Two different times last summer, strangers came to our door bearing gifts; free Red Bulls, to be exact. We asked, "What's the catch?" They told us it was their summer job just to pass out Red Bull energy drinks to businesses around town. They said there was no catch, they were just "out promoting Red Bull."
My first thought was, "Man, what a gig!" When I was their age, I was either in the fields detasseling corn or painting apartment buildings in 100-degree heat!?
My second thought was, "Red Bull has been around a long time, and they're STILL doing guerrilla marketing?" Now THAT'S what I call grabbing the brand by the horns!
And it was a good reminder that guerrilla marketing is NOT just for startups. It's for any brand wanting to stay fresh in the minds of prospects, for creating buzz, to highlight brand relevance, and to give prospects 'hands-on' experiences with the brand.
Now before we go any further, let's be clear about exactly what guerrilla marketing is, and who better to turn to than the "Father of Guerrilla Marketing," Jay Conrad Levinson. Mr. Levinson published a book in 1984 called Guerrilla Marketing, and to date has sold 21 million copies worldwide. He's certainly the guru, and he's defined the term this way:
"Achieve conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy, instead of money."
As I came across that quote, manufacturer trade shows immediately came to mind. The amount of energy (and money) that goes into these shows is extensive, but the payoffs are typically worth it. And while you could make the case that a trade show is a form of guerrilla marketing, there is one difference I see between the run-of-the-mill marketers and the true guerrilla marketers at these shows. Guerrilla marketers approach the trade show - using Levinson's term - unconventionally.
Here's an example. I recently attended the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Nearly every gun and gun accessory manufacturer was there with an amazing array of displays and products. But honestly, very few stood out from the others. Don't get me wrong, there were lots of beautiful displays, but few were memorable.
The typical display featured nice graphics and teams of salespeople usually wearing some version of a black shirt. They looked nice, but they looked like everyone else.
One group that DID stand out was a Texas company called Cimarron Firearms. Granted their products are already different, focusing on cartridge firearms. But what impressed me was the way they carried off their difference with the sales staff all dressed in classic cowboy western wear. Cimarron Firearms not only invested energy like all of the other manufacturers at the show, but they were also using unconventional methods to achieve their conventional goals. And THAT can make all of the difference.
If you're thinking that your brand could use a little more guerrilla marketing to stand out from your competitors, start by addressing these two questions:
1. Where can we replace money with energy in our marketing efforts?
2. How can we invest this energy in an unconventional way?
Do it consistently and you'll be grabbing your brand by the horns in no time.