When is Spray-and-Pray A Good Growth Marketing Strategy?

I believe it would be interesting for you to hear how it’s possible to begin a discussion about the Prohibition Era and Chicago in 1920s, and to eventually end up with spray and pray marketing. So, here’s what happened.

I was in the company of proven movie and marketing enthusiasts, who are also self-proclaimed experts. This is a perfect recipe for a complete disaster or surprising theoretical discoveries.

I had a chance to refresh my memory about the timeless classic The Untouchables (1987) starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Robert De Niro.

So, my story about spray and pray marketing goes that of all the things we could possibly discuss about the movie we ended up with the notorious “Tommy gun” or Thompson machine gun used by Al Capone’s guys and the team of Untouchables. Why? I don’t have a clue, but here we were.

When people drink beer and watch movies this what you get when they enter the growth marketing zone.

So, the question was: if you were to choose between being chased by a gangster with a Tommy gun and a bad guy with a sniper rifle, which one should you choose? As you might’ve expected all the guys were terrified about the possibility to find themselves against “the bringer of lead rain” the good old Tommy gun. So, their option was the sniper rifle. Yet, there was a single voice against it.

One of my friends thought he would have better chances with the Tommy gun. Our eyebrows were sky-high. Who’s this guy? Did he have too much beer?

He owed us a huge explanation. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long. We all knew that he was a helpless marketing enthusiast. Yet, this was too much according to any movie or growth marketing standards you wish to apply.

So, according to his own interpretation, when you use a sniper is just like you’re applying a targeted growth marketing strategy. You aren’t going to waste too much ammo, that’s for sure. You focus your attention and your hit your target or targets with high precision and probability of success. On the other side, you have an excellent example of spray and pray marketing — the Tommy gun.

You’re shooting like crazy, but it’s not very likely that you’ll hit your target at all. That’s the perfect parallel with the spray and pray growth marketing. You do your thing and hope for the best.

Needless to say, we were completely shocked, but also deeply intrigued, by this completely unexpected marketing parallelism. It was about time to leave the movie and the Prohibition discussion arena and focus entirely on growth marketing.

When you put it like this S&P (spray and pray) marketing really sounds like a completely unreasonable tactic. It’s just like you have a gigantic net and you’re fishing across the entire ocean. You may catch something, but you may also walk back home empty hands. It doesn’t matter that the World Wide Web provides you with countless affordable alternatives. Yet, there’s something called the “High Volume-Sensitive Consumers,” who will simply and elegantly ignore or block your S&P random bullets. Nowadays, it’s really hard to imagine that S&P could actually get you something worthy of all the trouble.

So, both Al Capone and spray & pray growth marketing are history? Well, not necessarily.

For instance, you can narrow the scope and improve your chances with the help of a partially targeted spray and pray campaign. In a way, it does sound like a bad thing or a case of marketing travesty, but this fact doesn’t undermine its potential efficiency.

You do your S&P thing but on a relatively targeted group of potential customers. If I’m to use the gun analogy again, I would say this is similar to a scenario where you put a “red dot” laser scope on your Tommy gun. It doesn’t look entirely right, but it may still improve your chances of hitting the right target much sooner than expected.

I also believe that you can hardly find the pure forms of S&P or targeted growth marketing. Yet, if you plan to approach all Millennials or Baby Boomers in your “cyber neighborhood,” then there’s no way to avoid the S&P stigmatization. On the other hand, if you want to get the maximum of your targeted group with a symbolic investment, you don’t have to be afraid. No one is going to put “scarlet letters” S&P on you.

So, relax, spray, and don’t forget to pray. Also, be aware that too much spraying of any kind can be unhealthy for you and your “targets.”

Originally published as an answer on Quora.



Eight-Time "Noonies" Writing Award Winner

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