How early-stage startup Butter Insurance pulled off a gasp-worthy outdoor advertising campaign

Written by
Gemma Clancy
Published on
December 13, 2023
Welcome to the Startup Marketing Stars series! Here, we bring you the untold stories of Australian startups’ marketing strategies. What worked in the early days? Why? And what can you learn from it? Join us as we meet the brave founders and visionary marketers making it happen so you can, too.

Startup bio

Company: Butter Insurance

What they do: Single item insurance on products like technology (mobile phones, headphones etc.) and jewellery (launching soon!).

Target market: Gen Zs and Millennials who don’t have contents insurance but want high value items covered for loss or damage.

Competitors: AppleCare, insurance4that and incumbent insurers

Business model: Direct-to-consumer (via in-app purchases) and partner-led sales.

Growth strategy: Their most recent marketing tactic was a creative brand campaign executed across outdoor / out-of-home (OOH) advertising. They’re also focused on establishing distribution partnerships with payment providers and retailers who sell their insurance immediately after purchase/at checkout (e.g. JB Hi-Fi), with an agreement already in place with Beem. To date, the company has mainly driven traffic to their website via paid social ads and comparison websites such as

The team behind the marketing

Butter’s marketing is led by Joshua Kessel. The company’s co-founders, Cassie Bell and Steph Skevington, remain quite involved in strategy and support with execution.

I spoke to Josh for this case study. He was very generous with his time so here’s a bit about the man behind the magic!

  • Josh joined Butter in late 2022 after reaching out to one of the co-founders on LinkedIn while they were doing the Startmate accelerator.
  • He was attracted by their obvious focus on building a strong disruptor brand and knew he’d enjoy the challenge of being creative in an industry that’s not only considered ‘boring’ but is also prone to red tape.
  • Before joining Butter, Josh worked in customer service then marketing at share trading platform, Superhero, but originally started working life as an auditor at Deloitte.
Fun fact: Even at Deloitte, Josh’s entrepreneurial bent was evident. He had a side hustle (of course!) - an online store reselling high-value special edition sneakers that weren’t available in shops.

The OOH campaign: from inspiration to execution

I saw this impressive OOH campaign after the Butter team posted about it on social media. (Note: OOH means ‘out-of-home’ which is industry speak for ‘outdoor’ ads on billboards, bus stops, etc.)

My immediate thought (aside from “that’s so clever”) was: “How did they do it?”

Traditional OOH campaigns are notoriously expensive, including the cost of buying the advertising space and paying a creative ad agency to develop impactful ads. I wasn’t the only one asking questions –  Josh told me some of their investors also reached out after seeing the campaign go live, asking the founders serious questions about how much they’d spent and wondering whether they were managing their finances appropriately.

While I can’t give away all the company’s secrets, I can confirm Butter did circumvent the usual exorbitant OOH advertising costs via a very clever tech-enabled solution.* The team also ran mostly digital OOH spots, with just a few printed street posters, which reduces costs by avoiding printing and installation fees.

* Part of the perceived “magic” and overall impact created by outdoor campaigns is the impression that only very established brands can afford to run these types of ads, so while we can’t share exactly how they did it here, you can reach out to me directly to learn more.

The creative brief

The other essential investment was in the creative development, for which the team enlisted the help of boutique creative agency, Born. Born is run by experienced duo, David Coupland (Strategy Director) and Jenny Lennon (Creative Director), who have worked in the advertising industry for a combined 25+ years across many well-known brands from corporates to not-for-profit and government agencies. Recently, they’ve worked with other startups, Unyolked and

  • The goal was to build brand awareness for Butter so that when prospective customers see the logo at a checkout, they’re more likely to purchase their insurance on the spot.
  • They wanted a creative campaign that would resonate with their younger target audience. They wanted to sound authentically like their customers – not like some of their corporate counterparts, who Josh noted might try and appeal to a younger audience by using swear words or slang, but end up “trying too hard”.
  • They didn’t want to sell directly with product-based messaging, they wanted to take a creative approach inspired by the real pain point they’re solving.
  • They wanted an OOH campaign but knew they couldn’t afford it in the traditional way, so they wanted a creative solution that would cut through when amplified via social media to help the team make the most of the placements they could afford.

The inspiration for the creative direction came from Josh’s knowledge of his friends’ weird and wonderful stories of breaking their phones. One friend accidentally put theirs in the washing machine and put it through a wash and spin cycle, another dropped a weight on it at the gym, and so the stories go on. Josh wanted to tie all these stories from Gen Z and Millennial lives into the campaign and was inspired by the Uber Eats tagline – “get almost, almost everything”, for its tongue-in-cheek tone and creative flexibility.

The creative choice

They landed on: “Weird stuff happens. Get covered with Butter.”

While some may think the genius in the execution is the hilarious headlines describing strange situations in which someone might find they need insurance, any brand marketer will know the true power of these ads is in the use of the logo.

Most brands create OOH designs with eye-catching imagery and large headlines, however the logo placement is usually an afterthought – shoved in the corner somewhere. In too many cases, drivers passing by wouldn’t be able to tell you the company responsible for the ad. Born and the Butter team overcame the age-old client request to “make the logo bigger” by not only making it huge, but also giving it pride of place, right on the faces of their talent, which behavioural psychologists will tell you is a smart move as humans are drawn to look at other human faces.

The strategic special sauce

As mentioned above, the team ran mostly digital OOH ads (e.g. digital billboards) with just a few street posters to minimise printing and installation costs.

They chose the ad placements (where the digital billboards, etc. were) based on locations that would lend themselves to social media amplification. And the amplification side involved posting short videos filmed in front of the ads making light of real life mishaps. Here are a few:

A particularly amusing amplification channel involved Josh’s personal TikTok, where he plays a marketing manager who’s a bit hopeless at his job (clearly he’s not!).

In addition, the team ran campaign messaging and creative across all their own marketing channels, including their website, app and social media.

The results

It’s tricky to quantitatively measure success of OOH campaigns and the Butter team knew they couldn't expect to see a huge inflow of new customers immediately after the campaign. This was a brand awareness strategy, so they knew from the start the campaign was about ‘playing the long-game’.

The team did consider using brand-tracking platform Tracksuit (an NZ-based startup, backed by Blackbird), however decided to allocate the funds they could have invested in that to buy more advertising space for the campaign. They’ll consider paying for Tracksuit in future though, as they drive more revenue and scale up brand marketing efforts.

We first spoke soon after the campaign had launched and Josh said he and the team were really happy with the initial impact. A few months on, he was able to share more tangible results.

“The campaign extended our digital presence through Christmas, resulting in a 50% decrease in CPA (cost per acquisition) at its peak,” Josh said. “The creative approach also contributed to a positive shift in brand equity.”

[ICYMI: The Christmas extension Josh mentioned even made it to the Daily Mail recently.]

What they’ve learnt 🧠

One of the main marketing priorities for any early stage startup is to learn as much as they can, as quickly as they can about what works for them. These insights provide the knowledge needed to make even better decisions in future, speeding up their growth cycles. Butter is no exception and Josh shared a few key learnings from their campaign and broader marketing efforts to date.

“Our first OOH campaign taught us the significance of digital amplification and ability to create viral moments,” Josh said. “It underscored the crucial need for a well-thought-out brand story, which is always evolving for us.

He also shared these learnings:

  • They wouldn’t run street posters again. For the cost, the team didn’t feel they got as much value out of these placements because you have much less control over where they are and how long they stay up/remain intact.
  • While TikTok is a promising channel for the brand, they learnt it isn’t somewhere people want to be sold to directly so they need to take a more creative approach and post videos that weave in product messaging in a platform-native way.
  • Comparison sites do work. Listing Butter on these sites has been a key driver of growth to date.

If they run another OOH campaign again, they’d put even more time into planning the social media amplification side of it. While they did publish a number of posts featuring the creative, the other demands on the team at the time (including Cassie getting sick while the campaign was live) meant it was difficult to prioritise this element as much as they’d originally hoped.

What’s next for Butter? 👀

Soon, the company will be launching their jewellery insurance offering and announcing more retail partnerships. Watch this space!

Our hot take 🔥

Josh and I talked about how their OOH campaign creative could be used for other formats and marketing channels in future. The beauty of the creative platform that Born created is that it puts the brand front and centre in a really clever way and is incredibly flexible. Given the upfront investment in coming up with the creative idea, it makes sense to reuse it, not just to be cost effective but also to continue embedding the brand in consumers’ minds.

Imagine this: If Butter wanted to create video executions of this campaign for online or TV, the tagline and the visual mnemonic of the Butter logo over the person’s mouth (which looks like a swear sensor) could be reused, but with the brand name also being spoken - “Butter!” (which is handily very similar to “Bugger!”) at the moment of the insurable accident.

You can learn more about Butter Insurance on their website and follow them on LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok to stay across their latest marketing genius. ✨

Thanks again to Josh Kessel for sharing his learnings.

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