In June, IHOP “rebranded” to IHOB—the “International House of Burgers”—on the fly. Turns out, the move wasn’t permanent, after all—just a ploy to market their burgers. But it worked. According to Adweek, the tactic produced more than 400 thousand mentions on Twitter alone. Restaurant guerrilla marketing tactics like the viral IHOB operation make an impact by being both unique and surprising. They cut through the white noise of advertising, and, before you know it, a brand has caught your attention—and your wallet, too.
But you don’t have to be a national chain to plot a successful guerrilla marketing campaign. Plenty of guerrilla marketing ideas work on a shoestring budget. After all, one important goal of guerrilla marketing is to make an emotional connection with your customer. And you can do that every day—inside your restaurant, out in your community, and online. Here’s everything you need to know to master restaurant guerrilla marketing for your brand.
1. Target Your Key Demographic
Before you start brainstorming guerrilla marketing campaign ideas, take a step back. What do you know about your key demographic? What are their values? Why do you think they care about you and what your brand stands for? Make sure your guerrilla marketing ideas align with their values before launching a full-fledged campaign.
For example, your Millennial customer base likely values authenticity. Maybe they’d be excited to order table-side guacamole and interact with waitstaff. Older diners want experiences, too: think cooking classes, or classes that help diners pair homemade dishes with wine and beer. Each of these in-house experiences helps people connect with your brand—and build the strong customer relationships you need for other components of your guerrilla marketing campaign to take off.
2. Have a Concise Message
If you’re only trying to use restaurant guerrilla marketing to “get your brand out there,” the campaign won’t take off. Market something specific, like a new beverage, new menu items, or a seasonal menu. Use the campaign to drive catering or focus on winning new clientele. Whatever your message is, make it clear, concise, and simple, so your audience responds.
3. Start Small
Pilot your concept within your own four walls. You’d never launch a new menu item without conducting taste tests or asking for feedback, so why would you host a buzzy community-wide event without piloting the event in-house first? If you’re interested in throwing a summer block party with free food, pass around free samples to every dinner table and gauge customer reactions. Good guerrilla marketing ideas become great when you incorporate customer feedback.
4. Quality over Quantity
Casting a wide net makes restaurant guerrilla marketing more likely to fail. Pick one incredible event or tactic and put all your weight behind it, instead. Here are some questions to consider to make your campaign as strong as possible:
- If you’re hosting an event, who will support you?
- If you want to promote a menu item or experience, what branded collateral will you need to catch people’s attention?
- How are you going to judge the success of your event once it’s over?
- How does the event or campaign integrate with the rest of your marketing efforts?
5. Own Your Local Community
When it comes to building buzz for your restaurant through guerrilla marketing, you need to own the community you live in. That means focusing on your target demographic and designing an experience that gets you out in the community in an interesting way. Think free food in the town square, or free lunch for office administrators. Invest the bulk of your marketing budget in experiences that help you build relationships and solidify your connection to the community, rather than expensive ad buys.
6. Align Your Marketing Activities
Any restaurant guerrilla marketing campaign needs three major components to generate buzz and business: a memorable dining experience in your restaurant, strong partnerships in your community, and a fun, strategic social media campaign. Your concise message should come through loud and clear in each of these areas, so you can cut through the white noise of traditional advertising and capture the imagination of your customers.
Brushing up on your restaurant marketing skills?