Case Study: Guerrilla marketing as a key marketing strategy

Aaron Giles, Marketing Manager of the Great Escape Leeds & Sheffield, discusses how the company’s Crystal Maze-style adventure game used a particularly creative method to gain exposure in its early stages.

FACT BOX

Company: The Great Escape Game
Date founded: January, 2014
Employees: 30
Sector: Entertainment/leisure

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Hannah Duraid and Peter Lacole came up with the idea of a Crystal Maze-style escape game after seeing similar venues while traveling in Asia. They launched their first room, The Mad Scientist, at Great Escape Sheffield in January 2015. Since then they have launched three more rooms: Homicide, Alcatraz and Placebo and been voted number one for fun and games on TripAdvisor. Hannah invested £25,000 of her own personal savings to launch the business which has seen 27,000 visitors and a turnover of £250,000 in its first year of trading.

I started working at The Great Escape in January 2015, just a month after it opened. The concept itself is very similar to the hit show Crystal Maze, only you’re immersed into a story, like a real-life movie scenario or a video game. The owners realised that there was gap in the market over in the UK and decided to take the plunge.

Tackling a lack of awareness

In the early stages, as with many businesses, we found that lack of awareness was a huge hindrance. So we wanted to do something that would get the city talking, something that would reflect our creative edge as a business and most importantly, something cheap. Two and two came together when we opened our "Homicide" room. With a CSI-style theme we thought about how we could convey this to the city. We decided to use dead body chalk stencils, the campaign costed just shy of £400.

As we went for awareness our main measures were social media tags and the classic ‘how did you hear about us?’ The idea quickly became a great success, with our test stencil being tagged on our social media within 15 minutes of us painting it. When we properly launched, our social media platforms were bombarded with pictures taken by people who appreciated the creativity, the stencils became the third best draw of customers, after social and word of mouth and we definitely got the city talking for the right or the wrong reasons... sorry city council.

We couldn't go to a networking event without a handful of people telling us how much they loved the ads and most importantly, we were busier than ever, more bookings, more calls, more customers.

The importance of creative marketing

The advice I would give to other business owners hoping to make a big marketing impact is this: think creative and make sure it applies back to your business. For example, in our case, we thought: What will create more impact: a logo, or a dead body stencil? We got many angry calls from council staff who were unhappy about us painting on the pavement. We told them what we used was chalk paint, which is 100 percent biodegradable, but they responded by painting over it in black paint!

This meant that the chalk paint degraded, showing the original pavement colour, surrounded by a black box, meaning the council has effectively created a permanent advert for us. Sometimes the best marketing exposure isn’t exactly what you had planned!