With the public becoming ever-more immune to traditional marketing tactics, it’s no surprise brands and agencies are adopting increasingly extreme methods in order to make an impact. One of which is akin to guerrilla PR, or ambush advertising, and is potentially an incredibly powerful tool.
Hijack marketing, as many refer to it, is the practice of companies affiliating themselves with an event or story that already has an existing audience. The crucial difference between this and standard sponsorship being that the link is unofficial, meaning oftentimes no fees or royalties are paid, no contracts are signed and, in some instances, the piggybacked winds up being a little irritated by the piggybacker.
Nevertheless, the idea is to grab attention and expand the brand’s reach, and within that context hijack marketing can achieve plenty. Of course it’s vitally important to consider the potential cons and be careful not to overstep the mark. Nobody wants a cease and desist letter, after all. Inspired by this dark art of the industry, we’ve come up with some examples that prove how creativity and a good sense of humour can work wonders for exposure- whether spontaneous or pre-planned to perfection.
Jacamo – Hakarena
The Rugby World Cup is currently underway here in England and Wales, and to celebrate men’s clothing retailer Jacamo decided to employ the talent of world champion hooker Keven Mealamu, and craft a spoof video, combining the legendary haka performed by New Zealand’s national team, with eternally irritating 90s pop-dance chart hit, Macarena. Controversy followed, but so did plenty of social activity and press coverage.
Snickers – World Cup 2014
Uruguay face off against South American rivals Chile in Brazil during the planet’s biggest football tournament. The match itself would have offered plenty of talking points, but the biggest of the lot came from Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, who added to the list of reasons he’s two goals short of a hat trick by biting an opposing player. Snickers responded in a poetically succinct manner. Well, sort of.
LEGO – The Royal Wedding
It’s April 2011 and at least half the world is talking about one thing- the impending vows that will be taken by Prince William of Great Britain and his fiancee, Catherine Middleton. Clearly understanding the potential benefits from getting involved, LEGO decided to build a replica of Westminster Abbey- where the couple would be married- and received press exposure to millions of people.
Meat Pack – The case of the stolen customer
Guatemalan trainer and shoe specialist Meat Pack came up with a nifty way of robbing potential sales from its competitors. Through the retailer’s smartphone app, and the device’s GPS functionality, whenever someone entered the official store of any brand also sold at Meat Pack, a discount voucher timer began counting down, urging the shopper to leave that store, and head for Meat Pack to buy the same product at a much lower price.
Paddy Power – London, France
The biggest sporting event of the decade, in the UK at least, was London’s 2012 Olympic Games. Brands paid more than the GDP of many small nations for affiliation, but Paddy Power thought of a different way to link up. Posters were erected across the capital claiming the betting firm was the official sponsor of the biggest sporting event in London, with an addendum that the reference was to London, France. The Olympic committee demanded they be removed, but eventually backed down as no legal lines were actually crossed.