ABC Signup Blog
With at least one eye focused on events, training and tech...


10 Ways to Market Your Events, Guerrilla-Style

Posted on Thu, January 1,2015 @ 14:09 PM

Sometimes, the most effective event marketing and promotion is the least conventional.

A $50,000 “B” movie shot in the woods with camcorders and a handful of no-name actors eventually grossed over $250 million worldwide thanks in part to a fabricated website detailing a supposedly real witch that haunts (or hunts?) rural Maryland. With this “urban legend” back story established over several months, the Blair Witch Project film’s tag line – about three filmmakers who trekked to document the witch, disappeared, and only the footage was found – hooked the gullible and the curious.

A videogame company, Acclaim, gained notoriety for its wild promotional ploys just prior to its periodic new game launches. It once paid people to legally change their name to a title character of a game (“Turok”), offered to pay for ads on headstones of the recently deceased for its Shadow Man roll out, and promised to pay all speeding tickets in the UK on launch day of its Burnout II racing game (the latter two offers were quickly rescinded, after garnering incredible publicity).

In a more simple, graffiti-style approach, Folgers painted a few manhole covers in New York City like the tops of coffee cups, taking advantage of the natural steam rising out. And a massive “Frontline” flea spray advert of a 100-foot dog on an atrium floor left quite an impression, especially from the aerial view that makes the human passersby look like the fleas.

These typically low-cost, unconventional tactics – dubbed guerrilla marketing – are edgy advertising with a twist. The successful campaigns grab our attention, often through trickery, before revealing their true purpose. Their cleverness trumps any angst caused by the usual bait and switch nature of the ruse.

The examples above involve creating something – a press release, surface “art” or a website – to draw attention to and create a buzz around a product or service. Each likely involved some professional assistance on the creative side. The concept of guerrilla marketing isn’t as familiar to event and program managers and probably elicits a muted initial response – it’s just not what you do, or something your organization does.

Or is it? There are, in fact, a myriad of guerrilla marketing tactics, including some you may already deploy, to promote your events. And, you don’t have to score a cover story on Advertising Age via your guerrilla effort to positively impact your events. Here are 10 guerrilla marketing tactics just about anyone can pull off:

1. Hold a Contest
People love to win, and contests are attention-getters. You’ll gain contact information in the process that helps build your customer/prospect database. Your contests can also be leveraged for broader promotion. Hubspot recently unveiled a contest awarding a free ticket to its annual conference to the most popular video testimonial submitted about their product. Anyone hosting a conference or convention can do similar.

2. Do a Public Demonstration
Find a very public place – preferably a place frequented by your target audience – and demonstrate what your program or event is all about. It might be a sneak performance, a condensed presentation – whatever works to tease your event and create interest.

3. Hang Attention-Getting Posters
Fliers and posters have been effective guerrilla marketing tools for events since man began writing on paper. But to rise above the heightened chatter (other fliers and posters), you need to create something that stands out. Your best bet is to try humor or shock or mystery or maybe some play off of something currently trending in pop culture. The Arizona Science Center, in launching its “Never Stop Wondering” campaign, hung semi-humorous, semi-surprising posters involving asparagus and a tag line directly above urinals in restrooms in the area.

4. Give Something Away
Free swag grabs attention and pleases everyone with the possible exception of your finance folks. Put your logo, website, event info or branding on just about anything and people will take it as fast as you can make it. Traditional items such as pens, t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, Frisbees and even thumb drives will help spread the word about your organization and events, but cleverly targeted giveaway items can really move the needle.

5. Fake Publicity Stunt
From the “Taco Liberty Bell” (Taco Bell’s facetious claim that it had purchased the Liberty Bell) to Burger King’s “left-handed Whopper,” publicity stunts can quickly vault a company into the public’s consciousness. No matter how weird or even bad (e.g., Acclaim’s offer to sell ad space on cemetery headstones), outside-of-the-box publicity stunts get publicity. Figure out a way to apply this concept to your events. If you offer computer training, dress up a few folks at IT “geeks” and have them protest your training with signs lamenting your effectiveness and the lack of calls they get as a result.

6. Bumper Stickers
Yes, there are too many bumper stickers – yet there’s still room for originality to make yours stand out. Be direct or be mysterious. Let people know where to get more information, or make them try to find out what’s behind the sticker. Place them just about anywhere that’s legal (as far as you know) – vehicles, street poles, bathroom stalls, etc. Put too many in illegal places and you might have a little more success than you want with item #5 (publicity stunt).

7. Targeted Business Card Placement
Think about the subject matter of your program or event, then visit your local bookstores and libraries and place a business card in as many books as you can find that are on topic. In a similar vein with business cards, re-work your card’s design to make it stand out and promo your offerings, even if you are just placing it in a fish bowl to win a free lunch.

8. Random Acts of Kindness
With your attention-getting business card handy, pay for the person behind you at a movie theater and leave your card for them with the cashier. Give an extra big tip at a restaurant, again, leaving the card behind. Or, perhaps pay for someone’s parking at a garage or lot frequented by your organization’s or event’s target audience. The idea isn’t just to win the one person over. It’s to connect with someone who might then share the story of your generosity on social media. If word spreads, that random act of kindness becomes a not-so-random act of marketing genius. If not, feel good about being kind!

9. Free Food
Nobody turns down free food – unless they fear they’ll have to sit through a sales pitch to get it. Offer the food, and make the pitch more indirect via a contest (#1), a public demonstration (#2), signage about the event (e.g., posters #3), brochures, freebies (#4), bumper stickers (#6) and so on. It’s okay to combine more than one guerrilla marketing tactic.

10. Put on a Gorilla Suit
If all else fails…put on a crazy costume, make sure your logo or branding is visible, throw in a sign with information about the event, and hit the bricks!

With any of these guerrilla marketing tactics, you’ll find more success if you are able to finesse the action so that it is able to target your desired audience. Don’t just come up with a great idea – plan the roll out so that it reaches and entices your prospects.

If you have anything you’d like to share about this article – perhaps some guerrilla marketing tactics that have helped promote your events – please post them in the Comments section below. If you would like to know more about online registration software and ABC Signup, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.



see all