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10/31/07
Guerilla Marketing
Filed under: Work, Shanghai, China
Posted by: Alan @ 4:02 pm

Guerilla Marketing.  Sounds good, right?  It sounds like “powerful word-of-mouth marketing on the cheap.”  Great.  So how do you do it?

Many of the big, successful PR events that you may have read about actually cost a lot of money.  In Mavericks at Work, the author describes ING Direct as a “master of bold publicity stunts and brash PR moves….In Boston, ING Direct paid for all the subway lines on the MBTA (know as the “T” among Bostonians) to be free one morning to rush-hour commuters - a high-profile stunt that the company dubbed the “ING Direct Boston T Party.”  This PR sounds wonderful, and it’s probably cheaper than buying an ad during the Superbowl, but it’s definitely not cheap.

I’m trying to figure this out for my company Geni.com.  At first, we tried to get bloggers to write about us.  We get a ton of blog coverage in the US because of founder David Sacks’ reputation from his being COO at PayPal.  However, outside of the US, Dave’s reputation is limited.  Sort of like how US PayPal executives couldn’t believe that users in China have never heard of PayPal.  Or how many of the big hotel chains from the US - such as 5-star Holiday Inns and Radisson’s - are trying to upgrade their brand in China because Chinese users have no idea how good or bad they are in the US. 

After cold-contacting many APAC bloggers, we got minimal response besides a few mentions in Singapore.  I felt like we had a compelling story about a new social networking site focused on families.  The bloggers in the US love Geni, raving about the UI and the virality.  However, we could not get much interest among the Asian bloggers, and I’m only talking about the ones who write in English.

In parallel, I tried to use my “guanxi” in Shanghai to get published in expat magazines.  It took a while but I have finally got a few mentions.  One was in the October issue of Shanghai’s American Chamber of Commerce’s (AmCham) magazine Insight.  And just yesterday, I saw my article published in the November issue of American Women’s Club of Shanghai’s (AWCS) magazine The Spirit.  That was a lot of work.

In Ad-tech Beijing, one of the panels was on Guerilla Marketing.  But the majority of the panel discussion was on how to deal with negative press, how large MNC’s often fail to recognize the powder keg of unsatisfied users on non-traditional media such as blogs and discussion boards.  When an attendee finally asked about how to do “proactive guerilla marketing,” one of the speakers (from, I assume, a PR company) said “Oh, it’s very hard.  Please come up afterwards and we can talk about such a project.”

I also got a proposal from a professional PR company - for a good chunk of change, they promise access to traditional media writers and bloggers.  My friends in China tell me that PR in China is completely a paid thing.  “Reporters” here are supposedly extremely lazy.  You have to write the story, provide all the supporting material (e.g., pictures) and pay them money for them to get your PR printed.  They are essentially gateways to media. 

As often is the case, the more you learn of an industry, the uglier it gets.

2 Responses to “Guerilla Marketing”

  1. JMX Says:
    Hey bud, these are all really interesting insights. Here’s my 2 cents: you gotta think BIG while following the line of thinking “keep it simple dummy” for the audience that you’re targeting. Forgot about traditional PR (publications, blogs, etc) in China. Don’t know what your budget is but here are some ideas - give away 200,000 RMB worth of hung baos with Geni on the envelope. Take advantage of China’s low labor costs - e.g. hire Geni acrobats to perform all around the street of Shanghai and Beijing. Try to do a promotion that targets Chinese students who will tend to be more tech savy than their parents. Of course, all of this is easier said than done but you were the marketing guru behind Personal Tao so I’m sure you’ll come up with the right solution. Good luck!
  2. dave mcclure Says:
    hey alan - instead of trying to get other people to write about you, maybe just try writing about Geni yourself on a blog in mandarin? (not sure if you’re already doing this or not). first step to guerrilla marketing is probably guerrilla education… just start blogging about what Geni is/does, and do some screenshot blogging and linking to other folks. eventually that conversation will start coming from the other direction too. my .02, - dave

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