Image via Graffittinetwork
One thing I’ve learned lately is that most people don’t fully understand what guerrilla marketing is, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of because the experts can’t all agree on how to even spell it.
I’ve looked at dozens of successful guerrilla marketing campaigns, listened to the few podcasts and few books on the subject out there, and broken the concept down into three parts which are then further broken down into another three each.
And because the easiest way for us to learn is through things that we already understand and stories help us remember, I’m going to share a story from college that perfectly expresses each of these nine components. And then explain how they relate. But, first, here are the components.
- Project management
- Good crew
- Understanding your audience
- Highlight your UVP
- Clear specific call-to-action
- Being prepared for the next steps
Back in college, I loved having fun and creating events where other people would have fun. I also did not mind the attention it would bring. So one day, one of my best friends, Will Reaves, told me that he was going to come and visit and wanted to do a prank. So we thought about this and decided on something that everybody would experience.
First, we thought about something in the cafeteria but then realized that not everybody is in there at the same time because of different class schedules, so we decided to do something in chapel. The plan was to unfasten a lot of the bolts holding in the seats in the chapel at Florida College, which is a small Christian school, so it had a little over 500 seats in there.
Over the next couple of weeks, I started meticulously planning every step on how to pull this off without getting caught by any passersby or the security guards, avoiding the cameras; who the best crew would be; what time to do this; the routes and everything, down to emailing minute by minute itineraries to my crew’s non-school email addresses.
You have a lot of time for things when you’re not working on homework(not an endorsement for not doing homework). The plan went off without a hitch, and the next day in chapel, the seats were falling.
We had unbolted them at varying degrees so that all throughout the announcements, people would hear a loud random thud once the person in the seat had moved around enough and the bolt had gotten all the way out.
There was no proof as to who had done it, but based on prior experiences, the dean of students asked me if it was me, so I couldn’t lie, and I had to tell him it was. He said that based on how long it took the maintenance to put it back together, I would have a fine of $500, but if I told him who the other people were, he would discount the fine 50% and distribute it between the five of us so it’d be $50 each.
But due to crew loyalty, I wasn’t going to tell him who the others were. So as I was walking back to my room, I saw my friend Daniel Gerber and told him how much I had to pay, and he almost jokingly said I should start a GoFundMe, and I thought it was a brilliant idea.
So, in that very second, I sat down right there on the couch next to him and created the GoFundMe and posted it within the next 10 minutes. In less than 24 hours, the GoFundMe had made $540 with an additional $21 from people giving me the cash and sending me money on Venmo because they wanted to support me and also be part of this wild event.
Breaking this down, it is amazing to me how much guerrilla marketing and a well-planned prank have in common.
The 3 elements of a guerrilla marketing campaign again are:
The first part of Plot is the creativity. Will and I talked a while back and forth, brainstorming ideas as I was drawing them on my huge whiteboard sticker I had covering most of my dorm wall. Brainstorming with other people and visual depictions are critical steps to coming up with a remarkable idea.
Project management is the second part of Plot. I again went to my whiteboard to capture all of my ideas including the map and routes, who I was considering for my team, potential threats and obstacles, and the timeline. Having a large dashboard of some sort where you can see how all the components fall into place with the others makes any campaign much smoother.
The third part of Plot is a good crew. I can’t express to you how important it is to have a trustworthy team. Not only are they a second set of eyes to make sure there are no plot holes you are missing, but they all play crucial roles in making the whole performance go off without a hitch. If you can’t trust your team, you can’t trust that your plan is going to work. I have to say that each of the people who played a part in the prank did a phenomenal job, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.
Understanding your audience is the first element of Act. Going through all the effort of planning this, unscrewing the bolts and risking the trouble we could get in wouldn’t have been worth it if we didn’t know what would entertain the audience. So we thought through what people would find amusing and ruled out any ideas where someone could get hurt or feel singled out.
The second part of Act is engaging. We thought through and figured out something that everyone in the entire school (besides for anyone unfortunate enough to skip chapel that day) could be a part of. It highly increases the entertainment value when people can be a part of the event.
The third part of Act is remarkable. I chose this word carefully because if you break it down into the components “remark-able,” you will see why one of the definitions of this word is “Worth making a remark about.” This is exactly what we want for our campaigns. We want people to share it with their friends and family. Everyone on social media. Word of mouth. These are the types of marketing that are the most trusted by people seeing it because it’s shared with them directly by people they trust. This is why I was able to raise over the $500 mark in less than 24 hours. People were happy to share it on social media, texting their friends and every other way they could get the word out.
Unique Value Proposition
The first of the three parts of Direct is to highlight your unique value proposition. In my case, it was entertaining and different. In James Altucher’s book, Skip the Line, he talks about the importance of focusing on being the only instead of the best. So figure out what your skill is and combine that with a passion of yours to provide your audience with a unique experience instead of just another advertisement.
The second part of Direct is to have a clear- specific call to action. In the case of the prank, the call to action was the donate button on the GoFundMe page. You don’t want people unsure of what step you want them to take. A clear ask takes all the guesswork out, and this is where a lot of people fall short in this whole process. Do you want to build your email list, get people to make a purchase, or to attend a webinar? What action do you want the participants to take?
Prepare for the Next Steps
The last part of Direct is another often overlooked one. This is being prepared for the next steps. In the case of the prank, I was prepared to face the consequences of my actions, and in business, it will be to prepare for the next steps of your customer’s journey. Make sure that they have a smooth transition from the call to action into the transformation your business can provide for them.
I hope that was helpful and if you want 3 specific guerrilla marketing techniques that can help you go viral, here they are!
Learn more about guerrilla marketing: