4 Things You Need to Know About Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing was conceived through the union of a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a stubborn desire to spend as little as possible. Small businesses turned to guerrilla marketing because other forms of marketing were either too expensive or didn’t create enough traction locally – or worse, both. Today, companies of all sizes are combining guerrilla marketing tactics with social media, and shares of guerrilla tactics have skyrocketed.

For example, Coca-Cola launched a ‘Happiness’ campaign. Vending machines around the world were set up with people inside of them. Participants would buy a drink, only to get something totally wild and different. One Happiness video was secretly filmed on a college campus. All it required was bottles of Coca Cola plus an assortment of random gifts like flowers, a large pizza, a huge submarine sandwich, and the people they surprised. The video has nearly 9 million views.

That’s the key ingredient to guerrilla marketing: people. With the virtual tsunami of advertisements people are exposed to each day, marketers have to break away from the pack and deliver content that really engages. Guerrilla marketing breaks away from the conventional to deliver the unusual, the unexpected, the extraordinary. Many companies have the advantage of deep pockets and have gone all out in developing guerrilla marketing content.

Happily, there are still ways to develop genuinely out-of-this-world, yet affordable guerrilla marketing strategies. But before you jump in and try to start developing guerrilla-style content yourself, here are four things you should know:

1. A guerrilla marketing strategy should connect to your business and your overall marketing strategy in ways that make sense and enhance consumer beliefs.

Guerrilla marketing is not meant to be THE strategy – it’s meant to be one part of your larger strategic marketing plan. Make sure your guerrilla marketing tactics involve your brand in a way that makes sense. You want consumers to consider your brand when they’re looking for a product or service to satisfy their needs. To cement their brand preference you’ll need other forms of marketing that keep consumers engaged in ‘your world’ after guerrilla marketing opens the door. Remember, guerrilla marketing is meant as an accent, not your whole strategy.

2. Creativity — not cost — is the key to successful guerrilla marketing.

After all, guerrilla marketing is rooted in getting the most bang for your buck. If you look up examples, you’ll likely see campaigns from large organizations making spectacular (yet seemingly expensive) displays. While those will draw attention, some of the most notable guerrilla marketing displays were achieved within a constrained budget.

Mr. Clean is a great example. The company painted a single crosswalk bar pure white, capped by a small picture of Mr. Clean. It made perfect sense for the brand, reinforcing the promise of Mr. Clean. It was also extremely cost-effective, with the most expensive part coming from ‘renting’ a bar from a crosswalk. As the old saying goes, think outside of the box.

3. Don’t be offensive.

The idea behind guerrilla marketing is derived from ‘ambush’ style warfare that relies on the element of surprise. The lack of permission when engaging consumers means your brand must tread a fine line and do something that’s both tasteful and safe. If you have an idea that might seem a bit racy, be sure to run it past a marketing professional or peer for some honest feedback.

This sounds like common sense but you’d be surprised at some of the gaffes made by big brands. In 2007, Turner Broadcasting inadvertently set off a citywide bomb scare while promoting Aqua Teen Hunger Force. How? Battery-powered LED placards reflecting a cartoon character from the show popped up around town. While the idea was cool, the primitive style and some components of the rendering reminded people of a bomb, and calls began flooding the police switchboard. Turner Broadcasting ended up having to shell out $2 million in fines.

4. Be engaging.

Be engaging. Be interactive. Be memorable. A guerrilla marketing strategy and campaign should focus around being memorable and moving the consumer further down the decision funnel. Consumers are able to better associate brands and remember experiences when they are a part of the experience itself. Create a marketing concept that is engaging, and you’ll be able to connect with your target market more effectively AND generate media buzz.