Analogies between marketing and war are becoming increasingly popular. But what are the analogies exactly? And why do marketers and strategists use them?
Traditional marketing analogies liken the sales and marketing efforts of a business to military tactics. According to a 2015 HubSpot Blog post, “Guerrilla marketing takes direct influence on your target audience (aka potential customers) and relies heavily on engaging content, such as webinars, case studies, and FAQs).”
That is quite a bit different from classic marketing, which relies primarily on advertising and brand awareness to reach customers. And it gets at the heart of why digital marketing and strategy are becoming so in-demand today.
The Growth of Online Graphic Design
In the print world, the term ‘guerilla marketing’ was first used to describe the efforts of a group of New York City businesses that engaged in promotional activities, such as paying for ads that appeared in opposition to the businesses’ competitors. The businesses were led by David Hoffman, founder of the Direct Marketing Association(DMA). The businesses were so effective they inspired other firms to follow suit, resulting in the creation of the DMAguerilla Campaign.
The DMA’s original campaign was launched in 1970 and consisted of direct mail pieces that featured coupons, discounts, or other marketing materials. While most of those tactics still exist, the digital marketing landscape has changed. What was once considered direct mail is now considered digital marketing. According to HubSpot, “Online marketing doesn’t always translate to ‘traditional’ offline marketing, and vice versa. For example, a radio ad buy may not show up on a consumer’s smartphone until the day after the ad was aired.”
This is one reason why marketers must be flexible and be able to adapt to new ways of communicating with potential customers. Consider how different an approach LinkedIn’s marketing department has taken to attract talent. Rather than relying on a traditional ad campaign, the company has adopted a ‘hack’ approach, engaging with users and creating content that is highly targeted, yet somewhat elusive. For instance, LinkedIn’s Head of Marketing, Adam Bainbridge, said that the company’s “strategy is to build trust with people and show them the value of working with us. We want to inspire them to connect with our content, engage with our offers, and ultimately become more valuable consumers and contributors.”
It is not only the way that customers interact with businesses that is changing, but the customers themselves. According to a 2013 report from the American Association of Advertising Agencies, “The CMO role is shifting from overseeing media plans to leading marketing programs.” This is because marketers must now consider the needs and wants of the customer within a greater context. For example, a business that sells pet food may want to target users in the Pacific Northwest, who are highly likely to be interested in purchasing pet food due to the region’s wet climate and abundance of wildlife, such as squirrels, who are the industry’s primary food source. However, the business may want to avoid marketing to individuals in New York City, who are more likely to be interested in a holistic approach to animal wellness and may be less likely to be interested in purchasing pet food due to the city’s density and associated pollution.
To succeed in this ever-changing digital marketing landscape, marketers, designers, and strategists must be able to effectively integrate all types of media and techniques to create engaging content that will instill a desire to learn more and buy, buy, buy.
Why Use Guerrilla Marketing?
Although the term ‘guerilla marketing’ was first used to describe the tactics of the DMA, the approach has been used widely, and mostly in a positive light. The DMA itself refers to this strategy as a ‘low-cost, high-benefit’ approach to marketing. But why these tactics? What is it about them that makes them so effective? In general, marketing in the digital age can be somewhat unpredictable. With so much diversity in the online landscape, it is difficult to know what will resonate with potential customers. Moreover, as previously stated, customers expect businesses to adapt and evolve along with changing technology, especially in today’s ever-evolving world of instant gratification and heightened awareness of marketing efforts. As a result, guerrilla marketing may be the perfect approach for a business to take in order to stay relevant and attract more customers, regardless of the platform.
Direct Versus Indirect Marketing
One of the defining differences between traditional and digital marketing is the difference in the way the two approaches to marketing. While traditional marketing is often considered ‘indirect’, in that the message is delivered to the audience through paid advertisements, all forms of digital marketing are considered ‘direct’.
The advantage of direct marketing is that it puts the power of choice in the hands of the consumer. Instead of being presented with a selection of products and services, a direct marketer will tell you what they have to offer, with little to no persuasion. Moreover, with direct marketing, the business establishes a clearer connection with the audience, as the target audience is more likely to be engaged with the content, as it is tailored to their specific needs and interests. In addition, businesses that use direct marketing achieve better results, as they are more likely to reach their target audience and gain valuable engagement data, which in turn can be invaluable to future marketing and advertising campaigns. The downside is that with direct marketing, it is more difficult to get the desired results, as the consumer is aware that they are being marketed to. This is why it is often considered ‘old-school’ compared to other forms of digital marketing. Furthermore, as with any form of marketing, it is more difficult to measure the results of a direct marketing campaign. This makes it more challenging to determine, in the case of a failed campaign, whether the results are due to the strategy itself, or to other variables, such as the economy or fluctuating organic search results. For instance, let’s say a business attempts to launch a direct-mailing list and fails to acquire a significant audience. It may be difficult to determine whether the failure is due to the strategy itself or to lack of marketing automation, which could also be the cause of the unfound audience. In such a case, it would be best to scrap the strategy and try another. On the other hand, social media and other forms of digital marketing are much easier to measure. The results of a social media campaign can be compared to a scientific control group, as it is easy to track the number of followers a business has gained, along with other engagement metrics, like likes and retweets.
Digital Marketing Is Data-driven
Another significant difference between traditional and digital marketing is that the latter is heavily data-driven, especially in regard to strategy and campaign planning. Thanks to the data-driven approach and the widespread use of digital marketing, business owners and marketers have access to a wealth of marketing information, from which they can draw valuable conclusions. This information can be segmented by many different factors, such as age, gender, location, and interests. Knowing this data allows marketers to craft more targeted and effective campaigns and strategies. Moreover, as previously stated, customers expect businesses to evolve and adapt, so it is beneficial for businesses to have access to as much data as possible, in order to determine changes that should be made to their marketing plan or strategy. For instance, if it is found that young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to buy a product or service related to health and fitness, then a marketing plan focused on this audience may prove more effective than one that is not.
The Importance Of Measurement
One important reason why marketers and strategists use guerrilla marketing is because it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the effectiveness of a marketing campaign without proper measurement. As with any marketing or public relations campaign, it is important to measure the results of a direct marketing campaign, in order to determine the success or failure of the strategy. The key is to establish measurable goals, rather than relying on an untested theory and hoping for the best. For example, if a business wants to determine the effectiveness of a marketing campaign that promotes pet health and wellness, they could set a goal of gaining 10 new customers who previously wouldn’t have bought their products, simply by promoting the products with a smile. This is quite a different goal from gaining new customers through online graphic design and SEO, where the primary goal is to have as many potential customers as possible come to the site through organic search.