A Battle of Creativity: Guerrilla vs. Traditional Marketing Tactics

tent city

An interesting development in marketing is the story of the Médecins du Monde, or MDM for simplicity (and pronounceability). MDM is a French non-governmental humanitarian aid organization with focus on providing help to the most vulnerable members of society. In late 2005 MDM wanted to draw attention to the condition of the homeless on the streets of Paris, particularly to the fact that there are hundreds of homeless that are cold and shivering at night. As a charitable organization MDM must be careful with their funds. With their goal of bringing attention to the homeless, they needed an advertising campaign that will cost the cheapest, but will deliver the most impact… and hopefully, action.

Dubbed the “tent city” initiative, MDM distributed around 300 “two second” tents, named as such because they did not need to be set-up with poles or pins and can be set-up in two seconds. The destitute of Paris, armed with the rapid-deploying tents, gathered in groups along some of the most iconic places in Paris such as the streets along the Canal Saint-Martin. The tents, emblazoned with the MDM logo, highlighted the sheer number of homeless people in Paris.

tent city

The campaign drew such severe public outrage that the government was forced to hold a rare off-season session and officials admitted that Paris’ homeless shelters were overcrowded. This resulted in the Junior Minister for Employment and Social Cohesion Catherin Vautrin announcing for an accommodation package of up to 1,270 hostel beds. The price for the package amounted to €7 million, and all from a campaign that cost more or less €12,000, which was the cost of the tents used.

Now take a look at one of the most memorable ad campaigns of 2012—the ‘Best Job’ by P&G. The campaign looked to highlight P&G’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic Games and to strengthen brand equity of the P&G products that moms use but in a very tasteful, touching, and subtle way. The campaign touched on one of the most important but the most thankless jobs in the life of an Olympian, which is the Olympians’ Moms.

Among other media channels and marketing venues, the campaign’s cornerstone was a two-minute short film commercial by award-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu, shot across four continents. The commercial goes to win the Best Primetime Commercial Emmy during the Creative Arts Emmy Award 2012.

The costs of that campaign, beginning with the Olympic sponsorship and the talent fee of an award-winning director, must be in the ‘off-the-charts’ and the ‘ridiculous’ category.

And with those two stories the core differences of guerrilla and ‘traditional’ marketing campaigns can be seen: guerrilla means “of, relating to, or suggestive of guerrillas especially in being aggressive, radical, or unconventional”, with unconventional being the direct antonym of the word ‘traditional’.

Guerrilla marketing’s primary objective is to be able to produce the most impact and the most word-of-mouth using the smallest portion of the advertising budget– and the only viable way to do that is to think of creative, innovative, and attention-grabbing campaigns that really smack your target market in the face. It makes them think, inspires them to share the story, and, if the campaign really hits a nerve, to take action. It may be a humongous picture of a dog on the floor for a flea removing product, which if seen above makes the people look like they were fleas. Or it may be the odd bus with a picture of a flashlight using the headlights as a bulb with the brand name on it. Because its value is solely based on its creativity and potential for grabbing attention, it requires intensive improvement of knowledge work. Agencies have to know what tickles the fancy of their target market so that they will be amused and/or moved by the campaign.

Because scale is not the issue but rather impact, guerrilla marketing can be launched in specific places and with specific groups of people – it can be a powerful tool for new businesses with limited budgets who simply want to make noise and to draw attention to them. It can also be a tool for old and big businesses to revive interest in their products by giving consumers an unusual perspective into them. They rely heavily on word-of-mouth to generate interest and attention.

Traditional marketing is also built on the same principles: intensive knowledge work, impact, and creativity. However unlike guerrilla marketing it is the usual massive, above-the-line advertising efforts, with prime TV spots for commercials, print ads, posters, radio commercials, and celebrity endorsements.

In traditional marketing, scale is the issue. The usual users of traditional marketing are those companies whose products have multiple and many competitors. These companies, particularly FMCGs like P&G, would like to constantly remind their consumers why they should be chosen, by appearing in your TV, newspapers, radio, and posters at well-researched and regular intervals.

That is why the take-away from this article are the words saturation and social media. In a world that supports capitalism, the companies that are vying for consumer’s wallet share are increasing. People have too many choices. Companies must learn to fling themselves into the faces of their customers or risk being overlooked. With the rise of social media, marketer’s have at their disposal access to the most powerful endorser of all—their consumers who share stories about their products. But they have to be able to create ad campaigns worthy enough to be shared.

By Kimberly Grimms

Kimberly Grimms is a futurist who spends most of her time monitoring social behavior in search for new consumer trends. She uses the information to create viral and useful content. She mostly addresses young professionals, educating them easy to digest content about business, online marketing, social media management, and even technology.

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