Guerrilla Marketing FAILS
Guerrilla marketing can be an excellent way to draw attention without spending large sums of money on traditional advertisements, yet some key considerations must be kept in mind before diving in with this form of promotion.
Guerrilla marketing campaigns often lack the traditional reporting methods used by marketing professionals to assess effectiveness, leaving their effectiveness unmeasured and perhaps leading to negative reactions from consumers.
1. Cartoon Network’s 2007 Boston Mooninite Panic
Fifteen years ago this month in Boston, an unfortunate marketing stunt went terribly awry, leading to city-wide terror scare and prompting Cartoon Network’s general manager at the time to resign in disgust. Some see this incident as evidence of post-9/11 overreaction and paranoia while others remember it as an example of how guerilla marketing campaigns can cause panic among masses of people.
Turner Broadcasting’s Adult Swim division decided to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s premiere by using a promotional campaign featuring illuminated characters from the show – with devices placed throughout Boston to draw audience attention and draw them towards watching.
Interference’s street marketing devices were small LED displays designed to look like circuit boards. Each display had wires hanging off it and were strategically placed at subway stations, under bridge spans, and bus transit stops to cause confusion among commuters who may mistakenly believe they were bombs causing panic among commuters. Within moments after placement they were quickly surrounded by police vehicles and bomb squads, traffic stopped completely, commuters evacuated their subway trains immediately, traffic was stopped entirely, evacuation orders issued – an event covered live by cable news networks throughout that day and was covered live on cable news networks!
After it became evident that the devices posed no danger, people began to relax. Unfortunately, however, many still felt the need to blame someone. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino called this incident an act of “unconscionable behavior in light of all that has transpired since September 11th,” and advised residents to avoid public areas. Additionally, Governor Deval Patrick wrote Turner a letter demanding restitution to cover police response costs.
Cartoon Network and its agency had promised not to create such an uproar with its campaign, yet this fiasco served as a cautionary tale for any brand considering running a guerrilla marketing initiative. These campaigns require significant creativity, time, and energy – even with best intentions in place, these can turn disastrous in an instant!
As such, brands must carefully assess all risks before embarking on any guerilla marketing initiative and ensure they have enough resources available to them to see the project through. Otherwise, it could quickly turn into a nightmare that damages their brand image and causes major headaches for all involved. Therefore, consulting a marketing professional before giving life to ideas can be invaluable; they will help identify all potential pitfalls and strategies for avoidance and help ensure your guerilla marketing won’t backfire on you!
2. Vodafone’s Romanian Pickpocketing Campaign
Guerrilla marketing can be an extremely useful tool for companies, but it comes with certain risks. While some guerilla marketing campaigns have proven wildly successful, others have gone horribly wrong and become legendary or nightmare-inducing failures; one notable instance being 2007 Boston Mooninite Panic; although seemingly successful on paper but proved catastrophic for all involved companies involved.
Vodafone was yet another example of unsuccessful guerilla marketing tactics when they attempted to leverage their reputation for innovation to promote their new cell phone insurance policy in Romania. To accomplish this goal, they hired professional pickpockets who would discreetly slip mobile phone-shaped flyers into people’s pockets or handbags as an attempt to show how easily someone could steal someone else’s cellphone while convincing them to purchase Vodafone’s policy. Unfortunately, their plan ultimately backfired badly!
Though it may have been intended as an effective means of drawing attention to Vodafone cell phone insurance, this guerilla marketing tactic was ultimately ineffective at getting people to purchase their product and instead felt intrusive and intrusive to personal space and privacy. I imagine even Jay Conrad Levinson, who popularized guerilla marketing with his 1984 book on this subject would have had strong opinions against such a stunt.
While these examples of guerrilla marketing failures have gained notoriety, many other less-notable mistakes were also committed by companies using this form of advertising. North Face used its signature packaging to draw attention to its brand – packaging rocks and sticks in regular North Face boxes was an ingenious way of getting people thinking about buying their clothing – while Dublin City Council used similar tactics to remind people to deposit gum into garbage cans rather than on sidewalks as part of an anti-trash initiative – it proved far less successful at garnering interest than North Face had intended!
3. Coca-Cola’s “Shocking” Admittance
Coca-Cola is an intriguing company as both an enormous American multinational corporation, often accused of war crimes and genocide, as well as an iconic pop culture symbol. While some might shrug off this notion that businesses could commit evil while turning a blind eye to its effects, Coke stands out as being both beloved brand and symbol of corporate America.
This is the story of “New Coke.” It’s an example of marketers not appreciating brand loyalty and overstepping their boundaries, when Coca-Cola decided to change its iconic formula, they weren’t prepared for the emotional reactions it would create from loyal consumers; performing over 190,000 blind taste tests did nothing to prepare them for how loyal consumers might respond to this decision.
Coca-Cola underestimated their decisions’ effects in terms of guerilla marketing. For example, they signed exclusive pouring rights contracts with schools requiring them to serve only soda in cafeterias – these contracts discouraged students from purchasing healthy options such as juice or milk from vending machines and led to multiple lawsuits being brought against the Coca-Cola company.
Roberto Goizueta was then Coke’s CEO. His erratic and inflexible acquisition strategy resulted in his dismissal and caused its stock price to plunge, while his remarks regarding vending machines that automatically raised prices during hot weather further angered bottling executives. Finally, Coke’s decision to dramatically raise bottler fees for concentrate proved offensive to them and hurt further their stock value.