As the name implies, guerrilla marketing is a somewhat nonstandard approach to marketing – a sneak attack, so to speak. It’s a tactic normally employed by small businesses because it’s inexpensive but has the potential to be a big-time attention grabber. Big companies have used guerrilla marketing-like techniques as well, although marketing experts disagree about whether these companies are truly engaging in guerrilla marketing, or just appropriating the ideas.
Guerrilla marketing employs unexpected and unorthodox techniques for promoting a business. A good example is street art. Some urban businesses have used street art to draw attention and put themselves on the map. Street art is cheap or free, but there’s an obvious drawback – it’s not always technically legal. I don’t encourage anyone to use illegal marketing methods. So, if this is the route you want to take, please consult your local government to find out if there’s a place you can undertake your art project legally.
Street art isn’t the only kind of guerrilla marketing though. Stunts, such as flash mobs, world record-setting endeavors, and athletic feats, have their own unorthodox appeal. Red Bull is somewhat of a master of the guerrilla approach. The company has gotten so big that the guerrilla label is questionable at this time. However, they definitely nailed it with stunts like Crashed Ice, an urban ice racing event. The big draw was the fact that it offered a spectacle that viewers couldn’t get elsewhere. Who wouldn’t watch downhill ice racing in the middle of the city?
Killer Examples of Guerrilla Marketing
- A local martial arts studio tied black belts around trees and stuck flyers in between the belts and the trees.
- A radio station put up posters declaring “Free Air Guitar – Please Take One.” A bold arrow pointed down to where passers-by could pick up their imaginary freebies.
- A ballet studio posted pink flyers on round posts. The flyers had pull-away info tags, which were fanned out to resemble a tutu.
- A hot sauce company wrapped hand dryers with this fun advertisement. It depicted a man blowing downward, to give the appearance that he was blowing hot air onto users’ hands.
- To spread awareness about the drinking water crisis many people face, UNICEF erected a dirty water vending machine. It collected donations to help provide safe drinking water for those without.
- In Romania, Vodafone hired professional pickpockets to slip flyers into pockets and purses. This campaign was designed to draw attention to how vulnerable people were to phone theft, thus underscoring the need to get phones insured.
- North Face packaged rocks, sticks, and leaves in regular North Face packaging. The display drew lots of attention, made consumers chuckle, and helped the company stand out from other outdoor brands.
- Dublin City Council stuck shoes to the sidewalk. This display reminded locals and tourists alike to throw their gum in a trash can, rather than on the street.
- The Swiss Cancer Foundation set up mannequins at public swimming pools. They covered the mannequins with pink sticky notes. Each note bore a reminder to stay safe in the sun, along with some tips for skin protection.
A good guerilla marketing campaign should be
- Creative – The more creative and inventive the better. The creativity can come in at the level of the design, or it can be in the way you use the surroundings.
- Surprising – Guerrilla marketing works because it is unexpected. In a world where we are constantly bombarded by billboards, print ads, TV commercials, etc., nontraditional promotions make people stop and think. It doesn’t just blend into the background like other types of advertising.
- Inexpensive – One of the big benefits of guerrilla marketing is that it uses the existing environment and doesn’t normally require a big investment. If you purchase a TV ad, you’ll be paying not only to develop the ad but also for the airtime. Same goes for print and radio ads. But if you create a piece of artwork and install it in a public place, the cost could be no greater than the price of the materials. It could even be free.
- Social – Many guerrilla marketing campaigns create buzz and get people talking to one another. Whether it’s a group of strangers standing around trying to figure out what that thing is, or a friend coming out of the bathroom and going “you’ll never guess what I saw in there,” guerrilla marketing stimulates conversation about a brand, a product, or a cause.
- Location-based – Guerrilla marketing usually takes advantage of the environment. From manhole covers to trashcans to parking spots, guerrilla marketers don’t try to fit their plan into the space, but rather devise a plan around the space. They especially take advantage of high-traffic areas to get the most recognition.
Guerrilla marketing is exciting and fresh, so if you’re a creative, humorous, or outgoing personality, this could be a fun challenge for you. It could also be highly rewarding, especially if your audience is young. When done well, guerrilla marketing can be a chance to bond with your audience. Just as important, it’s a chance for your audience to bond with your brand.