Newsflash: “Guerilla” is not another word for “cheap.”

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If you are interested in exploring guerilla marketing (or, if you prefer, non-traditional marketing) because you’re committed to creating something outrageous, standing out from the crowd, hitting people with an unexpected message when their guards are down and perhaps inciting a viral campaign, then it might just be for you. If you’re interested in guerilla because you want to save money or don’t have the budget for a mass media campaign, prepare to be disappointed.

“Guerilla marketing” is often defined as hitting consumers (prospects) with marketing messages either in places they don’t expect them, or in ways they don’t expect. While guerilla campaigns are rarely scalable, they can break through the mind-numbing clutter we each have to deal with each day, and can help consumers think about you and your offerings in a new, fresh way.

That is, if you do it right. And let me just say it here: guerilla marketing is not a cheaper way to do marketing. While it is true you won’t have the media expenses of a more traditional mass media campaign, you will have a lot of expenses mass media campaigns don’t incur. A lot of what we in the business refer to as “man hours”–fabrication costs, research and preparation, event planning and hosting, content creation, fulfillment and follow-up. All things you don’t have to worry about in the “set-and-forget” world of paid media advertising.

So how do you know if the non-traditional approach you’re considering will be a hit or an exercise in futility? As it turns out, many of the most successful guerilla marketing efforts have a lot in common. More specifically, they’re able to unequivocally answer “yes” to each of these questions:

  • Is it surprising/quirky/unexpected? Unlike with mass media marketing, where you can buy attention, with non-traditional marketing, you have to earn it. Your content has to be disarming, and catch people with their guards down. These beer stein decals installed on glass doors are but one example.
  • TyskieGM

  • Does it amplify the brand’s story outside the traditional media space? Getting attention is great. But if it doesn’t play back to your core brand story (and what you want people to say about you), you’re likely wasting your time. This urinal poster for the Arizona Science Center is an example of linking non-traditional creative and media to boost the brand.
  • Arizona-Science-Center-GM

  • Is it sustainable? Coming up with a “blockbuster” event might sound like a good idea, but too often these are little more than closed-ended tactics. This video for Coca Cola showcases one event (in this case, rewarding good samaritans who turned in an unattended wallet with tickets to a soccer match), but it leads to a bigger pay off for the brand–”Buy That Person A Coke.” Works for honest folks who turn in wallets. Works in hundreds of other situations too.
  • Is it supported? Is it a stand-alone execution, or is it tied to other things the brand is doing, both on- and off-line? Social media provides your brand many possible ways to reach people. Plan ahead to determine how to amplify your guerilla tactics through social. Check out this video to see how The Opticians Council Of Canada amplified their guerilla tactics.
  • Can it do things in a way that can’t be done in a traditional media space? Getting out of the two-dimensional world gives you lots of possibilities to explore. Check out this guerilla tactic for a gym.
  • FitnessCompany

  • Is it disruptive, without being inconveniencing or annoying? People are used to advertising messages being restricted to specific times and spaces (magazine pages, TV programming breaks, etc.). Once you venture outside the expected ad media, you run the risk of irritating your audience and building resentment against you. If you’re going to intrude into their lives, you better make it worthwhile for them.

With the rise of social media, and your audience’s ability to share and spread things that interest them, guerilla marketing can serve to garner tons of attention to the brand, ignite word of mouth and generate ample free media, and get people talking about the brand. (Old Spice’s “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and Burger King’s “Whopper Sacrifice” are two of the most famous examples).

In the not-so-best cases, brands have wasted a ton of money, resources and good will developing stuff that their audiences, to put it bluntly, could care less about (Cisco’s “Ted From Accounting” web series comes to mind).

For 50 great examples of guerilla tactics that worked, click here.

The net of it then, is that in regard to guerilla tactics, while spending money is not a sure-fire recipe for success, not spending it is a sure-fire way to fail.

Posted by Mickey.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.

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