The Cotwsolds, England, 2014.

On a clear afternoon, a weather balloon slowly rises above the trees.

Beneath the balloon, something small and brown is stuck on the end of a fork.

It’s a lamb chop.

There’s a camera on the balloon, filming this lambchop as it rises higher and higher, eventually reaching 25,000 metres… entering space, where you can see the chop framed against the curvature of the earth.

Bizarre, yes. But you can see the whole film here:

Lambchop in space

So why did this happen?

What was going on?

Well, this is a form of guerrilla marketing harnesses the power of social media to give extraordinary ‘buzz’ to a new product.

It’s something that can cost relatively little …

But allows any business, artist, blogger or website to punch far above its weight, stand out from the competition, and undercut the bigger players.

Let me explain…

The publicity power of a lambchop astronaut

Nikesh Shukla was a young novelist, determined to get publicity for his new book, Meatspace.

Publishing fiction is a very tough business these days, with sales dropping and only a few major names taking most of the sales and profits. Writers are expected to do a lot of their own publicity, which means they’re often forced to adopt many of the content marketing tactics I talk about in Digital upstart…

Blog, social media, videos, email newsletters….

But increasing numbers of writers and small publishers use the above forms of content marketing.

So how can you stand out?

Step forward ‘guerrilla advertising’

This was a phrase used as the title of a book by Jay Conrad Levinson in 1984. He equates guerrilla marketing to guerrilla warfare, where small groups of locals fight much larger armies by using tactics of surprise – ambush, traps, secret raids and sabotage.

Guerilla marketing is a way that a small business or lone operator can get the upper hand on businesses with large marketing budgets…

This is because you don’t need money…

You just need some time, imagination, flair, energy and a willingness to take a risk.

And when you apply guerrilla marketing to the world of social media, you can make a really huge impact from a very small amount of activity.

Nikesh Shukla’s stunt for Meatspace is a good example.

His book was a comedy about life on social media, in which the main character spends time coming up with ideas for novelty Tumblrs, so he needed something that:

– Captured the essence, tone and message of his book

– Would be buzzworthy on social media, where target audience (younger adults) would be hanging out

– Could get him noticed above the zillions of other books released that year

To achieve this, he and graphic artist Nick Hearne came up with the idea of ending meat into space.

After all, “meat” + “space” was the title of the book. You couldn’t get more appropriate,

On top of that, it was the sort of thing the main characters would have done.

And it was a crazy, unique idea.

What’s more, it wasn’t that expensive. All they needed was a balloon, a little camera and lots of helium.

They filmed the whole process, from getting the chop, to the final view from space and put it into a 1 minute 42 video on Youtube.

As you can see from the video, he got 300,000 hits.

That’s 300,000 people getting a direct advert for his book.

But it wasn’t about just the YouTube hits.

The video was also posted on sites like The Telegraph, The Guardian and Vice Magazine, where it would have had even more views.

It was covered in almost every newspaper… tabloids LOVE this kind of thing.

There was a buzz about it on social media, naturally.

And Shukla got a lot of online interviews from it too.

I’d estimate his real reach was way above a million people (and that’s a conservative guess).

Imagine that amount of coverage for your website, business or next product launch!

That’s the power of guerrilla marketing.

Other ideas include…

– Hold a free live event, a flashmob or outdoor performance, then film it and stream it on Facebook live or similar.

– Take a copy of your product to an unusual place and film it there.

– Have a treasure hunt where people can find online clues to prizes hidden around the country.

– Give away your product or something of high value as a reward for spreading the word (eg commenting on your blog,s signing up for your newsletter or retweeting/resharing your content)

– Come up with a funny song, film or animation starring you, your customers or your product.

– Put up posters or stickers in cities or areas where your target audience might be, with an intriguing image and your website address.

– Get customers, followers or subscribers to send in content, perhaps their own videos or designs, and then use that as your marketing campaign. You can promise a prize, or to publish their contributions on your site and social media networks.

The key is to find something that isn’t just a one-hit wonder. Opening a pop-up shop for your business in a town centre is fine for a bit of publicity, but how can you leverage that event so that it spreads online and so that you can keep sharing it, blogging it and using it across all your online networks?

Remember, you want to get the maximum amount of content and exposure from your small amount of time, effort and outlay.
In other words, you need to be able to milk it!

Also bear in mind these guidelines…

  • Avoid controversy for controversy’s sake. It’s easier to get in the news if you do something shocking but bear in mind that the backlash can damage your business. The idea that “all publicity is good publicity” is not true.
  • Make sure it’s consumable and shareable online. Even if you try an offline stunt like Shukla’s use video, audio, live streaming and other similar formats to make sure you get the maximum online exposure. Try and encourage sharing.
  • Make the stunt match the message of your business. For instance, if you’re a skip hire website, you might build a giant sculpture out of things people have thrown away, or create an online phot gallery of sad discarded children’s teddies wanting new homes, or a competition for the best house renovation of 2018.
  • Ensure that the guerrilla campaign appeals to the sensibility of your target customers and matches the tone of your business. For instance, a zany cat video might not be right for an online accountancy business.

Have a think about some ideas you could use to publicise your website or your next product. Be as wild in your thinking as possible – go crazy. You can always tame and fine the ideas later to make them practical and achievable.