• Guerrilla advertising for dummies — and for other cutting edge advertisers
Imagine the scene. The Allied forces are storming the beaches of Normandy. People are getting shot all over the place. There are explosions and screams and the firing of automatic weapons. Finally, after hours of fighting, the German forces retreat and the beachhead has been won.
You know what didn’t happen next? What didn’t happen next was the Allied forces gathering up all their stuff and then buggering off home. And you know why that didn’t happen next?
Because that would have been a guerrilla warfare tactic. And they weren’t using guerrilla warfare tactics. And do you know why they weren’t using guerrilla warfare tactics?
Because they weren’t bloody idiots!
Because they had billions and billions of dollars worth of weaponry and armaments. Not to mention ordinance. Just tons of ordinance. And when you’ve got all that, you don’t have to use guerrilla tactics.
You see, guerrilla warfare is only used when you’re in a weak position. Such as the resistance groups who fought behind enemy lines. They’d go out, blow up a bridge, and then retreat through the tunnels to Stalag 13 in time for one of LeBeau’s perfectly-cooked dinners and a night cap, before Sergeant Schultz came around for his nightly inspection.
The same is true in advertising — except the dinners tend to be rubberised chicken.
Suppose you’ve got a small business. Maybe it’s repairing bicycles. Since your name is Bill, you’ve called it Bill’s Bicycle Repair. Good for you. You’ve also got an inventory consisting of a tool kit, a few useful spare parts, and a batch of bicycle frames in such bad shape that if you scraped the rust off them there’d be nothing left but decals.
You also have $200 in your account.
Now you could spend that $200 for one ad in the Podunk Shopping Mall Weekly Advertiser. That would make you feel all professional and grown up and stuff. It would also blow your advertising budget in one shot and be seen only by a few dozen middle-aged women sitting in a food court eating Arby’s and telling the kids to shut up. And it wouldn’t always be their own kids.
Not that I’m stereotyping.
On the other hand, with $200 you could get two batches of stickers printed out. So what you do is take about a dozen of those rusted bicycle frames and leave them around the city with a sticker on each one reading: “I don’t feel so well — call Bill.” If you were any good at drawing, or had an artistic friend, you might even have a picture of a sad-looking bike on the sticker.
And then, a week or two later, you go back, pick up the rusted hulks, and put up the second lot of stickers on the walls and posts where the bikes were. And these new stickers read: “Hi, I’m Bill. Have there been any messages for me? Bill’s Bicycle Repair — 555-1234.”
Of course, you’d use a real phone number.
Now that is guerrilla advertising. It’s possible you might get into a bit of trouble with the city, but not likely. And if you did, you might be lucky enough to have it written up in the newspaper and then people would see it, and a lot of them would think it was a clever idea and remember your name. Most of them wouldn’t be mad because (a) you’d cleaned up the bikes after a week or so yourself, and (b) you’re just a small business.
But now suppose that your business takes off. You become the number one bicycle repair shop in your city, and in a few years branch out to other cities. You’re even lucky enough to have Hollywood celebrities patronising your shop. Before you know it, you’ve got millions of dollars to spend on advertising.
So do you continue to use guerrilla tactics?
That depends on the answer to one question: are you an idiot?