Guerilla Marketing At Work | #MyFridayStory №234

Frans Nel
4 min readMar 8, 2024
Pixabay | Pexels

Since I first placed an advert for Wildcat Performance Exhausts in the Car Magazine in 1991, I have loved challenging accepted conventions by upending the status quo.

With a limited budget, we had to box smart to get noticed. An advert had been running for some time before I joined the company, but it was no longer bringing the desired results. I was told we could only afford a spot colour, single-column, square advert. Fortunately, at the time, our competition was limited, and our brand image was intact. However, bigger players were starting to enter the market with lower prices, albeit at a reduced quality. Our products were hand-built, and they were fitted onto each vehicle by our experienced technicians.

All our products were sold with a warranty that would only become effective once you completed a contact card and sent it to us for reference. Along with the normal questions for contact details, a host of other questions were included, such as where you heard about Wildcat, what publications you read, and other demographic information. We had filing cabinets full of these cards that we never looked at except for a possible warranty claim. We decided to capture all the information in a database that gave us a clear view of our customers and their likes and dislikes.

We gleaned valuable information which we could use to great effect in reaching our chosen audiences with timely, relevant information about our products and services. Within a short time, we managed to turn the advertising campaign into a steady flow of customers seeking us out above our competitors. It emerged that although we were priced higher than our competitors, the benefit of a warranty was of great significance to our customers. Having a guarantee of the workmanship and the materials we used gave them peace of mind that their vehicle was in good hands.

Our campaign centred around the quality of craftsmanship and the experience of our fitment teams. The warranty backed the claim that our performance exhausts would even outlast the original equipment. I enjoyed bringing this campaign to life so much that I signed up for night classes through The Institute of Marketing Management (IMM) to study marketing and sales management.

Some years later, I was the marketing manager for a small to medium-sized short-term insurance administrator. The head of the business was young and dynamic, with a leadership team that he had groomed to be the same. Despite our relatively smaller size, we set the standard by utilising the latest technology to boost our performance. With voice-recorded contracts, we eliminated the need to sit in front of a client to sign them up. Using a call-centre environment exponentially increased our capacity to write business.

However, building a brand that is memorable and likeable takes a lot more than having clever systems. Our new model made it possible to sign up outside brokers to work through our administration business. But without having a recognisable brand, we decided to approach the task more tactically, being strategic about our intentions.

The industry has a gala award evening every year that attracts over 1,500 guests. It is a black-tie affair with all the stops being pulled out to impress and delight the audience in attendance. The fine-dining three-course meals, the venue décor, and the entertainment all added to the glitz of the event. The first year, we paid sponsorship for our brand to be shown on a screen during dinner with a mention from the Master of Ceremonies. We animated our logo that appeared on the screen, unlike anyone else, and we made sure everyone knew who we were by cheering each time it appeared. We even got a special mention from the MC for our participation.

The cost of the sponsorship was a stretch for our budget, and we decided that next year we could do better with our investment.

At the time, we had done a complete brand overhaul, and our agency came up with a brilliant strap line that encompassed our desire to challenge convention. In life, things will always go wrong, and that is when you will most likely need your insurance. A more common but naughty phrase is, “Shit happens!” Our agency used this to great effect. They pitched our strap line as:

“_ _it happens!”

That year, we got a wrecked car and placed it right outside the venue where everyone had to pass it to enter. We had steam coming out of the engine bay with a sign, “_ _it happens!” We did not sponsor the event; instead, we used the opposite building as the screen to project our new logo and strap line. The next year, the organisers included a few clauses for sponsors and advertisers to try to put a stop to our tactics. Over the next few years, the business went on to grow exponentially while we continued to employ unconventional and unusual tactical marketing executions.

When you are smaller than the competition and you need to be heard and seen, it isn’t easy to compete with the deep pockets of corporates. Trying to beat them at their own game will cost you dearly in resources and without any guarantee that you will succeed. Implementing a tactical guerrilla marketing strategy helps to surprise and delight your potential audience in ways that traditional marketing is not able to do.

What effective yet unconventional marketing strategies have you come across?

By deciding to help others, you invite the joy of generosity into your life.

Have a great weekend and please remember to be generous! 😄

As always, thanks for reading. 🙏

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