When we think of guerrilla marketing, we think of big, splashy campaigns – but what happens when you marry guerrilla marketing with an email? If you can believe it, it is possible to make a (virtual) splash.
What is Guerrilla Marketing?
Guerrilla marketing has roots in combat – think of the ambushes, sabotage and raids that you expect in modern warfare, but with a marketing twist. Guerrilla marketing is, at its core, unconventional inbound marketing that raises brand awareness in front of large audiences.
The best guerrilla marketing combines the element of surprise with an element of delight – your customer should not only be surprised at what you’re doing but delighted with the concept. This notion is very meta, and the experts at HubSpot have broken down some successful examples of guerrilla marketing below:
- Bounty’s ‘Giant Messes’: In a brilliant guerrilla marketing move, paper towel company Bounty installed life-sized messes throughout New York City. A giant coffee spill and a huge melting popsicle were just two of the messes with a simple sign: ‘Bounty makes small work of BIG spills.’ They could have just installed a billboard, sure, but this kind of stunt is difficult to ignore – it’s a perfect example of guerrilla marketing. It draws attention, encourages social sharing and gets people talking.
- Burger King’s Whopper of a Breakup: Guerilla marketing doesn’t have to be all about creating waves in one of the world’s largest cities – you can create a pretty big stir online. Burger King capitalized on this when an Instagram user left a comment on a post telling a story about his girlfriend getting food from Burger King the night before. The issue? The girlfriend was nowhere near the restaurant when the event happened, and a very public Instagram breakup ensued. When all was said and done, it turned out that Burger King had orchestrated the comments itself. Burger King’s campaign is guerrilla marketing at its finest – entertaining, topical, and keeping your business at the forefront of consumer’s minds.
The takeaway? The best guerrilla marketing is simple. You’re treading the line between a good surprise and trying too hard – if you can’t explain the concept quickly and simply, you’re doing it wrong.
How to Pull Off Guerrilla Marketing Via Email
So how do you pull off a Bounty-sized mess in an email? You can’t install an art project in a major city every time you want to try something unconventional, but the following tips for pulling off a guerrilla marketing email might help:
- Know Your Audience Well: This is crucial to any guerrilla marketing campaign. You need to know your audience inside and out, and fully understand what they find shocking and funny, as well as what might be found very offensive. Essentially, you need to find the edge so you can push the boundary without going too far.
- Define Your Goal: While guerrilla marketing is often used to raise awareness with new audiences, you may want to try these tactics for the first time with an audience that’s already bought into your brand. Consider a sharing-based campaign for your newsletter subscribers or a loyalty/giveaway experience that will turn your customers into brand evangelists.
- Use and Subvert Expectations: This is the time to think outside of the box. How do your customers interact with their emails? What would surprise them? What would they like? How can you turn something mundane into something fun? It doesn’t have to be an email newsletter – here are some other common ideas for inspiration:
- Sales emails
- Seasonal events and promotions
- Calendar reminders
- Meeting invites or follow-ups
- Coworker conversations
- Interactive survey content
- Your Subject Line Should Do the Heavy Lifting: Set things up from the email subject (after all, if they don’t open the email, your campaign is dead in the water). You’ve got less than eight seconds to grab attention in an inbox, which means that every word (and every second) counts. Ensure your email gets opened by utilizing:
- Eye-catching phrases: use words such as attention, announcement, urgent or final notice
- An unexpected or well-placed character: punctuation can be eye-catching; don’t be afraid of a well-spaced special character that will cause your reader to p@use
- Personalization: personalize the subject with your recipient’s name, company or city and state (use your judgment here)
- Emojis: consider emojis for added color and humor
- The Email Content is Your Punchline: This hardly bears repeating, but you need to deliver. Whatever your subject line implies or suggests, your actual email must follow through to complete those elements of surprise and delight for your recipient. The secret is good humor, excellent writing, and fantastic design to elevate the experience.
A Note on the Bait and Switch
Not all guerilla marketing campaigns are created equal, and many of them are unsuccessful. Just look at one of the most infamous guerrilla marketing campaigns gone wrong – the 2007 Boston Mooninite Panic. Essentially, provider Adult Swim was trying to promote the TV show ‘Aqua Team Hunger Force.’ Boston-based artists headed into the streets in the early morning of January 2007 to distribute electronic placards of characters they would illuminate the next afternoon.
However, someone decided that those placards looked suspicious – they called the police, who then called the bomb squad. Panic began to ensue as more placards (now called devices) were discovered around Boston. Boston Police arrested the artists, and just when everyone was sure that someone was trying to blow up Boston, a member of the mayor’s office recognized the placards from the show and explained that the placards weren’t a threat. The police were furious, and the stunt just ended up wasting everyone’s time instead of raising awareness about the show.
The takeaway? If you want to announce a 50 percent discount on your product, a guerilla marketing campaign isn’t for you. Your customers are smart – they’ll be able to tell when you’re just trying to make a quick buck, and they’ll send you straight to spam (or worse) without batting an eye. Keep it simple; focus on fun and humor. One of the best ways I’ve found to create great guerrilla marketing campaigns is to think – would I forward this on to a friend? Would I Slack this to a coworker with the caption ‘this is a great idea!”
When done well, guerrilla marketing is a tactic that can bring a smile to someone’s face – all while putting your brand on the map.
About the Author: Holly Rollins is the owner and president of 10xdigital, a digital marketing agency that specializes in marketing strategy, SEO, pay-per-click advertising, PR/backlinks, and more.
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