By Phillip Chichoni
FOOTBALL PLAYERS were not the only ones fighting for supremacy at the recently ended World Cup pitch: Shoe brands were fighting for glory too. For the most part, it was the fluorescent Nike Vapors versus the Adidas Adizera Battle Pack clears. But while those brands dominate the soccer market, one smaller competitor had a counterattack. This was in the form of mismatched pink and blue soccer boots called Tricks by Puma, says Kyle Stock of Bloomberg Businessweek.
“You see a lot of yellows out there and oranges and reds, but in the blur of the feet, you notice the Tricks,” said Stock.
Some of the biggest stars in soccer wore the blue and pink shoes, like Italy’s superstar Mario Balotelli and Ivorian Yaya Toure.
Puma cleverly sneaked into the game without incurring heavy advertising expenditure. The giants, Nike and Adidas, were officially advertising as they were FIFA World Cup partners. This came at a cost of $75 million for each of the six official partners, according to Advertising Age. Well, they can afford the bill, as between them they have a 70 percent share of the soccer market. Nike makes about $25 billion in annual revenue, Adidas $19 billion, while Puma makes only $4 billion.
Puma has said publicly it cannot afford to advertise at the World Cup. However, they were advertising indirectly. By having some soccer stars putting on the mismatched boots before they were available on the market, their product was already validated. Kids will be bugging their parents for these soccer boots as soon as they are available in stores.
That was a very creative guerilla marketing tactic. What can underdog entrepreneurs learn from these tricks of the trade? A lot.
Target a narrow market segment. Your brand can’t be all things to all people. Guerilla marketing is the strategy that works for small and medium sized businesses that do not have big marketing budgets. In our current environment that is true for most businesses. The reason the strategy works is because one uses creativity, rather than money, to create a buzz and draw attention to one’s products.
For guerilla marketing to be effective, the small business will have to reduce the field of play. Instead of targeting the mass market served by big companies, the guerilla marketer targets a small niche. In other words, it tries to become a big fish in a small pond. You can become a guerilla marketer by targeting a small area. This could be a certain suburb of a city or certain types of customers across the country.
You don’t need the spotlight of TV commercials or megabrand tie-ins. In bypassing World Cup commercials Puma is preferring to let the product’s performance do the talking. The product experience is where you build a performance brand. You can’t get there with advertising. Advertising is a turbocharger, but the product is where you really create authenticity and credibility.
3. A differentiated image can help you. Puma’s latest cleats are visibly different from Nike’s and Adidas’s. While Nike and Adidas focused on fins, ultra-light synthetic materials, and intricate knitting that fused the boot with the sock, Puma kept its strategy simple: “really bright shoes in different colors,” writes Stock. You read that right: Each shoe is a different color. The right boot is pink. The left boot is blue.
As for Puma, its pink-and-blue shoes are an illustrative reminder of how image can become a significant point of differentiation for an underdog brand. Perhaps most importantly, the differentiated look allows Puma’s endorsers to cast themselves as difference-makers, too. For example, Mario Balotelli, a standout player on Italy’s team, said: “In the end, it is exactly the reason why I chose to be with Puma. They dare to be different, and everyone knows that I do as well.”
Here are the main principles of guerilla marketing that you can start using today and accelerate your growth without a big advertising budget:
a) Presence: you have to find ways to make yourself known by your target market at all times. These may include email; forums; discussion boards; radio; magazines; websites; social media; blogs; yellow pages.
b) Activity: you should always be on the lookout for opportunities to make your products known at all times and work on them.
c) Energy: you must be marketing all the time, “360 degree” marketing! Your creativity and hard work is what will produce positive results.
d) Networks: you must always be looking to make contacts and develop networks. Relationships are very important in guerilla marketing.
e) Smart: your marketing activities must be smart; do not offend customers or turn them off; e.g. by sending spam emails or irritating text messages, or being overly pushy.
You will find more guerilla marketing tips in my book “High Impact Low cost Marketing Strategies for SMEs”, available from the BusinessLink bookstore.
Phillip Chichoni is the Publisher of BusinessLink digital magazine. You can contact him by email, email@example.com, or Twitter @chichonip
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