What Is Guerilla Marketing And How Can You Use It To Market Your Business?

What Is Guerilla Marketing And How Can You Use It To Market Your Business?

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This article has been contributed by Marie Johnson.

The world of marketing and advertising is arguably one of the most creative fields in business. Companies have free range to develop captivating and engaging content and campaigns to appeal to the masses.

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Ads come in several forms from small, print newspaper ad space to highway billboards. Each form continually proves itself to drive brand awareness and attract potential consumers to a brand.

However, with so many businesses within the same industry and after the same target market, it can be difficult for a company to differentiate itself from competitors and appeal to their target audience.

Luckily, guerilla marketing is the perfect way for businesses to maximize and showcase their authenticity on a large scale while still driving traffic and engagement to the brand, products or services.

What Is Guerilla Marketing?

The term guerilla marketing was coined in the 80s by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book, Guerilla Marketing. Derived from a combat strategy, guerilla warfare, Levinson used the concepts of this war tactic and incorporated them into marketing.

Like guerilla warfare, guerilla marketing uses elements of surprise and even ambush to maximize reach and engagement. This marketing tactic uses unconventional creativity to advertise a brand or specific product.

Commonly, it is displayed in a public space to grab the attention of passersby through humor, creative thinking and authenticity. While it is sometimes used by large enterprises, franchises and corporations, it is also a great way for small businesses to advertise their brand effectively.

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Why Is Guerilla Marketing Beneficial?

The big question when it comes to this type of marketing is, “How would it be beneficial to my brand?” Luckily, there are several ways that it can be.

The first being the cost of this method. Given the general freedom that you have with guerilla marketing campaigns, you can be much more creative about how you spend. For many companies, guerilla marketing costs significantly less than traditional advertising. For small businesses especially, this type of advertising can be executed at potentially no cost.

Low Cost

However, guerilla marketing comes in several forms and types so the cost of your campaign will likely depend on the method you choose. For example, a digital guerilla marketing campaign may be more expensive than standard street guerilla marketing because of its need for advanced technology. Nevertheless, in many cases, you are still able to find more inexpensive options for your brand with guerilla marketing.

Audience Interaction

Another benefit of guerilla marketing is that it drives engagement and interaction. There are several ways to implement a campaign that requires interaction. Whilst this can be done with digital guerilla marketing, physical and street guerilla marketing campaigns spark engagement in a way that’s hard to replicate due to the surprise factor.

Given that we are in such a digital age, engagement is commonly in the form of social buzz. While some campaigns will include the option to scan a QR code on your device and access the brands’ products and services, some simply spread brand awareness through their creativity, humor and shock-factor.

Types of Guerilla Marketing

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Guerilla marketing in every form can be effective and helpful in building your brand. However, in order to understand how you can implement its tactics into your own company, it is important to note what strategies are out there.

Ambient Marketing

A common form of guerilla marketing is ambient marketing. This tactic aims to take advantage of the surrounding environment and use it to support the advertisement.

As a consumer, you may find these impactful marketing strategies integrated into everyday items like lights, doors and cars. This type of guerilla marketing is arguably one of the simplest ways to develop a public or street marketing campaign that’s displayed to the masses because it is implemented in their daily lives.

Ambient marketing is especially useful if your target market is aged 16 to 35. Given the active lifestyles that many teens and young adults live, they spend much of their time outside and on the go. Because of this, it’s much more difficult to catch their attention with traditional media advertisements. So, bringing the advertisements to them is one of the most effective ways to catch their attention. Plus, because an individual’s lifestyle is relatively routine even if they are active and on the go, ambient marketing is a great opportunity to spark engagement and interaction from the inevitable shock factor.

Mr Clean ambient guerilla marketing on pedestrian crossing

Image source: Kauff Staff

National Geographic ambient guerilla marketing crocodile splashing in water at bottom of escalator

Image source: Advertising Row

In the above examples, you can see how ambient guerilla marketing is placed in everyday life. You can see that there are simple but impactful campaigns like the Mr. Clean example, and there are others that spark more of a surprise such as the National Geographic advertisement.

Ambush Marketing

Referencing another term commonly used in combat, ambush marketing creates a shocking and unconventional guerilla marketing campaign while also challenging a competitor within the industry. This can be a great tactic for small businesses wishing to compete against larger franchises within their own industry.

It is a great way for companies to create brand awareness and showcase their benefits, sometimes in contrast to their competitors’ flaws. Ambush marketing has been seen in several different environments and conducted by a number of industries. It has continued to showcase its ability to drive brand awareness, and in some cases, sabotage the campaigns of successful competitors.

FedEx ambush guerilla marketing displaying POD over DHL

Image source: FeedDough

In the above example, FedEx used ambush guerilla marketing to showcase its speed in comparison to its well-known competitor, DHL. This is a great example of FedEx showcasing its benefits without slandering DHL’s brand name given that they didn’t show any logo or written indication that they are referencing DHL. However, many know that because of the colors and the industry, that is the only other company that they could be referring to.

Digital Guerilla Marketing

While street guerilla marketing is always a popular and effective tactic, many brands have found more success in digital guerilla marketing. Not only can its technical capabilities create incredibly interactive and engaging campaigns, but it can also provide your brand with data and information to track and evaluate the success of each campaign.

Commonly, we see digital guerilla marketing in the form of street posters or signs. Many are installed onto street bus stops to entice viewers into interacting with the sign while they are waiting for the bus.

By using machine learning (ML) and intelligent automation (IA), the combination of robotic process automation and artificial intelligence, brands can develop automated campaigns that run as viewers pass by. By utilizing a “smart” system like this, the need to constantly input information to instruct the campaign on what to do is eliminated. Instead, the technology learns to adjust itself to be more successful based on the data that it receives.

With the use of these innovative technologies, companies have been able to develop interesting and interactive digital marketing campaigns like an AI-powered smart poster. This technology uses data that it’s constantly acquiring to enhance the poster. Based on viewer interaction, the poster changes and adjusts to showcase the characteristics of the poster that have proven themselves to be most effective.

Travel Wisconsin digital guerilla marketing immersive bus shelter ad

Image source: 99Designs

In the above example, Travel Wisconsin uses augmented reality (AR) to combine the user’s realistic experience with the technology. AR overlays a virtual experience on a live video display of the user, creating a unique virtual experience. While the viewer is not specifically being shown a product or service, the creative technological experience that comes from digital guerilla marketing makes it likely that the viewer will remember the campaign and the brand.

Experiential Marketing

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For brands that want to go beyond the brand awareness that comes with many guerilla marketing campaigns and instead, have potential customers interact with their products, experiential guerilla marketing is perfect.

Experiential marketing can come to life in many ways, however, it is most commonly showcased via pop-up shops. The unconventional, shocking, guerilla aspect of the shops are often seen in branding and shop design. This can include a large replica of their products or an artistic representation of their brand or logo. In any case, this type of guerilla marketing combines raised brand awareness with personal customer interaction with the products.

Adidas and Tiffany & Co. experiential guerilla marketing pop-up stores in shape of products

Image source: Service Central

The photos above showcase two brands, Adidas and Tiffany & Co., delivering exciting visuals of their brands through the shape and designs of their pop-up shop. Once inside, customers can interact with the brands’ products and purchase them as well.

Experiential guerilla marketing is a great way to create a unique customer experience that an individual will likely remember in the future.

Wild Posting

Lastly, wild posting can be one of the simplest and most inexpensive forms of guerilla marketing, whilst still being incredibly impactful. As its name suggests, wild posting uses poster ads and repetition to put emphasis on a brand, product or service as consumers pass by.

According to the original author of the book Guerilla Marketing, repetition can access a customer’s unconscious mind and cause them to make a purchase from a brand that they may have repeatedly seen. So wild posting is the most straightforward way to do this. Commonly, brands will create wild posting campaigns on busy streets and other densely populated areas. While some posters are relatively simple, others promote interaction through tear-away ads, coupons and deals that allow consumers to take a portion of the ad with them.

Vitamin Water wild poster guerilla marketing campaign

Image source:  Matrix Media

In the example above, you can see how intense wild posting marketing campaigns can be, yet creativity still allows them to be impactful as a guerilla marketing strategy. In particular, these Vitamin Water wild posters showcase a range of eye-catching colors that are much more likely that to grab the attention of those passing by than just one or two posters.

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Luckily, with wild posting, you have complete creative freedom. In some cases, production of posters is so low in cost that your company may have room to test and experiment with the success of each poster design.

How to Implement Guerilla Marketing in Your Company

After understanding the many types of guerilla marketing out there, you’ll want to start by assessing the budget you have available for your campaign. As you now know, guerilla marketing can be a remarkably cost-effective form of advertising.

So, if you own a small business that is working with a limited budget, you may be interested in starting with ambient marketing or wild posting. With ambient marketing, you can implement your campaign into everyday life with minimal supplies and wild posting essentially only requires the price of the poster.

Next, consider your target market and goals for the campaign. Ask yourself and your team why you are conducting a guerilla marketing campaign and what results you’d like to see. This will also give you a better idea of what type of strategy will suit you.

For example, a small business interested in breaking into an industry filled with big-name competitors may opt for ambush marketing. While it is relatively risky to start with this type of advertising, it can be a tremendous opportunity to showcase your brand’s benefits compared to well-known competitors.

However, if you are a company looking to drive brand awareness, digital marketing may be the perfect opportunity. With the necessary budget, you can work with AI and machine learning developers to create an eye-catching and potentially interactive campaign that will stand out to your target audience.

Lastly, be sure to evaluate the data and results you collect from conducting your campaign. For each form of guerilla marketing, you are likely to attract a different type of customer and potentially produce very different results. However, setting yourself up to receive and effectively gather data will allow you to drive more success in future campaigns. For example, if you are to set up a pop-up shop using experiential guerilla marketing, be sure to include beacons or other smart sensors to track customers’ movements, behavior and purchases. This is commonly done in retail stores to gather data and can similarly be a great opportunity for you in your experiential campaign as well.

Guerilla marketing is a very vast and intricate strategy that can range in difficulty, price, appearance and effectiveness. Understanding your own company’s needs is the key to implementing a guerilla marketing strategy that will be most beneficial to you. While it’s still a very underrated form of marketing, in many cases it has proven its success. So, start exploring these types of guerilla marketing and try implementing some of the strategies into your own company. With proper planning and implementation, you can find great success in this creative form of marketing and advertising.


About the author: Marie Johnson is a tech writer for the technology magazine Enlightened Digital. She also works as a UX designer for a major tech company based out of New York. With her passion for writing and years of experience in the field of technology and business, she now enjoys combining the two worlds and sharing her knowledge and tips with online communities of readers.

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