What happens when business marketing goes wrong (AKA how I ended up in court with my first business)

Spoiler alert: Rich Myers, serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Smarta (and Transmit Startups), ended up in court after running his first marketing campaign for his first business.

So I’ve already told you a bit about my first business, the club night I started with two friends back when I was still a teenager. As successful as the club night was, there were certainly challenges that came with trying to run our own company with absolutely no experience. Which included accidentally running afoul of the law with our first ever marketing campaign.

Guerilla tactics

To promote the launch night of the Funky Slug Club, we created a logo with a black marker and got hundreds of posters and stickers printed up. Despite the dubious branding, this worked okay. The problems started when we started to distribute our new marketing collateral. There was no such thing as social media in 1990 so my friends and I pounded the streets of Durham, pasting posters to bus shelters and covering lamp posts with stickers, all under the cover of darkness.

One night I arrived back at my parents’ house after another successful mission slugifying Durham City. As I was going to bed I noticed a message that I had to call the club owner, Phil, urgently. Apparently he’d received a phone call from the police, who weren’t happy about our Funky Slug Club posters appearing all across town. Phil told us that the police were going to prosecute us, unless we removed the posters straight away. So that’s what we did.

Retracing our steps

My friends and I jumped in my mother’s beige Fiat Panda again and drove around town until the early morning removing all the posters we could find. It wasn’t hard to find them mind, because they were everywhere. They were tricky to remove though because we’d use industrial-strength wallpaper paste. And it was raining hard which made it nearly impossible to peel the posters off the bus stop windows.

The next morning we decided that our marketing campaign should focus on word-of-mouth instead, by handing out flyers to anyone who looked a bit like us. And it worked – our launch night was filled to capacity and my friends and I came away with £300 each in our pockets (and some serious hangovers).

Our excitement didn’t last long though as the police decided they were going to prosecute us for fly-posting after all (even though we’d removed the evidence). We ended up in the local Magistrates' Court and we were issued a £120 fine. We learnt our lesson though, and from then on stuck to safer marketing tactics.

Business marketing is vital if you want to get your product or service in the hands of your ideal clients. But it doesn’t have to be as risky as my first attempt. Whether you're looking for a marketing agency to help you out, or you need a spot of legal advice, Trade Smarta members can help you out.

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