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By definition, a flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then disperse. But the idea of a group of people doing something strange suddenly goes way beyond just dancing in shopping malls. It has many names: a flash mob, guerilla marketing, surprise marketing, viral marketing, etc. It can be both indoor and outdoor, happen in real life and on the Internet, involve volunteers or stage actors. The general idea is that these marketing events take the audience by surprise and invite them to pay attention, join the event, or to simply acknowledge the existence of something.
Kinds of surprise marketing
Outdoor: when you add something to an existing environment, e.g. a removable art object.
Indoor: usually happens inside theaters, train stations, shops, and university campus buildings.
Event: when a marketing performance interrupts an event in-progress like a game or a concert.
Experiential: the requirement is to make the audience interact with the performers or the installed objects.
Why it works for promotion
The most noticeable traits of surprise marketing are:
- Unexpected, this is kind of obligatory if it’s a surprise, right?
- Trigger FOMO (fear of missing out) — something interesting is going on and you are just walking by? No way!
- Engaging — this is closely linked to the previous statement. If you don’t want to miss out — join.
- These marketing approaches are relatively low-cost compared to a full-fledged campaign. It leverages the power of word-of-mouth marketing as people who have witnessed the marketing performance talk to their peers.
- Viral: if you do it right, there is a good chance of going viral on the Internet. Even if the reception is not ideal, it is still publicity, people will keep talking about your campaign.
- Creative: to make these events really work, marketers do go to the extremes in terms of creativity.
This was an example of an outdoor event on the streets of New York and other major US cities. Giant installations with coffee cups and melting ice-cream lollies were meant to advertise a new kind of highly absorbent towels.
✓ Our life is over-saturated with ads, so people normally don’t look too kindly on traditional banners, these installations are not so easy to ignore.
✓ This campaign focuses on the main problem the product solves.
Deadpool had a Tinder profile created for him as part of the movie promotion campaign. This has been another move in breaking the fourth wall and contacting the audience directly which was also a thing in the movie itself. Users who swiped right to match were redirected to a ticket purchase page.
✓ This is an example of an interruptive campaign that makes you pause whatever you are doing and pay attention.
✓ The reach on specialized platforms is limited, but it still creates enough engagement to spread the word all over the Internet.
An undergarments company launched an outdoor campaign and dressed statues around New York. This showed the range and variety of products, as well as increasing brand recognition.
✓ Sometimes the moves may be obvious, do not discard any ideas, however silly they might seem.
To promote a new Dracula series, BBC has launched an outdoor campaign with billboards that revealed different pictures depending on the time of day. The idea was synched with the nature of the titular character: invisible in the daylight, active and dangerous in the dark.
✓ An outdoor campaign went viral online due to its smooth execution.
✓ This is a great example of a campaign that conveys many ideas without words.
Flash mobs on social media
You have probably seen multiple stories on Instagram that feature a sticker that invites you to share a picture of your first dog/latest meal/best shirt etc.?
This is another approach to flash mobs that is useful for marketing purposes. Just imagine: you promote a beauty product and start a thread with “share the XX product you enjoy”. This is your chance to raise awareness very fast.
These flash mobs can be of a “tag 5 friends” kind, tagging celebrities in the hope of getting a response and hitting record audience reach, or simply an event where you try to involve as many users as you possibly can.
The same thing can happen on Twitter with challenge-threads that involve a massive number of people. TikTok already features Branded Hashtag Challenge as one of the main ad formats, and it performs very well for brand promotion.
Surprise marketing or flash mobs are great ways to leverage more attention and recognition on a small budget. These campaigns can be diverse in nature and have untapped potential for going truly viral.
If you insist on staying exclusively online, then maybe you should pay attention to tag challenges, because #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt is still a thing.
If you want to reach new GEOs and audiences, maybe it is all waiting for you on Telegram? We’ve prepared some material about Telegram audiences. What are the messenger’s users like this year? How old they are, what they do, and what they are interested in!