Guerrilla Marketing: When Ideas Replace Money

Published 16. 5. 2019

Do you need to promote your start-up and your budget is more than limited? Are you responsible for marketing of a global company and want to boost its communication? You can find some good answers in the tactics used by guerrilla marketing.

The basic principles of guerrilla marketing were described in the eponymous book written by former creative director of Leo Burnett, Jay Conrad Levinson, in 1984. By using name of the partisan brigades, that battle with usually better equipped and more numerous regular Army, Levinson highlighted main benefits and possible obstacles of this method. For ideal effect, successful marketers should invest only a minimal amount of money, but they must perfectly know local conditions and earn the support of civic inhabitants.

Local support was crucial for the success of uprising in Mexican Chiapas.


What makes partisans successful?

Effective guerrilla marketing relies on unusual use of untypical elements, original addressing of target groups in extraordinary settings and benefiting from events not connected with your brand or even organized by your competitors. Due to use of uncommon ways, guerrilla campaigns should be way cheaper than standard ATL advertising and even more effective.

Because of that guerrilla activities are often a part of marketing mix at smaller companies, whose budget does not allow bigger advertising actions. But global companies are making use of guerrilla marketing too. For big players, a successful guerrilla campaign means a chance to speak with younger audience or to get some positive PR points thanks to the original idea.

Successful methods of guerrilla advertising are inspired by guerrilla warfare tactics. The impact must be unexpected, aiming at well-chosen targets and after hitting, attackers must quickly run back. The moment of surprise is a key factor of success. You need to have a very good plan, because you will have only one chance to score, just like partisans do.

Save the trees campaign.


Guerrilla campaigns must be mostly original in order to impress picky consumers. If you adopt a good idea you can achieve next level of your campaign. It depends on your target group and its will to virally share the content you generated. That’s the way your guerrilla activities can catch a second breath and live their own life at social media of your fans.


How to make use of viral effect?

Keep in mind, that guerrilla isn’t equal with viral and vice versa. A well done guerrilla campaign is mostly shared by its chosen target group, but this viral effect should not be the main presumption during campaign planning.

Guerrilla marketing is sometimes called offensive or even aggressive and its main purpose is to address the chosen target group in its natural environment in a very original way. If you can fulfill these expectations it is very likely your consumers will share their experience through social networks and your campaign will gain viral potential. But it will always be only a secondary effect depending on how good job you did on your campaign.

When trying to go viral with you guerrilla or other marketing activities, you need to carefully think the possible risks through. Right or wrong campaign could drastically change the perception of your brand and not only within your original target group. Consumers are harshly punishing every error in your marketing communication and telling their friends through social media. You will fulfill the request for viral share but with exactly counter consequences than you wished for.

That’s why you need not only to think hard about the possible impacts of your campaign but also carefully track all activities connected to it; quickly react on all consumers’ or competitors’ remarks and analyze all the running activities.


Graffiti and dance on the station

Sam Hurley summarized the basic forms of guerrilla marketing on PostFunnel blog. The basic tool is word-of-mouth, which can be initiated with physical rents of your product, use of ambassadors or intentional share of “secret” info. Another favorite guerrilla tool is street art, in the form of graffiti (because of legislative limits you should use legal walls, washable colors or reverse graffiti for dirty surfaces), stickers, flyers, 3D installations or video projections.

Popular is also the use of events organized by someone else, even your competitors. Another form are so called Flash Mobs, organized on frequented places where an organized group quickly performs their show and disperse. One of T-Mobile campaigns started with a performance of more than three hundred dancers at Liverpool Street Station. Same principles apply on queues, where you can also use an event of your competitor, such as launch of new product. Huawei hostesses distributed chargers, branded clothing or coffee to people waiting for new model of iPhone.


Even personalization of promoted content proves to be very effective. In January, stream service Spotify launched new playlists based on horoscope of their listeners. Content was created by astrologist Chani Nicolas, whose forecasts were a part of each song list.

American pizza distributor Domino benefited from a common problem of its customers. Domino realized that ingredients placed all around the box are not caused by bad habits of drivers but by bad condition of roads. Company started a campaign in which consumers can point out road damages and help to repair them. Besides a good name of the company, this campaign helped also a better road state.



What should you be careful about? blog published some basic rules for creators of guerrilla campaigns. Key factor of success is great knowledge of local conditions and target group. Besides original execution you need to watch carefully for all reactions and answer promptly. It is well illustrated by a well-known billboard match of Audi and BMW which was finally joined even by airship or F1 racing car.

Audi vs BMW battle took several rounds.

Your campaign should be utmost interactive and use most of the communication tools. It makes the viral share of your generated content easier. And just like all other marketing activities, even guerrilla campaigns must be exactly measured at all outcomes, be it social network interactions, sales rate or brand awareness.


One hundred quick tips for guerrilla activities:

List of current guerrilla campaigns: Digital Agency Network.