A Guide to Guerilla Marketing Ideas
Recently, I was involved in a campaign to promote the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra's final concert, which featured music from Argentina, specifically tango. There were two professional dancers who performed during a handful of numbers, and as a fun promotional tool, I was hired to supervise tango dancing living statues, who would appear in various locations around town, and when tango music erupted (from my nearby Philips Blue Tooth Speaker), the statues would come to live, dancing to the tango music until the song ended, where they would return to their frozen state. It led to publicity in the Grand Forks Herald (our local newspaper), and WDAZ Evening News. As the promotion continued on, people began to recognize us wherever we showed up. People knew why we were there, and they would stop to watch for a few moments. Sometimes, we would show up to a location (mentioned in the paper), and community members would be there waiting to witness the event. I attended the symphony, and the place was pretty full. Whether attendees were there because of the promotion or not, it is difficult to judge without doing a survey of the entire crowd (but who wants to do that when there’s music to be heard?). However, a number of guests did mention that they caught the living statues, and came to the show because of it. So regardless, both the organizers and myself consider the endeavor to be a success. I’ve done Living Statue work before, for businesses or organizations, and sometimes it involved a promotional quality. I’ve also done a bit of street performance (often just getting into costume and walking the streets and experimenting with different bits). This was the first time however that it was a concerted effort (pardon the pun), to use street performance to advertise a specific event. Here’s what I learned.
Be Prepared to Perform to No One
Sometimes a location and time slot seems like a great idea on paper. Movie theatre at a prime time when all the movies generally start? You show up, you get ready, and then only a handful of people pass by. What happened? Oh, no new movies had come out that weekend, or the previous two weekends? Drat. Or how about a time slot for an event that the previous day was jam-packed? Nope, today barely anyone attended the event.
These sorts of things happen. And they can happen often. But the best approach is to give it your all anyway. You never know if the small handful of people who do end up passing by and witnessing your street performance will end up telling everyone about what they saw down on the street. The beauty of street performance is that it can brighten someone’s day. It’s something unexpected, and most people, even if they don’t stop for an extended length of time, walk away with a smile on their face.
Just because traffic isn’t as heavy as you might like, do not give yourself an excuse to slack off.
It Doesn’t Need to be Complex
Some of the dancers I had practiced quite a bit. They could do several tango maneuvers as if they had been dancing for years. Other dancers had a simpler dance vocabulary. In either case, the simple idea boiled down to two people dancing on the street (or inside the venue if the business allowed us). Pedestrians or shoppers got a kick out of either way, and often stopped to read our sign with the concert details. Some stopped to ask me questions (I was always within five to ten feet of the performers for that very reason). We generated interest off of the simple idea.
Street marketing can be simple. In fact, as a street performer, I found the most-simple ideas I had were often more effective than elaborate bits I had cooked up. When people are walking by quickly, the complex ideas can take too long to develop and people are trying to get from one place to another. It is difficult to hold their attention for more than five to ten seconds unless they choose to stay and watch. Simple bits can grab their attention in that time.
Not Everyone Will Want to Talk to You
For every handful of people who stopped and watched us, there were a dozen more who quickly passed by. For every person who asked questions and chatted with me about it, there were five times more people who were mortified at the idea of talking to a stranger who is promoting an event.
And that’s okay. The experience isn’t about taking people hostage. It’s about sharing a moment with folks who want to share it with you, and letting them know about a cool gig coming up. No need to take it personally when someone doesn’t want to hear about it. But when you find that person who is very interested about learning more, it is totally worth it.
Cool Publicity Can Gather More Cool Publicity
When you do something unique, it can get people talking. It can also gain the interest of local news outlets. That’s definitely what happened with us. It is a difficult task for the news to figure out what to include in their respective mediums. But when you do something unique, it is more likely to get some press. And getting press generates buzz.
So… Doing something that generates buzz can help get coverage which generates more buzz.
Since returning to Grand Forks, North Dakota, I have been put on the news more than once while dressed up like a statue, or as a fishing bobber, or as the supervisor of living statue tango dancers because I am doing something unique that people don’t see often in this area.
Do Unique Things for Good Reasons
Helping promote the symphony was a good cause. They provide a benefit to the community (culture and entertainment). It can be a wonderful, feel good story to do this type of work for good causes. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I was in Fargo, North Dakota and drove past the Hotel Donaldson, a prominent building in the downtown area, that was covered from the roof to the ground in bras. This is a great example of something simple that helps raise awareness for a great cause.
I loved doing this work. Anytime I’ve gotten to dress up and do something on the street, I loved the experience. It can be grueling (on the sidewalk in the middle of the afternoon can get quite hot and uncomfortable if you’re spending hours mostly not moving as a living statue), but ultimately the impact on those who witness the performance is positive. It adds a layer to the community. And that is why I do what I do. If I can promote another business or organization in the process, it is an even better deal. And if it generates more buzz because of it? Awesome.