Guerrilla marketing can build brand, relationship

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Renegade Marketing, a New York-based guerrilla marketing agency, uses a distinctive design feature on its Web site to show how it cuts through the clutter: a handsaw, complete with sawing sounds, that cuts a circle out of the home page.

It is this type of engaging tactic that has garnered success for the 5-year-old agency, co-founded by Drew Neisser and Shigeo Sugawa with the mission of finding unconventional ways to build brands.

While the agency uses traditional marketing such as print advertising, Web site development, events and direct mail to help its clients build brands, it also creates out-of-the box ideas to build awareness with a bang.

Renegade’s clients include Panasonic USA, Fannie Mae and Brother Industries.

Drew Neisser, president-CEO, spoke with BtoB about how marketers can use guerrilla marketing to help build their brand and strengthen relationships with customers.

BtoB: How do you define guerrilla marketing?

Neisser: Where you make up for a lack of funds with imagination and hard work. We are talking about creating a one-on-one brand experience that engages prospects in a way that doesn’t happen in non-interactive media encounters. Clients might say, “We have something new to do—reaching a new target or launching a new product—and we don’t want to communicate it in the same old way we’ve done it in the past.” From the guerrilla perspective, you make a clean start to engage the prospect and get them involved in brands, and build a sustainable relationship.

BtoB: How does it work?

Neisser: It will not work unless it’s likable and engages the prospect in a way that surprises them, makes them laugh and gets them involved. You start with a one-on-one encounter that is so memorable, the prospect wants to talk to you some more. The difference between a guerrilla tactic and a stunt is that this is not a one-off; it is the start of building an ongoing relationship. We use guerrilla offline to break the ice and start the relationship, and we use online to maintain the relationship and provide more information.

BtoB: Does guerrilla work for b-to-b marketers as well as for business-to-consumer marketers?

Neisser: B-to-b marketers need to do it more than b-to-c marketers because for hard-to-reach prospects, you can’t get into their offices. You need something to get their attention and get them out of their offices, either through events or high-impact direct pieces or some other way to get them out of their cubes.

BtoB: Can you give an example?

Neisser: Interadnet, an ad serving company, had a real need to reach media planners at ad agencies, and they had to do it really fast. Their positioning was, they made complicated software but they made it simple. We created a big box for a high-impact direct mail piece, and inside were little baby Timberland boots with the message, “This is the first step to a simpler ad serving solution.” The offer was, if you took a meeting you would get a free pair of adult Timberland boots. We sent out 100 pieces, and got a 60% response rate with 60 meetings.

BtoB: Besides direct mail, what other tactics do you use?

Neisser: Trade shows, which typically have a lot of obstacles. First, there is the cost of the booth, building the booth then getting salespeople to [work at] the booth. Then, at the trade show, you’re fighting for the attention of every trade show attendee. You have to figure out a way to get people to come to your booth and establish a presence outside the booth within the confines of the exhibit space. … Because the b-to-b universe tends to be more conservative, the opportunity to stand out with even a tiny bit of cleverness is huge.

BtoB: What do marketers need to be careful of when engaging in guerrilla marketing?

Neisser: You should avoid stealth marketing, which is engaging the prospect without them knowing they are being engaged. Branding is all about trust. You can’t do anything to threaten trust. There’s a lot going on with text messaging. B-to-b marketers ought to avoid that because they have to watch out for spam. That said, e-mail is a very important part of relationship marketing. Marketers are going to need to look at e-mail lists and go overboard to get [recipients’] permission. Spam has become such a pervasive problem, you need to make sure to get legitimate permission. Remember when [Johnson & Johnson] triple-sealed its product [following the Tylenol-tampering scare]? Online marketers will have to do the same thing.

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