You're walking through Boston, right along the Charles River. Maybe you're on your way to your first class of the day, or making the commute to work, and you come across something unusual: A strange light board depicting a pixelatedcreature waving around his middle finger. What do you do?
A Bomb Scare Shuts Down Boston
For many, the answer was to call authorities, under the suspicion that there were bombs placed all around downtown Boston. It can't be said that these colorful boards didn't garner attention.
This is, while extreme, a prime example of the kind of guerilla marketing stunts that get companies attention. The objects were placed around Boston to promote the channel Adult Swim, and the release of a film based on their popular adult cartoon, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”.
More traditional forms of marketing both old and new are used by every company in some form or another. Every traditional avenue from newspaper to television, to internet marketing, a form that is becoming more and more common for companies as the digital age hits its prime. It is because of this that companies find themselves struggling for a way to differentiate themselves from a pack of other marketing campaigns. Non-traditional marketing techniques such as these guerilla style publicity stunts have become one way to get yourself known.
I was lucky enough to be living in Boston at the time, and was able to witness a bit of the panic myself. The cops had closed down certain areas, so the “bombs” could be carefully investigated. The two men placing the light boards were arrested for causing a public panic. While this is an extreme stunt with a rather extreme outcome, it can definitely be argued that the shows ratings were better for having been promoted in this way. In fact, I would argue it put “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” on the map for many people.
In fact, what was supposed to be a black horse in the box office did make a respectable $5.5 million in gross domestic earnings, thanks in part, to its very non-traditional form of marketing.
Publicity Stunts- Why Risk It?
While I don't recommend “causing a public panic”, I do see value in getting people's attention, and non-traditional marketing techniques such as guerilla marketing campaigns can be a great way to do so. Even though the two men's arrest in connection with this campaign was an unforeseen consequence, it also increased awareness of the film by being one of few campaigns to become a story covered eagerly by every major news source in the country. Those who can be creative enough to pull off such attention-grabbing stunts are likely to see a steep rise in awareness, and for some it is indeed a risky, but smart move.
The Dark Knight Rises Defaces Cities Everywhere
The Batman film franchise performed a similar, but more interactive campaign by painting white, bat-shaped graffiti in cities all around the world. The film's advertising implored eager fans to find and tag, through social media, every one of the Batman marks around the world in order to unlock the full trailer for the film. Not surprisingly, the fans were rabid enough to have the clever puzzle unlocked within a few hours. This campaign mixed the traditional forms of internet marketing (through social media participation), and the non-traditional through their use of scattered world-wide bat graffiti. This campaign proved that while a more common form of marketing such as social media marketing is an important method of promotion, it can only become stronger through the use of non-traditional marketing campaigns in conjunction.
The social media interaction that the film's marketing department experienced was only further proof of the effectiveness of grabbing the attention of people in a non-traditional way. The film made over $1 billion worldwide, which are numbers you just can't argue with.
These kind of stunts may be risky, but for many they result in the spread of a kind of brand awareness you really can't buy. So from a marketing perspective, I urge you to be creative with your campaign-- both through traditional and non-traditional methods, the goal of your marketing campaign is to grab attention.
Try not to get arrested, though.
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