Guerilla tactics may be missing the target

GUERILLA marketing – the technique that promised to give small businesses a way to win the promotions battle with their bigger competitors – does not appear to be living up to the hype.

Indeed, many marketing experts say guerilla marketing is just another fancy term for targeted or niche marketing.

Guerilla marketing relies on reaching customers through unusual means and can help people selling niche products to break through the advertising clutter.

US marketer Conrad Jay Levinson started the craze when he published his book Guerilla Marketing.

That title has since spawned a number of spin-off books.

JMG Marketing managing director Jim Murphy said the concept of guerilla marketing never really achieved much and was really just a way for some consultants to create a new fad.

“Half the consultants in the world need a new word to define something,” he said.

Mr Murphy said guerilla marketing had some merit if there was sufficient information for people to base their marketing approach on.

“In the UK, marketers have a much better idea of who their customers are,” he said.

“Perth is not big enough for marketers to be able to find that sort of information.”

Edith Cowan University marketing lecturer KY Lee said the problem of finding sufficient customer data in Perth would stop most guerilla marketing campaigns before they started.

He also agrees with the view that guerilla marketing is just a fad.

“The concept grew out of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, which was a big business book a few years back,” Mr Lee said.

For guerilla marketing to work, he said, marketers need

ed to know not only where potential customers lived but also where they worked, what newspapers they read and even what television shows they watched.

“The main source of market data in Perth comes from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. However, that data is geographically based,” Mr Lee said.

“Guerilla marketing plans look good on paper but it’s the implementation that’s the problem. You know the type of customers you want and the offer that you will give them.

“The problem comes when you talk about trying to reach and communicate with your target market.”

He said small businesses were better to stick to niches if they wanted to succeed.

“The moment you start trying to operate in the mainstream you have problems if you are a small operator on your own,” Mr Lee said.

“Jesters [Jaffle Pie Co] is a classic example. It is going mainstream and took the franchise route to get size so it could compete with the majors. It’s one of the fastest growing franchises around.

“In a niche people will come to you because they can’t get your service anywhere else.”

However, guerilla marketing has proved useful for some.

Family Business Awards winner Kym Illman’s company Messages on Hold is probably better known for its marketing techniques than its actual service.

Mr Illman is a voracious user of ambush marketing – a variation on the guerilla marketing theme.

His technique involves placing people wearing or carrying items bearing the Messages on Hold logo prominently in TV camera shot at major sporting events.

Some of Mr Illman’s coups include ‘hijacking’ TV shots at international golf events and the Melbourne Cup, and ambushing Australian cricketer Shane Warne on his arrival at Perth airport.

Indeed, the Shane Warne event garnered the company more publicity than just the standard coverage because the Messages on Hold people were ejected from the airport.

Such approaches are not limited to small players either.

Although it did not actively encourage the stunt, Vodafone won a lot of publicity for one of its new products when two streakers with the relevant logos painted onto their bodies interrupted a recent rugby union test between Australia and New Zealand.

Braincells director Howard Cearns said guerilla marketing could be a useful tool. He said his company did a lot of communications plans for companies.

“If they don’t have a lot of money we try and incorporate some guerilla marketing ideas,” Mr Cearns said.

“To me it is more about getting the biggest bang for your buck. Guerilla marketing is about making an impact.

“Perth, I think, is a market where if you can come up with a marketing concept that is clever it will really take off.

“It’s about doing things differently to those that are dominant in the market.

“It’s hard to use the same channels as the big guys because they will always outspend you.”

Mr Cearns said guerilla marketing was about identifying the customers a company wanted to target and going after them in non-mainstream ways.

“It’s almost sniper marketing rather than target marketing because you are almost going after individual customers,” he said.

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