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Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla Marketing: Brief Summary

In simple terms, guerrilla marketing is a marketing strategy, which relies on creative, unconventional methods and the element of surprise in order to gain a competitive advantage when promoting a product or service. It is a method of advertising which is primarily carried out on the streets or in other public places, usually by a small group of guerrilla marketers, who seek to capture people’s attention and leave the audience with a lasting impression.

One of the main advantages of a guerrilla marketing campaign over other more conventional methods is the modest budget required. This ensures that guerrilla tactics can be used by even the smallest company as a way of engaging with potential customers and generating a buzz. Although this marketing technique tends to place an immediate focus on reaching people in the local area, its outreach can be greatly increased through word of mouth.

Guerrilla Marketing: Detailed Summary

The concept of guerrilla marketing was first defined by the American marketer Jay Conrad Levinson back in 1984, to describe low budget, high energy marketing campaigns that did not rely on conventional media channels. Its name is taken from guerrilla warfare; a military tactic, associated with strategists and leaders like Sun Tzu, Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong, which focuses on irregular or surprise tactics to take down larger armies.

Ultimately, guerrilla marketing tends to be employed in an effort to achieve quite conventional marketing goals, such as increased brand exposure, sales growth and improved profit margins, but it seeks to achieve them through unconventional methods. These methods may involve placing advertising in unexpected places, putting on performances to promote a brand, or even ambushing another organisation’s event.

In most cases, the aim behind a guerrilla marketing campaign is to generate attention by providing a memorable moment or experience. This may be achieved by, for example, shocking an audience, surprising them, entertaining them, making them laugh, or impressing them with sheer creativity. Most guerrilla marketing campaigns focus on personal interactions, although the internet can also be used to widen the scope and enhance the buzz.

Guerrilla marketing tends to be low cost, or even free. Due to the low budgetary requirements associated with it, it is often considered to be a good option for smaller businesses – especially those that do not have a large foothold in the market. However, in more recent times, large organisations have also taken to utilising creative guerrilla campaigns in order to generate exposure and further enhance their standing.

With that being said, guerrilla marketing sometimes pushes the boundaries of legality and business ethics, especially when a smaller company uses it to ambush larger organisations. As a result, while it can be highly effective, there is often an element of risk attached to it. There have also been examples of marketers and management figures who have over-stepped the mark when it comes to guerrilla campaigns, resulting in damage to their brand.

Types of Guerrilla Marketing

The phrase ‘guerrilla marketing’ tends to be used as a catch-all term for a number of different promotional techniques, which share traits such as being creative, unconventional, high energy and low budget. Certainly, there are many different types of marketing that fall under the guerrilla marketing umbrella, and they may actually differ from one another quite significantly. Some of the most notable types of guerrilla marketing are as follows:

Street Marketing – This describes the use of unconventional advertising techniques, which take place solely on the streets or other public spaces. It can include anything from the face-to-face distribution of products or promotional material, to more creative concepts, like flash mobs, road shows, contests and other creative public performances. Usually, street marketing is something which can be experienced by an audience.

Ambush Marketing – A more controversial type of guerrilla campaign, ambush marketing is used to capitalise on the publicity and attention generated by another event, redirecting some of that attention towards the business carrying out the guerrilla campaign. Generally, marketers will try to build an unofficial association with a much larger event, sometimes put on by direct rivals, in order to increase their own brand’s outreach.

Ambient Marketing – In some ways, ambient marketing can be considered a more conventional form of guerrilla marketing, although it exists in unconventional places. Most ambient marketing campaigns focus on placing promotional material in locations or on surfaces that are not always associated with advertising. It may, therefore, be seen or read anywhere from toilet seats or hand dryers to petrol pumps or bumper stickers.

Stealth Marketing – The idea behind stealth marketing is to advertise a product or service to an audience, without that audience realising they are being marketed to. One example of this is product placement. The key to successful stealth marketing is to keep it covert, in order to ensure the consumer does not identify the existence of the campaign. It is sometimes viewed negatively however, due to its reliance on deception.

Viral Marketing – A recent trend linked to guerrilla marketing, viral marketing works by targeting social networks like Facebook and other online groups, as well as search engines, with shareable content. Through individuals sharing the content with their own networks of followers or online friends, the content then spreads from one person to another rapidly, like a virus. For all intents and purposes, it is an online form of ‘word of mouth’ marketing.

Examples of Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns

Guerrilla marketing is usually best deployed by small, localised companies looking for cheap or free advertising, rather than by large organisations with greater financial resources at their disposal and more professional management set-ups. Nevertheless, there have been some high-profile examples of guerrilla marketing, which have attracted mainstream media attention and achieved success.

  • In 1999, the small independent film ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was promoted with an extensive viral campaign. Its creators set up a website detailing the (fictional) back story, frequented online forums to spread nuggets of information and handed out missing person leaflets for the actors in the film, who were ‘presumed dead’. From a budget of $25,000, the film generated more than $248 million at the box office.
  • In 2012, drinks company Red Bull benefited significantly from the Red Bull Stratos campaign. This involved a death-defying 24 mile jump from space, performed by Felix Baumgartner. The live stream of the jump was watched by 52 million people and Baumgartner wore Red Bull sponsored clothing.


Guerrilla marketing is a creative, unconventional and cost-effective form of marketing, which is sometimes used by smaller companies to gain a competitive advantage over larger organisations. As a business and marketing strategy, it often involves direct contact with an audience and relies on the element of surprise or shock in order to create a buzz around a product, service or brand.

The best guerrilla marketing campaigns are memorable and generate attention, which subsequently spreads through word of mouth. It can be a free or paid form of advertising, but it usually requires only a modest budget. Nevertheless, there are also some risks involved in carrying out guerrilla marketing campaigns, as certain forms can be considered deceptive or unethical, and some campaigns exist within grey areas of the law.

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