IMAGINATION RULES

Thursday, June 21, 2007

They come up on you slowly yet stealthily; but they mark you forever. The new age marketer knows a thing or two about the laws of the jungle...


One day in Manhattan, New York, 16,000 butterfly stickers appeared overnight across the city, forming a trail leading from Times Square to Central Park where a promotional event launching internet software package MSN 8 was taking place. This resulted in a major public outcry against the campaign, as it is illegal to advertise this way in New York. Microsoft immediately apologised to New York and agreed to remove the butterfly stickers. But it was worth the effort, for the campaign generated more that 168 news articles around the world! Not just the people on the streets of Manhattan, but world over, millions came to know about the new software package that was being launched by Microsoft.

Yahoo Personals Billboard Dating campaign put a woman on a Los Angeles billboard for three days. The woman spent three days atop the billboard, using a wireless internet connection and “Yahoo billboard Personals” to search for and schedule her dates. The campaign got so much of media coverage and free PR that it helped increase the number of visitors to the website. More than 6.4 million new visitors logged into the website. The company sure knew how to take dating to new heights.

In Australia, Vodafone painted their logo across the back of a person. At an appointed time, the man ran into a cricket pitch, where the game was on. Police ran behind the shirtless Vodafone man, so did all the cameras (which were telecasting the game across the world) and the eyes of the spectators. Vodafone had made sure that its logo was aired live around the world and all it cost them was $250 – the fine money that the police slapped on the streaker who ran into the pitch!

Welcome to the world of ‘guerilla marketing’. All the above mentioned instances are examples of this form of marketing. It could be defined very broadly as an unconventional way of performing promotional activities. And as consumers are increasingly avoiding or ignoring traditional advertisements, considering the increasing clutter, ‘guerilla marketing’ is the way to go. All it requires is, lots of imagination, for it is ridiculously inexpensive!

There are anti-ad filters as TiVo and mainstream advertisers are finding it difficult to reach the target audiences efficiently. To succeed in business you need to understand marketing. It’s said that most businesses fail because they don’t understand marketing. However, even when you do marketing, it is not easy to reach the target audience. ‘Guerilla marketing’ helps to breakthrough this clutter. That’s because just like guerrilla warfare, it catches the customers by surprise – thus making them remember the message (you can even call it a marketing ‘stunt’ if you deem fit) for a longer duration. In fact, ‘guerrilla marketers’ are even called ‘Buzz Agents’, precisely for the buzz they manage to create amidst consumers. They get people talking about the company and the brand.

When the Minnesota state officials wanted to boost tourism to a local resort town, they put a couple of canoes on some of the busiest streets of Chicago. The canoes had people wearing life vests and flannels as they pretended to fish and even row down the streets! Even a staid, jaded onlooker would have balked first and then smirked at the sight, and remembered it. Surely a novel way of fishing for more customers. The best part about ‘guerrilla marketing’ is that it delivers results quickly. And even if a plot backfires (as in the case of Microsoft) the company loses nothing, as every marketer knows there is no such thing as ‘bad publicity’, what matters is to get people talking about your ‘stunt’.

Hit it where it hurts

All that an effective ‘guerrilla marketing’ campaign requires is time, energy and imagination – not big budgets. So it works wonderfully for small businesses that work under financial constraints. This way they can challenge big competitors too. That’s exactly what Big Bazaar has done. It took on biggies like Shopper’s Stop, Lifestyle and Westside with cheeky one-liner hoardings that did catch a lot of attention and got the buzz going. “Keep West – aSide. Make a smart choice!” Shoppers! Stop, Make a smart choice!” “Change your Lifestyle. Make a smart choice”. These lines did stir-up competitors and gave shoppers something to smile...

Pepsi was still struggling for acceptance when Coke was riding high on the waves of success. Its biggest strength was its six and half ounce bottle. They used it in every ad and even trademarked it. Pepsi came out with a 12-ounce bottle for the same price. It had hit the bull’s eye. Youngsters immediately switched to Pepsi. It was the perfect guerrilla attack. That year Coke spent $15 million in advertising, while Pepsi rejoiced, for it spent just $600,000. An intelligent ‘guerrilla marketer’ finds a weakness in competitor’s strength and attacks!

Appear where no one expects you to!

A number of empty prams suddenly appeared on streets of Stockholm. As people passed them, they could hear a baby crying. When they leaned over to look at the baby, they saw some information written inside the pram which was, “Everyday 136,986 children are born who do not exist.” It was an effort by UNICEF to raise awareness about how infants, particularly in small remote villages are not registered at birth – which make them officially non-existent and hence easy victims of child abuse. The campaign lasted for 3 days, but UNICEF was able to collect some 2,000 donors who were ready to support the campaign.

After the Jet-Air Sahara deal, Jet Airways came out with a hoarding that highlighted their changed uniforms, logo, et al. The headline read “We’ve changed”. Within 36 hours, Kingfisher came up with bigger hoarding next to it, with a cheeky headline “We made them change.” The element of surprise works wonders for all successful ‘guerilla marketing’ campaigns. They are highly creative and deliver almost instantaneous results.

Have fun

Think creative, think out of the box… sure, but a dash of humour always increases the effectiveness of campaigns. When Spiderman 2 was about to released in India, Contract ad agency created a campaign that shocked and amused male cinegoers. They saw a urinal placed high up, near the ceiling - one that only Spiderman could use! Next to it was a small poster that read “Coming soon Spiderman 2.” A security glass company wanted to demonstrate the strength of its shatter-resistant coating. They treated a bus shelter’s Adshel with the coating and filled it up with bank notes worth three million dollars (apparently). Almost every passerby ended up either kicking or punching the glass. Some even returned with their families. The company had spent hardly $6,000 Canadian dollars, yet countless magazines and newspapers around the world covered this story.

‘Guerrilla marketing’ is fast developing into a new tool for marketers to get quick and effective results, besides being a unique way of reaching out to customers. For success in the contemporary marketplace, you don’t need to match budgets with the big players, instead you need to match wits. So if you are creative, innovative and ready for risks; and if you are looking for instant results, this is the place for you. Here there are no rules – the only thing that rules is – your imagination.