Hello SOTGC community,
I recently saw a huge tech event being hosted at the San Francisco Convention Center. Not a big deal, this happens all the time. However, what struck me was the low-brow approach to guerrilla marketing taken by a competitor.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of guerrilla marketing done right. I’m not a fan of guerrilla marketing that is lazy and takes the low road.
One of the gazillion tech companies in Silicon Valley hosted their big annual conference in San Francisco to announce all new innovations for the year. Tech companies do this frequently and the timing and location of these events typically is widely known with several weeks advance notice. In this specific example, a competitor decided to take advantage of the event by hiring people to engage with conference attendees and presumably tout why its company was better. One attendee said they were actually trying to sign away customers on the spot.
This is tacky. There are better ways to do this. I applaud the attempt to leverage a competitor’s event, but why not do it in a way that seems, oh, less desperate.
Another example: I worked for a tech company that hosted its big event in Vegas (sound familiar?). Two days before our big event, we found out that the competitor was hosting a series of invite-only events for basically all of our customers. These events were nice dinners and/or excursions where the competitor could engage with our customers before they even got to our event. To me, this was extremely annoying, but I also recognized that it was a smart move. Well done.
Another time, I worked for a retailer and we were having a big event in stores. A competitor hired actors in gorilla suits (subtle) to hand out coupons for the competition and put people in taxis to send them away from our stores and to the competition. Tacky.
In order to see whether or not I’m being fussy and old-fashioned, I posted a survey that was unscientific and non-representative of any population on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to gauge public opinion on this topic. It found that 85 percent of respondents agreed with me and found it tacky. (Based on 14 respondents to online 1 question Survey Monkey survey posted online by author)
But hold on, guerrilla marketing CAN be effective and useful for your brand. It started out as a low-cost way for companies to get buzz in the marketplace for their brand. And it still works if it’s done right.
One ad agency in Seattle called Wexley School for Girls does some really innovative work. One simple, yet effective, campaign was to help Microsoft mapping software have some fun. They created huge red push pins, already iconic online, and placed them around the city. That is a fun and inexpensive way to get your message out there … without being in-your-face. Well done.
So, as you are thinking about how to get your brand out there using guerrilla marketing, put it through the “tacky test” by asking a few questions:
- Am I proud to have my company associated with this tactic/event
- Will it really help generate new customers, or am I doing it to be annoying to my competitor (which can be okay and is what I call the “poke in the eye” strategy – a topic for a future story)
- Will this backfire and cause customers to have an aversion for my brand
It kind of reminds me of a podcast (not suitable for work due to language) from the creator of VEEP who said everyone in D.C. says they know someone like the Jonah character but no one admits they ARE Jonah! Don’t have your event/tactic be a Jonah! Oh, and if you haven’t checked out VEEP, it is a must see!