Guerrilla Marketing or Event Hijacking

This week a pro-gun group informed the media and area law enforcement that its members would be out in force at community events organized by another organization, pushing the limits of the state carry laws.

This is a classic guerrilla marketing and communication tactic – to co-opt the activities or space of others, without permission, to carry out some level of promotion for your own agenda.  Of course, there are degrees of this behavior. It is certainly common, and potentially legal, for a marketer to appear on a public walkway offering product samples. The co-opting begins when that walkway is adjacent or central to a public event, such as the Uptown Art Fair or neighborhood gathering as noted in the article above. When done unobtrusively, such activity is effectively harmless.

On the other end of that spectrum, for a guerrilla group to invade another’s event with the intention of overshadowing the efforts of the actual organizers represents unfair play. Plus, in cases such as the one cited, the invasion has real potential to escalate tensions and impact safety. Since the interlopers have not participated in arranging the event, how can they know whether their activities present real danger or not? They can’t.

In this case, the group has already successfully generated increased visibility for the cause, but not without costs. Before I could finish this blog things evolved, with the group rescinding its intention to party crash. Their plan seemed an easy path to getting attention, but when one’s actions are inflammatory, the party holding the matches often gets burned.

While the event organizers may not have been receptive to partnering with the gun group, and it would have taken significant effort and time to develop a mutually beneficial arrangement, the outcome would have been better for both organizations.

So, while it may be easier and cheaper to ask forgiveness rather than get permission, don’t forget to weigh the costs of cleaning up any mess you may create in the process.