Guerrilla Marketing and Individualization

By on November 3rd, 2017 in Blog Post, Privacy & Security

We may be passing a tipping point in the area of individualized marketing/advertising. This has surfaced as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking into questions about advertising used in the U.S. presidential campaign. There are a few concepts I’d like to surface in this area, but it seems some common perspective may be useful as a foundation.

There is a concept called guerrilla marketing that builds on the concept of guerrilla warfare. So let me share an example I picked up some twenty years ago. This may be an “urban myth,” but the underlying concepts are quite solid. Of course this took place last century before the Internet, Web, big data, AIs, or any of the components of today’s tool kit.

So, once upon a time, as the story goes, NBC Radio wanted to penetrate the auto manufacturing market (i.e., get more radio ads from car manufacturers). At the time, Lee Iacocca was the CEO of Chrysler, and the golden boy of the auto industry having just managed to bail that company out of bankruptcy. The NBC folks decided that if they could get Iacocca to use radio, the others would follow. So here is the key concept of guerrilla marketing: having a very limited target where uncommon techniques can gain significant payback.

The Plan:

  • They placed a “marketing survey” call to Iacocca’s home and asked “What radio stations do you listen to?” No need for demographics on this, the target community was “one” and they needed 100% response rate.
  • They had a private investigator track Iacocca’s travel to and from work (it was easy, he was driving a new Chrysler) and log the time of day he was on the road.
  • They bought a few (maybe six) advertising slots on the target radio station(s), and played just one message during his commutes: “Do you want to sell cars? Perhaps you should advertise on the radio to reach car drivers!” End of message.
  • A day after the last run they appeared at his office, without an appointment. His receptionist was shocked when Iacocca asked them in after hearing they were from NBC Radio.

The essential concepts of this myth have a lot of traction. It is essential to identify a key message that will affect a very select audience and catalyze the desired action. Iacocca was a very public figure at the time which both made him the target, and reduced to some degree his privacy protections. Notice that today we often talk about “going viral,” which is often a guerrilla marketing objective. However, in this case it was changing the actions of one person, and via that path changing a small group (the automotive “big three”) of company advertising agencies. Neither Iacocca nor the affected entities had any recognition that they were the successful targets of such a focused campaign.

Somewhere earlier in this 21st century the concept of “individualization” started to emerge on a much broader scale. I first noticed it in a waiting room where I picked up a magazine, and an advertisement on the inside used the name (which was torn off the front) of the subscriber. Being a computer nerd, a little light went off. That light is getting a lot brighter now. To be continued …