Ever seen someone in a bizarre costume show up to a political rally or event just to be a rabble rouse? It’s a more common practice than you’d think! Guerilla campaigning tactics like this make the opposition stand out among a crowd,is a relatively low cost option, and most importantly sets your campaign or issue apart.

There were Handmaid’s Tale protestors in 2018, Dinosaurs protesting climate change in Europe, and 10 years ago, yours truly donned a squirrel costume to follow Hillary Clinton’s pre-presidential announcement book tour in Washington DC.

As an intern during the summer of 2014, I donned an old smelly costume from previous protests (in this case the ACORN scandal – get it? ACORN? Squirrel?) and playfully walked through the lines of those waiting for Secretary Clinton to sign their books at a few different locations across the DC area. It was a different time, and when attendees realized I was a protestor, some were clearly upset but most laughed it off and wished me well.

Everything came to a head, however, when Secretary Clinton herself decided to pay me a visit, stopping by to deliver a signed copy of her book to me in squirrel form, and joining in on the joke.

Tactically, it was a brilliant play on the part of her and her team. They took back the initiative, acknowledged the protest, and instead of treating the ‘protest’ with disdain or disregard, they joined in on the joke and humanized her in doing so.

Both sides got what they wanted out of the exchange – Secretary Clinton got a lighthearted humanizing moment and the RNC received national headline coverage by getting her to engage with their plant. The stunt was a rare win-win for both Democrats and Republicans – and I became a minor celebrity among those who knew who was underneath the costume.

Campaigns and organizations do weird things to drive headlines. But why? Because they WORK. So the next time you hear about someone in a costume showing up to a rally, think about the Squirrel.

And to the person who took that book that Secretary Clinton gave me, I would like it back someday. You know who you are.

-Justin Giorgio, Senior Account Director