Guerrilla marketing is a form of advertising that focuses on unconventional – and often low cost! – marketing strategies to help garner attention, create a conversation and deliver maximum results for your brand.
Inspired by the concept of guerilla warfare, this marketing style is based on the premise of being unpredictable, unexpected and imaginative to captivate and entice customers to your business.
While it may seem sporadic, you will quickly learn that this marketing form is rather calculated and precise and requires quite a bit of premeditation. Ultimately, this non-traditional form of advertising helps create conversations and deliver impactful moments for all sorts of brands.
In today’s article, we’ll cover:
What is Guerilla Marketing?
As we discussed above, guerrilla marketing receives its name from its similarities to guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla warfare possesses tactics such as ambushes, raids, elements of surprise and shock tactics designed to frighten an enemy into complacency.
In the marketing sense, it’s not as graphic or violent. Instead, guerrilla marketing is designed to be highly strategic, imaginative and ultimately strives to take the customer by surprise. Essentially, guerrilla marketing’s primary goal is to create an impression and generate buzz – whether that takes place on social media, online, on traditional media or through person-to-person conversation.
As such, the mark of a successful guerilla marketing campaign is a conversation that connects consumers, builds brand awareness and leaves a memorable impression.
Guerrilla marketing is meant to shake-up traditional marketing strategies and ideas. With these tactics at the heart of its design, a few specific campaign strategies are considered sub-forms of guerilla marketing ideas.
Some general guerilla marketing strategies include:
Street marketing is the all-encompassing term given to guerrilla marketing campaigns that engage consumers through different street art tactics.
Street marketing has recently been rebranded as outdoor guerilla marketing.
This technique often brings together different street elements to help create a memorable impact. Examples of street marketing include street art pop-ups, art installations, graffiti, and other graphic and artistic marketing – often in non-traditional places.
Ambush marketing is a marketing style that leverages the audience of an unrelated event to promote a product or service. This marketing type often results in unique collaborations and promotional campaigns designed to activate consumers in some of the most unusual places.
Along the same lines as street marketing, ambient marketing is a strategy that involves placing ads in unconventional places to generate buzz. This tactic helps to creatively amplify brand awareness by interrupting the flow of people’s everyday lives.
Ambient marketing typically focuses on product advertising and brand awareness activations.
Its ultimate goal is designed to break up the monotony of everyday life with strategic – and often humorous – brand engagement.
Similar to outdoor guerrilla marketing, projections are a form of marketing that uses outdoor spaces to generate buzz and garner consumer interest. Guerilla projections often involve an installation of projectors, light screens and other technical elements.
These installations are usually created on high-traffic streets or using high-rise buildings.
For retail brands with physical brick-and-mortar locations, this marketing type can help generate foot traffic and increase your overall brand awareness. For online businesses, this type of activation can also impact your organic web traffic and overall brand visibility.
Experiential marketing is one of the most common and impactful forms of guerrilla marketing. This tactic is also sometimes called participation-based marketing.
Experiential marketing activations usually involve creating a pop-up experience that immerses consumers into the brand in a way that they would not be able to experience otherwise.
These pop-up campaigns are often most effective when they catch consumers throughout the course of their everyday lives.
The primary goal of experiential marketing is to help generate buzz by creating entertaining and unique brand experiences.
Viral marketing is a strategic form of content marketing that involves taking proactive steps to make a campaign go viral. While going viral is not an easy thing to do, many brands have been able to employ strategies to increase their chances of going viral. This approach is often called a viral marketing strategy.
Word of mouth and social sharing is critical for going viral. By creating creative, smart, witty and engaging campaigns, you increase your chances of going viral on any form of online or social media platforms.
While viral marketing is often the goal of many brands, there is no scientific formula for what may or may not go viral. Usually, a lot of it comes down to luck.
What are the Elements of a Successful Guerilla Marketing Campaign?
When creating a guerrilla marketing campaign, there are some primary characteristics you should be keeping in mind as a marketing specialist to verify its efficacy.
These primary characteristics will help to ensure your success by creating a truly unique experience for your consumers.
Some of these primary characteristics include:
Highly-Targeted Campaigns with Strategic Locations
Most traditional guerrilla marketing campaigns happen in large cities and/or heavy traffic or pedestrian areas. However, that does not mean that you are limited to those geographical locations.
While not wholly necessary, high-traffic areas with lots of people are by far your best bet to ensure maximum participation and the most amount of eyeballs on your activation as possible.
A unique idea that matches your brand is critical for the success of a guerrilla marketing campaign.
A good rule of thumb to follow is, if it feels like this has been done before, it most likely has. This area can be one of the most challenging when it comes to strategizing your guerilla marketing campaign.
It’s like developing a unique selling proposition. You need to find your campaign’s ‘x-factor’ and what will set it apart from other campaigns from competitors.
Traditionally, guerilla marketing was considered to be a low-cost option. However, many brands have elevated the standard of guerrilla marketing to big marketing budgets and extensive resourcing.
However, that doesn’t mean that your strategy needs to break the bank!
Large or small, guerrilla marketing can make the best of any budget and often requires creativity more than a massive bank account.
No Second Chances
One of the primary risks of guerrilla marketing is that your execution must be perfectly timed and well-developed. Otherwise, the whole campaign will be considered a failure.
In general, guerilla marketing is not considered scalable or easily replicated across different industries or brands. You indeed only have one shot, so make it count.
Surprise is Key
The ultimate objective of a successful guerrilla marketing campaign is to surprise your audience.
Without this element of surprise, it is doubtful that your campaign will generate buzz, brand interest or visibility for your business.
Guerrilla marketing campaigns must be well-timed and in places that your target audience least expects them. You want to have that “wow!” factor.
Five Examples of Successful Guerilla Marketing Campaigns
1. Raising the Roof
Canadian nonprofit organization, Raising the Roof created an exceptional guerilla marketing campaign to highlight ways to fight homelessness in our communities. Raising the Roof placed posters strategically around the city to remind residents of the often invisible homeless youth right in front of them.
The goal of these posters was to make people uncomfortable and recognize the ways homeless young people are often ignored. These posters read: “If this poster were a homeless youth, most people wouldn’t even bother to look down.”
This campaign is an excellent example of how to use low-cost, guerilla marketing to really make an impact.
2. Fiji Water
At the 2019 Golden Globes Awards, Fiji Water took guerilla marketing to the next level with their red carpet Fiji Girls. Brand models stood on the red carpet in a blue dress and trays of Fiji Water to create strategic positioning for the brand and to generate conversation.
However, the real success of the Fiji Girl brand activation was slightly unintentional. Fiji Water became the talk of the town after model Kelleth Cuthbert was photographed photobombing countless celebrities on the red carpet, complete with her Fiji Water tray.
These photos went viral and led to a surge of memes and free publicity for the company.
Payless Shoes, a traditionally more affordable and low-price point shoe retailer, used guerilla marketing to change perception when revamping one of their stores into a high-end luxury shoe brand called ‘Palessi.’
This fake brand was said to be created by a fake Italian designer named Bruno Palessi. The store had all the fixings of a high-end store, including high-tech retail displays and even a mini runway.
Nestled in the swanky shopping districts of Los Angeles, plenty of shoppers were fooled by this brand activation and were willing to pay hundreds of dollars for the shoe line.
The twist was that the shoes that were advertised in Palessi were shoes available for sale at Payless!
Wendy’s and Wing Stop Twitter Rap Battle
Wendy’s is often considered to be one of the most entertaining brands to follow on social media. Their quirky, pop culture-filled tweets often resonate with audiences, and on more than one occasion a Wendy’s tweets have gone viral.
One of the most memorable examples of a successful viral marketing effort was the Wendy’s Twitter rap battle with Wingstop in the fall of 2017. The two fast-food brands engaged in a Twitter rap battle generating significant buzz and social media clout.
This type of guerrilla marketing stunt is the perfect example of not needing a physical location or even a budget to generate buzz.
The Molson Canadian beer fridge is an excellent example of capitalizing on patriotism and current events to create the perfect conditions for a viral guerilla marketing campaign.
The Molson Canadian beer fridge featured a branded refrigerator that appeared all around the world and opened when the phrase “I am Canadian” (the brand’s tagline) was spoken in a variety of different languages. The refrigerator would open and give the consumer one of the brand’s signature Molson Canadian beers.
The Molson brand strategically activated this campaign multiple times over a number of years. The Molson beer fridge launched in 2013, followed up with a campaign for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi and then for a third time in Toronto during the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.
Key Takeaways on Guerilla Marketing
We hope that you have a comprehensive understanding of guerrilla marketing and recognize the potential that this type of marketing strategy can have for your brand.
The primary driver of guerrilla marketing is creativity in non-traditional ways.
Through exploring this innovation and getting in touch with what sets your brand apart, you create a genuine relationship with your customers and clients.
Integrating this personalization into your guerilla marketing strategy is crucial in establishing your brand as a standalone entity.
Have fun, get brainstorming and activate your consumers in some of the most unusual ways possible!