What do you think of when you see the word “guerilla?” Probably guerilla warfare, right? Not exactly what you’d have in mind if you were trying to come up with a new and innovative marketing strategy! But think about it in another way: guerilla tactics generally involve some sort of ambush, or – more relevant to the business world – the element of surprise. That type of thinking can lead to some seriously surprising marketing campaigns – ones that can catch people off guard and really get their attention. So what exactly is guerilla marketing, and what are some examples of how you can use it to grow your business?
What Does Guerilla Marketing Mean?
The term “guerilla marketing” was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same name. Although marketing looked very different in the 80s, his ideas are surprisingly relevant to a 21st-century business landscape where companies are all competing for the attention of consumers who can often be immune to traditional advertising. His strategy was to use surprising and unconventional interactions to cause an emotional reaction in potential customers, or a buzz around a business, but the basic purpose is the same as for any type of marketing strategy: to get people to remember you.
Probably the best thing about guerilla marketing? The bang for your buck. Generally, these types of surprise-tactic campaigns are pretty budget-friendly, but there is a catch: they require a lot of resources other than money, namely time and creativity. Ideally, you’ll use your audience’s own everyday environment and directly connect with them there (hence the relative low cost). But you’ll have to find ways to repurpose that environment (whether it’s digital or IRL), which is where the investment of time and intellectual powers come in.
So, if you’re wondering where to even start, let’s take a look at some different types of guerilla marketing, as well as some examples of how you can implement them for your business.
Types of Guerilla Marketing
To get more of a feeling for what we mean by using your audience’s own environment and repurposing it in a surprising way, check out the following types of guerilla marketing that businesses have been engaging in:
- Outdoor or street guerilla marketing – This type of guerilla marketing refers to any type of surprising marketing action taking place outdoors, and can involve adding something interactive or creative into the existing urban landscape. Think changing up statues or putting some large-scale artwork onto the street itself.
- Indoor guerilla marketing – Similar to outdoor marketing, but usually takes place in big, public urban spaces like train stations.
- Ambient guerilla marketing – This is a type of marketing that interferes with the flow of things in people’s environment, usually by placing ads in unconventional places.
- Event ambush marketing – With this type of marketing, you hijack (so to speak) the audience of an event already in progress, like a concert or sporting event, to promote your business. Be careful with this one: you usually do it without the consent of the event sponsors in order to make it truly authentic, so be careful of any legal issues!
- Viral marketing – This is a tough one, because, ultimately, it’s the decision of the audience whether a video or other marketing campaign goes viral, but if you think you can come up with something creative and smart enough, go for it!
- Guerilla projections – Again, if you’re willing to risk some legal issues, you can try this type of marketing, in which you install hidden projectors and project advertisements for your business on high-rise buildings in high-traffic areas.
- Experiential marketing – Also known as participation marketing or live marketing, this type of marketing involves getting the public to interact with your brand, usually in some sort of pop-up, immersive experience.
Real-World Examples of Guerilla Marketing You Can Try
The above are some general ideas for how to incorporate low-cost, high-impact guerilla marketing tactics into your marketing strategy; below are some other specific ways you can use creative guerilla marketing tactics to boost your brand.
Did you know that the creators of Reddit have only ever spent $500 on marketing? Seems amazing, doesn’t it, considering that they have over 36 million user accounts and 169 million unique monthly visitors! And do you know what they spent most of that money on? Stickers. Stickers can be a very affordable and memorable way to market your business, as long as you have a solid design, and an interesting way to distribute/place them.
Simple, Cheap Outdoor Installations
You don’t have to spend a huge amount on an installation like Volkswagen’s experiential, interactive piano staircase in a Stockholm, Sweden subway station (seriously, check it out: they made a working piano staircase in a subway station!). Consider how the makers of the movie It gained massive social media traffic and views of their movie’s trailers by simply tying red balloons to subway gratings in Sydney, Australia. The tactic creeped people out and got them interested enough to learn more.
If you’re not into the idea of spray painting public property to get your name out there, you can try a unique take on the idea of graffiti: use a stencil with the message you want to get across, and then power wash the area in the stencil (instead of spray painting it). You’ll have a unique-looking bit of branding, and hey – who can complain about you washing away dirt and grime?
We’ve all heard of reverse psychology – but have you ever thought about using it for an inventive – and effective – marketing campaign? Yes, you can take a chance and literally argue against your business to try and get people to take notice of you. For example, when a library in Troy, NY was facing a vote to close it down for financial reasons, an advertising agency devised an ingenious campaign to get people to vote against the closure, which was backed by a local anti-tax organization. They made up another organization, and pretended that this organization agreed with the anti-tax group – but this fake group was arguing to close down the library so they could have a book-burning party the next day. People were disgusted, they sat up and paid attention, and then voted to keep the library open.
Clever Product Placement
It’s always a good idea to send free stuff to potential customers, right? But not super unexpected, right? So consider finding a way to add something unexpected to your freebie, like when an advertising agency working with the makers of the TV show, “Prison Break” sent beautiful cakes to members of the media and hid files in the cakes promoting the show.
Your guerilla marketing campaign shouldn’t disrupt people’s environments in an unpleasant way (well, unless you’re promoting a movie about a super creepy killer clown) and, in fact, you can really get people’s attention by making their world a little bit brighter. For example, furniture store IKEA has been known to unexpectedly spruce up spaces like bus stops and train stations with some cute, cozy furnishings, pleasing passers-by – and keeping IKEA’s brand in the top of their minds.
Using Social Media in Unexpected Ways
Sure, you can post standard content on your social media platforms, like updates and notifications, but have you thought about starting some beef online? Brands, like Burger King, have been known to get on platforms like Instagram and create whole sagas of relationship drama with their brand at the center, grabbing them thousands or even millions of views. So maybe it’s time to channel your inner soap opera writer…
There are so many ways to market your business, and a lot of them will help you to grow, but if you feel like some of those avenues have become a bit stale or pricey for you, you might want to start thinking outside of the box and getting a little more inventive. Sure, it’ll take some time and brain power, but if you take a bit of a gamble, you might find that you’re the talk of the town, and that you’ve got a whole lot of new interest in your business.