Is That Crap Under My Windshield Wiper or Guerrilla Marketing?

August 1, 2006

Or is it all in the eye of the beholder?

I had a philosophical discussion with a co-worker today about a Chinese restaurant menu that got shoved under everyone’s windshield wipers in the parking lot. I cited it as a prime example of guerrilla marketing gone wrong. I made my case by saying that the effort was untargeted (I, for example, hate Chinese food; therefore this offer is irrelevant to me). I could understand flyering someplace close by but this restaurant was hardly that. Plus they flyered an office with a huge dining center that is widely known to have decent food at unbeatable prices. Flyering any other lot in town would have been a better use your excess flyers.

I cite targeting as being a key distinction because that is what makes a marketing tactic like flyering unique and gives it the scrappy, strategic guerrilla-like quality. I was at a conference and a vendor flyered all of the attendees a rooms one morning with a special announcement. That’s great. Across the hall? No flyers because the vendor only targeted their audience with this relevant message. In my mind there was nothing targeted about this menu thing. It didn’t have proximity going for it (as I mentioned this place is across town). It wasn’t appealing based on who was parking in the lot (we have a cafeteria). All they had left were people who like Chinese food. I think you could target better.

But I believe it was Tevye that said, “On the other hand …” (Actually, it was my colleague Larry Miller who wished to remain anonymous. I shall refer to him as Chuck moving forward.)

Chuck said: Untargeted? Come now. Chinese food is a pretty ubiquitous food category. Why not carpet bomb parking lots of big employers? Plus employees of large offices have been known to keep menus on file for days when they feel like changing it up. And as direct marketing tells us, when you scale a program like this, only a handful need to convert to break even on the promotion (unless you print your menus on heavy, embossed stock and hire a Ph.D. to do your flyering).

So am I right or is Chuck? Dunno. I’m just a marketer. I say that not as a cop out but in my almighty deference to trackable results. Could be this menu thing sends the restaurant through the roof. But to quote a book I just began, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” So in the end, flyer or don’t flyer. You don’t know for sure until you try it but you’ve got to track it so the next time the promo gets put on the table you have some results to make a more educated guess. NOTE: I didn’t suggest that you’d know for sure but that experience gives you some intelligence to make a more educated guess the next time. Happy marketing.

Incidentally, if the Chinese restaurant was my client and was hell bent on flyering with their menus here’s what I’d do … Print off some mailing labels with a special offer/call to action: “Bring this menu in for a 10% discount on your meal.” That would be a simple, low-cost way to track your efforts and give you some insight into what’s working. But we want them to keep their menus! Great, hook them up with a new one when they redeem the offer. Or just let them take it back with them. (And so what if they reuse it? It’s still business that resulted from the sale.) But we want to flyer several different targets! How do we know which is which? Get different colored labels and color-code your targets. At the end of the day, you can track almost anything. And you should.

I love that … “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”Add to Technorati Favorites

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.