Guerrilla Marketing Explained – Definition, Ideas and Tips

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Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that’s specifically designed with small businesses in mind.

It involves high creativity, imagination and willingness to take risk, but one thing it actually doesn’t need is a big budget. Guerrilla marketing shifts advertising spend from expensive mediums like print, online, outdoor and online marketing channels to the streets. The point is to take high impact, promotional activities to a public place, including market places, social gatherings, parks or any other crowded place.

The Nivea flashmob above is a great example of guerrilla marketing.

Unlike other forms of marketing campaigns such as billboards and posters, guerrilla marketing exploits several marketing techniques and practices to establish direct contact with potential customers. The main goal of the interactions and all the techniques employed is to generate an emotional reaction among potential clients, with the aim of making them remember a brand in a special way. Flyers may be tailored to blend in with a major event or festival, without necessarily being part of the event, but as a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity at hand. A major challenge of guerrilla marketing is that it requires the street marketing team to find the right place and time to carry out the operation without getting caught up in legal issues. However there are many benefits and, if planned well ahead of time, can be a low-budget way to get high impact results.

Advantages of Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing can be extremely inexpensive.

You may be required to invest a few hundred dollars to prepare some of the promotional items or come up with a centralized piece that you can use to build your campaign around. But that’s just hard work and lots of thinking.

Face-to-face networking

Besides growing your business, guerrilla marketing can be a good networking tool, connecting you to potential customers and other businesses. As you go on with your campaigning, you’ll be making lots of new friends and associates, thus growing your connection.

Guerrilla marketing blends in perfectly with small businesses.

Unlike traditional advertising avenues, guerrilla marketing is so simple and economical. Small businesses don’t need to take a huge share of their investment to facilitate their campaigns. Guerrilla Marketing campaigns can be a lot of fun. You can perform wacky stunts or any other unusual, fun activity to attract a crowd. With the right creativity, this won’t even seem like work.

Oh yeah, when it works – it REALLY works

Guerrilla Marketing is one of those marketing campaigns that can go viral. All you have to do is, carry out some intensive research, then come up with a good plan. Make sure you’ve got recording devices ready to capture the action. If you get a good response, post it on YouTube or other channels. Promote it to the media and get it out there. With a little bit of luck, everyone will be talking about you in no time.

Mobile Guerrilla marketing

Everything is going mobile. Guerrilla marketing has come a long way ever since Jay Conrad Levinson first coined the concept. From the use of low-cost, high exposure experimental advertising to graffiti bombing and flyer distribution, guerrilla marketing is now taking advantage of mobile technology. Here are a few mobile strategies you may find useful if you go down this road:

Bluetooth Proximity Marketing (BPM)

As Bluetooth popularity continues to rise, different companies are starting to use it to market their services directly to people that come within the range of their devices. Bluetooth Proximity Marketing (BPM) marketers can now allow potential customers to download different programs and applications that provide a wide range of promotional information. This is even more important important if your business is located in an urban area with a high population density.

Free Wi-Fi

You’ve probably come across different companies that provide free Wi-Fi to people that come close to their location. That’s not accidental, but part of their guerrilla marketing strategies. The magic is in the splash page. After connecting to the Wi-Fi, the network forces anyone using the free service to first land onto a custom page. This page contains various promotional news and information about the company. Some even capture information like an email address or mobile number so the company can follow-up with emails and SMS texts.


SMS is one of most popular forms of communication, particularly among young people. This has forced different companies to leverage the trend by sending text alerts with promotional information to potential customers. For instance, Charlotte Rouse Company recently created a video text that went viral. It was a simple video of a man promising to give his girlfriend the moon and a $5 dollar shopping voucher if only he won her heart.  The campaign was so successful that the company’s sales increased by 33% in one weekend.

QR Codes

A lot of marketers are on the fence about QR codes due to lack of native support in iOS devices. But QR Codes help bridge the gap between physical and digital promotions. By scanning a QR code, smartphone users can receive promotional information, website links and other promotional tools, besides receiving directions to different locations. For example, New York City Central Park was able to collect contact information from about 1,800 people who scanned and used their QR codes within the park to get directions.

Examples of Guerrilla Marketing

The Blair Witch Project

We’re jumping in a time machine and partying like it’s 1999. The Blair Witch project, involving film students on a low-budget and camera, is one of the most popular and successful guerrilla marketing campaigns in history. The documentary-style thriller could have probably ended up as a comical B-movie were it not for the well-thought marketing strategy. By coming up with an internet campaign spreading rumors about a fictitious legend by the name “Blair Witch,” the film creators set the whole internet on fire. This, according to CNN, grossed $250 million despite the fact that they had only used $50,000 to promote the movie.

Medecins du Monde’s emergency shelters for homeless people

When Medecins du Monde wanted to direct attention to the homelessness problem in Paris, they didn’t use billboards and ads. Instead, they distributed simple tents to homeless people all around the city. This, according to CNN, drove the government to allocate emergency shelters to millions of people in Paris.


In 2002, Vodafone hired two men wearing Vodafone logos across their backs to streak across a rugby field during an Australian rugby match. Vodafone was the main sponsor of the match at the time. Though the campaign somewhat backfired, as the streakers were fined and many fans freaked out, the stunt succeeded in earning Vodafone a reputation that’s still fresh in people’s mind more than a decade later.

What to avoid while launching your guerrilla campaign

Never use your campaign to provoke or scare people.

Instead, choose something that people will embrace, and at the same time be willing to share with their family and friends.

Don’t be too contrived and cheesy.

If you’re not comfortable with taking a stand, then it’s better off left alone. Trying to be something you’re not will never do your business any good.

Don’t go to jail

This is very important as you do not want anyone within your team to end up in jail after the campaign. If it gets to a place where the campaign is too hostile or provoking, and you’re on the verge of getting an assault charge, back off.

Disadvantages of Guerrilla Marketing Campaign

There’s no doubt that guerrilla marketing can work. The only problem is that it’s not 100% percent guaranteed. After all it’s just advertising. It has nothing to do with the effectiveness of your product. In other words, using an effective campaign to market a substandard product won’t do your business any good in the long run. Guerrilla marketing requires higher levels of commitment and dedication when compared to traditional avenues, which mostly involve throwing a hefty amount at other people to do all the work for you. Those looking for a quick fix will not be very happy with guerrilla marketing, as it doesn’t guarantee overnight results. If anything, you’ll be sweating it out, patiently waiting for your effort to pay off – avoiding legal issues and haters. If you’re faint-hearted or thin-skinned, guerrilla marketing is not for you. Odds are you’ll get some Internet trolls finding faults in some of the methods you employ in your campaign. Worse is that someone may threaten you with legal actions. To stay safe, make an effort to look through your local laws to wrap your head around possible legal issues before proceeding with the campaign.

Getting started

Before you even think of integrating any marketing strategy into your campaign, it’s important to ask yourself “what’s the goal?” You know the whole elevator pitch thing? Do that but for your campaign. What exactly would you say that will drive people into buying whatever you’re selling? Start by doing a little homework and setting clear objectives. Take your time to think through the categories, brands and consumer, as you try to find the best way to connect everything. Try to imagine all the possible ways your idea can grow some wings. The best way is to think in terms of the headlines you’d like to see, the tweets you’d like to read, and the YouTube videos you’d like to watch after your guerrilla marketing takes off. Your ultimate goal should be to get media attention and establish a positive connection with potential customers. Find a way to make that happen. Good sources of information on guerrilla WikiPedia – Guerrilla Marketing Guerilla Guide Investopedia

Author: Graham Onak
When not running the day-to-day activities of GainTap, Graham writes about technical optimization for websites and online marketing programs.

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