Stealthy, sneaky, and all about the ambush, sharks rely on catching their prey unawares. As marketers, we see something familiar in those sharktastic tactics. They way sharks hunt has a lot in common with guerilla marketing, a kind of surprising, unconventional marketing that pops up out of nowhere and sticks in your mind. No wonder Discovery's Shark Week is so big on the idea.
Let's take a moment to trawl the guerilla marketing waters to see why it's such a powerful method for taking a bite out of the market - and how you can fold it into your own branding stunts.
Guerilla Marketing: Deadly Effective Tactics
Popularized in a 1984 book by Conrad Jay Levinson of Leo Burnett, guerilla marketing takes its name from guerilla warfare, a type of small-scale warfare in which civilians get creative and hands-on about taking down their enemy. Similarly, guerilla marketing is all about going in for the kill using unexpected strategies and methods that resonate with consumers, driving buzz, and social shares.
Take the example of Shark Week's tenth anniversary. When the date rolled around, the execs wanted to make a splash of tidal proportions. Marketers cleverly planted "shark-bitten," branded surfboards around Australia's top surf beaches, getting beachgoers' attention, and encouraging plenty of sharing.
Make a Splash Without the Ad Spend
Because guerilla marketing thinks outside the usual advertising channels, it's a powerful way for small-to-medium brands to make waves without the expense of landing a TV spot or taking out a billboard in Times Square. Instead, it involves finding creative ways to repurpose or intervene in your target audience's environment. Think Banksy, but designed to sell or drive brand awareness.
Some examples include:
- Dressing up statues or buildings. Remember when Goldtoe decked out NYC's Wall Street Bull in underwear?
- Temporary art or installations. M&Ms tumbling down a set of stairs; a crosswalk being transformed into McDonald's fries; branded playable pianos - the opportunities are endless.
- Flash mobs or performances. Operas, concerts, and musicals have all been promoted using flash mobs in public areas such as train stations.
- Interacting with the neighborhood. Strategic ad placement that takes advantage of neighborhood features such as architecture, infrastructure, or parks is always a winner.
- Reshaping the local landscape. Domino's Paving for Pizza, where the company fills in potholes around the nation, blends guerilla marketing with a community-minded ethos.
Tips for Sinking Your Teeth Into Guerilla Marketing
Guerilla marketing can be great fun, but it's also strategic - i.e., it's more Jaws than Dory. Here's what to know when launching a surprise campaign.
- Keep it local. Branding stunts should be hyper-local and tied into a specific place or audience.
- Make it fresh. A great guerilla marketing campaign shouldn't feel like marketing. It should be fun and surprising, not tired and done before.
- Watch your budget. Keep your costs down, and make sure the ROI is there.
- Dial-up the surprise. Catch your audience unawares, get the timing right, and you'll be the talk of the town.
- Get permission. Check with local authorities before doing something that might get you in trouble.
- Get it right. Guerilla marketing is one-off, so make sure your execution is perfect.
- Don't forget your other marketing. Branding stunts drive buzz, but they're just part of a marketing campaign. Make sure it ties into something bigger.
Just like sharks, guerilla marketers are always lurking ready to spring up out of the depths with an unforgettable branding stunt. So, the next time you see a shark fin in the water or a chewed-up surfboard on the beach, take a moment to think about whether you're seeing one of nature's top predators in action - or a killer marketing stunt underway created by StellaPop.