Most consumer-products companies wouldn't consider trapping prospective customers in a moving vehicle to deliver a sales pitch, but a year and a half ago Boston-based Harpoon Brewery started doing it and called it a shuttle service. The microbrewery's van, painted like the company's checkerboard logo, cruises Boston-area streets roughly four out of seven nights a week, carting pedestrians home at no charge. Still, there's no such thing as a free ride. "Once the door closes they're unwitting listeners to the Harpoon propaganda," says president Rich Doyle. Passengers get information about the $7-million brewery's countless special events, along with a list of other public-transportation options.
Although the cost of running a moving billboard is not cheap -- roughly $4,000 annually, not including the driver's salary and the original cost of the van -- the shuttle has received positive press. "It's a public service that reminds people that there are other options to driving home drunk," says Doyle. He adds, "It also lets people know who we are." Prior to the shuttle's appearance, the microbrewery posted information about itself at the then 200 restaurants and bars selling Harpoon beer. That, along with other guerrilla marketing efforts, has helped the company continue to grow by more than 70% a year.* * *