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So what is guerrilla marketing? What is guerrilla anyway? We refer to guerrilla as a freedom fighter, an underground fighter, irregular soldier, member of resistance, partisan, rebel, radical, revolutionary, and even terrorist. And guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military.

In the same context, guerrilla marketing is a form of unusual marketing that nobody expects.

The Cambridge dictionary defines guerrilla:

Using unusual methods to create or get attention for your ideas, art, products, usually, ones that cost little money and involve using public spaces.

Guerrilla in marketing is an advertising strategy where we use unconventional, strange, unexpected, and unorthodox ways to surprise people and get their attention.

Guerrilla marketing can be either used as a form of inbound marketing, as a magnet that attracts people, but even as a form of outbound marketing, where we interrupt and push our marketing message in front of people.

Is it a form of marketing you should consider for your brand?

Let’s dive right in!

Guerrilla Marketing

guerrilla solider field alone ready for war

History

According to Wikipedia, the term was popularized by Jay Conrad Levinson‘s 1984 book Guerrilla Marketing.

Jay revolutionized marketing strategies for the small-business owner with his take-no-prisoners approach to finding clients. 

As Jay underlines:

“The names of the marketing game in the 2000s and beyond are relationships and service…it takes time to nurture the customer relationships and render superlative service”

And these are some powerful quotes from Jay’s book.

Marketing is every bit of contact your company has with anyone in the outside world. Every bit of contact. That means a lot of marketing opportunities. It does not mean investing a lot of money.

Key Elements/Principles

Is not always about investing money

Traditional means of advertising always refer to spending money in order to attract prospects and market your products and services.

On the other hand, guerrilla marketing means you can invest money if you want, but only if you need to. First, you should consider investing in time, imagination, innovation, creativity, and information.

Guerrilla marketing strategies can be deployed for solo entrepreneurs, small and big businesses, big corporations, and 500 Fortune companies. 

It can be really cost-effective but also expensive depending on the type of campaign, the methods and material being used, the location. and so on.

Pleasure

Guerrilla marketing means that all parties involved should enjoy the process and experience. 

The brand getting advertised, the marketing agency in the case they run the campaign for a client, the people exposed to the campaign, and even the competitors.

I want to highlight here that we should not try to provoke people in a negative way or create an experience that might be perceived as evil or scary. We don’t want people annoyed or upset, we want them happy, to have fun, smile, embrace the marketing message, and share the news with their friends. 

It’s not an easy task to provide such a great experience for everyone but this is what you should aim for.

Human Psychology

Guerrilla is based on human psychology and behavior. 

According to Harvard Business Schoolprofessor Gerald Zaltman says that 95 percent of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind.

Gerald highlights:

The insights offered by methods that probe the unconscious mind are relevant at all stages of the product life cycle. For instance, when introducing a radically new product, it is necessary to understand how consumers currently frame their experience of the problem addressed by the new offering. That is, no matter how radical a new product is, it will always be perceived initially in terms of some frame of reference. It is essential that this frame be understood, especially if it is an inappropriate one detrimental to early trial of the product

So how do we influence the subconscious mind with guerrilla marketing?

By deploying creative, often aggressive advertising tactics that take consumers by surprise and leave memorable experiences.

We focus on the customer, on our imagination, we try to be authentic and innovative, and timely.

See below.

%

Purchasing decisions that take place in the subconscious mind

Customer-Centric

As with direct response marketing, guerrilla marketing focuses on people, not the brand advertised. This is key.

Prospects and customers don’t care at all about you or your company, they want to satisfy their needs and wants, they have aspirations for the future, they want to solve problems, and improve their lives.

Speak to them and be generous. Think about ways to give something to your customers and prospects rather than taking something from them.

Guerrilla marketing takes into consideration the lifetime value of a customer very seriously.

Targeting

Depending on our goals and the product advertised with a guerrilla marketing campaign, we may target specific groups of people or even random people in public places, outdoor or indoor, or even in private.

What are we trying to achieve?

Is it a branding campaign? Do we want to build awareness around the brand or a certain product?

Is it a direct response campaign? Are we trying to get people to take some kind of action right away?

For instance, if we want to advertise a perfume for teenagers, we may consider deploying a guerrilla campaign during a school sporting event, or nearby a monument downtown where teenagers gather everyday. 

Creativity/Imagination/Authenticity

Guerrilla advertising campaigns involve creativity and imagination to take people by surprise and trigger their emotions and curiosity.

Guerrilla aims to make a long-lasting, unforgettable, or even permanent impression about the brand advertised.

We need to create a buzz around the brand, the product, and the campaign itself. We need people to remember the experience and discuss it with their friends and network.

We also need to consider our competition and past guerrilla campaigns that have been deployed to create something new, a campaign that no one has ever experienced. Authenticity is key.

Timing/Execution

To make these long-lasting impressions and get consumers surprised, we need to consider very carefully the place and time for executing our guerrilla marketing campaigns.

Due to its unorthodox nature and the unconventional methods we use, we need to execute the campaign successfully with no mistakes. 

There is a big number of guerrilla campaigns that fail because there are many moving parts to make the campaign successful. 

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Benefits

Attention/Buzz/Popularity

If done right, a guerrilla campaign will draw attention, create a buzz around the brand, the product, the campaign itself, or even the company that is getting advertised.

The consumers exposed to the campaign may remember the brand or product and share their awesome experiences so the brand earns referral business.

A guerrilla campaign has a higher chance of going viral than traditional advertising campaigns. It’s different, unique, pleasurable, sometimes funny and extreme, and people always enjoy “change”.

Memorable

Because of its nature, guerrilla marketing stands out from traditional marketing. It’s unique and as a result, memorable, it creates long-lasting impressions.

This way, people exposed to the guerrilla campaign, will want to know more about the brand and the product advertised. 

And even if they don’t buy the product right away, when they come across it again or across a similar product, they will remember their experience and may become customers at this time.

Engagement

The majority of people are bombarded with 1000’s ads on a daily basis and they are bored and annoyed. They quickly turn these “common” ads off their minds. 

And when they experience something new and exciting, they engage, they participate.

The more people participate, the more viral the campaign will be.

Cost-effective

As we mentioned earlier, guerrilla marketing means you can invest money but first, you should consider investing in time, imagination, innovation, and creativity.

Guerrilla campaigns are great weapons for brands low on budget so they can compete with the big names. 

Risks

Because of its nature and the unconventional methods being deployed, guerrilla marketing can sometimes fail and result in negative impressions.

Some people or certain groups might get offended, annoyed, or upset.

It might be a symbol used in a campaign that for some religions means something wrong.

Or sometimes a campaign and its intentions might be misunderstood or are hard for people to understand.

Examples of failed guerrilla campaigns

#1 Vodafone: in August 2002, Vodafone endorsed two men to ‘streak’ at an International Rugby game with the corporate logo painted on their backs, wearing nothing at all. The couple found themselves in big trouble, but Vodafone also landed themselves in the frame for legal action.

#2 Snapple Popsicle: in 2005 the brand attempted to erect the world’s largest popsicle in New York’s Times Square. The stunt might have worked had the drink maker not tried to set up the 25-foot tall popsicle, made of frozen Snapple juice and weighing 17.5 tons, on an 80-degree June day. The frozen treat began to melt as it was being lifted upright, flooding parts of downtown Manhattan with kiwi-strawberry-flavored Snapple.

Firefighters had to be called in to close off streets and hose down the mess.

#3 Aqua Teen Hunger Force: in 2007, a number of LED signs designed to promote the television program Aqua Teen Hunger Force were mistakenly identified as explosive devices. At the time, these cute little blinking cartoon figures probably seemed like a brilliant way to raise curiosity. In retrospect, in this post-911 world installing a series of complex wire-filled devices with their own power sources on public structural elements like bridge supports was probably a tremendously terrible idea. Worse yet, the marketing company and device designers failed to notify the police of the devices’ true purpose even after learnings that they were being treated as bombs by authorities. Though no jail sentences resulted from the incident Turner Broadcasting paid millions of dollars to city police and Homeland Security to resolve the matter.

Sources:

Types

Guerrilla marketing can happen anywhere, indoor, outdoor, online. The only limit is our imagination.

  • Ambient: advertising presented on elements of the environment, physical surfaces
  • Ambush: association with events or properties
  • Stealtha deliberate act of entering, operating in, or exiting a market in a furtive, secretive, or imperceptible manner, or an attempt to do so
  • Viral/buzz: rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, to millions. And high-profile media to encourage the public to discuss the brand or product.
  • Undercover: selling something to someone who has no idea they’ve just witnessed a sales pitch
  • Grassroots: highlights a personal connection between the consumer and the brand, and builds a lasting relationship with the brand
  • Astroturfing: involves generating an artificial hype around a particular product or company through a review or discussion on online blogs or forums by an individual who is paid to convey a positive view (paid endorsements)
  • Street: unconventional means of advertising or promoting products and brands in public areas. Also encompasses advertising outdoors, such as on shopping trolleys, public toilets, sides of cars or public transport, manhole covers, footpaths, rubbish bins, street culture, street art. Can be used for distribution of flyers or products, product animations, human animations, road shows, uncovered actions, event actions. 
  • Projection advertising: places large-scale, captivating ads on the sides of buildings, turning bland walls into instant works of art. It’s a grassroots option with an incredible amount of flexibility and awareness.
  • Wildposting: may seem old-fashioned, but they are still wildly popular with indie bands and products that want to portray that indie image
  • Pop-up retail: a retail store (a “pop-up shop”) that is opened temporarily to take advantage of a faddish trend or seasonal demand
  • Presence: This can be achieved through product placements in movies and TV shows, stalls at local festivals and markets, regular Twitter updates, or whatever else makes that product name visible daily
  • Tissue-pack advertising: Knowing that advertising fliers were almost never accepted, much less read, Japanese businesses began to hand out pocket packs of tissues with ads on them. This simple but ingenious marketing method works because, well, who would turn down free stuff?
  • Alternative: publicity that looks like it is completely removed from the company itself
  • Experiential: aims to give you an experience rather than send you a one-way message. Experiential marketing lets you interact with the product and associate your immediate emotional responses with that brand
  • Reverse graffiti: Despite the sometimes-negative connotations of graffiti as a recognised art form, this approach can work as it uses nonpermanent paint or dye

Sources:

Examples/Ideas

Bounty Paper Towels

To demonstrate the superior absorbency of Bounty paper towels, two giant spills were created in the middle of New York and Los Angeles.

Source:

  • Toxel: bounty paper towels ad campaign
guerrilla marketing - bounty03
guerrilla marketing - bounty02

SourceToxel

Capcom Video Game Launch

Over 1000 blocks of ice were strategically placed outside influencer shops throughout the country in cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston

To create anticipation of the street marketing happening, Tangible/CAPCOM seeded the activity on gamer social media sites

Videogame fans eagerly awaited the ice block drops in each city, armed with ice picks, hammers, drills, bags, outfits, and salt!

Source:

guerrilla marketing - altterrain capcom video game

SourceAltTerrain

Ikea Paris Subway

For two weeks, four subway stations in Paris were fully furnished, with couches and lamps, introducing the Swedish company’s new collection of furniture.

Source:

guerrilla marketing - ikea paris subway

Vueling Projection

simple guerrilla advertising campaign to intrigue passers-by.

Source:

  • Moosend: guerrilla marketing ideas
guerrilla marketing - vueling projection

SourceMoosend

Milwaukee Riverkeeper

Taking advantage of the structural components of its surface, this Milwaukee Riverkeeper advert created a beautiful and evocative image. Paired with the tagline, “A Clean River is a Fun River,” the design raised awareness of the organization’s mission, soliciting donations with a fun, creative, and eye-catching image.

Source:

guerrilla marketing - Milwaukee Riverkeeper

CastAway film and FedEx

FedEx Corp. hit the product-placement jackpot with “Cast Away,” a movie in which Tom Hanks plays a FedEx engineer who survives four years alone on a South Pacific island.

And in what may become the marketing equivalent of a bargain like buying Manhattan Island for $24, FedEx got the priceless publicity for free.

“People find it hard to believe, but we didn’t pay a dime to be in the movie,” said Sandra Munoz, a FedEx spokeswoman at the company’s Memphis headquarters. “The moviemakers approached us. And we had to think long and hard about whether to participate.”

Source

More Ideas

As we can see, the only limit is our imagination in guerrilla marketing.

These methods can be used by brands of all sizes, even solo entrepreneurs. And it’s not always about spending a ton of money.

You don’t need to pay influencers for product endorsements or to place your product in a Hollywood movie.

You can buy someone a cup of coffee at the airport with your business card on the side. But first, you have to make sure it’s someone that’s interested in your product or service. You can do that by spying on people’s conversations until something they say triggers you.

Let’s say you’re inside a crowded train in the subway. When you step out you may accidentally have your cards or a product sample fall so that someone picks it up. Or it might be a pack of flyers directing people to attend your speaking event later this night or anything else.

You can print your message in public toilets in a way that is not disturbing and does not cause any damage. You can use a non-permanent marker to paint the mirrors.

You may get a group of kids to go and shout your brand name and tagline where your target audience hangs out by buying them some ice-cream.

You can have your children wearing your brand’s t-shirt in the park.

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Epilogue

I hope you enjoyed guerrilla marketing. It’s one of my favorite forms of advertising.

It can be fun, interesting, engaging, and bring amazing results.

Imagine what happens when such a campaign goes viral.

But you should also be aware of the risks and stay away from legal trouble.

If you are going to ambush an event, for instance, get in contact with the event organizer first to discuss the details. 

Try to make people remember your brand, the product, and the campaign itself.

You can do miracles!

Do you need help with your guerrilla campaigns?

Schedule a free video-call interview to help us understand where you are at your business right now, your needs and goals, and we will give you a detailed analysis of how we work. Then, we’ll create the first campaign for you for free to prove we can get you results.

That’s it, another article has finished, here on Web Market Support. I am waiting for your comments and thoughts. Till next time.

Tasos Perte Tzortzis

Tasos Perte Tzortzis

Marketing Specialist, Entrepreneur

Although doing traditional business offline since 1992, Tasos fell in love with online marketing in late 2014 and has helped hundreds of brands sell more of their products and services on the web.

He enjoys reading, music & arts, mathematics, chess, coffee, swimming, Audi, and playing with his kids.

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