Guerrilla Geometry for Content Creation
Guerrilla Marketing is not about working cheap. It's about working smarter - with a little help from geometry.
Long before there were webpages and social media, there was Jay Conrad Levinson and his book Guerrilla Marketing, published in 1984. The title caught imaginations and was quickly adopted by marketing professionals as jargon for nearly every off-the-beaten-path marketing tactic - most of them cheap, throw-away concepts like slapping stickers on a traffic sign or a wall. That's where most of them went wrong.
The term guerrilla marketing is a direct reference to irregular warfare tactics used by smaller forces to gain the advantage over a larger, and probably better-equipped ones: using intelligence and surprise tactics against massive organized military apparatus. Unfortunately, just about any non-traditional process has become “guerrilla.” As a result, many activities that people call ‘guerrilla’ are decidedly NOT guerrilla; like doing things on the cheap, which is the greatest distortion of the concept. But I believe most would-be guerrillas fail on the most vital point of all: intelligence.
Geometry Drives the Message
The most important tool of the guerrilla is knowledge: knowing as much as possible; not of just the "enemy," but also of himself. Codified into battlefield parlance, that's "intelligence:" the gathering of information through surveillance, observation, reconnaissance, and espionage. Without intelligence, how can we set targets and goals? How do we measure success?
Again, using warfare as an example, the guerrilla tactician collects and prioritizes all of the information she has at her disposal. She weighs them for strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat. Then she triangulates her intelligence into a framework of geometry and an actionable plan.
We already commit a great deal of geometry; when we probe demographics to define our target audience and search for favorable openings for messaging. We use geometry to disrupt the playing field with new creatives and high-impact surprise. But, how do we use geometry to look for ways to subtly shoehorn our content where and when it'll have the highest impact? What does it take to create content that engages people on a more personal and memorable level and generate lasting impressions?
I found some of the answers from Levinson's toolkit of nontraditional methodologies: ambient marketing, word-of-mouth, buzz marketing, undercover marketing, viral marketing, and so on. Each activity does more than emphasize the positive experience of existing customers; it boosts content into the path of new customers - creating anticipation for [fill in the blank - it's your deal]. But how do you plot anticipation?
When I was working in the hospitality and lodging industry, I came across the concept of “touchpoint marketing” - a research model that focuses study on the minutia of the customer experience. The model was used chiefly for surveying opinion-forming experiences. It measured cause and effect behavior of the target audience at every point of contact - from front desk to departure. Our client, Marriott Hotels, used this model to conduct in-depth research on guest behavior and found that lasting impressions and opinions about the entire chain formed during the first two minutes of direct contact with the property. Marriott surveyed guest impressions of the front desk, guest rooms, staff interaction, the lobby, halls, amenities, and even the parking lot. This data helped the chain triangulate the guest experience and plan areas that needed improvement or upgrade. Management also created schedules of value enhancements - guest discounts, freebies, and specials.
I thought of my experiences in other sectors (technology, real estate, legal services, healthcare, et cetera) and realized that the same model applies to all businesses. Within this geometry of attitudes and behaviors, I could triangulate my content by predicting touchpoints that draw the most attention from my target audience. Ah ha!
This complex geometry of behaviors opens up what I believe is a strong tactical tool for content creators. You can play with audience interest and deploy tactical dazzle with a dab of insight and creativity; and armed with a whole lot of common sense. And here's the thing - and this is sooo very important: this exercise doesn't have to cost a nickel more than what you're doing already! How about that? If your marketing budget is about 5-6% of projected gross revenues, you're already spending enough. You may have to re-order/re-prioritize some expenses, but in my experience - you won't have to increase your budget.
One caveat - like guerrillas on the battlefield, it takes good intelligence to be successful. If you lack time/funds for extensive primary research, find quick/cheap fill-ins to get the data you need (secondary sources, anecdotes, word-of-mouth). "Deep thinking" alone is not a substitute for research (curb your assumptions!).
I incorporate Levinson's concepts in just about everything I do. I agree with him that entrepreneurs and small organizations are better able to undertake 'guerrilla tactics' because they are usually closer to their customers and considerably more agile. I think it was true in the 80s when he wrote his book, and I think it is still true today. However, Levinson goes on to explain that any organization - no matter how large or small - can execute guerrilla activities that generate high energy audience engagement and locking power with the target audience. But the key is the relationships you build with the the target audience:
In order to sell a product or a service, a company must establish a relationship with the customer. It must build trust and support the customer's needs, and it must provide a product that delivers the promised benefits.
Among Levinson's top guerrilla principles, I believe these SIX are the most relevant today:
1) Aim for more referrals and more transactions from existing customers - word-of-mouth is the best single greatest benefit of guerrilla marketing.
2) Establish a single strategy (e.g., increase unique page views, increase inquiries) and apply a combination of marketing methods in a single campaign; launch several campaigns (big and small).
3) Current technology is a tool, not the means to build your business. Learn all you can and use them to fulfill the goals in your strategy.
4) Aim small messages at individuals or small target markets; the smaller the better.
5) Message for the "opt-in" - not always to get the sale. Get the individual to accept you as a source of entertainment and information.
6) Go deep and long. Apply the concept of effective frequency and stick to your brand and messaging for long-term effect.
I found that the "touchpoint" approach can apply in just about every instance. Don't just create content to fill the space - generate content that anticipates the mood and motive of the target audience.
Here's an example of a guerrilla tactic that deploys smart touchpoint geometry. The producers of the film Terminator: Genesis wanted to make a splash for the opening. What better ambassador than Arnold himself?
Guerrilla marketing at its best. Cheap? Hell no. Effective? Absolutely. Far better than a whole slate of ads and a wall of stickers. The video, by the way, picked up more than 20 million views, 167,000 likes, and more than 100,000 shares. In my humble opinion, serial deployment of various guerrilla tactics saved the film from what could have been a less-than-impressive opening.
The content creator's ROI: relevant, optimized, impact
Although the subtitle of Levinson's book reads: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business, Guerrilla marketing is about cheap marketing strategies. Sure, can be a less expensive alternative to big dollar campaigns – but you still need research, great design and content that drives audience engagement; you still need to deploy imagination in places where other people have overlooked; you still need to be tasteful and mindful of your target audience. Which brings me to my own guerrilla principle:
If you want penetration, the message must be relevant to a specific target audience. If you want to trigger interaction with your audience and truly engage their interest, your message must be optimized for THEM. If you want conversion from your engagements and interactions with your audience, the message must carry impact on specific interests they have. These three - relevance, optimization, impact - must work in total concert with each other for the campaign to work effectively and efficiently.
Still want to slap stickers on a wall like other so-called guerrillas who have come before you? That's your business. But if you truly want to engage markets like a guerrilla, your campaign must be guided by intelligence.