Marketing the Gorilla in the Room

By Stacy Cornay for the Times-Call
Publish Date: 09/20/2015

When our son moved into his own apartment a few years ago, he left behind a cache of precious memories.

Among the trains, Legos, guitars and kid-size military paraphernalia, one item stands out. It's covered with fur, it's about the size of a Bronco linebacker, there's a silly grin on its face and there's an Indiana Jones hat stuck on its head. It's a stuffed gorilla.

Ed Asner once said that raising a kid is part joy and part guerilla warfare. Sometimes parenting calls for sneak attacks, for blending in the background, for working with what you've got and for always thinking ahead. Ed's words resonate with me. Maybe that's why that big black, furry, funny-looking gorilla hasn't ended up in a garage sale. The gorilla is more than a reminder of parenting. It also dovetails nicely with one of my professional interests – guerilla marketing.

Guerilla marketing is a buzz phrase in business, but few using the phrase can define it. Simply put, guerilla marketing is an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results. It has the same goals as guerilla parenting – to do more with less, to be creative, to get and hold attention, to be persuasive and to know when to call in professionals.

The beauty of guerilla marketing is that when it is done well, people don't realize that you're engaged in marketing (or parenting). Success can be measured by how well you capitalize upon situations to promote your products or services by engaging target audiences in non-traditional ways.

Guerilla marketing draws its name from guerilla or unconventional warfare. It focuses on taking the consumer by surprise, creating a greater impression and eventually leading to positive exposure through word-of-mouth or social media platforms. It comes in many guises and is known by many names. These are just a few approaches:

Ambient marketing – using elements of the business environment, including nearly every available physical surface, to convey messages that subtlety catch customer attention.

Ambush marketing – capitalizing upon the awareness, attention and goodwill generated by being associated with an event or celebration even though the business may not have an official or direct connection to the event or celebration.

Stealth marketing – getting people involved with a product without them actually knowing that they are part of the marketing campaign. This needs to be done very carefully to avoid negative feedback.

Viral marketing – capitalizing on the Internet in creative, innovative ways to get individuals to forward your marketing messages to others. When messages “go viral”, target audiences explode from thousands to millions.

Street marketing – engaging target audiences on streets, in parks, at cultural events, near schools, at sporting events and wherever else people gather for a good time. Street marketing events push boundaries and use technology to leave a lasting impression. Human activities are showcased, everything from sign twirlers and cheerleaders to flash mobs and on-site games and contests.

Although approaches to guerilla marketing differ, the overall objectives are the same:

  • To create interest and good feelings about products or services;
  • To touch current and potential clients/customers in personal ways;
  • To take business to consumers in their daily routine;

Competitors want your customers and your profits. They may have larger marketing budgets to outspend you at every turn. But they can't out-think you. Guerilla marketing will keep them off-balance and on the defense. With skill, cunning and stealth, you can keep them guessing and struggling to catch up.

That's what I think every time I see that other gorilla, the one grinning over there in the corner.


Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.