Startupedia: What is Guerrilla Marketing?

What does "guerrilla marketing" mean?

The term “guerrilla marketing” is derived from guerrilla warfare; combat in which armed civilians use military tactics like ambushes, raids and sabotage to take on the larger, formal military. Similarly, small businesses use guerrilla marketing tactics such as graffiti, publicity stunts, and flash mobs to take on the larger advertising campaigns of company giants. [bctt tweet="Guerrilla marketing: low cost, high impact campaigns using unconventional tactics says @monique_lees"]

Guerrilla marketing vs. traditional marketing:

Guerrilla marketing is all about the element of surprise. It requires breaking away from traditional marketing conventions to create a high impact, low cost campaign.

Let's look at some of the ways guerrilla marketing differs from traditional strategies:

Traditional Marketing

Guerrilla Marketing   

All businesses (bigger businesses = bigger campaigns)

Mostly for small businesses

Invest time, imagination, energy, and money

Invest time, imagination and energy... on the cheap

Focus on scale

Focus on impact

Measures traffic, sales, stats, hits, calls

Only measures profit

Based on experience and judgement

Based on understanding human psychology

Famous guerrilla marketing campaigns:

Ever heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Pre-2014, if I'd asked how many of you had ever willingly dumped a bucket of ice over you head (or knew someone who had) you'd probably look at me like I was nuts. But last year, thanks to a funding-campaign turned viral social media sensation, the ALS Association raised more than $220 million towards finding a cure to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). This campaign was so large it attracted the attention of major influencers such as Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates who both participated and donated to the cause.

Another commonly cited, successful guerrilla marketing campaign was conducted in Paris by Médecins du Monde, an international humanitarian organization. In order to highlight the alarming number of homeless people people living in the city, the group distributed 300+ "two second tents" to provide shelter. When groups of these tents started popping up all over the city, and the reality of the situation was brought to light, the public was outraged and-- finally-- forced the government to act. As a result, nearly $10 million was allocated for emergency housing.

Finally, in an industry making multi-million dollar blockbuster movies, a group of university students used a clever guerrilla marketing tactic to create hype around their film The Blair Witch Project. Unlike a lot of its rivals, the film had no Hollywood stars and no script. It centered around the disappearance of three student filmmakers, and the audience was expected to believe the movie was the uncovered video documentation of what happened prior to their disappearance. The filmmakers cleverly designed a web page devoted to stories of The Blair Witch - a fictitious character - to create a following for the film. The news spread and people began to believe The Blair Witch was real, and that the contents of the film actually happened. As a result it grossed $250 million worldwide-- not bad for a film that cost only $50,000 to make!

It's all about making an impact!

Guerrilla marketing is about being creative with your marketing efforts. You need to really understand the audience you are targeting - how do they get their information? What frustrations do they face? What is going to make an impact? To give you some more ideas, I'll leave you with some very creative campaigns that show what guerrilla marketing is all about: [bctt tweet="Successful guerrilla marketing campaigns are about being creative and impactful says @monique_lees"]

IWC Big Pilot's Watch

IWC guerilla marketing campaign
IWC guerilla marketing campaign

IWC, a Swiss watch manufacturer, placed stickers of their Big Pilot's watch on the arm straps of Stuttgart Airport shuttles, giving passengers a chance to try the watch on and see what it looks like.

Frontline Flea & Tick Spray

Frontline guerrilla marketing campaign
Frontline guerrilla marketing campaign

Frontline crated a giant dog image and placed it on the floor of a mall in Jakarta, Indonesia. From above, people walking across the image look like fleas creating a very memorable visual image!

Duracell Flashlight

Duracell flash light- GM
Duracell flash light- GM

To advertise their new flashlight, Duracell cleverly superimposed an image of their product onto high-power light sources to show their comparability.

Copenhagen Zoo

This bus graphic is certainly impactful! So much so, that some snake-averse bus passengers refused to take the bus!

If you're an aspiring marketer or growth-hacker looking to make a splash for a startup company, read our post on the 4 marketing books all startup employees should read. Or, check out our full or part-time marketing courses. Download the full-time course guide, below.