Art is hard. Guerrilla marketing requires a certain artistry in its inception and ultimately its execution. After all could just anyone come up with the idea of dressing up 200 people as frankfurters to promote a hot dog brand during baseball’s opening day? Or having real live NASCAR cars race down Main Street to celebrate the new season? Or harnessing people to the sides of a skyscraper to paint a brand’s logo across a white canvas hung out for just the occasion? No! These feats require an artist’s sensibility—someone who is focused pragmatic and creative.
No matter what business you’re in brainstorming for guerrilla tactics requires you to take all those moderately psychedelic thoughts that pop into your head before you fall asleep inside jokes you’ve had around the office and general craziness and see how you can refurbish them to work specifically for your brand. Many people find that going guerrilla is one of the most freeing and informative times of their lives—a time that allows them the opportunity to not only come up with some stellar nontraditional ideas but also get a greater understanding of their brand itself by exploring it from a variety of angles.
In this chapter we step into the ring and get a little loco. We walk through the tactics that help you explore every crevice of your brand to mine every creative nugget that can be used to benefit your business. To kick it off we set up basic brainstorming parameters to get possibilities percolating. When we’ve set the tone for your groupthink we move on to some thought starters by looking to what’s been done before for inspiration. When you find yourself in the midst of a conceptual monsoon we take the time to let the potential ideas settle make a choice and take steps toward enacting your polished marketing initiative.
Part I: It’s a Jungle out There—Be a Guerrilla
Staying Open-Minded Creative and Involved
Throughout the course of your business life you have to deal with a lot of things that frankly just stink. Angry clients missed deadlines and “the account that won’t go away.” We have good news: This section is nothing like that—it’s fun! Doing some guerrilla brainstorming is your chance to take all the things that excite you about your brand and play around to see what kind of marketing ideas you can produce by maximizing what’s good about what you do and what resources you have at hand. (Oh and often food is involved in brainstorming and that’s always a bonus.)
Brainstorming for the guerrilla is about looking at your brand both cumulatively and modularly. It’s about looking at it through a wide lens and riffing off what you can use and then breaking down all the pieces to make sure that you’ve exhausted every possibility. Then after you’ve done so you ask yourself the question “What can I do or say that will enable me to stand out from everyone else?”
To do that we show you how to create the environment to help get everyone in the mood—well not that kind of mood (we don’t want to create some major office controversy) but the kind of mood that puts everyone in the role of creative consultant free to say relatively anything that’ll help create a guerrilla campaign that has everyone slapping their foreheads and declaring “That’s it!” And when that does happen it’s pretty electric.
Sound good? We thought so.
Creating the environment
When you want to relax maybe you go to a spa where luxuriating in assorted muds exfoliating with raspberry and avocado facials and drifting off to the melodies of New Age harp music provide the perfect environment to escape the daily grind. Retreats such as these have mastered an element that is essential to brainstorming sessions as well as relaxation: environmental context. Resorts have environmental context down to a science. Each room is painted in soothing pastels water is available everywhere to refresh and reinvigorate you calmly cheerful staff usher you to your acupuncture treatments and massages scents may even be circulated through purified air all set with the aim of one emotional response: relaxation.
When you’re getting ready to hold your brainstorming session you need to create an environment that’s set on your own desired response: creativity. Before you go dumping your aftershave in the A/C vents consider what will help to produce an environment conducive to creativity. The answer will vary from one group of people to the next so you need to talk to your team and see what they would like to have as a part of the process. Sometimes it’s ordering in some Chinese playing some tunes and stocking the cocktails of choice. Maybe it’s cupcakes and coffee. Or maybe they just want a clean quiet room and some blank white boards.
What could be fun for a tight-knit friendly team could be out of line or at the very least awkward for an unfamiliar or reserved group so test the waters before diving into something that not everyone will be comfortable with. Push the envelope a bit. After gauging the group and getting a sense of what people will be comfortable with throw in a wild card. Maybe it’s providing everyone with large artist’s sketch pads adding music or a brief live performance by someone. Yeah it may get a few eye rolls initially but it may also be an environmental element that sparks a creative revolution!
In some people’s view a meeting is a meeting is a meeting. To grease the wheels and encourage participation in future efforts reward attendees with a small token of your appreciation. A gift card to the local coffee shop or some other small incentive says that you appreciate their attendance and participation.
Laying out the tools
Imagine you’re trying to come up with ideas to market to bakers a new delicious butter that makes people skinnier but all your team has ever worked on is marketing olive oil. Ever diligent your team is eager to hustle coming up with ideas for your oil-based ingredients but they just don’t know this specific realm. What can you do to get your team mobilized for this fat-burning foodstuff? Give them the tools to work for you:
• Background: What product are you looking to promote? What’s unique about it? Does the brand or product have any existing marketing efforts? A tagline? What exists about this product that can be used to generate ideas?
• Sample: Provide product samples and give people a chance to try it. Give your team the opportunity to experience your product. If it’s food a sample. If it’s a product or equipment a demonstration or a tour. If it’s entertainment a sneak peek at the feature. This may take a little bit of time but you can only know something so much by seeing a picture or hearing about it. Giving your team a first-hand look at the product will generate far more leads than you ever thought imaginable.
• Internet access: Look to the product’s website for additional information. Websites have grown from basic landing pages to mini-periodicals about products. The site will give your team answers and the ability to see how it’s currently being presented.
• Access to experts: If you’re looking to market to bakers bring a couple of toqued kneaders into your think tank to help come up with ideas and provide their thoughts. Invite some of your target audience into your circle and see how their feedback may flavor your ideas. Having a couple members of your target audience on hand may be a good idea to help keep the dialogue firing but try not to go overboard. If you feel the need to involve a larger cross-section of your target you may want to hold a separate focus group (a meeting of invited target consumers where you pose a series of predetermined questions and open conversation for the purposes of getting a greater sense of what appeals to them).
Setting out the parameters
The preparations have been made and now it’s time to give life to your team’s creativity! At this point you’re probably champing at the bit to get going—but alas there’s just one more thing we promise. Before you set your imaginative minds to task lay out considerations (basic parameters that guide and inform a brainstorming session):
• Goals and objectives: Everyone’s wondering why you called them here today. Tell them. What are the goals and objectives of the brainstorming session? What do you hope to achieve from this gathering? Ideas for a one-off stunt or the beginnings of a year-long plan?
• Your target demographic: We love shoes and don’t really care for cats. That information may be helpful if you’re looking to market to us and wholly irrelevant if you’re not. Lay out to your team as specifically as possible who you’re looking to reach with this campaign. Who is your target? Are they 13-year-old girls who love pop music or 70-plus men who enjoy fly-fishing. This precision honestly will generate more specific actionable ideas and better inform what you choose to do.
• Timing: You don’t want to let the timing hinder your ideas but it can be helpful in coming up with a framework for your concepts. Are you looking for a couple of big ideas to be done throughout the upcoming year? The next three months? In the summertime or the dead of winter?
• Locations: Don’t let location limit you but how does where you’re looking to execute your campaign color the tone? If you’re hoping to produce something deep in the heart of Texas are chaps and ten-gallon hats in your future? If you’re launching a campaign in Malibu do you need to be looking to surf shops to ride a tidal wave of ideas?
• Key attributes of the brand: If something has worked in the past throw it into the idea potpourri. If there are things that are synonymous with the brand—such as campaign slogans mascots jingles or other icons—consider how or if they should be worked into your concepts.
Appointing a scribe
The considerations have been laid out for all to view and consider and you’re mere seconds from opening the flood gates. But before you do you need to delegate a stenographer or scribe to document what’s sure to be a flood of great ideas.
Working the right side of the brain taps into the creative mind and many people find it helpful to be able to see the ideas in front of them to better visualize what’s been thrown out there. If you have got some visual learners among you have your delegated scribe write these ideas on a chalkboard dry-erase board or tear-off pad on an easel. (This can also serve as a written record of what was said so you don’t forget any potentially helpful suggestions.)
For one wickedly irreverent comedy client we held a wilder brainstorming session and writing it down just wasn’t an option. The ideas flowed too quickly and we just couldn’t find someone we could rope into taking to the whiteboard. In this case we simply dropped a voice recorder in the center of the table and went off to the races. This approach created a far more casual roundtable feel while providing a record that could be referred to later. The effect was an hour of hilarious ideas that were presented to a pleased client.
Starting the brainstorming
The stage has been set considerations have been laid forth and your method of recording has been set. Let ’em loose! As the ideas come forth either as a trickle or a flood keep the following pointers in mind so that you can make the most of your time.
“I think that’s an awful idea.”
When you’re brainstorming this sentence—or any variation on it—should never be uttered. Furthermore anyone guilty of this utterance should be slathered in honey and dropped in the nearest wildlife refuge to fend for himself. Okay so that may be a little extreme but the point is negativity of this sort has no place in your brainstorming session. It’s only through the creation of what psychologists call a “safe space” that you can produce a group dynamic that will yield the positive results you desire.
What may start as the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard could grow to become the brilliant campaign that nobody saw coming. People may come up with crazy notions they had on their way to work or in the shower that morning and although the ideas may not be fleshed out quite yet it’s more productive to entertain a thought than to shoot it down immediately because of superficial flaws.
Allow for piggybacking
When you’re brainstorming an effective tool to keep the process moving forward and evolving into what could be the idea you’re looking for is piggybacking (taking someone else’s thought or idea and adding your own unique addition to the concept). You can use this technique when you find yourselves stumped or you can use it to build upon a previously submitted idea. A decent idea can inspire someone else to tweak or improve upon it and from there it gets passed around until resulting in the best idea of the night.
Don’t be afraid to be literal
Brainstorming your ideas should be fun so why make the work any harder than it needs to be? Say your company’s tagline is “We Take You Higher ” and your boss says to you I want to really take our customers higher. Take him at his word: Produce a branded hot-air balloon and offer free rides and photos with every purchase. You can’t take your customers much higher than 1 000 feet!
Campaigns are frequently most press-worthy and connect with consumers when the association is easy to make if not blatantly obvious. Consumers are bombarded with thousands of messages a day so if you can make your association immediately recognizable they’re most likely to notice and retain the information.