A Guide to Guerilla Marketing

Mar 8, 2023

Picture a giant popsicle placed in one of the city parks in New York. Twenty-five feet tall, it has been situated in a popular public area to reach as many people as possible.

This was no prank but the work of Snapple to promote their iced treats. Unfortunately for the company, the sun did its work, and the masterpiece was reduced to goo in no time. This misadventure had to be hosed clean by the New York Fire Department. On the plus side, the calamity earned a place in the Guinness Book Of World Records (2015).

An Example of Guerilla Marketing Gone Wrong

This story is a famous example of guerilla marketing gone wrong. Fortunately, there are rules to follow to help businesses use this marketing tactic to boost sales, and we will discuss these. We also look at several guerilla marketing strategy examples.

The Essence of Guerilla Marketing

With all the latest technologies, most marketing campaigns use digital strategies to communicate their messages. Guerilla marketing, on the other hand, makes use of decentralised brick-and-mortar marketing strategies. In other words, the guerilla marketing campaign relies entirely on a physical representation, taking various forms, which we will take note of, as opposed to digital marketing strategies that are entirely online.

You are no doubt familiar with a number of the options employed in digital marketing, such as email campaigns, content marketing, pay-per-click advertising, affiliate marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing (SEM), and social media marketing. The latter may use influencers for advertising a company’s products or services.

We have already given one example of guerilla marketing, Snapple’s mishap with the large popsicle that melted before it could spread its message (unless you count spreading sticky popsicle syrup across the surface of a New York Park). We will also look at examples of the best guerilla marketing campaigns that have been carried out successfully.

If you have heard of ‘guerilla armies’, these fighters are not necessarily soldiers but often citizens who hide out in bushes, caves, heavily forested, or mountainous terrains. They will come out of hiding just long enough to strike a profound blow at the enemy before drifting away unseen. Meanwhile, the enemy could consist of a much more ordered army, many times the size of the guerilla army.

This is like a swarm of hornets that rush in, sting as many people as possible, and simply fly away. They have left their mark, which is what guerilla marketing aims to do. Larger competitors may have bigger marketing budgets, as the regular army has superior weapons. However, the skilled marketing department knows its turf and can devise strategies to make its mark on consumers using guerilla tactics.

The Rules for Guerilla Marketing – Rule # 1

The rules for guerilla marketing are not that different from what is involved in digital marketing, just a lot simpler. Rule number one is to define your marketing goals. These could be to generate profit and increase brand awareness. According to the AIDA marketing model, marketing has four goals, which are consumer awareness, consumer interest, consumer desire, and consumer action. This is part of a foot-in-the-door guerilla campaign.

The Rules for Guerilla Marketing – Rule # 2

Rule number two is to know your audience. The locations you choose for your marketing campaign will dictate the consumer base. For example, guerilla marketing at a heavy metal concert will face a different reception from how it will be received in a setting like a children’s playground. A guerilla campaign can be playful or provocative but should not exceed the bounds of good taste and should be appropriate for the audience who will see it.

The Rules for Guerilla Marketing – Rule # 3

Rule number three is linked to the previous rule and is to create the desired atmosphere. It need not rely on humour to get a response but instead can arouse other emotions, such as sympathy or excitement. Above all, avoid being crude.

The Rules for Guerilla Marketing – Rule # 4

Rule number four is to keep the campaign short and effective. Like the guerilla soldier, it should emerge from nowhere, make its point, and melt back into the shadows. Don’t belabour it, or you will lose the impact.

The Rules for Guerilla Marketing – Rule # 5

Rule number five is to conduct research before acting. You don’t want to offend animal and green supporters, so make sure your content will not make enemies instead of friends. This is a certain way to acquire a negative label that is hard to shrug off and can affect your company’s bottom line and share prices. Get all the necessary permissions beforehand. Be aware of any laws that might limit you at certain times and in some locations.

Best Guerilla Marketing Examples

While digital marketing ruled during the pandemic, there are many perks to traditional brick-and-mortar shopping and offer scope for unique marketing strategies. Most people get real pleasure from a shopping spree where they handle items, check the quality, make comparisons, and spoil themselves with something that catches their eye. After the long isolation due to Covid, many shoppers are returning to traditional shopping even as they still use digital options for convenience.

Guerilla marketing examples have been experimented with by multiple businesses. We will explore these, having defined the rules for guerilla tactics in marketing. Once you have all this knowledge behind you, your company will be ready to get creative and ‘go guerilla’. The following examples define the categories of guerilla marketing and offer some of the best guerilla marketing ideas to inspire your marketing team.

Street/Outdoor Guerilla Marketing

An excellent example is a McDonald’s ad placed on the street. It used the yellow lines of a zebra crossing on the road surface to represent hot chips. Beneath the ‘chips,’ they painted a McDonald’s packet, complete with their brand ‘M’. Families crossing this site will be tempted to get a McDonald’s meal.

Another form of street/outdoor guerilla marketing is graffiti. Using this tactic, businesses paint huge advertisements on the walls of public streets. This option is dependent on obtaining owner permission. Graffiti can take two other forms: stencil and reverse graffiti. The latter places a stencil over a dirty street surface or wall and washes away the dirt, making the ad pristine and clear against the darker background. Stencil graffiti also uses stencils but is used with paint on walls. They are not as large as traditional graffiti, often taking the form of a brand.

Ambient Marketing

BIC staged their marketing campaign on a huge stretch of grass, placing a giant razor on the field, which has been partly mowed leading up to the razor. The implication is that their razors are sharp enough even to cut grass.

Ambient marketing uses disruption to the flow of a setting to its advantage and ensures that the campaign receives attention, being highly noticeable and out of the ordinary. In another example, Coca-Cola placed a Coke vending machine at a city bus stop. The unusualness of the BIC and Coca-Cola ads was the selling point, as it was impossible to ignore while sending a positive message. The length of time ambient marketing engages audiences is over a minute, whereas billboards receive an average of six seconds of attention.

Ambush Marketing

Ambush marketing is akin to gate-crashing a party. The campaign is showcased at an event arranged by other parties, such as the mentioned heavy metal concert. This provides a captive audience, usually, a large one, so increasing brand awareness at events makes sense.  

Guerilla Projections

Here, hidden projectors are beamed onto high-rise buildings to display the ads. This is one way to get good visibility and increase foot traffic. Make sure to get the required permissions to use this strategy.

Experiential Marketing

Experiential marketing involves immersive and especially entertaining experiences that consumers can engage with. Volkswagen used this marketing tactic by painting a set of stairs to resemble a piano. While this seems counterintuitive, as pianos and cars have no discernible connection or relevance to each other, the random, fun element worked for them. Companies should strive to create such relationships with consumers. When the time is right to buy a product, consumers will already be positively disposed toward your business and brand. This goes hand-in-hand with other marketing strategies, such as a strong social media presence.

Flash Mobs

Flash mobs consist of a group of people who could be causal citizens but are organised into a group that suddenly steps forward at a set date and time. They may dance, sing a song, or do anything else to catch passers-by’s attention.  

Undercover Marketing

Firms typically hire actors for this. They will operate around the city, mingling with consumers. Sony used this strategy when it got the actors to ask people on the streets to take a photo of them. They used this interaction opportunity to show off their new Sony phone and brag about its special features.

Door Guerilla Campaign

Revolving doors provide ideal canvasses for a guerilla marketing campaign. Jeffery Ballet School placed a twirling ballerina at the centre of revolving doors in New York. Their message, Perfectly Poised, attracted aspiring ballerinas to the school.

This guide to guerilla marketing will spawn creative ideas and get your marketing team out there performing their chosen strategies.

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