Going Guerrilla: Some Do's and Don'ts of Guerrilla Marketing
I love spotting great guerrilla marketing campaigns. They're surprising, entertaining and often shockingly bold. That's what makes them work. There's nothing bland about them. Like a 7-foot-tall basketball player at a cocktail party, guerrilla marketing stands out.
Guerrilla marketing, a term first coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book by the same name, is a strategy based on the element of surprise. It's a nontraditional form of marketing that aims to catch consumers off-guard, make an unforgettable impression and generate shockwaves for months. (Well, with today's limited attention span, maybe a few days.)
One example of clever guerrilla marketing is DHL's stunt in which the shipping provider got competitors to advertise for it. If you haven't seen it, we covered it on our marketing blog.
The campaign is brilliantly creative, fresh, and best of all, effective. DHL (even though the company reportedly wasn't behind the stunt) scored some major buzz—all at its rivals' expense.
Guerrilla marketing, in a lot of ways, is just getting your client's message out there—with a wink.
With their grassroots, man-on-the-street approach, guerrilla campaigns very craftily nab consumers' attention. By the time people know what's going on (What? You just hijacked the competition on their own delivery boxes?), they're already enthralled in what's unfolding before them. They don't mind having their precious time and attention moved away from their smartphones for a few minutes to appreciate skillful marketing. Brands can get serious respect from guerrilla marketing, too!
Distributors: While you may not be the "agency" for a top 50, worldwide-recognized brand like the folks behind the DHL stunt, you can still help your clients pull off an epic guerrilla marketing campaign.
Here are a few do's and don'ts to keep in mind:
DO get people's attention.
It was impossible not to notice DHL's guerrilla marketing campaign. "DHL Is Faster" was plastered in huge red letters on oversized boxes getting wheeled through busy metropolitan areas. People don't pay attention to advertising; they pay attention to what they find interesting. As distributors, our job is to make our clients look fascinating. With guerrilla marketing, you must find a way to get the audience not only interested in your stunt, but in your client's brand and message. You don't want people to remember how cool the promo was, but go blank on the company behind it.
DON'T try too hard.
Guerrilla marketing, though carefully constructed behind the scenes, should appear natural and easy as it plays out. It should be an organic extension of your client's marketing efforts—not some overdone production just to generate hype. DHL's campaign was simple: printed text on a box. The stunt was a testament to who DHL is and what it can offer. It succeeded in getting people's attention in a way that made sense for the brand.
DO make your message clear.
No matter how ingenious you think your guerrilla campaign is, it's critical that the audience understand what you're trying to communicate. You and your client know what you want to get across, but will the audience get it? Leave no ambiguity. Make sure everyone who sees the stunt can quickly assess the brand and the main point. DHL accomplished this in three words: DHL Is Faster.
DON'T draw negative publicity.
Guerrilla marketing is well-suited for being edgy, but don't cross the line. The goal is to get people interested and engaged in what you're doing—not send them into a panic. Turner Broadcasting learned the hard way after its epic guerrilla marketing fail in 2007. It attempted a stunt using complex, wire-filled signs to promote its late-night Adult Swim cartoon, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." It placed them in 10 cities around the country, triggering bomb scares and prompting the closure of bridges. Turner Broadcasting ended up paying millions to police and Homeland Security for the incident. The lesson: Get people's attention, but in a good way.
Guerrilla marketing can work for companies big and small. Some campaigns work by being bold and brash; others are successful by being clever and subtle. The really great ones outlast the physical context of the campaign and live on in social media. As of this post, DHL's stunt has nearly five million views on YouTube.
So, let's hear from you. What kind of guerrilla marketing tactics have worked for your clients?
Jason Robbins is CEO of ePromos Promotional Products (www.epromos.com), a leading online promotional products distributor. Keep up with Jason by following him on Twitter (@yojason) and checking out his blog: www.jasonlrobbins.com.
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