The Future of Guerrilla Marketing: Part Eight in an Eight-Part WebUrbanist Gmarketing Series
(Check out our complete Guide to Guerrilla Marketing.)
It happens to the best of them eventually. They get old, worn out, past their useful lives. At some point you have to grab the shotgun and head out to the pasture to put them out of their misery.
We’re talking, of course, about advertising methodologies.
Guerrilla marketing has been hailed as the renegade king of advertising methods for many years now. But, like all advertising models, this one will eventually lose its effectiveness and be replaced by the next big thing.
Since we are so inundated with advertising these days, most of us have learned to simply ignore it. We can walk right past billboards bearing the name and image of some fantastic product and never know they’re there. We can skip commercials altogether in our own homes.
When guerrilla marketing was introduced, it was a way to get past our defenses. A great guerrilla campaign can convince us, if even for a split second, that we aren’t looking at an advertisement and that it’s acceptable to pay attention. Guerrilla marketing tactics can help businesses to stay a step or two ahead of the competition by using methods that were previously unknown.
Guerrilla marketing is still as valuable today as it was back in the 1980s. It’s a way for small businesses to level the playing field. For a small investment, the smaller businesses can compete with the big names. This has lead to an unprecedented commercial environment where the relatively unknown company can garner as much attention as – and often more than – the well-established national brand.
But are we over-saturated with new and innovative marketing? We’ve learned to become suspicious of people we see on the street or in the supermarket. If a stranger asks for an opinion to help them choose between two products, we wonder which choice they’re trying to sell.
Some guerrilla efforts have become increasingly outlandish and questionable. The efforts of Golden Palace Casino are known to be particularly on the edge of acceptability. Some of their guerrilla marketing ploys have been harmless, amusing, and even beneficial (they’ve raised over $1 million for various charities, after all), but some are simply outrageous.
The online casino has paid two people, Karolyne Smith and Brent Moffatt, to permanently tattoo the site’s URL on their foreheads. Notwithstanding the fact that both individuals placed their forehead space for auction on eBay, the publicity stunt didn’t sit well with much of the general public.
In 2002, underdog video game company Acclaim announced that they would pay families for the right to advertise one of their games on the tombstones of dead relatives. Following public (not to mention religious) outcry, Acclaim pulled the old “Aw, we were only joking anyway” routine.
Marketing ploys such as these have made some of us question where guerrilla marketing is headed. Will marketers employ increasingly shocking and horrific methods to get our attention? In the future, will we see brands on everything from hot dog buns to girls’ big plastic fingernails to the backs of Cub Scouts?
In a perfect world, it would be nice to think that guerrilla marketing will take a different (less shocking, more personal) turn. We’re seeing already that brands – especially small businesses – are taking it to the streets, so to speak, by joining forum discussions, obsessively updating their Twitter accounts, and writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and blogs.
Building personal relationships with customers may be the best marketing move of the future. A handshake and the assurance that even a big, important business owner is never too important to wait on a customer is just what we jaded masses need to help us reconnect to our buying habits.
Although that’s what we’d like to think, our actual predictions are not so rosy. Given the recent trend of aggressive undercover marketing coupled with the fact that we are increasingly hard to reach (thanks to TiVO, MP3 players, and a hearty desire to avoid being corporate America’s pawns), we think that guerrilla marketing will only grow more covert and stealthy as time goes on.
The days of outrageous advertising scenes may be nearing their end. But you can bet that in the future it will become increasingly difficult to tell what is an advertisement and what is a simple conversation. These guerrilla ambushes may move further into the online realm as the 21st century versions of the “buy me a drink” girls shamelessly flirt online only to entice you to visit a certain virtual casino with them.
See More of Our 8-Part Guerrilla Marketing Series:
Guerrilla Marketing 1: History of Guerrilla Marketing
Guerrilla Marketing 2: Origins and Evolution of Guerrilla Marketing
Guerrilla Marketing 3: Major Corporations Go for Guerrilla Marketing
Guerrilla Marketing 4: Guerrilla Marketing versus Viral Marketing
Guerrilla Marketing 5: Guerrilla Marketing for Good Causes
Guerrilla Marketing 6: 10 Types of Guerrilla Marketing
Guerrilla Marketing 7: Is Guerrilla Marketing Right for You?
Guerrilla Marketing 8: The Future of Guerrilla Marketing