Give it away now: Are guerrilla marketing giveaways effective?

What do a few memorable words from the popular 1991 hit single Give It Away by ageless rock wonders, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and guerrilla marketing handouts have in common you ask? A lot more than one might think.

A few things before I get into my article: (1) When it comes to clothing and apparel, I generally don’t wear merchandise with logos or branding on it, (2) I don’t like blatant product placement and (3) because I am a designer, I love a great design.

In the past, I’ve always been on the fence regarding how effective guerrilla marketing handouts are. Are they cool? When done correctly, hell yeah! Are they effective? Debatable…well at least I thought.

Fast-forward to a recent visit of to Navy Pier. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve collected more than my fair share of marketing knick-knacks. In doing so, I know there’s no better place to find one than in downtown Chicago. My latest target that day? A Brazilian style floppy hat from the folks at a technology company you may have heard of.

I approached the marketing rep and quickly discover just what I’d expected, they where FREE. He handed me a survey and began to educate soliciting the new product. As I scribbled through the 10 question survey, all I could think was “I can’t wait to own this hat”. Being a fellow marketer, it was hard to ignore the spiel (after all, the two of us hailed from the same universe (marketing and design) but I really just wanted the hat. Did the product interest me? No (After all I already owned the only computer I’ve ever needed: the MacBook Pro).

I walked away from the booth, threw on my goofy hat and suddenly the strangest thing happened; people all over the city were eating it up. The number one question on everyones mind? Where’d you get it? Without even realizing it I had become a walking billboard for the hats creator…

“Check out the Microsoft booth, I repeated more than a dozen times before realizing what I was doing”.

I finally caught myself, “They got me at my own game!” I told my girlfriend, also a designer.

After laughing off what had just happened, this got me thinking about some of the giveaways I’ve received in the past few months. Sure enough, I could remember each item and the name of almost every vendor that had handed me a clever one; the a plush ninja from Print Ninja, the matchbooks from Out of Print Clothing , GNC’s Burn Bag …the list goes on. I remember them all and every time someone asks me where I got them, I become that walking billboard again. These products are so effective, I’m given them yet another plug.

So I think we have our answer!


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