Guerrilla marketing: How to make your business stand out from the crowd
Have you got what it takes to go guerrilla?
Do you want to push the boundaries of marketing a little? Are you prepared to flirt with some grey areas of the law? If so, then perhaps it’s time to go guerrilla, says the founder of UTalkMarketing Niall McKinney
Every new business wants to shake up its market and break the mould. You want your company to be seen as innovative and daring, with a reputation for doing something that’s never been done before. That goes for your promotional activity too.
Guerrilla marketing, with its unconventional tactics and frequent run-ins with the law, can be the ideal way to launch a new business or product. By bending the rules a little, using lots of imagination and having some cash around the office for a bail bond, you can execute low-cost ideas that get your target market buzzing. Guerrilla marketing tactics can also identify your brand as the one to watch.
When is marketing guerrilla?
To refer to a campaign as guerrilla, it has to be surprising and use media in an unconventional way. When I was marketing director of lads’ magazine Loaded, we created fake branded cocaine ‘wraps’, which we distributed on the floors of toilets in City and West End bars. When the hapless customer unwrapped them, it turned into a flyer for an issue about drugs!
But more than anything, a guerrilla idea has to get people talking and get you into the media. This is where the shock value of your idea is so important – only the most rebellious and hard-hitting tactics will achieve this cut-through.
L ike every new business, UTalkMarketing needed to raise awareness quickly, and in our first year we’ve employed a number of different guerrilla tactics. Trying to establish ourselves in the marketing sector on a low budget was particularly challenging, as standards of advertising are very high.
We began by flyering competitors’ events and distributing branded UTalk roses at black-tie industry functions. This was a good way of introducing ourselves to the market and making people aware of us. We also launched a sticker campaign around the London advertising industry hubs of Soho and Shoreditch. Running alongside this, we used ‘reverse graffiti’ carrying our URL on the pavements outside big agencies and big marketing companies.
These quirky tactics raised the profile of UTalkMarketing while also positioning our brand as an unconventional and innovative company. Traditional forms of marketing might not have conveyed the same message to the right audience. We’ve seen uplift in site traffic, with a 25% increase in unique visitors since we launched the campaign. We’ve also had many more sales queries and people interacting with the brand.
Other brands have used guerrilla marketing very successfully. Projecting images onto famous landmarks may be by-the-by today, but less than a decade ago it was perceived as radical. When FHM magazine shot celebrity Gail Porter for its cover, it decided to use her naked image to promote its annual 100 Sexiest Women poll. Marketing mavericks projected a huge image of Miss Porter, accompanied with the slogan ‘Vote Gail’, onto the House of Commons, earning them valuable PR and setting a precedent that has been much copied since.
Last year, the Parliament building (yes, it’s a popular backdrop) was used for similar projection campaigns for search engine Ask.com and youth group Make Space. Most recently, it was also the target for a projection from the Fijian Tourist Board.
In Belgium, when a number of retailers closed down, posters appeared in the shop windows saying ‘moved to eBay’. This celebrated the launch of eBay shops at a very low cost. In response, eBay’s competitor in Belgium, Hebbes.be, launched an online guerrilla campaign on eBay. The company put itself up for sale on the website complete with pictures saying: ‘Sorry, already sold on Hebbes.be.’ The cost associated with listing some items was probably less than £50, but turning the experience into a publicity virus generated countless website hits.
Guerrilla marketing is a cost-effective and exciting way of promoting your business. It can galvanise staff and make people sit up and take notice. It’s not for everyone – you’re unlikely to see a bank using guerrilla tactics, and it doesn’t always work. But every once in a while, a great unconventional idea can make you famous.
Niall McKinney launched online community for marketers UTalkMarketing in 2006. He was previously marketing director at Loaded and Lastminute.com’s chief marketing officer