Emotions Create a Perfect Guerrilla P.R. Opportunity

Every once in a while, a business comes along and does something so stupid that it is no wonder why they are attacked online. One of the most recent I remember is the case of Big Earl’s Bait House which refused to serve a customer because they “don’t serve fags.”

But then, someone comes along and completely takes advantage of the situation for the better. Yelp reviewers did just that. Shortly after the incident hit the news, reviewers took to Yelp and made sure people knew Big Earl’s was the most popular gay hangout in Texas.


Social justice was served by ingenious Yelp reviewers.


“Fans” even started a Facebook page for “Big Gay Earl’s Bath House.”


The Facebook page for “Big Gay Earl’s” sports the original billboard for the restaurant, plus a few changes to match the page description.

Granted, most of these reviews have since been taken down due to violating Yelp’s review policy. But it shows you how anger can fuel people to make a business go viral (good or bad).

What Does Big Earl’s have to do with Guerrilla P.R.?

Guerrilla public relations is all about finding opportunities to go viral without spending a fortune. A business that puts itself in a position such as Big Earl’s did gives you the perfect opportunity to find a target audience. People who are emotional can be directed through a well-placed marketing campaign.

Now, you can direct people’s emotions for the bad (such as what happened with Earl); or, you can direct that anger for the good (like what I will talk about below). Hopefully you will do it for the good.

Think of all the businesses in the United States who got more customers after stating they serve everyone (as opposed to Earl’s). Something as simple as placing a sign in your store front would have generated more business. People who were familiar with the incident would see the sign, remember Earl, and then shop in your store as a spite to him.

“When we are confronted with a decision, emotions from previous, related experiences affix values to the options we are considering,” writes Dr. Peter Noel Murray for Psychology Today, in discussing the book Descartes Error by Antonio Damasio. “These emotions create preferences which lead to our decision.”

Emotions are a major factor in purchasing decisions. People act based on emotion and the decision to buy is a perfect example.

Donald Trump is the Catalyst for Emotions

I will not get into politics here, but I will say that Donald Trump has caused a level of emotions among constituents that has not been seen in decades (the good, the bad, and the ugly). His soundbites and relationship with the media have caused both anger and joy in many people.

Some businesses have publicly distanced themselves from Trump which would be normal in a presidential election. However, one business in particular took to attacking Trump supporters and Republicans as a whole, something that caused outrage among many.


Screenshot of the blog post telling Trump voters and registered Republicans they could no longer do business with the company.

The owner of an SEO firm in New Mexico took to the internet to express his frustration for Donald Trump being elected the 45th President of the United States. In a blog post that went viral (his site crashed because it received so many visitors), he declined business from anyone who voted for Trump. He also stated he was cancelling accounts with any current Trump supporters.

The post got him plenty of press, but not the good kind. One organization even referred to it as business suicide. Who knows? Maybe the CEO was trying to create a guerrilla marketing campaign and it backfired. Either way, I am not sure it turned out how he intended.

But, as I trying to show you here, there is always a guerrilla P.R. opportunity when emotions are running high.

And the Award for Best Guerrilla P.R. Campaign Goes to …

1SEO.com, a company in the same industry as 1st In SEO, issued a press release shortly after the story hit the news, distancing themselves from the other company.

“In light of the recent controversial political statements made by Mathew Blanchfield from 1st in SEO on his company’s website,” begins the press release. “1SEO.com Digital Agency wants to make it clear to all concerned parties that despite any similarities in name and industry, they are not, in any way, affiliated with this person and his company, nor does the Philadelphia-based digital marketing leader subscribe to the politically charged views he expressed.”

The press release did a number of things. From the opening statement, it made it clear that they are different agencies. For anyone who wants to create the next anti-Big Gay Earl’s campaign, they wanted to make sure not to be included. Very smart. But, it also gave them an opportunity to pick up more business.

“1SEO.com Digital Agency is nationally renowned for their unbiased and inclusive approach to client onboarding and relationship building,” the press release continued. “Furthermore, the firm is pleased to invite all former clients of 1st in SEO to inquire … how to have their online marketing needs met despite the unfortunate circumstances that have come about as a result of 1st in SEO’s actions.”

For the cost of a press release, 1SEO.com was able to take advantage of emotional branding and create a successful guerrilla public relations campaign. So why do I say the campaign was successful? After all, I don’t know how many new accounts they signed up nor do I know if anyone even contacted them.

Proof is in the pudding. Success came in the form of branding and media coverage. In addition to me writing about their campaign in this article, they also picked up coverage in The Washington Times. A press release will cost you a few hundred dollars to write and distribute, while native advertising in a major publication such as The Times can run to tens of thousands.

All this from a single press release. Not bad, 1SEO, not bad!

Summing it Up

Emotions are and always will be a factor in marketing and advertising. If you are able to take advantage of emotions that are high, you can create the perfect guerrilla marketing campaign. While this does not always guarantee you a viral marketing campaign, it does give you the ingredients for one.

1SEO.com showed us how it’s done. Now it’s your turn to do the same.

What are your favorite marketing campaigns that were driven by emotion? Feel free to educate the world in the comments below.

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