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What is Guerrilla Marketing: Free Guide For Beginners

If you’re looking to market your brand right now, you have a whole bunch of unconventional ways to get your message across. Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to pay someone to plaster your brand name all over the city.

All you need is a creative out-of-the-box idea that sells your message. And if you can actually execute that idea on a low budget, you’ve hit the jackpot. This is exactly what we call guerrilla marketing.

The word “guerrilla” seems very intense. It conjures images of raids and ambushes. Put it next to the word “marketing,” and it makes a lot of people scratch their heads.

Guerrilla marketing isn’t some sort of combative form of communication. It’s actually a very unconventional form of marketing that raises brand awareness among large audiences without interrupting them.

So what exactly is guerrilla marketing and how can you use it to your advantage? Read on to find out what positive effects guerrilla marketing can have on your business.

Let’s dive in!

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is a marketing field that uses unconventional tactics to promote a product or brand. Brands can hold guerrilla marketing campaigns online, offline, or with a mix of both.

The impact should be, of course, more significant regardless of the low budget invested in it. In other words, guerrilla marketing acts as a magnifying glass for the impact of a marketing campaign.

During a guerrilla marketing campaign, advertising is deliberately placed on objects and in locations where consumers would not necessarily expect advertising to be displayed.

The possibilities for this type of advertising are endless, ranging from advertising on everyday items such as coasters, escalators or public facilities to street actions such as flash-mob events.

These innovative forms of advertising operate at an emotional level because those targeted will most likely laugh, show surprise, or perhaps even be startled.

The History of Guerrilla Marketing

What we consider marketing today slowly developed over the centuries but never really boomed until the early 1900s. At the time the main goal of marketing was to educate rather than to entertain and engage them.

In 1960, campaigns focused on mass media channels such as radio and print. It wasn’t till the early 1990s that cable television started seeing advertising messages.

But agencies struggled to make an impression on consumers and consumers were tired of being marketed to. It was time for a change.

In 1984, marketer Jay Conrad Levinson introduced the formal term in his book called, Guerrilla Marketing.

In Levinson’s book, he proposes unique ways of approaching and combating traditional forms of advertising. The goal of guerrilla marketing was to use unconventional tactics to advertise on a small budget.

During this time, radio, television and print were on the rise, but consumers were growing tired. Levinson suggests that campaigns need to be shocking, unique, outrageous and clever. It needs to create buzz.

Small businesses started changing their ways of thinking and approached marketing in a brand new way. The concept of guerrilla marketing continues to develop and grow organically.

Guerrilla Marketing Statistics

Guerrilla marketing is not as holistic a phenomenon as email marketing or social media marketing. Therefore, it’s hard to measure its efficiency in general.

I’ve assembled statistics on using unconventional approaches to brand promotion to find out if it is effective.

Features of Guerrilla Marketing

Because of its complexity, it’s hard to define the term guerrilla marketing. However, you can recognize a guerrilla marketing campaign when you see one. All you have to do is look for certain features.

  • The element of surprise: This type of marketing offers unusual interactions with potential customers. Often, guerrilla marketing tries to surprise or shock the audience.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Most guerrilla marketing campaigns have low budgets but drive great results. This trait makes guerrilla marketing resemble growth hacking.
  • Interactiveness: Guerrilla marketing relies on emotions and experiences and nudges the target audience to participate in a campaign.
  • Used in B2C: Emotions are a great sales driver for B2C. In B2B, decisions are made more thoughtfully and thoroughly, which makes guerrilla marketing less applicable in this sector.
  • Provocativeness: As guerrilla marketing relies on emotional interaction, campaigns are often provocative and risky.

Types of Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla Marketing is divided into different sectors, though in practice the distinctions are somewhat blurred. I’ve listed and explained some of them below:

Viral marketing: Viral marketing is characterized by word of mouth made online, often through social networks, and allowing a brand to make the buzz.

Stealth marketing: Stealth marketing is characterized by its discretion, hence its name. People are unconsciously part of a guerrilla marketing campaign.

Ambient marketing: Ambient marketing uses the environment of the product, service, brand, or company as a marketing medium.

Ambush marketing: Ambush marketing aims to take advantage of the notoriety of a third party to promote its own products or services. These campaigns are rarely the result of partnerships but rather a derivative use of another brand for its benefits.

Street marketing: Street marketing is street campaigns that play with elements present in public spaces, passers-by, and so on.

Guerrilla projections: Guerilla projections are visual projections, usually on large buildings, on a highly visible face to ensure that many passers-by and motorists see the campaign. However, beware of the legal consequences!

Experiential marketing: Experiential marketing aims to brand through experience. In several articles, we have already mentioned the importance of the customer experience via pop-ups and immersive and interactive experiences.

Guerrilla Marketing Benefits

We’ve learned that guerrilla marketing is a cost-effective and efficient way to promote a business. Let’s go through the other advantages of this approach.

  • Increased brand awareness: Guerrilla marketing is all about creating a buzz around a company. Provocative and unconventional campaigns are the perfect fuel for building brand awareness.
  • Standing out from competitors: Bold and memorable guerrilla marketing actions work as well as a unique value proposition does in terms of setting your business apart from competitors.
  • Emotional connection with a brand: Since guerrilla marketing is good at provoking emotions, a single campaign can create a strong connection between a brand and a customer. This connection is the be-all-and-end-all of strong long-lasting relationships with buyers.
  • Building partnerships: Most guerrilla marketing campaigns are complex undertakings that require collaboration between several businesses or organizations. Hence, guerrilla marketing can be the perfect base for creating partnerships.

7 Powerful Examples of Guerilla Marketing

1. Deadpool’s Tinder Profile

Source: Imgur

Many Tinder users were surprised to see none other than comic anti-hero and legend Deadpool showing up on their Tinder.

With cheeky pics and witty profile copy, Deadpool broke the fourth wall and met potential movie-goers ahead of the movie’s Valentine’s Day release.

If the Tinder user swiped right and matched with the character, they received a link to purchase tickets.

While Tinder isn’t the best way to generate buzz, screenshots of this gag quickly made it to social media, garnering a ton of attention.

2. Snapchat’s Billboard Strategy

How do you break through the clutter of a pretty saturated market? That was the question that Snapchat’s marketing team had to answer.

The digital world, dominated by social media giants like Facebook, was not an easy one to penetrate. Snapchat had to make some noise, to somehow slam the door open.

So, what did the marketing team do? They generated buzz with giant billboards featuring nothing other than the logo.

These giant billboards helped create hype for the ghost-logo app, which led to thousands of people googling the brand.

3. Spotify’s Cosmic Playlists

Source: Spotify

Spotify has used its music streaming platform to drum up attention for its brand on a number of occasions throughout the year.

Some have become yearly fixtures, like its year-end wrap up for each user, or Discover Weekly, which finds tailored tracks based on users’ listening preferences.

In January 2019, the company offered its latest guerrilla content: playlists based on horoscopes. Spotify teamed up with astrologer Chani Nicholas to create Cosmic Playlists for U.S. listeners.

The playlists are determined by Nicholas’ astrological readings to represent each sign’s theme at that moment.

Like most of the streaming services efforts, the playlists were picked up extensively by the media. This kind of digital event marketing might even spark some viral campaigns of your own.

4. Hereditary’s Creepy Dolls

Source: Xpress Magazine

Horror movie marketing has always been crucial to getting films seen beyond the typical horror moviegoer. One of, if not the largest, horror movies in recent years was Hereditary.

Online buzz was generated for the film thanks to a clever and creepy stunt pulled on attendees of a one-midnight screening. The day after seeing the film, fans found creepy dolls outside their hotel doors.

Between the film and this clever bit of guerrilla marketing, the film earned $13 million at the box office its first weekend.

5. CalTex Becomes CahillTex

The 2018 World Cup provided numerous brands with opportunities to flex their guerrilla marketing muscles. This happened at many sites around the host country, Russia, but extended across the globe as well.

Australian gas company Caltex Australia got in the mix by honouring one of the nation’s most beloved footballers, Tim Cahill. From May through June of 2018, five locations across the country rebranded to become CahillTex.

While fun and cheeky, blowback did occur when some alleged that the re-brand was the reason for the 38-year-old being selected for the World Cup team despite his declining performance on the field.

6. The Nun’s YouTube Controversy

Hereditary was not the only horror film to cash in with a bit of help from guerrilla marketing. The Nun was aided by YouTube in 2018, causing the film to earn over $380 million in U.S. box office revenue.

The original plan was for the film to air an unskippable ad on numerous YouTube videos. After playing for some time, the public began discussing how frightening the spot was.

In turn, YouTube banned the ad for violating policies concerning what it deems violent and shocking content – and the buzz was created.

7. IHOP Becomes IHOb

Source: LA Times

To promote its burgers, pancake restaurant IHOP teased and briefly became the International House of Burgers, or IHOb. The move certainly gained heaps of attention for the restaurant.

However, much of it came in the form of endless social media memes and public press. IHOP, or IHOb’s, social media team was seemingly prepared for the scores of criticism.

They had all the answers ready, complete with where Bs and Ps should be. By July, the brand was back to its original name.

How to Set Up a Guerrilla Marketing Campaign?

Guerrilla marketing not only requires a lot of creativity but also an action plan. Here are five steps you need to take to engrain guerrilla marketing into your marketing strategy.

1. Consider your Target Audience

Know your target audience and its needs. Outdoors doesn’t mean random; it means finding more of the people who mean more to you. Know where to find them. Choosing the right open space is crucial, so choose it strategically.

For example, if you are taking part in a summit or conference like SXSW, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to put your brand in front of thousands of people. This way, you will target those who are waiting to make the most of their experiences there.

2. Set goals

Although guerrilla marketing is a lot of fun, remember that its main task is to meet your goals. Thus, you need to set specific, measurable, accurate, reliable, and timely objectives for your campaign.

Guerrilla marketing often aims at creating buzz and increasing brand awareness. However, you may want to use your campaigns to drive sales as well.

Make sure your campaign’s goal resonates with your global business objectives.

3. Analyze your environment

Your task with guerrilla marketing is to catch potential customers off guard in a familiar environment. Moreover, you need to surprise and delight them. Thus, you can’t go without an analysis of thriving trends.

Start by learning what people are talking about at the moment. This is where social listening tools will come in handy. You can also try Google Trends – a service to analyze the popularity of top search queries.

Apart from exploring current situations and trends, learn more about your competitors. Try to find their examples of guerrilla marketing campaigns and analyze them.

Both best and worst practices can provide you with valuable insights on how to shape your unique distinguishable action.

4. Find an Original Concept for your Campaign

If you sound like anyone else or another brand, forget about it. People love things that no one has done before. Put on your thinking cap and create an otherworldly campaign.

The element of surprise is your ally. So, why not create something to blow their minds?

Keep in mind as a general marketing tip that no one likes copycats. So, be yourself and come up with the most outlandish campaign ever. Who knows? Your target audience might fall in love with it at first sight.

5. Stay Relevant with your Content

Take your biggest competitor, strip them of their superpower, and use it to your benefit. If you are still trying to make it under the spotlight, a good guerilla marketing idea and an excellent execution can earn you a spot there.

Leverage current trends and use them to create fantastic content for your brand. But remember: your goal is to speak to your audience’s hearts and brains.


In the battle for consumer attention, guerrilla marketing is an opportunity to use advertising to appeal to a target audience when they are not expecting it.

During guerrilla marketing, emotional triggers such as humour are often employed to achieve marketing goals, and such emotional experiences both help consumers to notice the advertising and make the experience more memorable.

Guerrilla marketing actions can attract enhanced attention, and thus have the potential to spread virally. But guerrilla marketing can also be risky if the brand fit is unsatisfactory.

Guerrilla marketing frequently operates in legal grey areas, and companies overstepping the mark can sometimes trigger a public outrage on social media.

Keep these points in mind and you’re golden.

Class dismissed!

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