Succeeding in Guerrilla Marketing


There are many strategies and methods to grow a brand but one that always stands out will be guerrilla marketing. A word that is always affiliated with conflict, rebellion and attacks, it constantly reminds one of an unorthodox method.

Unconventional marketing works wonders

While Guerrilla Marketing always brings along an aggressive reputation, it can do your brand a lot of good when adopted properly. One thing is it not, guerrilla marketing is not about attack, attack and attack. Instead, it is a non-intrusive type of marketing that can raise brand awareness among your audience effectively.

Understanding guerrilla marketing

To know how to use guerrilla marketing, you must first understand what it is and how it works. This is a very popular way to drive publicity which can inadvertently build brand awareness.

The mantra here really is that it uses unconventional methods as opposed to traditional marketing.

When you use guerrilla marketing, your objective is to (not in any particular order) shock, surprise or create intrigue. The late Jay Conrad Levinson, a renowned business writer first coined this back in the early 80s. He wrote many books that outlined these tactics. However, marketing at that time was an entire industry as compared to how it is now.

Similar to how it is used in war

Battles and wars. That is where guerrilla marketing comes from. This tactic is surely not for the so-called peaceful brands. If you intend to get into guerrilla marketing, think about moves such as raids, ambushes and silent attacks.

In simple terms, it means to use the element of surprise in your marketing campaign. When you embark on this exercise, you want to catch your target audience when they are unaware. From another aspect, guerrilla marketing is a tactic that is cost-effective. In fact, it can be low cost too.

The trick to having a successful guerrilla marketing exercise is to be creative but one that invokes actions. In other words, you do not necessarily need to use a lot of money especially when you can repurpose certain parts of your content.

What’s so good (and bad) about guerrilla marketing?

In guerrilla marketing, you are able to interact with your customers which can be very effective although there could be some challenges as well. Here are some of the advantages of guerrilla marketing.

  • Cost-effective: Since you are banking on creativity, it might not cost as much as conventional marketing
  • Message recall: Guerrilla marketing is highly impactful. Your target audience will have a high recall of your campaign
  • Unconventional: Marketers get to adopt a different approach to their planning and strategy using unusual and even fun ideas.
  • Engagement and insights: From the engagements and responses, marketers are able to gauge more and gather better data.
  • Wider reach: Guerrilla campaign often gives you more coverage and they would usually go viral very easily.

On the other hand, there are risks involved too especially with a method this unconventional.

  • Backfire: very much every marketer’s nightmare, the plan could backfire, spelling failure (and disaster) for the campaign.
  • Reputation: As guerrilla marketing often uses ambush or shocking tactics, the target audience could be frightened and this would detriment the brand image
  • Management buy-in: This is perhaps the hardest challenge of all. Since you are doing something risky, your management might not be on board with you on this. This is often one of the hardest parts of Guerrilla Marketing as brand owners tend to be worried of any negative effects.
  • Controversy: following the unconventional method, not everyone would accept your campaign openly.

Types of guerrilla marketing and some good examples

In general, there are 4 types of guerrilla marketing of which many other sub-types fall into one or more of them.

Outdoor guerrilla marketing

Using Out-of-Home (OOH) media, marketers use something abnormal to capture attention. In most cases, they will put the items at locations that are high in traffic and in urban areas.

They would commonly use objects that you do not see in daily life. It could be a piece of furniture, a statue or even a microwave. One prime example of this was Goldtoe’s new line of boxers and briefs launched in 2010 then they ‘took over’ Wall Street by dressing up the New York Stock Exchange bull statue with a Goldtoe underwear.

Verdict: This move was hugely effective because it was funny, memorable and very simple. It wasn’t expensive and risky but worked wonders.

Indoor guerrilla marketing

In contrast to outdoor marketing, indoor uses enclosed places in the public domain. They will use spaces like museums, universities, bus stations, train terminals and such. One of the most common moves in recent years is the use of flash mobs.

Back in 2009, T-Mobile launched a campaign involving a flash mob at the Liverpool Street Station. It garnered more than 40 million YouTube views. Besides enjoying that success, they also won an award that year and a spike in sales.

Verdict: While the cost was controllably high, the returns more than justified its output.

Event ambush guerrilla marketing

As the name implies, this type of marketing involves events and ambushes. They are usually carried out in conjunction with a certain event like a concert or a festival.

The trick is to do this without any prior consent or permission (thereby the word ambush). They will also catch the surprise of the attendees of the events.

During the 2019 Golden Globe Awards, Fiji Water launched a campaign where a model in a dark blue dress literally photobombed nearly every shot of the celebrities posing on the red carpet. She was holding a bottle of Fiji Water.

Verdict: This was a planned ambush move which had a lot of attention and visibility.

Experiential guerrilla marketing

This type of marketing, it requires the audience to engage with the brand. Experiential guerrilla marketing can take place anywhere whether it is outdoors, at events or indoors.In 2009, Coca-cola launched the ‘Happiness Machine’ campaign. In New York, students at St John’s University were shocked when more than 1 Coke bottle was dispensed from the vending machine.

In fact, there was an endless supply of bottles before ending with a hand reaching out and giving out flowers, sunglasses, pizza and a sandwich.

Meanwhile, students at the National University of Singapore responded to the vending machine that wrote ‘Hug Me’ where they were given a free Coke.

Verdict: This could be costly but it worked tremendously well for Coca-Cola engaged with its target audience’s positive emotions.

Other exciting forms of guerrilla marketing

Besides the 4 major types of guerrilla marketing as outlined above, marketers continue to innovate and come up with new ideas. Below are some other types of guerrilla marketing that have been adopted.

  • Viral Guerrilla Marketing: This method engages with the customers, prompting them to share a brand campaign on their social networks.
  • Projection Guerrilla Marketing: Images or videos are projected onto major landmarks or buildings.
  • Stealth Guerrilla Marketing: Here, the campaign works through subtle (or stealth) product placement methods. It could also involve some form of undercover marketing
  • Ambien Guerrilla Marketing: Advertisements or objects are placed at locations or places that are not common or unusual.
  • Astroturfin Guerrilla Marketing: Paid reviews are placed on popular platforms like Reddit
  • Wild posting Guerrilla Marketing: Use of sides of buildings to place posters of the campaign
  • Pop-Ups: An effective Out-of-Home marketing method, this is where a temporary pop-up shop is used in the campaign
  • Grassroots Guerrilla Marketing: Spreading awareness among a small group of people that has the potential or reach to a larger community.

How do you know if you need Guerrilla Marketing?

Ultimately, using Guerrilla Marketing would only be beneficial if you have a plan that works and a strategy that can be implemented.

With Guerrilla marketing, you aim to leave a lasting impression on your audience. You want to have an emotional attachment so that they can resonate with you positively.

If implemented wrongly, your plan can backfire and it would be very difficult to mend the cracks after that. Before venturing out, a few questions that you should be asking are:

  • Do you have an idea that can convey your brand message?
  • Are you looking at engaging your target audience in a fun and original way?
  • Are you using the space in a respective way that can leverage your idea at the same time?
  • Can the audience participate in your campaign without being too intrusive?
  • Is your idea controversial (and is that allowed by the local laws)?
  • How will you document the success of your campaign
  • Would your campaign go viral?

Once those questions are answered, then you know how prepared you are to go into guerrilla marketing.

Making Guerrilla Marketing work

It has often been perceived that guerrilla marketing is best used by big brands. While this is not entirely true, it surely helps that you have a certain corporate backing to embark on this move.

For Guerrilla Marketing to work, you want to take note of the following concepts. First, you want to be loud because people are supposed to experience it and then talk about it with others. Word-of-Mouth is your strong ally.

You want to use a location to your advantage. A lot of such campaigns take place in highly visible locations and public places.

You might cross the controversial line. Because you are using public places or landmarks, you might offend certain parties if you are not careful with your content and process. Be mindful of what you are spreading and your brand messaging as it could be a double-edged sword.

It will be exponential. From a local space, it could easily go regional and then global. Many such campaigns have succeeded in this area.

You want to go viral. Unlike traditional marketing, this type of method tends to spread very quickly, especially with everyone with access to smartphones and cameras. With a click of a button will have your campaign shared across every social media platform in the world.

Some good examples

Here are some of the very effective guerrilla marketing cases.

The Giant Popsicle

Bounty pushed out a gigantic ‘knocked-over coffee cup and a melting popsicle’ across the streets of New York. This was a unique way to show its products without using a lot of words. A billboard and conventional media would not be able to do that.

What they did here was to tell the world how their product solves a common problem.

Tinder with Deadpool

Tinder used the Marvel superhero Deadpool during the movie’s release on Valentine’s Day. Users who came across Deadpool’s profile on Tinder would most likely swipe right and that would link them to the ticket purchase of the movie.

What they did here was to use the movie’s creative way of breaking the fourth wall by engaging the customers with the character.

Putting it all together

Guerrilla marketing is set to ‘affect’ the audience’ in more ways than one. It invokes emotions and would always be memorable.

The main idea of guerrilla marketing is to bank on the element of surprise that will leave and a lasting impression.

There is never a need to be complicated or sophisticated in the campaign. A simple message or product would suffice as they will intrigue the public.

Planning is everything because it ensures you have the right place, the right message and the right people to get it done.

Even if the plan backfires, damage control could still become part of your campaign although it might be costly.

When you launch guerrilla marketing, you will also take your competitors by surprise. How they will react will depend on how significant your move was.

Be prepared for them to launch a counter-attack which would vary in size and scale. If your rivals are the big boys, their next move will show how much they are threatened by you.

At the end of the day, you must measure the success of your campaign. Whether it is controversial, surprising, shocking, or intriguing, you would have taken someone by surprise and that would have changed their lives somehow.


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