What a Real Guerrilla Marketing Campaign Can Teach Us

Source: Mullen Lowe Group

No, I’m not talking about the pop ups we see on the streets here in New York. I’m talking about a REAL guerrilla marketing campaign commissioned by the Colombian Ministry of Defense in partnership with ad agency, Lowe-SSP3. Their goal: to convince members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) “guerrilla” fighters to demobilize and come home.

From This American Life podcast to TEDTalks, this successful campaign should be highlighted. It was born out of insight, included all the nuts and bolts a good campaign should have AND it achieved results.

Chief Creative Officer Jose Miguel Sokoloff first started with radio ads to try to reach these guerrilla fighters. Throughout the course of the campaign, he met with demobilized fighters and found that Christmas was the peak time fighters left the FARC. Dropping the ads, he went for something bigger, something bolder. With beautiful lights they decorated nine tall trees strategically set up in jungle paths frequently used by the FARC. With motion sensors, these trees lit up with a sign saying “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can come home. Demobilize.”

Source: Mullen Lowe Group

This was just a taste of Christmas – no presents, no family, no fun. With that alone, 5% of the FARC demobilized. And it wasn’t just those who saw the Christmas trees. The out-of-home campaign traveled by word of mouth. Operation Christmas was a success!

Lesson #1 – Make it beautiful.

They could have repeated the same campaign, but Sokoloff went back to the source. He interviewed the newly demobilized fighters to gather more intel. He learned that while the trees were a success, the rivers are the real highways of the FARC in Colombia.

Source: Fast Company

Fast forward to Christmas for Operation Rivers of Lights. His team went from town to town collecting trinkets, toys and notes that would go inside these clear plastic flowing balls. Hundreds of these glowing balls were put into the rivers, waiting to be fished out of the river by the FARC fighters.  As you can imagine, it was a beautiful sight.

Lesson #2 – Surprise people.

They spent one more year on lights and theatrics with Operation Bethleham, lighting the way home for guerrillas with a spotlight. By this point, their efforts had been a success and peace talks were happening. The goal had changed to now make them feel like they could come home.

Source: TED

Lesson #3 – Tap into Emotion.

That’s when Sokoloff went to those who mattered most to these fighters – their mothers. The last campaign was a message from them, along with a photo from when they were just boys and girls, telling them to come home for Christmas. It was personal to so many people who received it. “Before you were a guerrilla, you were my child. Come home.”

I share all this because these lessons can be applied to so much of what we do, whether it’s planning or content development for social media.

Make it beautiful. Surprise people. Tap into emotion.

Most importantly, whatever you’ve created must be born out of insight. When you can check off all these items, then you’ll be able to create something that’s shareable, even in the heart of the jungle.

Have you seen any other campaigns that have blown you away? Share them below now.

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