Our Blog

How your Brand can Stand Out without Breaking the Bank

Guerilla Marketing, Gamification, Storytelling and the Future of e-commerce.

So there I was, doom-scrolling TikTok, just minding my own business, when I saw a video that opened with a fitness dude looking for the big guy to beat up. And I go: ‘Oh no, this is going to end badly’.

A young guy, very fit but not hugely muscular, approached a very muscular guy and challenged him to a push-up competition on a new push-up board product called “the MuscleMax.” The challenge was to do ten of each set on the color-coded board positions. If you get all 100 push-ups, you win $200 cash.

The huge guy tried but struggled after the first 30 push-ups. I was thoroughly entertained watching this muscular guy struggle with the challenge. TikTok’s algorithm conspired to feed me more of these push-up videos. Sure enough, a few minutes later, I saw the same product, a different gym, and challenger, with the same result. Now I was hooked. Could anyone beat this challenge? This must be a serious product if it’s defeating these huge guys at the gym!

I kept scrolling and BAM! Another one, but this time, it was an average-sized fit person. He got very close but still failed. I couldn’t get enough. Finally, I saw a random guy in a parking lot being challenged right there in the street. He wasn’t super muscular, but he did 25, then 50, then 90, and squeezed out the last 10 to win the $200! Finally, someone beat the challenge!

I bet they sold a million of these push-up boards.

I don’t know if they did this on purpose, but this is a great example of Guerrilla marketing, Gamification, Storytelling, and the future of e-commerce.

Why? Let’s get into it.


Guerilla Marketing


The Oxford Dictionary describes guerrilla marketing as follows: ‘Creative, unorthodox, and often low-cost marketing tactics or stunts designed to maximize exposure for a product.’ Guerrilla marketing typically entails creativity, surprise, and something new or novel to command attention.

The MuscleMax Example

See how the MuscleMax campaign perfectly exemplifies guerrilla marketing:

  • Innovative: The use of social media to market the product (eg, through TikTok), featuring the product in an entertaining manner.
  • Unconventional: Instead of slick ads with models and perfect lighting, it showed ordinary ‘everyday heroes’ living normal lives.
  • Low Cost: The videos were simple, often just shot with a smartphone, involving no professional models or expensive equipment.
  • Maximum Exposure: They reached a wide audience and created a viral effect by using social media, and gamifying the challenge, for both the viewer and the challenger.

Additional Examples of Guerrilla Marketing

  1. The Blair Witch Project (1999): Has anyone seen this? I vividly remember this film coming out. The filmmakers produced fake missing person posters and their webpage made it appear as though the film was a documentary about a group of men who went missing in the woods years prior and their families trying to solve the mystery of what happened to them. They took the plot and ran with it to make it believable. Remember, this was a time before Google, YouTube, and smartphones were accessible. People (myself included) really thought this movie was based on actual events. I remember seeing the actors, who were supposed to have died in the movie, on a talk show a few weeks after the movie was released, and my mind was blown. They definitely had me fooled and it made the experience of the movie even more impactful and scary. 

How to use Guerrilla Marketing in your Business

  1. Identify Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP): What makes your product/service different? How can you convey this in a creative, unexpected way? Have fun; take a risk!
  2. Utilize Social Media: Platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter were not around back in 1999 so take advantage of your next guerrilla marketing effort and try to go viral.
  3. Engage Your Audience: Create interactive experiences and opportunities for viewer participation and sharing. 



First, I found myself hooked on seeing someone complete the MuscleMax Board challenge. Could the person in the video do it? I had seen several of the ads by this time with different challengers and at this point it became more of a game show to me than an ad. They gamified the challenge to engage both the viewer and the participant. This quickly became interactive on both sides of the screen, with the participants wanting to beat the challenge itself, wanting to beat the other challengers personal bests, and at home, the viewers are rooting for them all. This approach keeps people viewing the posts longer, playing off the algorithm. Brilliant!

Definition and Benefits

Gamification involves incorporating game elements into non-game contexts to enhance engagement and motivation. It takes far less time to resonate with a person when you gamify an experience versus telling them outright. Just like the MuscleMax campaign made the viewer and the challenger part of the game making the experience more interactive and memorable.

The MuscleMax Example

The MuscleMax push-up challenge turned a simple product demonstration into an engaging game. Viewers were not just passive observers; they were rooting for participants, predicting outcomes, and even feeling motivated to try the challenge themselves. This created a deeper connection with the product.

 Psychological Principles Behind Gamification

  1. Competitiveness: Humans have a natural desire to compete and win, which gamification taps into.
  2. Rewards and Recognition: Providing rewards (like the $200 cash prize) and public recognition (through social media) motivates participants.
  3. Progress and Achievement: Tracking progress and achieving goals, such as completing the 100 push-ups, keeps people engaged and coming back.

Examples of Gamification in Marketing

  1. Starbucks Rewards: The flagship example of a company using customer experience gamification to drive purchasing: Starbucks’s app offers “stars” collectors can trade in for more rewards.
  2. Nike+ Run Club: This app tracks users’ runs, and creates challenges to compete with friends – all of which makes exercise more fun.

How to Implement Gamification

  1. Define Clear Goals: What do you want to achieve with your gamification strategy? Increased sales, brand awareness, and customer engagement?
  2. Incorporate Challenges: Create tasks or challenges that are fun and rewarding for your audience.
  3. Use Leaderboards and Rewards: Encourage competition and recognize achievements to keep users motivated.


Definition and Importance

Through the art of storytelling, MuscleMax created a story gap that compelled me to keep watching and to search out more. A story gap is best illustrated in those movies where the first scene is a car crash or accident and then flashback to when things were normal. They create a story gap by showing you a vastly different ending and a beginning and now we must know what happened. It keeps us engaged. 

Storytelling in marketing is about creating a narrative that connects with your audience on an emotional level. It’s not just about selling a product but about engaging people with a compelling story.

The MuscleMax Example

MuscleMax created a “story gap” by creating a challenge and showing that it is difficult to beat by using huge bodybuilders. 

Now you must know:

  • Is this challenge beatable? 
  • Where did this product come from?
  • Does it really work? 

This enticed people to view it longer, increasing brand awareness and retention. The repetition of these ads with different challengers helps with brand retention. You are wrapped up in the story of the challenge and are being exposed to the brand over and over until you can’t forget it.

The story they are telling is showing the audience that their product is so good even the toughest guys have trouble.  It makes the viewer think “If it’s a challenge for these guys it will definitely be good for me.“ Not many people beat the challenge and won the prize but that’s even better for the brand making it seem tough enough for these pros but accessible enough for anyone. A tough product for tough guys. 

Elements of Effective Storytelling

  1. Relatable Characters: Use characters that your audience can identify with.
  2. Emotional Connection: Create a narrative that evokes emotions, whether it’s excitement, curiosity, or empathy.
  3. Clear Structure: Follow a clear beginning, middle, and end to keep the story coherent and engaging.

Examples of Storytelling in Marketing

  1. Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign: A campaign featuring real women and their different body types, with inspirational stories that challenge the status quo by celebrating real beauty.
  2. Apple’s “Think Different” Campaign: Stories about various trailblazers who ‘thought differently’ were shown to promote Apple as having an innovative and forward-thinking brand.

How to Implement Storytelling

  1. Understand Your Audience: Know what resonates with your audience and craft stories that speak to their values and experiences.
  2. Be Authentic: Authenticity is key in storytelling. Be genuine in your narratives to build trust and connection.
  3. Incorporate Your Brand Values: Ensure your story aligns with your brand’s values and mission.

The Future of E-commerce

Social Media as a Sales Platform

The future of e-commerce is social media, telling stories that the consumer can see themselves in. Captivating people and interacting with them. Creating opportunities to share and spread the word organically. Engaging the challengers gives them a story to tell everyone they know giving the brand free advertising. 

And all the while without asking for the sale. They never talk to the audience asking to buy anything. There are no flashy overlays with pricing and “Shop Now” buttons. Just a link in the place where everyone knows to look.

The future of e-commerce lies in leveraging social media not just as a marketing tool but as a sales platform. Social media platforms are becoming integrated with shopping features, allowing users to purchase products directly without leaving the app.

Examples of the Future of E-commerce

  1. Instagram Shopping: Instagram’s shopping feature allows users to browse and purchase products directly from the app, making the shopping experience seamless.
  2. TikTok’s Shop Now Feature: TikTok is experimenting with in-app shopping features, allowing brands to sell products directly through their videos.

How to Prepare for the Future of E-commerce

  1. Leverage Influencers: Partner with influencers who can authentically promote your products to their followers.
  2. Invest in Video Content: Video content is highly engaging and effective in showcasing products. 
  3. Utilize Data and Analytics: Use data to understand your audience’s preferences and tailor your marketing strategies accordingly. TikTok especially has metrics to help you decide what type of content to create for the best result.


The MuscleMax push-up challenge is a masterclass in combining guerrilla marketing, gamification, and storytelling to create a compelling and engaging e-commerce experience without using a website or fancy videos. By leveraging these strategies, businesses can stand out in a crowded market, increase sales, build their brand, and create meaningful connections with their audience.

This is the future of e-commerce in a nutshell. The MuscleMax challenge was the perfect example of marketing a product on social media through authentic storytelling, gamification, and guerrilla marketing. Well done folks!

View More Posts

Let's Start a Conversation

Schedule your appointment today

Get Started

Pivot Creative | 500 North Commercial St. Suite 502a Manchester, NH 03101 | 603-709-2772

Call Now!