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The Most Creative Ways People Have Become Rich and Famous: Brilliant Publicity Stunts

As an MBA student and an alum of the HubPages Apprenticeship Program, I am fascinated with marketing, leadership, and communication.

"Fame hit me like a ton of bricks"

- Eminem (Not someone I often or will probably ever quote again).

The world is full of brilliant people. From doctors and lawyers, to teachers and mechanics, society is constantly improved by people who fully embrace their creativity. While we often think of creativity as something restrained to the realm of the arts—richly flowing out of oil paintings, poetry, and song—creativity is something that can be appreciated in nearly every field.

Being a student of business, marketing, creativity, and travel, I love seeing ideas that people have used to gain publicity for themselves or a cause. With a combination of pure creativity, marketing savvy, and passion for life, the following people have stood out from the pack by making the most of their (mostly non-artistic) creativity.

The following people have achieved a level of riches and fame and stood out from the crowd by trying something different. Whether born out of necessity, boredom, or brilliance, these people have developed phenomenal methods for achieving publicity and making some money on the way.

I hope that reading about the following individuals will inspire you to use your own creativity to do something epic. And remember, it's not so much about what you do, but the magnitude with which you do it.

What the final looked like.

What the final looked like.

The Million Dollar Homepage

What would you do if you were getting ready to go to college and realized that it would require thousands of dollars worth of student loans?

Most of us would simply go to the bank and borrow—starting off our professional lives thousands of dollars in debt.

Alex Tew decided that he did not want to end college with a huge debt. In fact, he concluded that it would be better to finish college with no debt and a few hundred thousand dollars of extra spending cash.

Not a bad idea, eh?

This is how he did it: in 2005 Alex launched—a website consisting of one million pixels. Each pixel sold for $1.

What does this mean? After about six months of selling pixels, Alex had sold one million for $1,037,100. In addition to making a million bucks, he also received a good amount of media coverage.

What genius idea could you use to make a million in 6 months?

The paperclip that Kyle used to start trading.

The paperclip that Kyle used to start trading.

The house that Kyle ended up with after 14 trades.

The house that Kyle ended up with after 14 trades.

Trading One Red Paperclip

If I gave you one red paperclip and one year, what would you do with it?

Kyle MacDonald would make 14 trades to upgrade that red paperclip to a house and a great book opportunity.

A Canadian blogger who wanted to try something different, Kyle used the concept from an old child's game to trade up from a paperclip to a house. The basic concept is that you ask someone what they will give you for the paperclip. You then make a trade with the next item, and the next, and the next: ending with something of value (for example, a home).

Kyle traded the red paperclip for a fancy pen, and then kept trading to include an afternoon with Alison Cooper, a party, and a part in the movie. He finally traded the part in the movie for a two-story farmhouse in Saskatchewan.

Before throwing out your next bag of garbage, maybe you should take a glance in it and see if there is anything that you could use to get a house. Like a paperclip, or maybe a nail, or perhaps even a dirty diaper.

People often say to think back to your childhood when coming up with a career direction. Maybe thinking back to your childhood could even help you get a house!

50 Jobs in 50 States in 50 Weeks

An economics major who graduates during the middle of an economic recession doesn't have much of a chance to find employment. In 2008 everyone hated economists. Daniel Seddiqui was an economics major and he was in trouble.

Just like everyone else, he couldn't find a job. So what did he do? He decided to get 50 jobs instead.

Daniel spent one year of his life working for one week in each state—doing something unique to that state. He logged in Oregon, worked in the cheese business in Wisconsin, and was an internet marketer in New York. Every state was a different job.

After the 50 weeks was over, Daniel went on to write a book. He's now a professional speaker and works to bring awareness to different jobs and lifestyles around the country.

Are you having trouble getting a job? Maybe the key is to get more than one job!

50 Peaks in 50 States in 50 Days

So, it's the summer before 7th grade, what do you do?

Matt Moniz, age 12, and his father Mike, decided to take the 50 days before 7th grade started to climb the highest peak in each of the 50 US states. Starting from the day they reached the top of Mt McKinley in Alaska, Matt raced across the Unites States to summit all 50 peaks. He finished in 43 days with the end peak being Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Although this didn't necessarily make Matt rich, it did help him raise tens of thousands of dollars for his friend who was struggling with a lung disease. Matt's escapade assisted his friend with much needed medical funding and increased awareness about a little-known disease. Not only that, but the father-son team found corporate sponsors - being able to travel the entire 50 states completely free!

Another huge revelation that this father and son provide the world with is the conclusion that anyone can make a difference. It doesn't matter how old you are or what your passions are. Two guys that liked to hike were able to raise thousands of dollars for charity by doing something they loved, and doing it to the extreme.

What passions could you push a little further to make them even more valuable to society?

Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole of Invisible Children

This team of three have created one of the most well known charities in America. Invisible Children received thirteen million dollars last year in revenue. The funding they receive is use to raise awareness of a terrible warlord in Uganda who uses child soldiers and help get these children out of the war.

Russell, Bailey, and Poole originally went to Darfur to create a war documentary. However, they ended up crossing the boarder into Uganda and discovered that thousands of children were being forced into a guerrilla band by the now infamous Joseph Kony. The goal of Invisible Children is to give these kids an opportunity to have a normal childhood by freeing them from this war slavery.

These three founders have gained huge amounts of publicity for themselves and their cause, and have raised tens of millions of dollars to help these children. The brilliance of the Invisible Children is in their promotional methods.

Three things that everyone could learn from the Invisible Children publicity techniques is:

  1. The value of a good video: the original video is what launched this project at a rapid speed. Spending some quality time to home in your mission and express it with modern media can be hugely beneficial.
  2. Harnessing social media: Invisible Children have successfully learned the techniques needed to use Facebook, Twitter, and the crowd to get the word out about their cause.
  3. Use extreme off-internet promotional methods: Invisible Children recruits an army of volunteer Roadies every semester that travel around the country and speak at universities, churches, and clubs to spread the word, accept donations, and sell merchandise. These extreme people looking for adventure and an opportunity to change the world end up being a great marketing tool for life.

If your desire to become famous and rich is to change the world, maybe you can just change the world by making a cause famous and rich instead of yourself.

One of Branson's Many Publicity Stunts

Richard Branson's Publicity Stunts

From setting world records by racing across the Atlantic in a speedboat and hot airballooning across the oceans, to buying a mansion by 20 and purchasing his own private island, to starting more billion-dollar companies than anyone else in the world, Richard Branson is an extreme guy.

Richard Branson has made his companies famous and successful by making himself famous. Sometimes referred to as the "real-life James Bond", Branson will try just about anything.

The Virgin brand has become famous worldwide and Branson has revealed that hard work and developing a good team is essential for success. If you put your heart and passion into life, you can do great things.

What's crazy is that Branson never went to college! What would you be able to accomplish if you stopped making excuses about where you were unqualified and started living like you were qualified?

Skullcandy's Founder Rick Alden

Rick Alden started by selling advertising during snowboarding events, he now is the owner of the famous headphone company - Skullcandy. Alden has made a lot of money and created a well-known brand by embracing the power of the customer.

Skullcandy has used a variety of guerrilla marketing campaigns to get the word out about their product. Skullcandy sends out stickers with every set of headphones. They encourage people to place the stickers in the most absurd or bizarre locations. The customers ended up being the ones who promoted the brand.

GoPro cameras have done a similar thing. By creating an awesome product that people use to make videos, every time someone creates a great GoPro video, they are essentially promoting the camera.

When you involve people in the mission to get the word out, promoting becomes a whole lot easier. How could you involve others in your promotional campaign?

Improv Everywhere's Charlie Todd

What do you call it when hundreds of people freeze in New York's Central Station? Pure genius. Or, Improv Everywhere.

Charlie Todd is the founder of this brilliant group that simply does flash mob events - bringing together large groups of people to do something epic. Sometimes it's riding on trains without any pants on, other times its providing a random couple with a wedding reception or walking through Abercrombie shirtless. There are some great YouTube videos that reveal the creative genius portrayed in the actions of Improv Everywhere.

While Charlie may not become rich from what he is doing, he has become seen by millions and used thousands of people to accomplish fun, inspiring, and hilarious events.

Would you like to be rich and famous? Find ways to make other people a part of a legendary story or thrilling adventure and they just might help you make your millions.

Books Written By These Successes

Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes

While traveling around Argentina, Blake discovered that there were kids in rural villages without any shoes. Concluding that he wanted to do something about this, Blake started a company selling shoes - promising to give away one pair of shoes for every pair of shoes sold. One year later, Blake returned to Argentina with 10,000 pairs of shoes to give away.

TOMS has become another social phenomena - with the hip group inspired to help others while helping themselves, TOMS is able to sell $5 shoes for $40! With giving one pair away, they are still able to make a good amount of money.

Another smart move on the part of Blake is to include TOMS flags in the boxes of shoes that are sold. Customers are then encouraged to take pictures of themselves holding the flag in all kinds of different locations. If you search online you can find the TOMS flags 30 feet underwater, on top of the Eiffel Tower, and in people's living rooms.

If you would like to gain publicity, maybe you just need to start a simple business that gives back in some creative way. Who knows, maybe you'll be able to travel around the world for work like Blake does!

Embrace Your Own Creativity

I hope that these stories have inspired you to go and try something different for yourself. People that succeed, both financially and with publicity, are those that are willing to embrace their personal creativity. It's difficult to become famous doing the same thing that everyone else does, however, if you try something truly unique, if you are willing to take a risk, I just might add you to this list!

Stay posted! This article has come about after my own inspiration to do something attention-grabbing and exciting. Hopefully I'll be adding my own accomplishment to this article shortly. I'll let you know when it happens.

Have you seen or experienced other great publicity stunts or techniques? Share them below.


ANIL on December 05, 2017:



David B Katague from Northern California and the Philippines on August 18, 2014:

Just joined this site. Enjoy reading this post. It was worth my time!

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Mohit Rao on October 19, 2012:

Very interesting & informative article.

Well written.

Mohit Rao

Mind Reader

Robert Erich (author) from California on September 30, 2012:

I am glad you enjoyed! I hope it helps you find your next brilliant financial idea.

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on September 30, 2012:

Thanks, Robert! So many imaginative ideas. I'm going to have to come back and study this one!

Robert Erich (author) from California on August 31, 2012:

It's true, they are both very simple and very creative. However, both required quite a bit of work once they got underway. Most good ideas still require a bit of hard work - even if they are brilliant.

Claudia Porter on August 31, 2012:

Loved the paper clip and selling pixels examples. They are great and when you think about simple. Awesome hub!

Robert Erich (author) from California on August 30, 2012:

You are correct MagicFive. The world loves people who step away from the norm, but trains people to remain part of the norm. It's a crazy irony.

MAGICFIVE from New York on August 30, 2012:

Your hub proves the point that sometimes, you have to think outside of the box! Unfortunately in life, it seems like we are taught to think INSIDE the box all the time, so we have to break out of that, and that takes guts and..yes, creativity! Interesting hub!

Robert Erich (author) from California on August 29, 2012:

@Craig: Very true, those two are both brilliant as well. And a bikini - good idea!

@krsharp: I look forward to seeing what epic thing you come up with!

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on August 29, 2012:

This is a very encouraging hub. Hhmm, now you've got me thinking. The videos are great - hysterical. Really good Robert. Awesome & Up. -K

Craig Hartranft from Southeastern Pennsylvania on August 29, 2012:

Next to Branson, you should add Donald Trump and Oprah. Locally, we had a gal on street in a bikini top with a placard soliciting donations for a breast augmentation. Hilarious.

Robert Erich (author) from California on August 29, 2012:

It is a brilliant idea! A bit of creativity can take you a long way.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on August 29, 2012:

Fun hub. I love the paperclip story. Brilliant!

Robert Erich (author) from California on August 29, 2012:

@Cassy: I know! It's incredible what you can do with something so small.

@greatstuff: Yes, Abercrombie and Fitch is another example of that. Played right, pushing the limits a little bit can make a huge impact. But the question arises, is it ethical?

Mazlan A from Malaysia on August 29, 2012:

When United Colors of Benetton first launched their ad campaign, they use highly controversial issues of sex, moral and racial and in the process succeeded in creating a high profile image for the brand. Likewise for the brand FCUK. However, it has to be done properly, otherwise it will backfire.

This superb hub is well written and well researched. Great work!

CassyLu1981 from Wilmington, NC on August 29, 2012:

AMAZING hub!!!! A paperclip??? Who would have thought that would work. Excellent list! Voted up, shared, and everything else :)

Robert Erich (author) from California on August 28, 2012:

@georgie: I will have to look up Matt Harding! It's so true - creativity helps us accomplish great things.

@natasha: hahaha! I'm glad you tried it. If I find anyone looking for an air compressor I'll send them your way.

@THR: I'm glad that you enjoyed the read! Thanks for stoping by.

@PCW: I agree. Complete brilliance! Let me know when you have a great idea that changes perception.

Pop Culture World from United States on August 28, 2012:

I thought the idea to sell one pixel for $1 was very clever. Afterall, he wasn't really giving them anything but a perception. Great list!

TheHeavyReview on August 28, 2012:

I enjoyed reading this very much! Thanks for sharing! Voted up, awesome and interesting!

Natasha from Hawaii on August 28, 2012:

The things people are able to pull off amazes me. I got inspired by the up-trading a little while ago and thought I'd see what I could do with a small air compressor for inflatable mattresses. I guess air compressors aren't as popular as paper clips because I didn't get much of anywhere. Ah well.

Georgie Lowery from North Florida on August 28, 2012:

Your Hub reminds me of Matt Harding, the guy who danced his way around the world. It's a great reminder that a little creativity can go a long way. Great Hub!