What is Guerrilla Marketing?
Guerrilla Marketing is an unconventional and inventive set of marketing tactics that, if used properly, can have a huge impact on customer engagement and business presence despite being on a restricted budget.
The term Guerrilla Marketing was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson’s 1984 book “Guerrilla Advertising”. The term originates from the idea of guerrilla warfare employed by militant factions who used tactics such as raids, ambushes and surprise attacks. Levinson adapted this concept to compliment marketing purposes by employing unconventional and creative methods aimed at surprising and engaging customers outside of the sphere of traditional media. Ever since, all marketing which implements similar strategies are classified under the Guerrilla Marketing umbrella.
Why Should I Use Guerrilla Marketing?
At its’ core Guerrilla Marketing is aimed at broadcasting your products and services in a clear and concise manner whilst appealing to a large target demographic. As business competition is fiercer than ever, with increasing numbers of competitors entering many different markets, the ability to utilise Guerrilla Marketing is in demand by numerous business enterprises in order to have a competitive edge.
Since its’ inception Guerrilla Marketing has evolved into a professional marketing stratagem designed mainly for smaller businesses to achieve high impact results with low investment. The ability for smaller companies to produce results comparable to larger companies, which have much larger marketing budgets, is a major advantage in the marketing world. This, in conjunction with the minimal costs suitable for businesses with tight budgets, highlights the attractiveness of this approach.
Small businesses on average spend $400 per month on marketing. Guerrilla Marketing can cost effectively nothing and show more substantial returns that these traditional marketing methods with a $400 per month cash injection in a very short period of time. This, of course, comes with the caveat that the strategy used is relevant, well thought-out and applied properly.
A fact that is often overlooked by many marketers is that in today’s world where there are numerous media platforms advertising frequently, audiences have become increasingly accustomed and desensitised to mainstream marketing techniques. This means that there is a demand for innovative marketing strategies to be employed which can grab a target audiences’ attention effectively. Guerrilla Marketing is the ideal tool to remedy this problem. Traditional Marketing techniques utilise television, radio, print, direct mail and emails, whereas Guerrilla Marketing is all about fresh techniques, sometimes incorporating traditional methods, which generates interest in your brand and your product.
What is the Most Important Component needed for an Effective Guerrilla Marketing Strategy?
Whilst there are a number of factors that need to be accounted for when using this strategy, the most important thing is to cultivate your creativity. Put a positive and unique spin on your brand in order to capture the imagination of a large audience.
Guerrilla Marketing requires high energy and ingenuity in order to grab an audience’s attention, ensuring that they are given a memorable experience related to your product. Remember, this whole strategy revolves around the notion of “Investing energy rather than money into marketing”. Good ideas do not have to be expensive, with simplicity and creativity more often than not being more effective than large budget sales techniques.
Creativity means marketability, and marketability means being attractive to potential customers and clients. Consequently, you can and will get similar results to marketing strategies costing thousands of dollars, if not exceeding this, so long as you appeal to your audience by “thinking out of the box”.
What is the Effect of the Internet and Social Media on Guerrilla Marketing?
We are living in the Information age, with instant access to vast cyber libraries and abundant social media platforms constantly streaming adverts to their viewing audiences. The key question asked by marketing agencies, both big and small, is how can our advertising techniques stand out from the crowd. Guerrilla Marketing does this by putting an emphasis on making marketing clever and memorable.
One of the most useful tools that more and more small businesses are realising the utility of is marketing through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This relatively new invention is a perfect fit for Guerrilla Marketing, as all of the main platforms are free to use and offer the ability to connect to huge amounts of people. Inherent with the capability to advertise your brand and product to numerous people, comes an “ultimate reward” that can be indicative of a very successful marketing campaign. This reward being a “viral post”.
A viral post is a marketing post that has been shared, copied and spread across all social platforms. These posts generate a great deal of attention in the form of a high volume or likes, shares and comments. A single marketing post going viral can change the health of a business overnight. Building high quality and inventive content for your marketing campaign significantly increases the chances of your business experiencing a period of growth and potentially going viral.
To make the most of your Guerrilla Marketing tactics online take advantage of the aesthetics and appeal of the design and concept from which it stemmed, this is usually your brand or a specific product. If you don’t know where to start Pinterest offers a plethora of creative ideas and examples which you can take inspiration from.
A List of Examples of Guerrilla Marketing:
- Stickers: Most people will turn their nose up at the thought of using stickers, but as evidenced by the success of Reddit’s branding campaign, a simple idea utilised properly and in unorthodox ways can provide a huge boon for a fledgling company. Everyone knows Reddit as “The front page of the internet”, and as one of the most popular websites on the web (with over 330 million Reddit users and 150,000 active communities to date). This community of communities, worth over $1.8 billion, is a webpage most internet users will have come across, or at the very least be able to recognise its alien logo. Anybody hearing these facts for the first time would reasonably assume that tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, went into their advertising. These assumptions are completely inaccurate, however, as the creators stated themselves; they have only ever spent $500 on advertising. What is even more staggering is that every single dollar was spent on stickers! The founders of Reddit understood the psychology behind using stickers and began leaving them everywhere, sticking them on walls, lampposts, alongside other marketing and handing them out at conferences held all over the United States stating: “Please sticker responsibly!”. Whilst this may not appear as an impressive strategic marketing approach, they were consistent and focused on building a great product and community online; the stickers were just an excuse for Reddit users to show their loyalty. Needless to say, it was a huge success and the stickers became synonymous with the brand. People began to recognise the alien symbol and subconsciously they would feel an urge to investigate what the logo represented and why they recognised it. This effect snowballed and has helped lead to the current community of millions of Reddit users. In this day and age, it takes more than setting up a profile on every social networking platform in order to be successful. It is necessary to differentiate yourself from everyone else and do something a little different. Sticker marketing promotes your brand in an inexpensive way and has the ability to meet with the eyes of thousands of people in your community; going even further depending on how you utilise them. Build a reputable product or service and people will want to support you.
- Reverse Graffiti: Otherwise known as “Clean Graffiti”, this is an excellent form of marketing that not many businesses employ. This style of marketing has been gaining traction over the last decade, but has yet to become mainstream, meaning any advert portrayed through Reverse Graffiti will have that extra added impact. The advantage of this method, against using standard graffiti, is that it is environmentally safe, more legally accepted and remains just as eye catching. As opposed to traditional graffiti, which is damaging in nature and frowned upon by legal circles, this form of graffiti is categorised as cleaning a public space and very difficult to be held legally liable for. It is still advisable to give notice to your local authority to ensure no issues arise. An additional benefit is that they are generally recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly forms of advertising, due to no ink, paper or paint being used. The likelihood of this type of advertising campaign going viral is much higher than many other forms due to its nature and the creativity involved in the process.
- Clever Sandwich Boards: These blank canvases are ideal for posting comedic captions, asking clever questions, or using current topics to relate and advertise your product or service to pedestrians. These boards are cost effective, as after the initial purchase price, there are barely no expenses and they can constantly be reworded to provide fresh content. Many businesses underestimate the effect a quote which can make passer-by’s laugh will bring to your business. Individuals who associate your business with a positive emotion are far more likely to enter your business and convert into customers. Depending on the business model you can also gain more traffic around your neighbourhood as people will take small detours to see your sandwich boards, provided they are frequently updated and provide strong content. This content in turn will generate further interest as people will be highly likely to start posting pictures of your board quotes, increasing brand strength and goodwill. Still not convinced? Check out a few Instagram accounts based purely on Sandwich Board quotes. 
- Postering: In a similar manner to sandwich boards, postering has been used for many decades as a way to advertise different businesses, and for a period it experienced a drop off in success rate, however, recently it has experienced a resurgence in popularity. Postering is when you use a poster format that provides an offer but does so in an entertaining and imaginative way. To start on the right track, you have to pose a question on your poster which everyone in your target demographic will understand and be engaged by. Decide on what emotion you want to evoke from your audience, whether that is to make them laugh, feel curious or concerned and follow your CTA. Follow this up by considering where you can get the most relevant eyes on your posters, there is no point in placing posters in areas which will have zero interest in what you offer.
- Begin a Friendly Feud with another Local company: Following the explosion in popularity of different social media platforms many businesses, both large and small, are coming to the realisation that they need to use these media platforms in order to stay relevant and create a buzz around their business. This friendly feud would involve you and another company having a dispute over which business has a higher quality of products. It will provide a brilliant opportunity for you to showcase some offers you have available, which in turn could entice many people spectating this feud to try out your product. With solid cooperation both businesses will benefit, gaining new customers and increasing their online presence. This online feud can be reignited every so often to ensure that you can slowly expand this method. One of the main considerations is to guarantee you work with a reputable business who will not try to undermine you and your business. Alongside this it would advisable to set up a timeline of competing offers you can promote.
- Partner with Another Unlikely Brand: This partnership should be based around a cross-industry relationship with brands that you would not usually associate with each other. As long as you can establish a loose connection between your products or services then your marketing will hold a degree of uniqueness which will memorable to anyone who sees this union. A prime example of this concept is when Colgate partnered with a number of local pizzerias to promote their new Colgate Max Night variant. They designed the inside of the box to look like the inside of a mouth with a message reminding the consumer of the new variant’s benefit.
- Unique Business Card Designs. Sit down and think of all the opportunities you have to pass out a business card, from networking events and social gatherings to business conferences and face-to-face meetings, there have been and will be ample occasions to hand out your business card. The problem with many business cards is that they all follow similar templates and it can be very hard to differentiate one from another outside of a particular colour scheme. If your business cards have an exceptional design, then there is a greater chance for you to stand out (especially in the crowded arena of business cards). Keep in mind that being able to market a business card effectively indicates that you pay attention to the finer details and this is far more likely to leave a favourable impression with the recipient. Leaving a professional impression is essential when building up business relations. Have a look at this collection of 30 creative business cards to gain inspiration.
- Freebies: So long as you are confident in your product or service then chances are, if someone has the opportunity to sample what your business has to offer, they will be likely to make a purchase. Don’t shy away from giving out free trials or a sample of your product. In todays economy people are becoming warier and more price conscious than ever before. In order to build trust in a product allow potential customers to experience what you offer first-hand, this will engage customers, build a solid reputation and will lead to sales generation. Now bear in mind that many businesses, small and large, market through give-aways, but Guerrilla Tactics would take this traditional approach and alter aspects to increase impact and offer originality. For example, a business in the food industry should aim to create some unique, eye catching hand food designed around a logo or mascot. Pairing a positive emotion to an image that is associated with your brand can leave a strong impression on the subconscious. This method can be built upon further by integrating freebies with your online presence; including a website URL on some light packaging, such as napkins, would allow the curious types to take a closer look at what you are all about. Alternatively, you could offer additional samples with a condition of leaving a short comment or review on one of your social platforms showing support.
These are just eight ways in which you can utilise Guerrilla Marketing to increase your brand presence and marketability in a very cost-efficient manner. The key to success is to not be inhibited by what you associate with main stay marketing methods and to instead let your creative juices flow so that you can implement the most appropriate and innovative marketing technique possible.
Guerrilla Marketing is effective and inexpensive. The list of ideas above includes some of the more successful and frequently used tactics. There are hundreds of other ideas and methods which can be used with equal, or even greater success.
As demonstrated in the examples above, these Guerrilla techniques are effective primarily because their market activations are disruptive. Some of these techniques do not have the same longevity as many other strategies, but during their short lifespan they can strongly imprint themselves upon their audience. This impression with be retained long after the marketing tactic has ended.
Where and How Guerrilla Marketing gets Misunderstood
Due to Guerrilla campaigns being so diverse in their approach many have confused edgy marketing campaigns with Guerrilla Marketing. Anybody interested in implementing this strategy must remember that whilst the aim is to take a risk in what you aspire to accomplish, even if controversy should arise, you should never aim to upset, scare, or provoke people in a negative way. The goal should be to illicit positive sentiments through imaginative and surprising means, stylised in a trendy or anti-establishment manner. Whilst usually you want your marketing strategies to promote positive emotions, in certain scenarios and when addressing sensitive subjects, you will need to slant your advert to promote a positive approach which motivates individuals into action e.g. advertising for the poverty stricken.
The only way to cultivate creativity is to be willing to push ideas beyond the currently accepted boundaries. The human condition desires stability and routine; the human spirit, however, craves for adventure, distraction and new experiences. From this it is clear to see what characteristic Guerrilla Marketing is catering to.
Being experimental in its nature, successful Guerrilla Marketing will draw the target audience into participating and creating a positive relationship with your business. Don’t make your adverts too convoluted or try to appear as something you are not. The true art of using this marketing strategy effectively is finding the sweet spot for advertising, without going too far as to bring about negative results.
Guerrilla Marketing and Larger Corporations
According to Levinson, the heart and soul of Guerrilla Marketing lies its lack of a budget being compensated for by a wealth of creativity. Since its inception there have been countless attempts to utilise this marketing strategy, with the inevitable successes coming via Guerrilla Marketing, this style has slowly entered the mainstream. This has led to the term’s understandings being diluted to the point of being applied to almost any variant of advertising that attracts attention in an unconventional manner.
In the case of small businesses operating a Guerrilla Marketing campaign, they often have little to no budget and aim to make a strong visual impact. In comparison, well-established businesses looking to utilise Guerrilla Tactics already have recognizable brands, so there is no requirement to make an impactful first impression. As explained earlier, big-budget Guerrilla Marketing is not Guerrilla Marketing at all.
A factor that larger businesses need to account for is that using Guerrilla Marketing carries risks that are not inherent with smaller businesses using the same strategy. If the message conveyed isn’t sufficiently stimulating then you won’t capture the attention of the target audience, and in failing to do so your business can come off looking pitiful. There is nothing worse than a larger, already established business going out of its way to tap into the modern method of Guerrilla Marketing and failing. The impression will be akin to that of an older person trying to be hip and trendy but coming off as desperate. Even worse, these attempts can end up alienating your pre-established customer base as they do not want to be associated with brands experiencing negative Public Relations.
A prime example of a large business launching a modern campaign using Guerrilla Tactics and failing is when Microsoft “unleashed a swarm of large adhesive butterflies” in Manhattan. Microsoft surely thought that this advertising stunt was edgy and modern, however, both New York residents and city officials were not pleased with the disruption it caused. Officials stated that Microsoft were “directly responsible for this illegal, irresponsible and dangerous defacing of public property”. Being ordered to clean up all butterflies and issued with a fine, Microsoft took a huge public relations hit, and a marketing ploy that was intended to drum up interest in a new product only led to a show of public apologies and damage control.
The lesson learnt from failures such as this is that Guerrilla Campaigns, when employed by larger businesses and corporations, should aim to be subtle. Consumers in general are more receptive to low-key advertising that doesn’t shock the system, rather than a high-profile disruptive strategy, when it comes to corporate Guerrilla Marketing. An advertisement has a higher chance of being well-received if it doesn’t immediately look like it is trying to sell something, or if it does, be so imaginative that a business is forgiven for doing so.
Although this is in direct contrast with the approach that smaller businesses ought to employ, it must be noted that the very nature of Guerrilla Marketing alters depending on the type of the business that intends to benefit from it.
Important Factors to Keep in Mind
Whilst the benefits and variations of this marketing style have been covered, it is important to note that while advertising, a mysterious message which grabs the attention of an audience would fail in its goal, should it be easily misunderstood. It is imperative that you take into consideration what a specific strategy is doing for your brand. If the message lacks in clarity then it will either have no effect on your business, or it could twist a customer’s interpretation.
Most Guerrilla Tactics are all about branding and generating awareness of your business or a product/service offer. Sometimes what you may get out of a marketing ploy is a lot of “buzz” or recognition, but this will not necessarily translate into higher sales. Always approach marketing as the first stage of a two-stage process, with the follow up being lead generation. Guerrilla Marketing will make people aware of your business, it is then up to you to follow up on its’ success to create leads and generate sales.
business, small or large, can employ Guerrilla Marketing and have it contribute
majorly to the success of a product or service being offered. At the same time,
the success of any advertising campaign will depend on a combination of factors;
the method used, the message conveyed, employing the campaign with the right
timing and of course a healthy dose of luck. The advertising game is changing
on a daily basis and as technology improves and audiences are exposed to
different marketing methods there will be a requirement for Guerrilla Marketing
to adapt to these changes. Remember innovation is your best friend, so don’t
allow your creativity to be constrained by pre-existing notions of successful