More than 130 people scramble into position, horns blowing, drums rolling, cheerleaders chanting, but all I can hear is the sound of my heart beating. This is it, the moment Huddle has been preparing for and I’ve been coordinating for more than nine months: Huddle is about to take on Microsoft in its own back yard at its 10th annual SharePoint Conference in Anaheim.  I close my eyes, take a deep breath and march on; there’s no turning back now!

Phase one

March four blocks up to the front of the conference. As we march towards the entrance a swarm of curious people start gathering, asking “what’s this?”, “cool a marching band, did Microsoft do this?”, “we’re close to Disney maybe they’re responsible?”

The chatter spreads. It doesn’t take long before it sinks in that this marching band was not put on by Microsoft or Disney, but a company called Huddle. It also soon becomes very clear that Huddle is a direct Microsoft competitor. Someone shouts, ‘Wow Huddle is taking on Microsoft at its own conference, ballsy!’  People take out their camera phones to record the action and our presence goes viral – we’ve done exactly what we wanted.

Meanwhile, my colleague Rishi is tweeting to people inside the conference: “Come out side and see what you’re missing!”, “there’s a 130 piece marching band outside, where are you?”

By now, the band has stopped marching and moves into performance formation. They play ‘Celebrate good times’ and why not? Who doesn’t love a marching band! Well, Microsoft certainly doesn’t   Within a few minutes, Microsoft’s event coordinators have called security and they demand that we leave the premises and stop playing music.

Phase 2: 

We delay the shutdown of our stunt for as long as possible. It takes the security team a while to figure out who’s in charge and then they finally close in on me. I keep moving in and out of the crowd, playing my movements off as dancing. The frustration on the security guards’ faces is obvious. One tweet read: “@huddle: That was awesome. And ballsy. Hilarious. Damage control was like watching CIA. #spc11.”

To keep them happy, I say we’ll move, but we take our sweet time about it. Eventually, they call the police who want to know what this marching band is all about. I explain that we’re a start-up here to raise awareness i.e. this is a marketing stunt. They laugh and soon get pictures with our cheerleaders!

Phase 3:

Doing it again! The police advised us not to hang out in front of the conference entrance. We agreed, but didn’t say we wouldn’t march elsewhere on the complex. A couple of hours later, we marched back up to the conference just in time to intercept attendees before they headed to lunch.

The marketing stunt was a great success and one of the most exhilarating work activities I’ve ever done! We generated brand awareness, press coverage and sales as a result. This marketing stunt was part of a wider marketing campaign, which included offline billboards, videos and email marketing.

For anyone thinking about doing a guerrilla marketing stunt, here are my top three tips:

1)      When brainstorming, don’t hold back. Consider ideas that scare both you and your management team. They might be exactly what you need.

2)      Use all your resources and network. An old co-worker of mine was passionate about marching bands and this connection proved to be invaluable for our event.

3)      Expect the unexpected. Anything can happen so be ready for it. With proper time and project planning you can mitigate the number of curve balls thrown your way, but on the day of the stunt you have to accept the fact that there will be some…

Take a look at some behind the scenes footage of our marketing stunt:

Learn more about our marketing stunt at the SharePoint conference 2011 here.

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