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February 25, 2007

GUERRILLA MARKETING 2: Getting it right

There’s no doubt that guerrilla marketing works. All you have to do is think back to one of the all-time great stunts when and image of former model-come-TV presenter Gail Porter was projected onto the Houses of Parliament to promote the World’s Sexiest Women’ poll for a leading men’s magazine. It gained instant TV news coverage and was probably more effective than a fully developed TV ad campaign for a fraction of the price.

“Guerrilla is a very exciting, spontaneous and effective form of experiential marketing,” says Leyton Ede, director of experiential agency Closer. “It can be highly targeted, and also be consumer reactive. For example, if you pay for a static site space and, for whatever reason, there is a lack of footfall, you will have to continue regardless, but with guerrilla you can move on and hunt out the consumers.

“A guerrilla campaign can also allow you to have an association with a property that would normally be cost-prohibitive to tie in,” he continues, “such as a rock concert or football match where you can target people on entrance or exit. It also allows you to tap directly in to a customer mindset, such as promoting cold drinks by offering them to people queuing to get into Wimbledon on a hot summer’s day.” Or more likely handing out umbrellas when it’s throwing it down!

A risky business
The problem is, the spontaneity and direct contact elements of guerrilla marketing mean the risk factors are high.

“There is less control over the environment because of the instant nature of the event,” says Michael Wyrley-Birch, client services director at live marketing agency TRO. “The ‘blitz’ element often means that you don’t get a rehearsal – you need to get it right first time. Even aspects as basic as the weather, or unforeseen roadworks in a chosen location, can affect the result of a guerrilla campaign. Marketers also need to anticipate the PR that will be generated from the event – it could have a negative impact, which could damage the brand’s reputation.”

Dale Baker, experiential director at Lime agrees, saying: “Get it wrong and you’re campaign is nothing more that ‘urban spam’, and you end up simply adding to the media clutter you are supposed to be using the campaign to cut through.”

So how do you get it right?

“The very best guerrilla marketing campaigns are those in which the customer prospects have absolutely no idea that they have been marketed to,” says Wyrley-Birch. “The message may be almost subliminal – or it may emerge only subsequently.”

For Jonathan Gabay of Brand Forensics, it’s about delivering that elusive ‘wow’ factor, without using shock tactics for their own sake.

“The campaign should present a different perspective on a traditional message, an intelligent interpretation of a key issue, the clever use of available media and perhaps a timely ‘issues’ hijack of a current story, all of which gives an active demonstration that your company (and so through inferred association – the consumer) is apart from the norm,” he says.

The right way
To achieve this first you need to carry out research to make sure the approach is right for the product or service you’re promoting, and to identify the target audience and best environment in which to carry out the campaign. You then need to carefully consider the creative execution and mechanics to make sure as little as possible is left to chance. A key factor here is logistics.

“For example,” explains Closer’s Ede, “ensuring that the correct vehicles are used, storage is available, and logistically there is a viable methodology to replenish products and collateral to maximise exposure. After all, you don’t want to have to keep driving 10 miles to re-stock your van every hour. In London, that would mean you would spend a large part of your day without consumer engagement!”

Training the team involved is also vital, making sure that they expect the unexpected. It also pays to build in a contingency plan by looking at all possible worst-case scenarios to make sure you can cope if they happen.

Finally, you need to think legal. Are you going to need permission to carry out the campaign where you’ve planned to run it? Are you actually doing something that could be viewed as illegal?

“Using steam jets and stencils to embellish a busy underpass in Leeds with slogans and catchphrases for Smirnoff Ice, Smirnoff forgot to ask the local council for permission to carry out the stunt,” Brand Forensic’s Gabay recalls. “The Government quickly counteracted with its own guerrilla initiative, branding Smirnoff's guerrilla campaign as ‘vandalism’, fining the company with a clean-up bill totalling thousands of pounds. Smirnoff apologised and accepted to clean the underpass once its campaign has finished. (Not exactly very street-cred).”

And with corporate social responsibility high on the agenda, this factor is even more pertinent.

Positive predictions
Despite the risks, Wyrley-Birch thinks the future looks bright for guerrilla marketing.

“As live events continue to increase their share of marketing spend, more marketers will jump on the guerrilla marketing bandwagon,” he says. “From those companies that have been working in this area for some years, the activity will become more sophisticated and subtle, with precise targeting of customer profiles and activity designed specifically to appeal to those profiles.”

Closer’s Ede agrees, saying: “I predict that brand investment will increase in this division of experiential. As consumers become more media marketing aware, achieving recognition in a cluttered competitive world needs innovation and
new experiential tactics – guerrilla will play a key pivotal role in achieving this.”

But as Ian Irving, sales and marketing director at live marketing agency Sledge, points out: “The challenge now is to ensure it’s relevant, legal and creative enough to get results.”

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