Guerilla Marketing – Short Conceptual Explanation

Guerilla marketing is an advertising strategy that relies on unconventional methods of marketing that don’t require a large budget. The ultimate goal is to create feelings of surprise, disbelief, and in some cases, even horror or disgust. Such guttural reactions cause the marketing strategies to stand out among other advertisers and leave a lasting impression. This form of marketing is also an effective way to complement social media campaigns, because unique marketing strategies are more shareable on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

Origins of Guerilla Marketing

Originally referred to as Guerrilla Advertising, guerilla marketing was first explained by Jay Conrad Levinson in 1984. Guerilla warfare was used to inspire the term, since it relies on small tactical strategies that have a big impact. In the same way that small ambushes, sabotages, and raids rely on the element of surprise to get attention during war, so too do guerilla advertising strategies rely on small, surprising elements to get noticed by the greater public.

The purpose of developing this kind of advertising strategy was to give smaller, emerging businesses the ability to compete with larger, more well-known companies. With a very small budget, startups could get a lot of attention and create an emotional reaction, while larger companies relied on tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of traditional advertising that educated the consumer on their products and services.

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What Guerilla Marketing is Today

Guerilla marketing is still used by small and emerging businesses today, but large corporations have also utilized guerilla advertising tactics. That is the case because they’ve proven to be an effective way to get a strong positive or negative reaction from consumers. That’s important because emotions can have a huge impact on spending habits.

Guerilla marketing relies on creativity. The more unexpected and unique the strategy, the more likely it will get shared on social media and reach a wider audience. It can include surprising installations in public places, flash mobs, messages written on sidewalks, and much more.

Wooden wall with advertising material

Other Forms of Guerilla Advertising

With the popularity of guerilla marketing, other forms of this unique advertising strategy have appeared. A few other forms of guerilla advertising include:

  • Sensation Marketing: This strategy relies on an unannounced performance in a public space. Although the event is staged, it appears to happen spontaneously. It can be an extremely effective marketing strategy when used in a heavily populated place.
  • Ambush Marketing: This form of advertising piggybacks off other important events. The World Cup or the Super Bowl would be a few examples of events that would complement a guerilla marketing campaign.
  • Ambient Marketing: Instead of relying on billboards, flyers, and other items, this form of advertising transforms ordinary objects or facilities into extraordinary advertising opportunities.

Although small and large businesses alike regularly utilize guerilla tactics in their marketing strategies, other organizations can benefit from these strategies as well. For example, many nonprofits and volunteer organizations have used guerilla marketing with much success.

Individuals can also use guerilla tactics. Many people have used surprising methods to promote themselves and their resumes when searching for a job.

Pros and Cons of Guerilla Marketing

Guerilla marketing enables smaller businesses to compete with larger businesses that have bigger advertising budgets. They can elicit a strong reaction, which can promote spending, and they can easily go viral on social media.

This form of advertising can also be good for the consumer. It gives brands personality and prevents people from feeling like they’re being marketed. Instead, it helps them feel like they’ve made a genuine connection with a brand they actually care about.

Guerilla marketing does have some cons. When done incorrectly, the campaign can elicit the wrong, negative reactions. That can sometimes be the case if the tactic causes inconvenience, or causes people to be late, as might be the case with a guerilla tactic done on public transit.

It can also turn into a PR nightmare, depending on the tactic that is used. For example, the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare was caused by a guerilla marketing campaign promoting the show Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Dancing Group

Examples of Guerilla Marketing

Guerilla advertising can be a difficult concept to understand because so much creativity is involved. Seeing guerilla marketing examples can help clarify the concept.

  • GoldToe advertised their underwear by placing a giant pair on a bull sculpture.
  • Guinness uses small custom wraps on the ends of pool cues to advertise their beer.
  • Towels shaped like coffins remind people to put on sunscreen.
  • Ikea transformed a staircase into drawers using decals.
  • Large footprints on the beach advertised the movie King Kong.
  • Mr. Clean repainted single crosswalk lines bright vibrant white.

The best guerilla marketing requires those walking by to do a double take. Many tactics also transform everyday items, which often brings a smile to the faces of those who are exposed to the ad. For example, a beer mug decal that utilizes the handle of a door or an airport baggage belt that’s made to look like a pool are great advertising examples that cause people to do a double take.