Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ambush Marketing: The Art of Diverting Attention

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Ambush marketing is a strategy used by companies to promote their brands at events without paying any sponsorship fees. An example“Dutch buyers of Heineken beer were given green hats to wear to the recent Euro 2008 football tournament. Anyone who tried to enter a stadium wearing one, however, as many fans did in 2004, was asked to remove it.

The hats were an “ambush marketing” campaign… Heineken’s rival, Carlsberg, was an official sponsor of Euro 2008, paying $21m for the privilege. A few TV close-ups of fans wearing Heineken hats would have cost very little by comparison”
China, the host of the 2008 Olympics, is aware of these tactics and has taken precautions to control ‘all prominent advertising sites in the Chinese capital’ in order to prevent other companies from putting up or buying ads to take advantage of the massive increase in human traffic. They don’t want their official sponsors to be upstaged by other competitors.
Ambush marketing is opportunistic. It’s goal is to take advantage of situations which allow brands/products to get extra exposure at minimal cost. Sometimes that involves going right into the lions den and clashing head on with a competitor who dominates the main message dissemination channels. Sometimes it requires stealth and more guerrilla-like tactics.
What marketers and anyone who wants to promote themselves can learn is the strategy of seeking out people-saturated public spaces (online or offline) and seek to populate that area with your message. Buskers, beggars and poster street teams are all familiar with how to promote their agenda or needs in areas where people frequently pass through.
Contextual relevance is also important. Selling is more natural and persuasive when it flows alongside the momentum generated by the immediate environment and current news/trends.
Just the other day, I went to a rock concert and was waiting in the queue when I noticed a guy from a local radio station standing at the side of the road. As people passed by, he gave them each a high-five while saying out the name of his station.
It was innocuous enough, everyone took it in good taste. After the concert finished, I left the venue with my friends. While walking on the path out, we were stopped by three guys who handed us each a flyer for their band. On it was their band logo as well as their myspace and facebook URLs, along with a link to a free download of some tracks from their latest album.
These people anticipated an opportunity: a rock concert would bring out hordes of music fans, many of which are targeted high-value prospects. The right pitch at the right time/place.

Can Ambush Marketing Actually Work Online?

Image Credit: one nation under CCTV
Let’s talk a little about ambush marketing online. Is it even possible?  Maybe. Take the example of sneaky link insertions. Some people carefully monitor the upcoming stories with the most votes on digg.com or other popular social news sites and insert comments with links to their website. When the story hits the frontpage or gradually accumulates visibility, the well placed links can each easily net you upwards of 1,000+ visitors.
This is a tactic that piggybacks on an existing occurrence. To do this effectively, you should constantly push news/events related to your target market and specific keyword-relevant searches on major online communities to a central location, like an RSS reader or dashboard. Monitor this repository of occurrences constantly. Or get someone to keep an eye on it.
After which you need to be prepared to rapidly develop ways to leech the attention from the traffic that’s focused on a specific webpage or occurrence. Sometimes that involves creating specific landing pages that diverge from your website’s original theme/focus.
For instance, to take advantage of the buzz around the iPhone 3G, a website about fitness can create a stand-alone page about iPhone tips/hacks and push it out to not only the popular blogs but every single hobbyist/small-time blogger who has ever expressed an interest in it.
There’s a disconnect between your actual site theme and your specific article/landing page but you are relying on the fact that some of the traffic going over to the specific page will click over to your homepage and end up viewing it. A large amount of non-relevant traffic will eventually allow you to hit a smaller amount of prospects actually interested in your site’s actual focus.
Of course, this isn’t ambush marketing per se, but rather something that builds on theopportunistic mindset which underlies it. The tactical principle is simple: stay in the loop and watch for openings to divert attention towards your brand. A rule of thumb: where people gather online in large numbers, you should be there with a relevant message