Monday, March 30, 2009

Gorilla Marketing: using the hairy primate

Gorillas are the largest living primate. So when it comes to packing and distribution, it would be an understatement to say that 'it can become a little hairy!" Relax, I am not speaking of gorillas. Further and ironically "Guerilla Marketing", as coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1983 book of the same name, is an unconventional tact that requires so much more than lounging around in the shade eating grass. It requires innovation and imagination. I'm thinking more along the lines of flamingo meets leopard. Okay, enough with the animal visuals. Let's get down to business!

Guerilla Marketing: If I can't spell it, how can I use it?

Guerilla Marketing (GM) is not usually in the same sentence as the phrase "big budget". Rather, what it lacks in dollars it makes up for in imagination. At least that's what defines successful guerilla marketing. In many ways, GM could be replaced by the phrase "publicity stunt". But I wonder whether Conrad Levison would be happy with this statement. Actually, I think he would agree but perhaps opt for a more refined definition.

Indeed, publicity should be a goal. However the 'stunt' aspect could be suggestive of a cheap trick which is really not in the spirit of the Gorilla- my apologies... guerilla. A better phrase would be "minimum input, maximum output."

"Practically, this can mean surprising the consumer at a time when they least expect it. "
Imagine walking down the supermarket and looking for the aisle to grab some sugar. You are casually glazing across the numerous sugar satchels on the shelves, comparing prices and wishing you were vacationing in the Bahamas and you feel a tapping on your shoulder. There before you is an excited looking man, dressed in a bright-blue leotard who smiles and whispers a little too seductively "have you ever thought of a sugar alternative?" He then jumps a few feet back and begins to perform a spontaneous jig whilst pointing to the product logo on the middle of his blue leotard. You have been interrupted. You may be shocked. You may be embarrassed. You might feel threatened. You may burst out in laughter. That's guerilla marketing.

No doubt this is a very grass-roots example. But the point is served: GM is often a different and creative approach. It takes advantage of the powerful WOM. For those new to marketing, WOM stands for "Word Of Mouth". What happens when you see you family or friends when you get home from shopping? Exactly, you tell them with acute and florid details, the bizarre experience you had at the supermarket when innocently comparing sugar prices. Also, chances are that if you tell the story well then the recipient will also tell a friend and the WOM goes on. Such a powerful tool! Mmm.... WOM.

Now if you take this example and appropriate it to the online world we have a whole another tool at our disposal- a tool worth many more words: viral marketing. Viral marketing is like WOM on steroids. It's the Schwarzennegger of brand dissemination. Send an email with a funny or abnormal guerilla tact attached; one person forwards it to a few friends or work colleagues; a few of these forward it to some other contacts; and the next things you know, in less than 24 hours this email is popping up in the inbox of tens of thousands (if not more) of consumers all around the world. Bang! WOM on the juice!

"The potential really is limitless. The only limit is your imagination."

It's hard to discuss this issue without mentioning a serial entrepreneur like Richard Branson, who has almost made guerilla tactics as staple as a print and online campaign. Whether it's driving down a main road in an artillery unit or "accidentally" dropping obvious sexual suggestions under the guise of the "Virgin" brand, Branson is perhaps the Monet of Guerilla Marketing. Has he seen results? Tremendously.

It may be stating the obvious, but the backbone to GM is it's FREE! And if you really hit the right bone in people, you can create a huge buzz. Hence, GM surely deserves our attention. So what's the catch? Why isn't everyone taking advantage of this all the time? Good question. Now here is the answer. GM is very much outside the box. It's a big risk.

Think about this: if a stranger approaches you randomly and tells you a joke, are you going to laugh? In truth, probably not. You are more likley to be confused and perhaps a little bit scared. However, if a friend approaches you and delivers a 'funny', whether you are expecting it or not, you are most likely to receive it and laugh appropriately. What's the difference? There is an existing relationship. This is the key. I will say it again. Existing relationship. This means that the "gorilla" should only be released as a part of an integrated marketing campaign.

Some of you will be confused and this is rightly so. There are exceptions to this "existing relationship" rule. Ordinarily, it's argued that GM is most useful for small business and start-ups, as well as for entrepreneurs. This is true. But often it is only out of necessity. Small budgets have limit marketing options. Risky or not, GM happens to be exponentially cost-effective. But it is a little hit and miss. If you hit, it could mean a home run. But if you miss, it could mean a knockout blow. Down for the count.

I mentioned earlier the Word of Mouth (WOM) is a powerful tool. But if you get on the wrong side of WOM, you are facing an enemy capable to death and destruction. GM is risky business. But understand your target market well and you should be fine...

1 comment:

S.Beckman said...

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