Grassroots Consumer Marketing Campaigns

I am looking for as many examples as possible of ?grassroots?

marketing campaigns that were developed to build support from average

consumers for a product, service or cause. Ideally, it would be a

grassroots effort that would be a 'David vs Goliath' story where the

little grassroots effort helped overwhelm a giant organization or

institution. (I am more interested in the product support-building

and least interested in the cause.)

These examples can be case studies, plans or outlines, but MUST

include specific examples of what was done within the campaign (i.e.,

tactics, steps, tools, techniques, etc.) to accomplish the goal.

Ideally, the end-results would also be available.

Request for Question Clarification byumiat-ga

Hi, prpro-ga!

So that we can all be on the right track, can you provide one example

of a campaign that you feel fits the bill?


Request for Question Clarification byumiat-ga

To clarify my question:

What would you consider as an example for the support of a product

that would overwhelm an organization? Wouldn't the product

manufacturer/supplier benefit from the support?

Are you also interested in successful grassroots campaigns that may

be in the environmental realm (stopping a huge construction project,

for instance?)

Clarification of Question byprpro-ga

The most outstanding recent example of a grassroots campign is what

Joe Trippi did for Howard Dean using the Internet. For consumer

stuff, a good example would be the word-of-mouth and surreptitious

symbology used to promulgate the use of Wi-Fi by trying to access it

for free. Another example is the following:

The advocacy group Viewers for Quality Television (VQT) started as a

small effort by a Virginia woman to return "Cagney and Lacey" to the

airwaves. VQT today remains a relatively small organization with about

3,000 members and an annual budget under $70,000. But its volunteer

efforts each year include letter campaigns, a respected newsletter,

annual polls, awards, and a national conference, all directed toward

preserving quality programming and resurrecting some shows from the

network trash heap. Since its formation, VQT campaigns have resulted

in the renewal of several programs slated for cancellation, including

"Designing Women" and "China Beach." Most recently, fans of the

cancelled "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman" formed their own "Save Our Show

Campaign" which included a petition drive and used a Web site to urge

viewers to write or call CBS to protest.

A link to greater explanation about grassroots efforts is at

At this point, I am most interested in politial and consumer goods

examples; environment or otherwise would be off-target for me.

Request for Question Clarification byumiat-ga


To be honest, I am still confused by your question. Most all the

grassroots efforts I have found are organized by a "group" which

encourage consumers to campaign and stimlate change as they gain

momentum. I am wondering, however, if you are looking for efforts

initiated by "one" individual. Your article example citing the

consumer write-in efforts for Pilot crackers leads me to wonder if I

am heading in the wrong direction.

Please look at a few of these examples and tell me if I am on the

right track or totally off base:



A grassroots effort by housing advocates in Chapel Hill, North

Carolina used the power of documentary to rally support for better

maintenance of public housing. The successful effort paid off by

gaining attention at the federal level.

From "Using Grassroots Documentary Films for Political Change," by

David Whiteman. Tech Soup May 8, 2002



"In 1996, a group of Whidbey Island activists put together a

ONE/Northwest-hosted email list to stay in touch and informed about

key community issues. Proving that "all politics is local," the list

quickly grew to 100 participants who began turning out for key

meetings and supporting environmentally responsible citizens for

positions of community responsibility."

"At one meeting, over 85 people attended and successfully opposed the

inclusion of planned resorts in the county Comprehensive Plan. A

multitude of write-in votes resulted in victory for a pro-environment

Soil Conservation District Commissioner at yet another meeting."

From "Email List Organizing Builds Community Successes on Whidbey

Island, WA." ONE/Northwest. Tech Soup (May 06, 2000)



"Supermarket activism was extremely important and effective in forcing

genetically engineered (GE) food off the shelves throughout Europe. In

the U.S., we are starting to see some of those same results. Whole

Foods and Wild Oats, two national supermarket chains, pledged to use

only non-GE ingredients in their store brand products after consumers

expressed their concerns about the use of these experimental foods.

Trader Joe's, after more than a year of being the target of a consumer

campaign by several grassroots groups, NGO's,and individual activists,

pledged to source non-GE for all their store brands."



"From London to Nicaragua, consumers and workers are uniting to attack

an age-old scourge: sweatshops. Major consumer campaigns are gaining

ground across Western Europe and North America by joining forces with

non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and trade unions in the South to

demand respect for workers? basic rights.

"Taking the Sweat out of the Sweatshops," by Ruth Mayne. Oxfam (1999)



"With advertisers being flooded with thousands of letters of protest

generated by PTC grassroots chapters and members, 46 "Nip/Tuck"

advertisers decided to pull out. The massive ad cancellation was

considered a huge success by the PTC that was greatly concerned about

the graphic nature of the show's content. In a solid show of the power

of the PTC efforts, more than 14 advertisers called the PTC office and

said as a direct result of our efforts, they re-evaluated their media

buys and pulled their advertisements off "Nip/Tuck." That's the power

of the PTC!"



Request for Question Clarification byumiat-ga

Another example would be Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which was

started by a small group of affected mothers. The group is responsible

for the passage of many drunk driving laws.

What about the consumer push for medical use of marijuana?

Clarification of Question byprpro-ga

I really AM looking for the efforts initiated by one individual or an

agency (such as an advertising or PR agency). An alternatuve would be

a small organization with limited resources that has to 'cleverly' use

the tools and techniques of grassroots marketing to achieve their


Request for Question Clarification byeasterangel-ga

Hi prpro-ga!

How many cases of grassroots marketing campaigns do you require for a

legitimate answer? I ask this because it seems only a few of them can

be considered a "david vs. goliath" case. So far I have found 6 cases

that are applicable within this requirement.

Some of them are apparently just creative ideas using grassroots

marketing. Can we still include them even if they are not of the

"david vs. goliath" nature?


Clarification of Question byprpro-ga

As many cases as possible — even if just creative ideas — is fine!!

Request for Question Clarification byeasterangel-ga

Hi again!

The examples I found are not in the form of case studies, plans or

outlines but as ARTICLES. Such articles discuss the grassroots

strategies made by individuals and firms in their quest to be


I will separate the articles into the "David vs. Goliath" category and

the "Just Plain Creative" types of grasssroots marketing.

Will this be ok with you as a legitimate answer?


Clarification of Question byprpro-ga

easterangel,I would definitely be satisfied with that also as long as

the articles are outlining the specific techniques/tactics used in the

campaigns. Thanks for asking!

One thought on “Grassroots Consumer Marketing Campaigns

  1. Hi! Thanks for accepting my proposal for formulating an answer.

    Most articles usually are free flowing discussions so they do not

    usually have outlines of their main points. But that wouldn?t be a

    problem; I will provide the necessary outlines coming from the

    articles themselves. I will also be using multiple articles to stress

    the point.


    David vs. Goliath Grassroots Marketing:

    1. ?The Passion of the Christ? ?

    Background: We don?t need to look very far in time to view a great

    example of grassroots marketing. According to marketing experts, the

    movie ?The Passion of the Christ? by Mel Gibson is one of the best

    examples of grassroots marketing. Against all conventional wisdom, it

    succeeded in the tough movie industry. Movie executives avoided it and

    said that it will tank in the box-office. Now it is getting close to

    being one of the most profitable movies of all-time.

    Strategies Used:

    a. Relied on core and potential market to spearhead the grassroots

    marketing campaign.

    ?The grassroots marketing effort that Gibson undertook for ?Passion?

    initially on his own and later through Newmarket Films was a lean one

    that relied on reaching the film?s core audience of Christian

    moviegoers and potential moviegoers by getting local church groups to

    promote seeing the film.?

    ?Gibson breaks Hollywood's Ten Commandments, and wins?

    ??A lot of church leaders … went out and told their congregations to

    see the film — they actually booked tickets themselves," Kilday said.

    "Some theaters have … sold out their opening days to church

    affiliated groups, so we really haven't seen this kind of grass roots

    campaign take off like this before.?"

    ?Marketing ?The Passion of the Christ??

    b. Limited screening of the movie:

    ?Instead of generating dull television reports or newspaper articles

    with one set of opinions balancing another set of opinions about the

    film and its message, the resulting media coverage focused on how

    incensed people were that Gibson wouldn?t let them have an early look

    at his movie. The more people were told they couldn?t see it, the more

    they wanted to see it.?

    ?Gibson breaks Hollywood's Ten Commandments, and wins?

    c. Appropriate movie merchandising and marketing materials:

    ?The moviemakers are providing churches with free marketing materials

    to help fill theater seats ? and pews. Among the items are posters and

    postcards for direct mailing with the line: "Best outreach opportunity

    in 2,000 years?

    d. Unique marketing support:

    ?NASCAR. Interstate Batteries Chairman Norm Miller asked that the hood

    of the race car his company sponsors, Bobby Labonte's No. 18, be

    emblazoned with the Passion logo in the recent Daytona 500. Miller

    wanted to contribute to the film's promotion.?

    ?Promoting 'The Passion'?

    But amidst all these explanations even including the controversy,

    movie executives and even the Mel Gibson camp are still perplexed by

    the huge success of this film.

    2. Apple Computers vs. IBM

    Background: Steve Jobs and Apple built a tight knit community and

    advanced the cause that Apple was the symbolism of democracy while IBM

    was billed as ?Big Brother?.

    Strategies Used:

    a. Rallied the developer community in 1980s to develop software for the Mac.

    ?The evangelism marketing movement fomented at Apple in the 1980s,

    with the launch of the original Macintosh under the guidance of Jobs

    and Apple's then-chief evangelist, Guy Kawasaki. It was Kawasaki who

    helped popularize the idea of a company evangelist by rallying the

    developer community to write software for the Mac.?

    b. ?Create a clearly defined cause?

    ?With the launch of the Mac in 1984, Jobs and Kawasaki boldly outlined

    their cause: that computing shouldn't be controlled by IBM's hegemony,

    that computers should make room for creativity in a democratization of

    the desktop. Rightly or wrongly, the positioning then was, ?A computer

    for the rest of us.??

    c. Listening to customer requests

    ?In presenting the iMac, Jobs outlined the top three requests of

    customers and how that feedback drove the engineering of the updated


    ?Steve Jobs, hit maker?

    3. The Blair Witch Project:

    Background: Another film digging in to grassroots marketing was the

    late 90s hit the Blair Witch Project.

    Strategies Used:

    a. Create a scary mock documentary that will appeal to the young audience.

    ?The site attracted older viewers, too, but that coveted

    12-to-17-year-old cohort is the group Hollywood is looking to lure.

    And it consists of moviegoers who aren't allowed into theaters to see

    the film without an adult. Indeed, the movie's "R" rating may even

    help draw them to the site, where they can see a stripped-down version

    of the story told in photos, sounds and video clips.?

    ?On the Web, Rags to Witch's; 'Blair' Site Built Mystery Long Before

    Film Struck Gold?

    b. Using this targeted demographic of Internet enthusiast age group,

    it was one of the first movies to use the power of internet marketing

    to generate grassroots interest.

    ?Even the marketing campaign has become a sidebar for every major

    media outlet. The Web site originally created by Sanchez and taken

    over by Artisan treats "The Blair Witch Project" as a real event,

    greeting surfers with the ominous introduction, ?In October of 1994,

    three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville,

    Maryland while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was


    ?The site goes on to offer the mythology of the so-called "Blair

    witch," including a timeline; fake background information on the

    filmmakers; evidence from a contrived investigation in the aftermath.?

    c. Create additional buzz – ?They've also created a

    "pseudo-documentary" for the Sci-Fi Channel which includes interviews

    with the parents of the "missing" filmmakers??

    ?This 'Witch' boasting wicked marketing brew?

    4. North Fulton Regional Hospital

    Background: ?With its dominance in deliveries (16,280 in 2000),

    Northside required exclusive managed care contracts for obstetrics and

    other services with all the big insurance companies. So, rather than

    being able to go to the nearest hospital, patients were required to

    pass these hospitals to go to the required Northside.?

    ?North Fulton Regional Hospital was one of several hospitals unfairly

    penalized by Northside's exclusionary practices. The hospitals were

    shut out of 80 percent of the North Georgia market, and more than

    500,000 people were restricted from using their local hospitals.?

    Strategies used:

    a. North Fulton Regional Hospital used a massive grassroots campaign

    by establishing a coalition that includes other aspects of the health


    ?To not only chip away at the monopoly's policies but reverse them

    would take a multi-pronged effort that brought together elected

    officials, the media, the health care and insurance industries,

    businesses and, very importantly, patients. It would take community

    and political support. To that end, we established the Coalition for

    Hospital Choice.?

    b. Mobilizing community support

    ?Mobilizing the community was an important part of the strategy, and

    we were able to help coordinate the public outrage over the practices.

    Remedies were sought in the state Legislature, requiring us to employ

    our extensive government relations experience, including coordination

    of testimony.?

    c. Network was established between the coalition and community members

    ?Coalition members networked and regularly contacted the media. DLA

    created "tool kits" that ensured consistent messaging by thousands of

    supporters. We trained members of the Coalition to be well versed at

    breakfasts and other public meetings as well as in one-on-ones with

    the media. We also coordinated meetings with local businesses to

    enlist their support.?

    DLA Case Studies

    5. Shareware vs. Software Distribution Channels

    Background: One of the most successful forms of grassroots marketing

    is the idea of shareware. By passing off usual software distribution

    networks, shareware enables customers to download software then try it

    out before paying. The developer didn?t need to create disks or CDs to

    distribute the product.

    Strategies Used:

    a. Freely-share the software with anybody.

    ?Out of a simple desire to freely share a good thing with others,

    PC-File was born. It didn't have its final name yet (I called it "Easy

    File.") It soon became a hit at the Seattle offices of IBM and

    throughout the Seattle area as enthusiastic users of the free program

    shared copies of it with friends and associates.?

    b. Ask only for volunteer payment if they like the software. Payment

    shall have additional service features.

    ?I decided to place a message in the program. I would ask those who

    received it to voluntarily send a modest donation to help defray my

    costs. The message encouraged users to continue to use and share the

    program with others, and to send a $10 donation only if they wanted to

    be included in my mailing list.?

    c. Using the support of computer clubs and libraries.

    ?The biggest computer clubs the world has ever known sprang up all

    over the country. Club librarians were hungry for programs to share

    with their members. The Shareware approach was perfectly suited to

    these clubs. More free publicity – and a perfect vehicle for giving

    wide distribution to the shareware disks.?

    ?The Origin of Shareware?

    ?The History of Shareware?

    6. Maine Roasters Coffee vs. Starbucks

    Background: ?Like Starbucks, Maine Roasters is in the specialty-coffee

    business, albeit on a vastly lesser scale; a "flea on a dog's butt,"

    is how the smaller company's founder and president, Rand Smith, puts

    it. To compete with Starbucks, Smith has devised a counterforce

    strategy. It rests on the simple premise that in a state with a proud

    tradition of small locally owned businesses, people will respond to a

    "buy Maine" appeal.?

    Strategies used:

    a. Create the appearance of local ownership.

    ?Smith had meant to create the appearance of local ownership when he

    opened the new stores. Maine would remain the company headquarters.

    But Smith had planned to reword the logos on his cups and napkins to

    read Massachusetts Roasters Coffee and New Hampshire Roasters Coffee.?

    b. Go to enemy territory

    ?In February, Smith began assigning door duty to two employees one

    morning a week. The pair stand outside the doors of Starbucks and hand

    out chocolates and Maine Roasters coupons that offer two cups of

    coffee for the price of one.?

    c. Do marketing research within the gimmicks

    ?When he posts employees outside a Starbucks store in Portland, he

    arms one with the chrome-plated clicker. As the employee hands out

    chocolates with one hand, he discreetly counts Starbucks customers

    with the other. From the number (the tally one early-morning hour was

    67) Smith extrapolates the daily sales and profitability of a

    Starbucks store, according to formulas he has developed. The numbers

    will guide him in deciding where to open new Maine Roasters stores and

    how much he should invest in them to maximize profit.?

    ?Battle Grounds?

    7. Soapworks vs. Procter & Gamble

    Background: ?When Amilya Antonetti began to talk seriously about

    breaking into the $4.7-billion U.S. laundry-detergent market, in 1994,

    industry veterans told her she had to be joking. "They all laughed

    hysterically," Antonetti recalls. "They'd say, 'Honey, have you ever

    heard of Clorox? Have you ever heard of Tide? There's no place for you

    here.'" Time and again, buyers for grocery stores told Antonetti that

    none of their customers would be interested in the hypoallergenic

    cleansing products she began developing after learning that her infant

    son's health problems were aggravated by the chemicals in standard


    Strategies used:

    a. Educational Seminars to the Community

    ?Having started her day with a solitary predawn yoga session,

    Antonetti is in high gear, rattling off a long list of amusements she

    intends to bring in for a fair in the parking lot behind the building.

    It's going to be a back-to-school bash, and Antonetti is inviting all

    San Leandro's young families. She's also enlisting as her cosponsors

    the local chamber of commerce, the public library, and San Leandro's

    boys' and girls' club, which will help cover the costs of fun stuff

    like moon bouncers, balloon twisters, and a petting zoo.?

    b. Give Expert Advice on Community Radio Programs

    ?At the same time, station producers invited Antonetti to talk on the

    weekly program Life Line, where she soon became a frequent guest. Her

    role on the program involves answering callers' questions and dishing

    out tips on how to cope with common little problems.?

    c. Personal Advertising

    ?Instead of having a station announcer present her advertising

    message, Antonetti insisted that she do it herself. "I have a pretty

    good radio voice," she says. As she has done in all her marketing,

    Antonetti deliberately aligned herself with the SoapWorks market,

    presenting herself as equal parts mom and CEO.?

    ?Bootstrap Marketing: Taking on Procter & Gamble?


    Simply Creative Grassroots Marketing Category:

    Sometimes grassroots marketing is also classified guerrilla marketing.

    Here are some examples of guerilla marketing to grassroots customer


    1. Lucky Strikes

    Background: ?George Washington Hill, president of the American Tobacco

    Company and an eccentric businessman, recognized that an important

    part of his market was not being tapped into. Hill believed that

    cigarette sales would soar if he could entice more women to smoke in


    Strategies Used:

    a. A publicity stunt parading women while smoking Lucky Strikes.

    ?On Easter Sunday 1929, facts about cigarettes' harmful effects on

    health were still decades away. So, for the American Tobacco Company,

    maker of Lucky Strikes cigarettes, Bernays set up a march of young

    debutantes down Fifth Avenue in New York City. Carrying the cigarettes

    they called their "torches of freedom," their parade was heralded as a

    march against women's inequality.?

    b. Appeal to Women?s Fashion

    ?Still trying to increase the number of women smoking Lucky Strikes,

    Bernays suggested that the manufacturer change the color of the pack

    from dark green to a more neutral color to match women's clothing. The

    company refused, so Bernays encouraged Parisian fashion designers to

    create their new lines in dark green to popularize the color. Then he

    had American Tobacco anonymously sponsor a charity ball at which the

    color theme was green. The most-seen accessory of the evening? Dark

    green packs of Lucky Strikes, of course. The event, covered in all the

    society columns, was a success and helped establish green as a

    fashionable color.?

    ?Guerilla Marketing Revisited?

    2. Campaign

    Background: ?Activists' mighty tools can be turned on a dime against a

    corporation whose actions or products are seen as reprehensible. Yet

    there is not a single politician or corporation ready to mobilize with

    equal force.?

    ?Examining the impact of MoveOn's presidential straw poll and other

    actions, it appears that guerilla marketing masters from John the

    Baptist to Edward Bernays to P.T. Barnum had nothing on today's online


    Strategies Used:

    a. Fast deployment of campaign materials

    ?Deploying traditional PR tools at lightening speed Once a MoveOn

    member registers and gives his or her mailing address and e-mail

    address, MoveOn software can instantly provide a member with a list of

    their Congressmen, Senators, local representatives and media outlets.?

    b. Improves viral marketing capabilities

    ?By making it so simple for members to pass along their opinions,

    MoveOn and other online activists create a rich environment for viral

    marketing. And they bypass traditional media gatekeepers, who are now

    paying close attention to, and reporting on, their activities.

    Returning power to the people, activists have taken over much of PR

    and advertising's role in influencing public opinion. Communications

    professionals have much to learn from them.?

    ?MoveOn has used the Internet to run lightening-fast "flash

    campaigns," along with e-mail, to quickly focus a broad and deep

    segment of the American public into action within a specified time


    c. Emphasizing Communication Among its Community

    ?Recently, MoveOn paired members and gave them guidelines for

    interviewing each other so they would begin to have personal

    connections. Each partner was asked to report to MoveOn about the

    other's interests and concerns. Thousands filed reports, though the

    group has not announced how the information will be used.?

    ?Online Activists' Lessons For Online Business?

    3. Instant Messaging

    Background: ?Instant messaging began as a grassroots movement,

    sneaking into corporate America through the back door with only tacit

    permission of IT departments. But instant messaging has quickly

    transformed into an essential productivity application. Take Avnet

    Computer Marketing, a 1,900-person value-added reseller based in

    Tempe, Arizona, that was using AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), in this

    case, with management's blessing.?

    Strategies used by AIM developers:

    a. Net users can communicate instantaneously

    ?Abbreviated IM, a type of communications service that enables you to

    create a kind of private chat room with another individual in order to

    communicate in real time over the Internet, analagous to a telephone

    conversation but using text-based, not voice-based, communication.?


    b. They can see who is online

    c. They can easily share files as well.

    ?The results of an informal pilot study at Avnet showed IM did boost

    productivity. ?Instant messaging is a great tool for multitasking,"

    says David Stuttard, Avnet's vice president of application solutions.

    "But the greatest benefit is presence awareness. People can see who is

    online, so they don't waste time swapping e-mail or voice mail with

    people who aren't available.??

    ?Instant Messaging?,1759,842897,00.asp

    Search terms used:

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