John Gumas: The power of guerilla tactics

The year after he graduated from college, John Gumas, 48, started Gumas Advertising. He began working with local businesses and local restaurants, and found he was able to quadruple their business in a very short period of time. Sometimes, he said, he was even able to increase it by 10 or 20 times.

Today, Gumas Advertising has an office in San Francisco and employs 22 people. They manage 15 to 20 different projects at a time and specialize in guerilla tactics, branding and online marketing.

“Our typical client is not a big company,” Gumas said. “Our clients are being outspent by larger companies. You cannot market traditionally when you have fewer dollars — you’ll lose every time.”

One example of a smaller client benefiting from Gumas’s services is SummerHill Homes, a Northern California homebuilding company that has worked with Gumas for 10 years.

“They could never afford TV,” Gumas said. “You don’t do the things you can’t afford to do right.”

Instead, Gumas directed SummerHill to make all of its advertising materials consistent from project to project. The effect was that customers saw advertising that they recognized across a variety of different projects and began to make positive associations.

“People see SummerHill as a credible, reputable builder,” Gumas said. “The way we see it, a brand is a promise. When somebody buys something you promise that it will be the highest quality, a fair price, and that you will stand behind what you do.”

While Gumas Advertising considers short-term return on investment, it also looks at long-term branding. “We will never sacrifice long term branding for a short term return on investment,” Gumas said.

Of his bigger clients such as SanDisk and HP, Gumas says that they bring him small projects from smaller divisions where they face the same problems as small businesses: being outspent by larger companies.

Gumas earned a degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and advertising from San Francisco State University. He sits on the boards of the San Francisco Giants Community Fund, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, The Greater San Francisco Advertising Club and The Elios Society. He grew up in the Mission district of San Francisco.

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