Mischief Marketing is a form of marketing which utilizes methods which are highly unorthodox, and often laced with bold claims and fine humor, to serve the single most important purpose of marketing – getting the customer’s attention.
It is the unorthodoxy that characterizes the strategies, and perhaps that is why there is no set method as to how should one go about it using it. Let me take up two prominent examples to further explain the point properly:
1. Netscape: Who was Netscape competing with (or rather trying to compete with) when it entered the market? Microsoft. At that time, and even now, Microsoft is a giant, a force to reckon with. Netscape found the most innovative way of grabbing eyeballs for its product – it sued Microsoft!
Netscape convinced the Attorney General at the time in USA, Janet Reno, to accept a case against Microsoft based on the monopoly rules which governed the country. The underlying base was that Microsoft was violating monopoly rules with Internet Explorer.
The reaction was immediate. Microsoft put in all its might in battering Netscape’s case. Imagine the effect of a giant company pulling out all guns against a small fry. Instantly, everyone in the market knew what Netscape was! Instant panacea to the awareness problem!! Add to that the fact that a common man still sees big companies as parasites sucking their money and any one standing against them is seen to be the valiant one!
Irrespective of the result of the case, or even the validity of the case, Netscape achieved the one thing that it wanted – awareness. They were offering their own browser for free against Microsoft’s paid browser, it was reportedly equally good if not better – and voila! the presence of Netscape Navigator spread like wildfire.
This was mischief marketing at its best – unorthodox, bold and most importantly, successful.
2. Blair Witch Project – This was a movie which brought Mischief Marketing into limelight. The filmmakers’ unorthodox marketing strategies were credited to make a movie made with just USD 22,000 to earn a massive USD 248 million in revenues.
The tactics – The movie was launched not as a commercial movie. It was presented as a documentary, which was a collection of recordings from the video tapes of 3 young guys who went into a haunted house (it was a horror movie). Supposedly, the backpacks of these people, with the camera and all, were found in the foundation of a 100-year old cabin by a anthropology research crew doing some digging around.
The filmmakers created background information about the legend of the ‘Blair Witch’ who lived in that haunted house and had for decades been the reason behind mysterious disappearances and deaths. This background was spread through a massive viral campaign on online chat rooms.
Hence, eventually, cinegoers (whose interest was strongly piqued by now), went into the movie halls to see what kind of recordings had those people made before mysteriously disappearing.
It was only after a few days that the filmmakers released the secret that the movie was not made of haunted tapes, and all the background horror was only just created to add to the ‘horror quotient’ of the movie.
The people accepted this as a superbly effective marketing stunt, appreciated it and the movie continued to be a roaring success.
I guess the above two are sound examples of unorthodox marketing practices that are at times followed by companies, by a quirk of genius and imagination.
Mischief Marketing is not a very technical or well-defined subject. In fact, its effectiveness lies in its very undefined nature. It is this undefined nature which brings out the unorthodoxy. Hence, there are no specific strategies to be followed if one wants to use Mischief Marketing – just use your own brains and come out with something original and wacky.
Given the clutter that is facing most of the modern media avenues and the increased indifference to mass-marketing that the customers are showing these days, perhaps these innovative ways of grabbing attention are the need of the hour.
Note: An interesting albeit a bit unorganized reference for the concept: http://www.mischiefmarketing.com/