Last Updated: November 20, 2020
Guide: Guerrilla Marketing
Cell phone theft is a problem in Romania; in fact, a cell phone is stolen there every two minutes. You can insure your phone against loss with a company; but many don’t think they need to. So one of those insurers, Vodafone, hired some professional pickpockets—not to steal phones, but to slip flyers into people’s pockets, purses, and bags. “It’s this easy to steal your phone,” read the flyers. “Insure your phone at Vodafone.”
While an unconventional tactic, this approach certainly held consumers’ attention and raised awareness about Vodafone. These “guerilla marketing” strategies seek to ditch the traditional marketing models and entice consumers in less obvious ways.
What is guerrilla marketing?
The term “guerrilla marketing” was first coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, and has since become an important section in many marketing textbooks. Basically, guerrilla marketing is about investing time, energy, and (particularly) imagination into a campaign, instead of primarily money. Guerrilla tactics use unconventional communications, often in unexpected places, and focus on low-cost strategies that make a high-impact impression. (See also Non-Traditional Marketing)
Who implements guerrilla marketing?
Principles of Guerrilla Marketing
- measure success by profits, not sales
- instead of prioritizing new customers, prioritize increasing number and size of transactions from existing customers, and gaining referrals
- aim messages at small groups instead of mass audiences
- focus on gaining the consent of the consumer to send them more information
- commit to a campaign, pursuing effective frequency, instead of creating a new message each time
Originally conceived as a tool for small businesses and entrepreneurs, guerrilla marketing is nonetheless increasingly popular among large businesses (See also Entrepreneurial Marketing). Additionally, non-profit organizations have been apt to invest their time, energy, and creativity into guerrilla campaigns. Some examples include:
- Unicef – Unicef placed a vending machine in Manhattan that sold dirty water for a dollar. “Flavors” included Malaria, Cholera, Typhoid, and Dysentery. The machine’s display informed people about the plight of children in need of clean drinking water, and pointed out that a single dollar could provide 40 days of clean drinking water for such a child. Additionally, it provided a number to text in order to donate to the cause.
- Volkswagen – Volkswagen hung a series of cartoon thought bubbles over all the spaces in a parking structure in Dubai, so that parked cars appeared to be thinking, “I wish I was a Volkswagen.” As people pulled into the car park, they were welcomed by a boundary wall reading, “Have you ever wondered what your car is dreaming of?”
- Coca-Cola – To advertise its new “grip” bottle, Coca-Cola placed a static-charged ad at a bus stop, which would grip people’s clothing if they stood too near.
- Bounty – Next to an eight-foot-tall coffee cup spilled on the ground (or in another case, a giant popsicle), a sign declared that Bounty “Makes small work of big spills.”
- Jeep – To advertise the versatility of the Jeep, and to make the brand more part of the urban environment, the company drew parking spaces in unlikely locations, such as across plaza stairs or through planters and curbs.
Several different cancer awareness groups have employed similar guerrilla messages at beaches, including providing coffin-shaped beach towels, and placing morgue toe-tags on sleeping sunbathers.
For what kinds of customers is guerrilla marketing effective?
Guerrilla marketing was conceived to primarily target existing customers rather than new ones, aiming to increase their engagement with a product and/or brand. When selecting audiences for a guerrilla message, a group that is already engaged with the product at some level is the best target; they will be quicker to recognize and respond to creative tactics, and more likely to share the experience with their friends.
As social media has become a major feature of the market landscape, guerrilla marketing has shown to be particularly effective online. Consumers who regularly use social media are more likely to share their interactions with guerrilla marketing, and creative advertising can quickly go viral.(See also Viral Marketing)
How is a guerrilla marketing campaign developed?
A guerrilla campaign starts with a creative and engaging idea, generally involving not just the content of the message, but its form. Surprises and innovative methods of communication are key components for engaging the interest of the consumer. For example, Arkaden, a fashion mall in Gothenburg, Sweden, deployed mirrors with images of their fashions (instead of posters of fashion models), so that consumers could see what they looked like in Arkaden’s clothes.
A variety of creative methods can be employed—and indeed, one of the principles of guerrilla marketing is to use a combination of methods. Graffiti (or reverse graffiti, where a dirty wall is selectively cleaned), interactive displays, intercept encounters in public spaces, flash mobs, or various PR stunts are often used. While using a variety of methods, the overall marketing message should be consistent. Repeated sightings of the surprise message build interest, and changing messages for each stunt tends to confuse or diminish a consumer’s interest in the brand.(See also Ambush Marketing)
The surprising message should inspire consumers to share their find with their friends. Here, the omnipresence of camera phones works in favor of guerrilla marketing. The tactic has to be far enough away from conventional advertising that consumers don’t primarily regard it as advertising, but as something novel and interesting in its own right. That way, those delighted by the unique message will share it. Every “hey, check this out” photo a consumer sends to a friend represents additional [free] advertising. And since this advertising comes not from the seller but from a friend, it carries more value. A successful event generates a buzz—or even better, goes viral. Having everybody talking about your product is far better than talking about your product to everybody. (See also Consumer-Generated Marketing)
Creating a unique experience does carry with it an amount of risk. Specifically, a communication that is too creative may be misinterpreted. One example of this is when the Cartoon Network tried to promote their Aqua Teen Hunger Force cartoon by placing curious electronic flashing devices around the city of Boston. Instead of being connected with the cartoon, the devices were mistaken for bombs (this was post-9/11), and the police had to send in bomb squads to remove them. Similarly, a 2011 SocialStay promotion involving “ninjas” outside a trade show backfired when the facemask-wearing ninjas were mistaken for terrorists.
What career titles work with guerrilla marketing strategies?
Marketing Managers and Consultants create and direct guerrilla campaigns and integrate them with overall business strategy.
What do they do?
What type of salary should I expect?
- Marketing Manager
Median annual pay: $112,800
- Advertising Account Manager
Median annual pay: $83,890
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- identify market opportunities for a guerrilla campaign
- define marketing strategy, identifying targets and channels for both conventional and guerrilla communications
- coordinate the various teams involved in a guerrilla campaign, including creative services, advertising, and talent acquisition
- work with sales, public relations, and product development teams to ensure that products deliver on advertising claims
Education and Skills
Most marketing managers have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related field, and substantial experience in marketing, advertising, and/or public relations. Education preparing them for this career will also include classes in marketing, market research, statistics, and consumer behavior. Most marketing managers begin their career by pursuing and completing an internship while in school.
Advertising Account Managers
Advertising Account Managers often work for agencies that serve several clients, and may produce guerrilla-style advertisements for multiple companies, products, and brands.
What do they do?
- pitch creative ideas for engaging customers
- plot locations for guerrilla advertisements, such as bus stops, subway stations, high-traffic pedestrian areas, and trade shows
- coordinate the people who invest their time and energy to create (and possibly participate in) an on-site guerrilla event
- follow up on guerrilla tactics, reviewing consumer response at the site and on social media
Education and Skills
Advertising account managers typically require a bachelor’s degree in marketing, advertising, or journalism. Important courses include communication methods and technology, visual arts, market research and consumer behavior. Account managers must also have several years’ successful experience in their field.
Entrepreneurs launch businesses or product ideas. They are the fundamental creators and innovators in the market. Guerrilla marketing was first developed with these people in mind.
What do they do?
- create guerrilla marketing events to launch a new business, product or idea
- develop a focused customer base, and use interactive marketing to engage them and generate word-of-mouth buzz about their business
- invest their own time and energy in guerrilla campaigns, instead of contracting out to agencies
- identify market opportunities for new businesses, products, and unique advertising messages
Education and Skills
Entrepreneurs can have all sorts of backgrounds, with any amount of education; however, given today’s complex [legal] environment, many choose to obtain a degree in business management. Marketing, communications, economics, and law are all helpful courses of study to become an entrepreneur. Experience also varies a great deal; many entrepreneurs start with small business ventures even before finishing high school.
How can a marketing school help you succeed?
Our Recommended Schools
Effective guerrilla marketing requires creativity, foresight, and follow-through. A marketing program can equip you with all you need to both think creatively and execute your plan efficiently.
Courses in market research will also teach you how to segment consumers and identify market opportunities. Classes in consumer psychology will enable you to develop engaging campaigns, as well as develop predictive models in order to select the best strategies.
Creative communication is core to guerrilla marketing, and developing communications skills is a core part of any good marketing program. A marketing school will require you to practice and develop your communications and presentation skills in all your classes. You’ll also be thoroughly trained in all the conventional marketing methods—which is important in creating concepts that explore or push the edges of those boundaries.
Additional classes at a marketing school will teach about aspects of business organization and management, including how to measure return on investment, and how to drive both sales and profits. You’ll also learn basic skills required to coordinate and manage teams in an organizational structure.
To learn more about what a marketing school can do for you, request information from schools with degrees in marketing, and investigate how you can prepare for an exciting and unconventional career.