7 tips for launching a successful guerrilla marketing campaign

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We all see tons of emails each week with subject lines like, “Top 10 Advertising Ideas for this Year” or “What Are Some of the Most Creative Ads?” Many of these heavily shared advertising ideas fall into what is called the “guerrilla marketing” category because they are based on clever, surprising, low-cost tactics, challenging the traditional ad status quo.

Guerrilla marketing is known for its unconventional ways and low cost. It differs from other more conventional forms of marketing in that it relies on new and unusual ideas, often taking the audience by surprise and making people stop to think of the intended message and the bizarre way it draws attention.

Faced with big companies’ large marketing capacities and budgets, young entrepreneurs often find themselves up against steep competition when they resort to traditional marketing methods that require large amounts of money. So what are some actual examples of guerrilla marketing?

One great example of guerrilla marketing is Feed SA’s shopping carts campaign. The campaign surprised shoppers in one of South Africa’s malls with posters at the bottom of shopping carts with photos of children who look hungry and in need of charity. The posters were put in a way that suggests that each time the shopper puts her purchases in the cart, she would be giving them to the child in the picture. The shopper would then realize “how both important and easy it is to feed the needy” - the message of the campaign – for the very low cost of poster design and printing.

A second example is S Oil, a South Korean oil company, and comes in the form of parking lot balloons. The campaign offered a very simple service whereby they planted arrow balloons in parking spaces around a busy parking lot in Seoul which lowered when someone was in the spot. The company thus gave the impression of saving oil by helping drivers, and potential customers, finding a free spot quicker. The very simple idea only cost the price of custom balloons, but the impact it left on customers was much bigger than any regular billboard in the lot would have had. Check out the campaign in this YouTube video.

So how do you launch a successful guerrilla marketing campaign? Here are six tips:

  1. Develop a clear and precise picture of your clients. What do they like? How to they like to interact with your products and services? Put yourself in their shoes. Realizing the issues your clients face in their daily lives can also open your eyes to creative ways to make their lives easier, as in the parking balloon example.
     
  2. Have a solid understanding of your core business. What are your company’s strengths that give you a competitive edge? Give yourself (and your team) time to ponder your strongest offerings and try to come up with new ideas that creatively show off your usefulness for others.
     
  3. Think big and small alike. Whether via a simple hashtag Twitter campaign or a large scale artistic creation in your city, keep your options open to finding what style of campaign best fits your budget and reaches your customers.
     
  4. Brand your campaign carefully. It goes without saying that you need to make sure that no one has already implemented the same idea yet. Once you have a solid idea, give serious thought to your campaign’s tag line. It should either be funny or compelling – simple surprises to help customers out and associate your brand with making their lives easier is key.
     
  5. Identify the resources you need to pull it off. Develop a clear action plan by outlining who will perform the tasks involved and how much you need to budget for the campaign. Before starting, identify the ideal location to host your campaign and choose your timing wisely.
     
  6. Spread the word. After the idea is implemented, spread the message via your channels and on social media. Even video-tape it and make a short film that explains the campaign and your clients’ reaction to help others feel the impact of your efforts. Leave the rest to the audience who will share your campaign on their own channels.
     
  7. Focus on building a relationship. The key to your campaign’s success is not making a spectacle or getting in the face of consumers; it should be about starting or building a relationship with customers so that they think of your brand first in your niche. After the campaign is over, follow up and reiterate your message carefully to keep the campaign’s spirit alive in your customers’ minds. And don’t stop after one campaign – keep the momentum going by bringing your brand to the customer is more creative ways.

A bit of extra advice:

  • Be honest. Show real services and products that you can offer in an efficient manner, and keep your message free of any exaggeration, or else it will backfire on your company’s reputation. Don’t over promise and under deliver – stay humble.
     
  • Steer away from ideas that may annoy your audience. In the end, your goal is to impress your audience and to tie the name of your business to something smart and special, not pull a prank on a customer or embarrass anyone. Keep it exciting and surprising, but tasteful.

Writer Jay Conrad Levinson, whose book, ‘Guerrilla Marketing’, has sold more than 20 million copies, describes his approach as “throwing seeds, not cash” at your customers. This is where guerrilla marketing outshines traditional mediums, in building a trusted and engaged reputation instead of being a company above or apart from your customers.

Can you think of any successful guerilla marketing campaigns from the Arab world? Do you have any in mind for your company? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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