How Can You Compete Against Multi-Million Dollar Ad and Marketing Budgets?

The short answer is: You can’t – at least not head to head. But there is a mighty lesson to be learned about competing with giants from a small Australian company called Messages on Hold (MOH).

MOH may no longer be as small as they once were, but they are still tiny compared to the major telecom carriers in Australia and the Pacific region. Nevertheless, in a very short time they have climbed from obscurity to become, in the entire region, the leading company offering promotional telephone message services. And they did it all while spending very little money on advertising.

MOH, you see, are masters of ‘ambush marketing’. There is a form of ambush marketing that can be expensive. Let’s say, for example, that Sony pays millions to sponsor the Davis Cup. Along comes Samsung and buys some airtime around tennis-related events (for example a retrospective of other Davis Cup tournaments). In the eyes of the public Samsung, too, becomes a tournament sponsor – but at a much lower cost. They have ambushed the event.

But that would have been too rich for MOH (as it would be for most hosting companies). So here’s what MOH did: They put their name and logo on those giant foam ‘#1’ fingers that fans waggle at sporting events. They gave out the fingers and told people that if they got their images on national TV, they would receive a prize of $100.

They also hired an attractive model and dressed her up in cheeky attire related to an event. For instance, for a major motor racing event, the model wore a skimpy dress made entirely of small toy racecar wheels – 223 of them. They also began offering bigger prizes (up to $250) for stunts that got the MOH logo into major TV or print media. The provisos were that the stunts could not be disruptive, dangerous or otherwise illegal (no trespassing, for example). MOH also issued press releases whenever their stunts got noticed, lauded, or criticized (“Press Council Decries MOH’s Ambush Tactics).

I’m sure they buy other advertising, but certainly nothing like what the carriers spend to promote on-hold messaging. And yet who’s #1?

Would ambush marketing work for a small hosting company? I’m not sure. It depends in part on what message you want to get out to the world and who your target market is. It also depends enormously on how clever or cheeky your stunts are. If you do it, remember, you’re bound to offend or upset some people – which is not a problem if those people are your competition and not your customers.

I’d be interested to hear what you think of ambush marketing and whether it could work for your business.

Here’s a link to Messages On Hold.

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About the Author:

Hartland Ross is the Founder and President of eBridge Marketing Solutions. He has over 20 years experience in marketing and business development, focusing for the last 15 years on the technology sector. Prior to starting up eBridge, Hartland operated a successful franchise, worked with two different online advertising startups, and was the VP of Sales and Marketing for a national development and training company.

Posted April 10, 2009
Categories: eBridge Marketing Solutions' Blog, Advertising and Marketing General
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