Competition among businesses is at an all-time high, with so many brands leveraging digital platforms, especially after the pandemic.
Businesses want customers to spend money on their products and services, and as a result, customers receive hundreds of spam emails, text messages, and unwanted phone calls. Customers are so used to these marketing tactics that businesses sometimes have to think outside of the box to get their attention.
Guerrilla marketing was one of my favorite marketing strategies that I learned about in my marketing class back in college. But one thing about guerrilla marketing is that it is tactical. It is placed so strategically that you often don’t even realize that it is marketing!
Keep reading to know the meaning of guerrilla marketing and much more — including some great real-world examples.
Guerrilla Marketing Definition and Meaning
The term “guerrilla marketing” was first used by the father of guerrilla marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson. He is the author of more than a dozen guerrilla marketing books. The term gained popularity through one of his best-selling guerrilla marketing books, released in 1983.
Guerrilla marketing can be defined as a marketing and advertising strategy in which a brand uses edgy, unusual, unconventional, and surprise tactics to sell its products or services. The intriguing nature of this promotion tool attracts the eyes of people and helps brands achieve conventional goals.
What marketers love about guerrilla marketing is that it is low-cost. Instead of a huge marketing budget, it relies on time, energy, and imagination.
In Jay Conrad Levinson’s own words: “Guerrilla marketing does not rely on guesswork because wrong guesses are so darned expensive. Instead, it relies upon psychology as much as possible. Psychology used to be a body of theories. Today, many of those theories have been debunked while others have been transformed into laws, actual laws of human behavior. Guerrillas lean on these laws because they want certainty to be a hallmark of their marketing.”
In short, the meaning of guerrilla marketing is to use smart publicity stunts or genius ideas, or to advertise through unique channels to reach a mass audience of customers. Considering the importance of digital these days, it is all about virality.
Types of Guerrilla Marketing
Now that you know guerrilla marketing’s definition, let’s look at some of the types of guerrilla marketing:
1.Outdoor Guerrilla Marketing:
One of the best guerrilla marketing strategies is to make use of the space around us. Outdoor guerrilla marketing requires the brand to add something physical to the urban environment. The objective is to surprise the audience and catch them off-guard.
2.Indoor Guerilla Marketing:
Indoor guerrilla marketing is similar to outdoor guerilla marketing; the only difference is that it takes place in indoor locations, such as malls, shops, libraries, train stations, schools, university campuses, etc.
3.Event Ambush Guerilla Marketing:
To promote your products and services, take advantage of a large audience present in an in-progress event, such as a sporting event or a concert. This type of marketing can get you in trouble if not appropriately executed, as it usually does not require you to get permission from the event sponsors.
In 2009, Pringles distributed approximately 24,000 of their limited-edition cans outside Wimbledon. Pringles also hired look-alikes of Roger Federer and Bjorn Borg and received extra attention for their genius campaign.
4.Experiential Guerilla Marketing:
An experiential guerilla marketing campaign is executed so that it requires the audience to interact with the brand.
For example, toothpaste brand Sensodyne built an installation with three zones. The first zone was named “Sensitivity Zone” and offered the audience a 10-minute sensitivity test performed by actual dentists.
Participants were also asked to participate in a game that involved passing a metal ring through wires without touching them.
In the second zone, a 13-foot tall molar was installed. The audience was encouraged to take pictures and videos and publish them on their social media accounts.
The third zone attempted to make a Guinness World Record by providing the largest oral hygiene lesson in history.
5.Viral Guerrilla Marketing:
Every day, we hear about pictures, videos, tweets, Instagram posts, and other content going viral and reaching millions of people in a short amount of time.
With viral guerrilla marketing, there is a strong component of luck involved. However, creativity is the key.
According to Steve Olenski, the essential elements of a viral guerrilla marketing campaign are as follows:
- An emotional resonance:
The most effective viral campaigns usually have a strong emotional element that brings those emotions out in the audience.
- A good cause or a good name:
One of the most memorable viral campaigns is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. The challenge was created to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It also encouraged people to donate to the cause.
The challenge required social media users to record themselves pouring a bucket full of ice water on themselves and uploading it on their account, and tagging their friends to join the challenge. Many celebrities, such as Bill Gates, Kim Kardashian, Gordon Ramsay, Shakira, and Victoria Beckham also participated in the challenge.
Advantages of Guerrilla Marketing
Now that we are aware of some of the types of guerrilla marketing, we can now dive into its numerous advantages:
As mentioned earlier, marketers love that it is not necessary to spend thousands of dollars to set up a successful guerilla marketing campaign. According to a source, marketers who use guerrilla marketing spend 90% less on advertising their brand.
As a marketer or small business owner, you can quite efficiently execute a guerrilla marketing campaign. If implemented correctly, it can reap substantial profits and bring you a high ROI without spending virtually anything.
When it comes to guerrilla marketing, actions speak louder than words. Not only should your campaign be creative, but it should also contain the factors of shock, emotion, and of course, your brand.
Even though guerrilla marketing is mainly considered to be a traditional tool, it can also come in the form of videos and pictures, considering the importance of digital platforms, especially in the post-pandemic world.
In digital guerrilla marketing, a brand can involve the audience by asking consumers to share stories of their experience with the brand. Contests like these can establish and strengthen the relationship between the brand and its existing and potential customers.
Other than that, if your guerilla marketing campaign is creative and out-of-the-box, your brand awareness will increase. One of the main tools guerilla marketing uses is word-of-mouth. According to a source, word-of-mouth accounts for 54% of purchasing decisions.
Software company SEMRush also states that word-of-mouth is more effective than paid ads, resulting in 5x more sales.
Guerrilla marketing is all about creativity. It lets you express yourself in unexpected ways. If your imagination is rich enough, your campaign can grab the audience’s attention and stay in their head for a very long time.
Psychology says that individuals are either right-brained or left-brained.
The left side of the brain is more analytical; however, if you’re creative and artistic, then you are right-brained.
Right-brained individuals respond more to emotional and personal appealing messages while left-brained individuals like logical reasoning behind something. According to several sources, guerrilla marketing appeals to both sides.
To grab the attention of busy New Yorkers, Folger’s Coffee came up with a great guerrilla marketing campaign involving stickers. Their stickers transformed maintenance holes into freshly brewed coffee cups.
A common sight in New York City, the steam coming from these maintenance holes transformed the eyesore into a fantastic marketing campaign. Now whenever New Yorkers see a steaming maintenance hole, they cannot help but think of Folger’s Coffee.
However, there can also be some downsides to guerilla marketing. When launching a guerilla marketing campaign, you risk the following:
1.The Campaign Could be Misunderstood
Guerrilla marketing campaigns are clever, well-thought-out, and creative but often miss the mark by being too vague. If the campaign confuses the audience, it could be misinterpreted and generate negative responses, especially on social media.
2.The Campaign Could Flop
Guerrilla marketing is a fantastic way to connect to an audience, but it can also offend them in some way. Your campaign could also come across as greedy and thoughtless. With so many social media groups and pages nowadays, you might face negative attention if your campaign is poorly executed.
You likely won’t lose much money since the beauty of guerilla marketing is that it’s not that expensive. Still, it can be pretty upsetting to see that the idea that you thought was absolutely amazing did not work out the way you expected.
3.If Done Outside the Law, It Can Land the Company in Huge Trouble
Guerrilla marketing is legal, but you need to be careful of a few things before its execution. The objectives of the campaign should be clear to avoid being misunderstood by customers.
Keep the following things in mind:
- Campaigns which haven’t been tested before can be criticized. Be extremely careful about the underlying meaning of your campaign and the feelings it might arouse in different groups of people.
- As guerrilla marketing is mostly implemented in public, you will require permits from different institutions responsible for the areas where you want to execute your campaign. If you don’t seek permission, your company will likely be the subject of a lawsuit.
10 Examples of Guerrilla Marketing to Boost Your Brand
1.IHOP to IHOB
One of the most talked-about guerrilla marketing campaigns on social media, the campaign had everyone talking about IHOP vs. IHOB and asking questions like, “What even is going on at IHOP? Are they changing the restaurant’s name? The menu? What the heck is this all about?”
The campaign was regarding IHOP’s new burgers (The “B” in IHOB stood for burgers) to remind everyone that IHOP is not just a breakfast restaurant. The campaign was fun and quirky.
2.Deadpool’s Tinder Account
From email newsletters to billboards with the poop emoji, Deadpool really utilized every platform you could think of.
The marketing campaign also utilized Tinder, a dating app, to promote Deadpool by setting up the Marvel hero a Tinder profile and allowing people to swipe right or left.
3.McDonald’s French Fry Logo
McDonald’s painted its french fry logo on the walkway of a city. This impressive campaign caught the attention of the pedestrians and helped McDonald’s achieve positive associations.
4.Ikea’s Big Sleepover
In 2011, A Facebook group called “I wanna have a sleepover in Ikea” caught the attention of UK Ikea. Ikea actually ended up having a sleepover at one of their stores in Essex. Approximately 100,000 people were in the group, and 100 got the chance to spend a night in Ikea!
5.Coke’s Happiness Machine
In 2010, Coca-Cola uploaded a video on YouTube titled “Coca-Cola Happiness Machine.” The video featured a Coca-Cola vending machine that dispensed more than just Coke; it also distributed flowers, balloons, pizzas, and a long sandwich! The cameras captured the unscripted reactions of students.
This video went viral on social media and currently has over 11 million views on YouTube.
6.Mr. Clean Crosswalk
Mr. Clean is a brand that specializes in all-purpose cleaners and melamine foam products. In order to demonstrate how effective their products are, they painted one of the crosswalks in Italy with white paint. The white color caught the audience’s eye and it clearly showed off the cleaning power of Mr. Clean.
7.WePay’s Dig at PayPal
We all know that PayPal is known for randomly freezing people’s accounts. WePay, a competitor of PayPal, is also a service that makes it easier for individuals to accept payments from people.
Many individuals have had their PayPal accounts limited with no access to the money in their accounts or frozen entirely.
To take a dig at PayPal, WePay froze many hundred dollar bills in a massive block of ice with a note saying, “PayPal Freezes Your Accounts.” Through this campaign, WePay told the audience that they could unfreeze their money by switching to WePay.
8.Coca-Cola’s ‘Small World Machines’
Two vending machines were installed in well-known malls of Lahore, Pakistan; and New Delhi, India. These machines used 3D technology to live stream video, facilitating an exchange between Pakistani people and Indians.
The audience was given the option to perform several tasks, e.g., make a peace sign, dance, wave, toast to a stranger, etc. People’s actions were visible to the other nation’s people, and their reactions could also be seen on the screen.
After the task was completed, a Coca-Cola can would come out of the vending machines in both Pakistan and India. The strangers then shared their Coca-Cola moments together.
The campaign’s objective was to bring the two nations closer as they share a lot in common, be it their interest in music, movies, cricket, food, or culture. It also emphasized that Coke is another common factor between the people of the two countries.
9.Tripl’s Fake Parking Tickets
Tripl, a travel storytelling and discovery app, executed a fantastic guerilla marketing campaign by handing out fake parking tickets.
The “parking ticket” invited surprised individuals to “avoid a penalty” by taking a trip with Tripl and then explaining what the service is. A QR code was included in the ticket that enabled the recipients to download the app immediately.
10.Always’ “Like a Girl” Campaign
Always, a popular menstrual hygiene brand, launched its #LikeAGirl campaign in 2014. The campaign was well-thought-out, and its objective was to tackle societal limitations placed on young girls.
In the video, the interviewers asked teenage girls and boys what it means to “run like a girl” and “hit like a girl,” and all of them tried to run and hit in a mocking manner.
The interviewers then asked younger girls, aged 10 and below, to show what it means to “run like a girl,” and all of them ran as fast and focused as they could. The video highlighted the effects the phrase “like a girl” can have on girls’ perception of themselves, their talents, and abilities. It also redefined the negative connotations of doing stuff “like a girl.”
This video currently has more than 69 million views on YouTube and is loved by millions of people for the way it presents gender stereotypes.
Guerrilla marketing is an edgy, unconventional, and cost-effective marketing strategy. It is excellent for businesses looking to raise brand recognition or introduce new products and services to the audience on a limited marketing budget.
Guerrilla marketing attracts the eyes of the audience and intrigues them. Thus, it is excellent for startups, small businesses, and businesses that are not very well-known as the campaign will make people want to know more about your business. If your business is well-known, then people will find your campaign interesting, which will reinforce the attachment of people to your brand.