The term “grass roots marketing” refers to an activity designed to promote a new product or idea with very little upfront cost or investment. (Some people also use the term “guerrilla marketing”.) One of the most common grass roots marketing activities is the practice of handing-out free samples of a new product.You have almost certainly witnessed grass roots marketing if you’ve been to a grocery store, farmers’ market, or anywhere that people who fit a certain demographic gather and are eager to try a new product. I can well recall working in New York City in the early 1980’s and witnessing the launch of the Chipwich ice cream sandwich — decadent vanilla ice cream wedged between two chocolate chip cookies. During lunch time along Third Avenue, almost every corner in midtown Manhattan had a Chipwich cart, where friendly workers handed out free — yes, free! — Chipwich ice cream sandwiches. It didn’t take long before thousands of people had tried the dessert treat, and were hooked on buying it at the grocer’s freezer. That was an excellent example of grass roots marketing.
Cigarette manufacturers did the same in the decades prior.
Grass Roots Marketing meets the Internet
I said that you have almost certainly witnessed grass roots marketing if you’ve been someplace where people of a certain demographic gather. So it should come as no surprise to you to learn that the Internet is the latest fertile ground for grass roots marketing activities. In fact, the Internet has spawned an army of grass roots marketers, and they are called Mommy Bloggers. While the name evokes images of stay-at-home moms that have nothing better to do, the Mommy Blogger industry is a marketing force that major international companies and brands have embraced and tapped in to. Amazon, Toys “R” Us, P&G, Walgreen’s, and others are among the thousands of companies that have advertised on, or had their products promoted by, Mommy Bloggers. Mommy Bloggers operate blogs (essentially, inexpensive websites where they post new and useful content on a regular basis) and attract a following of readers who identify with their messaging. Most of these blogs have a theme that readers are attracted to (healthy living, environmental awareness, sustainability, home schooling, organic foods, single parenting, etc.).
As a grass roots marketing force, Mommy Bloggers are powerful. Companies have learned that in exchange for providing samples of their products, Mommy Bloggers will evaluate the product, write a review, and post that review online. Readers, who can sometimes number in the thousands, absorb those reviews and share them with others. The net result is thousands of product reviews and comments by influencers for very little upfront cost or investment.