Should you commit random acts of marketing?

Have you noticed how when you spot something or hear about it, that it keeps cropping up? You find yourself saying something like; “That’s weird, I just heard about that the other day.” It’s known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Our brains are hard wired to recognise patterns because this helps us to learn. Considering how many words, names and ideas we are exposed to each day it’s not surprising that our brains prioritise things that come up frequently. We mentally categorise things that don’t come up regularly as less important or uninteresting and therefore more likely to be ignored.

This is where marketers and advertisers cash in.

In advertising, the ‘effective frequency’ is the number of times a prospective customer must be exposed to an advertising message before they follow up on the call to action.

As customers, once we make a decision that we are actively seeking something, on average, we have to be reminded of it three times before we act.

In this age of communication overload our senses are constantly bombarded with information – emails, tweets, advertising, blogs etc. – it’s everywhere. With so much going on around us all the time, it takes something different for us to pause and take notice.

In central Bristol recently people were stopped in their tracks and became curious when heart shaped balloons appeared on all the benches.

People like things that are different or unusual and this is good news if you are trying to get your message out there.

Guerrilla Marketing

I call these random acts of marketing activity – such as the balloons – guerrilla marketing.

The problem with marketing is that there are no guarantees. What works well for one business may fall flat on its face for another. You improve your chances and lower the risks by using thorough market research to target your activities but ultimately, there will always be an element of luck.

Of course, you should continue to promote with emails, tweets, blogs, advertising etc. The more ways you get you message out there, the more likely your prospective customers brains are to pick up on the pattern and classify it as worth noticing.

The terms marketing and promotion are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference; Marketing is about the message, the vision and the overall strategy. Promotion is about the actual tools in your marketing kit and the acts themselves of delivering your message.

Is there a more creative promotional tool in your marketing toolbox that you can use to let people know that you are there and worth noticing?

When I published my first book, The Bronze Box, last year I embarked on an experiment, not only with the book itself but also in guerrilla marketing. I made some little origami boxes. Inside was a message to tweet me and a sweet. I left these boxes in various places such as bars, cafes, on buses and trains etc.

Mini manuscript
Mini manuscript

I am about to publish my second novel, Solomon’s Secrets. It’s about the search for an ancient manuscript and my experiment in guerrilla marketing this time is to leave miniature manuscripts around. I’ve already had several tweets and Facebook messages from curious people who’ve picked up these little books. The fact that they took the time to engage directly with me is proof enough that by finding this sweet little object, I’ve made them pause, and hopefully given them a playful moment in their day. Whether they choose to buy the book is neither here nor there, the act of that engagement itself is enough to motivate me to keep going.

As fun as engaging in a random act of marketing can be, the biggest drawback is that it’s hard to monitor.

Measuring the effectiveness of different promotional activities is a fundamental part of planning your next campaign.

Here are some do’s and don’ts when embarking on a guerrilla marketing campaign


  • Something quirky, creative or different
  • Something relevant to the message you want to communicate
  • Low cost – It’s hard to monitor so use your marketing budget wisely
  • Experiment – My first manuscripts were made of paper. It wasn’t until I got some leather off cuts and made them look more like little books that people reacted to them
  • Choose where you leave your message so that you don’t annoy or upset  people
  • Have fun with it


  • Illegally fly post
  • Spam
  • Do something that could potentially offend people – I don’t believe that all publicity is good publicity, especially bad publicity
  • Expect miracles – it may or may not work, that’s why it’s good to experiment
  • Lose your focus – keep it relevant

Have you seen any promotional activities or examples of guerrilla marketing that have made you stop and take notice?

Leave a comment