Fish Where the Fish Are

While waiting in line for a taxi at the airport in Las Vegas on my way to the ServiceNow Knowledge 18 event, I immediately saw the first indication of some interesting marketing tactics from a different ITSM vendor, FreshService. It had purchased signage ads at the airport with some subtle and somewhat humorous messages, targeting the 18,000 conference attendees coming through the airport.

Shadow marketing with a few sneaky, stealthy tactics or messages to grab the attention of an audience that is otherwise totally focused on the main event can be risky.

I like the analogy of fishing where the fish are. ServiceNow have created the largest event in ITSM by spending a lot time and money to create the event for the fish in its pond. When you look at this event, the target audience for both companies is here, and it appears FreshService decided to go fishing.

Launching such a strategy, however, requires careful planning, a sufficient budget, and in my opinion, if done too aggressively – it will fail.

FreshService’s tactics only started at the Las Vegas airport. It apparently also included these additional things to try and win the hearts and minds of the Knowledge 18 crowd:

  • It apparently distributed thousands of Starbucks gift cards
  • Had ads on taxi rooftops and trunk lids
  • It had coverage of the Las Vegas Strip with mobile and walking billboards
  • I missed the Starbucks it bought out for breakfast on Tuesday and it was right outside my hotel
  • Booked more than 10 restaurants near the convention center to host surprise “free” lunches and dinners for people attending the event

What I did like about FreshService’s strategy and tactics is that they didn’t seem to step over the line. In my opinion, things like this can backfire because the company being shadowed considers it offensive. All’s fair in love and war – and business – but it should be done with honesty, integrity and respect.

I think the FreshService campaign was very professional. I’m not sure if you can measure a shadow marketing campaign in terms of ROI. Maybe, there is a reward with such risk and I guess only time will tell whether or not these tactics grabbed even a few new fans for its brand.

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