Trade Event Report
The NYAMA's Rise of the Jungle: Guerrilla Marketing Goes Mainstream, + + + + +
By Al Berrios (contact Al Berrios)

I thought Javits was an overused venue, but in one week I ended up sitting in the same seat in the same auditorium in the same building 3 times. McGraw-Hill must be giving their conference facilities away! But seriously, this event on Feb 12 was interesting and more insightful than I thought it was going to be. Scion, MTV, Sony Ericsson, J&J's McNeil's, and a guerrilla marketing firm with large clients all presented their guerrilla strategies and thoughts. (The panel was moderated by Stuart Elliott, Advertising columnist for The New York Times. I must confess, I stopped reading Stu's column a long time ago because Advertising Age always said it first. But Stu is just a breadth-shy of being hilarious. He impressed me more than I'll probably admit to his face.)

The only person that really opened my mind was Jon Maron, former marketing comm. director for Sony Ericsson, and the guy most directly responsible for hiring actors to act like tourists around the country and ask residents to snap their pics with their Sony Ericsson cam-phones. This guy really made it clear what guerrilla is (or should be).

Guerrilla marketing is creative thinking, which crosses the borders of traditional advertising and media to create a totally new platform on which to build powerful relationships with consumers. It's still not fully measurable and shouldn't be expected to work on its own, but it's definitely the new frontier for jaded marketers tired of the same routine and thinking from their traditional agencies.

Guerrilla attempts to transform the ordinary consumer into a "brand ambassador" whether they're aware of it or not. It introduces a brand to the consumer while they're not really exposed to media (or tuning it out) and that approach is supposed to encourage them to repeat the process to their social networks.

Guerrilla works when the product works. That's to say, although it can work for virtually any brand, because you're practically giving control of the message over to the consumer, if the product is of poor quality, then so will your message. Viral is what happens from a strong guerrilla effort.

Like any marketing communications investment, large marketers that utilize it expect guerrilla to yield some sort of return on investment. Ultimately, any exec worth his salary will tell you that the only real measure of a marketing comm's investment is how much sales it contributes to the bottom line (Editor's note: Sales, as we learned at the NRF conference, is fast becoming a not-too-reliable metric of performance, thanks in large part to deflation). When it comes to any marketing effort, it's an investment in your brand, so it's already worth it, but these professionals claimed that the best way to gauge its effectiveness was to measure attitudes to trials; sales pre- and post-effort around locations where guerrilla effort was implemented; how much viral word-of-mouth reaches public sentiment (including talk shows); how much press it gets; how much time consumers spend with your brand; and, I would argue, as I've argued before, the nature and extent of the relationship with consumers with your business.

Ideally, guerrilla should always be used with other marketing efforts (PR seemed to be a favorite), and should contribute to the trust the brand already has with the consumer. If marketers violate this trust, all the guerrilla in the world may not help. Although Sony Ericsson had to withstand a lot of criticism for their "stealthy" approach, it worked, elevating the new brand from nothing to a top brand (according to an al berrios & co. study on the wireless consumer, to be released later this month.)

Overall, this event deserves 5 pluses, + + + + +, for the knowledge gained and networking opportunities presented. But on a negative tone, I must say, MBAs seem to get bulk rates at events because they seem to be popping up everywhere nowadays asking for jobs at every important aggregation of executives. It shouldn't bother me because I know what it's like, but the extra time they spend asking any executive that'll listen mundane questions about their business to show they know (or are eager to know) something, just to conclude the conversation with "got a card?", makes the experience for those of us who are more direct and quicker about presenting business opportunities less willing to attend these type of events. Conference managers, do your panelists want more new business opportunities or job-hounds?


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