used by the Trader Joe’s brands is the “fearless flyer” newsletter, where it shares upcoming discounts with potential customers. 

Trader Joe’s can thrive with no marketing (at least no conventional marketing) because it’s branded itself as an affordable, quality-driven, and unique food chain. 

Companies That Don’t Advertise

7. Costco

Another massive retailer with virtually no traditional ads or marketing media is Costco. The company barely even invests in digital marketing. There’s no Costco social media strategy, and only a handful of blogs on the company’s website. 

So how is it one of the largest retailers in the world?

We have one word for you – exclusivity. Costco requires every customer to have a membership to shop at its discount stores. This means not just everyone can get the deals and product benefits the company has to offer. 

That’s a great way to leverage the power of FOMO, or “fear of missing out”. Plus, Costco’s low budget for advertising means it can invest more cash back into the business, leading to lower prices, happy investors, and dedicated customers. 

Costco turns the marketing game on its head, relying on its amazing products and exclusivity to drive more customers to their door. 

Companies That Don’t Advertise

8. Kiehl’s 

We all know Kiehl’s, the cosmetic company with an exceptional focus on customer experience. Like the other companies on this list, this company relies very little on television advertisers and content marketing campaigns. Instead, it focuses on elevating the voices of its customers. 

Kiel’s has created an unforgettable customer experience, centered around community involvement. It allows customers to check out product samples, and experiment with cosmetic products within its stores, which leads to lower-pressure sales.

Plus, the skin and haircare business offers a 100% money-back guarantee, helping it to earn the trust of its customers. Although Kiehl’s has begun to run more big-budget marketing campaigns in recent years, they thrived for decades without one. 

If you’re struggling to afford traditional advertising strategies, remember customer experience can be one of the best “promotional tools” you have.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

9. GoPro

Okay, so you’ve probably seen some of the marketing campaigns produced by GoPro. After all, it has helped to create some of the most memorable video campaigns in the world. 

But one thing you’ll notice is most of the compelling content created by GoPro, isn’t actually produced by the company itself. Instead, the outdoor lifestyle brand promotes user-generated content, created by other partners and consumers. 

Yes, GoPro dabbles in traditional ads these days, but they built their legendary social media following and online presence by connecting with their audience. The videos on YouTube and Instagram promoted by GoPro are created mostly by other people. 

GoPro has discovered that user-generated content is a better way to stand out on social media platforms and other channels, than virtually any other kind of marketing content.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

10. Spanx

It sounds crazy today, but there was a time when talking about underwear was considered pretty “taboo”. No-one wanted anyone else to know which lingerie they were buying. 

So, how did Spanx become such a massive household name? Originally, the company’s founder couldn’t afford an advertising budget. They needed to focus all of their money on creating a high-quality product, without the help of investors. 

However, because they created such an amazing product, they convinced their customers to do their marketing for them. Customers were excited about the high quality products, and how comfy they were. So, they told their friends all about them. 

Yes – there was a time when people actually wanted to show off the fact that you couldn’t see underwear lines underneath their clothes. Heck, some of us still brag about comfy, high-quality underwear today. Spanx started all that.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

11. Tesla

Love him or loathe him, Elon Musk has become a powerhouse over the years. Like many of the most impressive automobile companies, however, Musk’s Tesla brand rarely produces any traditional ads. You won’t see Tesla ads on TV, or hear them on the radio.

What makes Tesla stand out is all the word of mouth buzz generated around its unique products. Tesla has established itself as an innovator, creating products that appeal to the values of its target audience – like sustainable, electric vehicles. 

Plus, it helps that Musk himself is a great ad for his company. He’s constantly drawing attention to himself on social media, and with his outlandish activities. 

That means Musk’s personal brand earns his company more traffic than virtually any traditional marketing route would. 

Companies That Don’t Advertise

12. Krispy Kreme

It’s easy to assume some companies simply don’t need marketing. We don’t need an ad to tell us we want a delicious donut – right?

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts recognizes that fact. The Chief Marketing Officer (yep, they still have one) at Krispy Kreme says the whole company was built around word of mouth. Like many large companies and trending brands today, Krispy Kreme lets its product do the talking.

It doesn’t need to spend a lot of money on marketing, because it appeals to our tastebuds, with delicious flavors and unique taste combinations.

Plus, everyone in a Krispy Kreme store is pretty much a marketer for the brand. Employees even learn about marketing when they join the team, so they can subtly promote products to customers who might be checking out the company for the first time.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

13. Sriracha

Another food brand without much of an advertising budget, Sriracha is a world-leading hot sauce brand, with avid fans across the globe. 

Still, the company doesn’t create standard television ads, and it doesn’t have much of a presence on social media either. According to the CEO, David Tran, he doesn’t advertise because he “can’t advertise”. He wants to spend all of his cash on creating the best product instead. 

Rather than trying to reduce costs with cheaper products and chillis, Sriracha focuses on quality over cost – and it works. 

Plus, the brand has done a great job getting major influencers and thought leaders to talk about the brand. It even circulated samples of its products to Asian chefs and various influencers. 

Sriracha caught fire in its industry by showing off a product people could easily fall in love with. As a result, they can avoid spending a good chunk of change on ads.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

14. Dollar Shave Club

You might argue with us a bit on this one. Dollar Shave Club is well-known around the world for its unforgettable YouTube videos – but it barely spends anything on traditional advertising. 

The self-funded company took a different approach to cultivating fame. It wanted to create affordable, high-quality razors, that customers could subscribe to receive. Focusing on easier access to great products is how Dollar Shave Club became a sensation. 

It helps that the company has a pretty memorable brand personality. It’s first online ad immediately went viral thanks to a focus on humor and authenticity. 

Since then, social media users, influencers, and other thought leaders have helped to elevate the company’s equity, and drive more sales to the website. As a result, Dollar Shave Club doesn’t need to invest much in its marketing efforts.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

15. Glossier

Another great beauty brand that exploded into the spotlight without much advertising, Glossier has a valuation somewhere in the billions. 

Like many companies that don’t advertise, Glossier can attribute most of its success to its audience. Around 80% of the company’s profits are attributed to peer referrals from enthusiastic fans in the millennial and Gen Z generation. 

One form of “traditional marketing” the company has invested in is blogging. Emily Weiss launched her beauty blog in 2010, known as “Into the Gloss”. 

Here, women could gather and converse about all of their favorite beauty products. This led Weiss to launch Glossier, based on what she discovered her customers weren’t getting from other trendy brands. Actually listening to its audience meant Glossier could create better products. 

Plus, it ensured it could continue to get the kind of word-of-mouth marketing it needed to keep driving new sales, without spending marketing dollars.

Companies That Don’t Advertise

16. TikTok

It’s difficult to argue with the phenomenal success of the TikTok social media app. It seemed to burst into the spotlight out of nowhere, competing with major companies like Meta (Facebook and Instagram), with its unique approach to video sharing. 

Like many social media platforms, TikTok doesn’t invest much in traditional advertising. Instead, it relies on its innovative approach to social media to activate coverage from public relations companies, and get people talking online.

Plus, it helps that TikTok’s target audience are all about sharing content. They’re constantly linking their friends and loved ones to videos on the platform, which helps to generate more users for the company. 

The overwhelming success of TikTok among younger customers meant plenty of major figures and celebrities joined the platform over time, to help them reach a wider community. 

Companies That Don’t Advertise

17. Ferrero Rocher

Just the name of this company is enough to get our mouths watering. Still, the chances are the only time you see traditional Ferrero Rocher ads is around the Christmas season. Yes, the company does have its own official website, and appears a lot on social media. 

However, it rarely spends much money on conventional advertising. Instead, the company focuses on presenting itself as a “luxury retailer”. 

It does this in a few different ways, from sourcing high-quality ingredients, to wrapping its delicious candies in gold, to make them seem so much more indulgent. 

Because the products stand out so well on supermarket shelves, and are so closely connected with the idea of luxury, Ferrero doesn’t have to do much to convert customers. 

Can companies thrive with no marketing?

As mentioned above, there’s really no such thing as “companies that don’t advertise”. Every business has a strategy for reaching their target audience. But even some of the best brands don’t have a massive marketing budget – and they don’t really need one.

Sometimes, the best way to make your company a success isn’t to rely on advertising at all. If you can create a product that solves a customer’s problem, delivers an unforgettable experience, or differentiates your business in some way, your customers will do your marketing for you.

You can even build on that fact by encouraging your customers to act as advocates for your brand. The more you reward your community, the more they’ll advertise for you.

Word of mouth referrals can drive more traffic and conversions for a business than virtually any other type of marketing. All you really need to take advantage of this fact is a great brand, and a fantastic product. 

Sure, a little structured marketing can significantly boost brand awareness and give your company an edge. However, the examples above show that brands that don’t advertise – at least not in a conventional sense, can still make a splash in today’s world. 

Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.

Stewart Hodgson
Co-founder
Stewart Hodgson
Co-founder
Our co-founder, Stewart, is responsible for content strategy and managing Fabrik’s publishing team. It’s up to Stewart to bring Fabrik to busy marketers’ attention. As a regular contributor to Brand Fabrik, Stewart creates articles relevant to anyone in branding, marketing and creative communication.

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