No budget? Apply guerrilla marketing ideas to the social web

I first connected with Nathan Dube in 2009 when I fell in love with his now-famous destroy your printer contest. This guy has a knack for making something out of nothing and is the ideal person to talk about guerrilla marketing and the social web on our next installment of Community Week on {grow}:

Guerrilla marketing is about eclectic combinations of music, mystery, art, culture, humor and social dynamics coming together into a sales pitch that doesn’t appear to be a sales pitch. It manifests itself as a hip invitation to join or to be part of a movement.

One of the most infamous recent examples of guerrilla marketing was when the adult swim Network placed electronic signs for its Aqua Teen Hunger Force show around Boston, resulting in a bomb scare and eventual arrests. It didn’t work, but you get the idea. I’ve had to resort to guerrilla tactics myself in my job with Expert Laser Services, primarily because I needed to sell more stuff, but had no money for marketing. I had to get inventive. I had to get guerrilla.

An idea sprang from my own frustrations of having to deal with office laser printers and copiers which simply didn’t work … when you needed them most. In fact, I genuinely developed a hatred for certain pieces of office equipment.

Through Twitter, blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn, I promoted a contest that would award a small prize to the video depicting the most creative destruction of a printer. People blew them up, tossed them out of windows and crushed them with a backhoe. In essence, the social web was providing my content. Remember, I had no budget!

Soon, the project was featured all over the web and was the top video story in an online trade magazine for several consecutive weeks. We actually generated sales leads and new customers from this promotion.

But the most fun guerrilla social media tactic had nothing to do with business, it involved my band, Jabooda.

When the band formed four years ago, I produced several thousand stickers that read “What is Jabooda?” Through friends of friends of friends, these stickers made it on to random spots throughout the United States and even Europe.

When we came out with the second generation of stickers I included a small URL on each one to help people connect with us on the web.  In addition to hitting the streets with the sticker, we got guerrilla with the distribution process, too.

Two of the guys from the band worked for FedEx and started to put a supply of stickers in every truck they unloaded or loaded. Over the course of the year “what is Jabooda” became a bit of a sensation and we gained new fans at FedEx hubs in nearly every state and many countries around the world.  FedEx had become our own personal social media network!

The stickers drove people to our website where we were able to collect names for our mailing list.

About two years ago some of our new fans built a page on Facebook to lobby to get us on the bill at the Wormtown Music Festival, one of New England’s longest-running and most popular music events. We did not get the slot, but we were moving in the right direction.

The following year the competition heated up and Facebook alone wasn’t going to do it. To get into Wormtown’s Strangecreek festival lineup the next year, we had to win a battle of the bands competition. We actually made it to the finals but to win, part of the criteria was the size of our fan base. It was time to use that mailing list!

We got the word out to all those crazy Jabooda fans and were able to attract a large crowd from several different states. In fact, it was the largest crowd of the night and we won, securing our place on the festival bill.

Don’t have a marketing budget? Don’t let it get you down. Go guerrilla!

Nathan Dube has been a long-time member of the {grow} community and is a marketing and sales professional at Expert Laser Services near Boston.

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  • This is wonderfully creative (and cheeky!) stuff. Thanks Nathan and Mark for introducing us. My question to either of you is – would you consider this type of marketing akin to the old type of ‘shouting’ publicity which produces sales at the other end of the marketing funnel, rather than loyal customers? Or is there something about it – maybe something social – that encourages some loyalty? Either is a valid and well-earned outcome but I tend to think it’s the latter because of the affinity you are engendering by getting people to collaborate and create. I’d be interested in your thoughts?

  • Mark W Schaefer

    As I think about guerilla marketing of ant type, there really is no loyalty component. It s really all about awareness. You still have to eventually “earn” your customer the old fashioned way!

  • I think anything that involves large doses of time, energy and imagination effectively employed should be wholeheartedly embraced. Heck, I’d love to see Guerrilla Teaching, Guerrilla Parenting, Guerrilla Service Provision, etc.

    Surprising people out of the stupor that can become their lives in unexpected and intriguing ways is a gift to the world. I really enjoyed this post and applaud your ingenuity and creativity.

  • I want a Jabooda sticker. I don’t know “what a Jabooda is” 😉 but it’s fun to say the name and I bet no one in Winston has one.. Great piece and tell me where I can get my sticker..

  • I’ve heard of crowd-sourcing material, but this is beautiful! The idea has to tickle or poke enough to get people to engage, which you’ve done, and it’s the engaged followers that you want. Makes me think about what I could do similarly… Hmm. “Worst test question you’ve ever seen…”

    Thanks for making me think in a different direction!

  • Thanks for the feedback everyone!

    @Mike – I don’t think our particular case study here is akin to shouting. Now that is not to say that there are not some cases of guerrilla marketing that are in fact shouting. However we as a band definitely did not want to “shout” at people.

    The stickers gave people a choice to find out more about us or ignore us. We gave potential fans the option to choose to be affected by our marketing efforts or not.

    @Kristen – If you want to shoot me an e-mail with a po box or address to send you stickers I will absolutely send you one, if you want I could send you a bunch of them.

    @Sally – Thank you for the compliments, I am glad you enjoyed the concept as much as we have.

    @George – Many thanks, I am glad to offer some inspiration for your own guerrilla marketing efforts.

    @Mark – “You still have to eventually “earn” your customer the old fashioned way!” > This is so true. Once you bring the masses to your product it has to be good or the whole process of such marketing tactics will have been for naught.

  • Thanks Mark,

    A social media campaign should always consider Guerrilla Marketing just as much as the campaign should include the possibility of banner advertising. Social Media isn’t about Facebook; it may be fueled by their growth but success only works for clients once the client understands that a social media campaign considers all methods on achieving the campaigns objectives.

  • Nathan – What great examples of how to get a lot of bang for hardly any bucks! I think there are several factors that are critical to the success of these types of campaigns – in combination or standalone:
    1. Hitting that hot button that makes people think, “OMG, that’s me!” as you did with the Kill Your Printer campaign.
    2. Create an iresistable air of intrigue that lets people feel like they’re in-the-know. How these types of “mysterious” campaigns capture the imagination of thousands is often inexplicable, but when it works, it really works! (Like your Jabooda example)
    3. Entertain – Everyone wants to have fun. If you provide something that makes people smile and that they can in turn use to make their friends smile (or lauch an evil mwahahahah), you’ve got a winner.

    Thanks for getting the wheels turning! 🙂

  • I’m sure there are many out there racking their head trying to find ways to promote themselves or “go viral” when all they need is to just have fun with it (ok, maybe myself included). Of course I’m presuming you had a blast with your guerrilla campaigns.

    So you have me convinced Nathan… do I get my Jabooda sticker too?

  • @Johnny – sure thing! just send me an address and I will send you a few (this goes for anyone else that wants them to)
    DM me on twitter! > @dubiousmonk

    And yes, this campaign has been a total blast and it just keeps getting better. We can always print new stickers and as long as they are getting to new places they seem to generate the same intrigue.

  • Go guerilla and you, too, can be the envy of all others and say with conviction: “Jabooda this.”

    Love it.

  • @Arminda – Thanks for the kind words sister. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Figured I would share some of our music if anyone is interested > Jabooda Live at the 2010 Wormtown Music Festival, Camp Kee Wanee, Greenfield, MA >

  • I enjoyed your music Nathan, thanks for sharing it. At the 2 mins 14 second mark, I thought the bass player was about to break into Rock Lobster (by the B52s) ~ not sure where my head was. Had I been there, I’d have been dancing on the periphery with the lady with the hoops.

  • Thanks Sally! Funny you should say that, Trav (our bassist) may have been teasing the rock lobster theme, he likes to throw a few lines of random songs in improvisational segments from time to time.

    Thanks for checking out the vid! Have a great day!

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  • working on guerrilla marketing right now so great info!

  • Anonymous

    Good ideas and insights to get the ball rolling, and the creative juices flowing. For me, Guerrilla Marketing is a launchpad for proverbial rockets: Each has a specified purpose and, when launched, continue to do their own thing. What’s important isn’t to wait around to see how the mission goes. You need to immediately begin preparing that next rocket, with a new mission. And – if you’re really adept – I believe that traditional marketing, in the long term, can often be
    avoided entirely.

    – Heath D. Alberts, C.E.O. – Digital Ninjas Media, Inc.

  • Lineskipper

    We use this tactic for our nightclub promotions and it Def works!

  • Thanks for your tips, Nathan.

    We’ve been working on a blog post called “Guerilla Music Marketing” that will be published on our blog tomorrow:

    You’ve provided some great ideas here, and we’ve referenced this article in our blog post.

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  • Nathan Dube

    Awesome, many thanks for your interest in my bands marketing story!

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