Agency News: Interview with Calum McGuigan, Founder of Fervent Events
Fervent Events is a Toronto-based marketing company launched in 2009 by Calum McGuigan. The company is focused on guerrilla marketing and brand ambassador staffing for corporate and not-for-profit clients. In addition, Fervent Events also offers corporate and social events management. The company aims to offer its clients creative, engaging and affordable guerrilla marketing and event planning. Fervent Events originally planned for the client portfolio to be predominantly corporate event planning. McGuigan spent the first three months of operation organizing social events and prospecting corporations about event planning. However, when the guerrilla marketing began generating more attention, the company’s focus shifted. As of June 2011, 90% of Fervent Events’ portfolio is devoted to guerrilla-marketing contracts.
How did you get started in guerrilla marketing?
In all honesty, half chance & half opportunity. I studied Events Management at university and worked as an Event Officer at a reputable charity in Toronto from 2007 – 2009. When I launched Fervent Events in September 2009, the plan was for Fervent to predominantly be an events company, with a dash of guerrilla marketing. I quickly realized within a few months the events business was saturated in Toronto, but that more and more companies seemed interested in utilizing our guerrilla marketing strategies. In hindsight, the recession was the perfect time to launch a guerrilla marketing company, as everyone still wanted to put dollars into marketing, but budgets were tighter. I realize now the economy played a huge part in getting my foot in the door with potential suitors. There is no school for ‘guerrilla marketing’, the industry is about taking risks and assessing creative opportunity, so I think the way I found my place in the market is fitting. Guerrilla marketing is now 90% of our portfolio.
Could you tell us a little about your company, Fervent Events?
We’re non-traditional in every sense of the word. We create, customize and develop eye catching marketing campaigns from scratch, for any budget. Our whole ploy is that we’ll get water cooler talk going, and leave a memorable impression and help raise immediate brand awareness. I’m sure one day we may consider expanding our horizons, but at present none of our campaigns integrate print, TV or radio advertising. All our campaigns use brand ambassadors and promo reps, and are about reaching out and engaging with the consumer and leaving positive emotional experiences.
What is it like to work at a Guerrilla Marketing Agency, more specifically Fervent Events?
Our company, like the industry is evolving every day. We work in an industry where the key term IE…guerrilla, non-traditional, alternative, experiential, buzz….changes every 6 months! We’re innovators and creatives, so an embedded culture is perhaps not what we’re about. I don’t want someone to always know what they’re going to get with Fervent Events. I want a client to get the same excitement from our concepts the tenth time they used us as the first time, otherwise we’re failing somewhere. What I do want however is to grow, and to grow with technology, and be known as tech savvy guerrillas. Right now we’re not on the ball in that department, we’re a step behind, but we know that, and that’s just me being honest.
What are your thoughts on Flash Mob Marketing?
Firstly, stop using the term flash mob! Flash mob is almost seen as a sales term now in our industry, if pitching to a client I would call it something different for starters and try and revamp the general concept in some way. Or make it a type of flash that nobody has seen or considered before. For example 100 people singing is old hat, but 100 people walking like monkeys hasn’t been done, and would seem fresh and fun. To actually describe start to finish would be very long winded, and I doubt readers would make it to the bottom! Another time maybe!
Why do you feel guerrilla marketing is unique? More specifically, what makes a street team a unique form of marketing?
Guerrilla marketing reaches smaller more concentrated groups than traditional methods, but leaves more memorable impressions. It’s unique because it plays with the laws of human behavior. If you walk to work every day and see the same things, read the same newspapers, see the same advertisements, then your ‘impression’ awareness is numb. We’re inundated with adverts nowadays, we live in an age where we channel flick during commercials. So that one day you walk to work and you see something peculiar like a tug-of-war, a flash mob, chalk art, a free sample, a Guinness world record attempt etc…you take a second and then perhaps a 3rd look. You’re intrigued, and hopefully it’s left a positive emotional experience with you. Guerrilla marketing reaches smaller more concentrated groups than traditional methods, but leaves more memorable impressions. Street teams engage directly with people, they can answer questions, give an immediate face to a brand, and target specific demographics.
Have you ever encountered legal issues with your guerrilla campaigns?
No comment! It’s funny you ask, in 2 years we’ve only been shut down by the City of Toronto once, which was 2 weeks ago, running an event for Oxfam. We had treadmills set up in the middle of the sidewalk, so stationery equipment like that I completely understand the city shutting us down. We were given 1 hour to tear down or we would have gotten a fine. Generally it’s all about your cities by-laws. Toronto’s are pretty lenient and all about freedom of speech etc, so guerrilla marketers can push the boundaries relatively far and get away with it.
What recommendations could you give to our readers on how to get a job in this industry?
Become a brand ambassador for a company to get experience on street level, and see if you like it. When working on campaigns, become analytical, think how you could do it better, what are campaigns missing. The beauty of the industry is there are not high barriers of entry; the key barrier of entry is your imagination. Should someone want to invest time and energy, there’s nothing to stop you getting involved as a freelancer and offering services to companies.