Ever since guerrilla marketing was introduced as a viable concept in the 1980s, it has grown from a fringe approach of engaging with customers to one of the most flexible tools in the arsenal of a modern marketing team.
Yet one of the reasons that it has become so successful is the same reason it can be hard to teach – its ever-adaptable nature. With this in mind, we've put together a list of the nine types of guerrilla marketing, to illustrate just how diverse this approach can be.
What is Guerrilla Marketing?
Before we dive in, though, it's necessary to take a moment to pin down precisely what is meant by guerrilla marketing. At its core, it is about utilising a low-cost marketing approach, often combined with high levels of creativity and spontaneity, and hoping for an outsized outcome.
This is one of the main appeals of guerrilla marketing for teams with smaller budgets. Traditional marketing, such as media buying or aggressive sales tactics, requires a significant investment of capital to carry out. In contrast, a well-executed guerrilla marketing campaign can yield better results from a much lower initial investment.
Guerrilla marketing is also perfect for digital channels, too – particularly social media. If an idea has the potential to be shared on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, then it has the potential to go viral and create huge exposure for your brand.
Types of Guerrilla Marketing
With this in mind, let's take a brief look at some of the most effective forms of guerrilla marketing.
Perhaps the most popular approach in this sphere is ambient marketing. It works in a similar way to traditional offline advertisements, such as in a magazine or on television, by placing an attention-grabbing object or image in a highly visible area.
The main difference is that the message in question is placed somewhere unexpected, within the context of an environment that is not a typical space for advertising. The best ambient marketing campaigns make a lasting impression on potential consumers while enhancing the environment they modify.
Jeep and McDonald's have both utilised this approach to significant effect in recent years.
Not altogether dissimilar from regular flyer posting, this technique also takes its cue from a more traditional form of advertising. However, wild posting uses striking visuals and repetition to help its message become more noticeable and more likely to elicit a reaction.
The secret of a successful wild posting campaign is to add positive colour and texture to an otherwise drab urban setting, thereby enhancing the space. With these aesthetic improvements in place, you can use the material to draw attention to whatever product, event or brand your company wants to promote – although you should be careful not to damage or adversely affect the environment.
Another innovative approach to exposing your brand's message is by using reverse graffiti. Despite the sometimes-negative connotations of graffiti as a recognised art form, this approach can work as it uses nonpermanent paint or dye (and, indeed, often covers up existing tags).
This technique gives your advertising the impact of street art without the legal ramifications of permanent tags. While it may seem like a risky tactic, it has been successfully used by big-name brands such as Coca-Cola and Telekom in various European markets. Alternatively, it can be a superb way to reach your target demographic if your brand is designed to be edgy and rebellious.
One of the more controversial types of guerrilla marketing, this approach consists of making a sales pitch to a consumer without them realising that they have been pitched to. Also referred to as buzz marketing, the most effective deployments of undercover marketing involve creating a stir around something and then hoping it transfers to a real community of consumers.
Of course, if your marketing team decides to pursue this tactic, then they need to ensure that they are doing so in a way that is both legal and ethical. Even if your advertisements have the best intentions at heart, the results can be disastrous – both reputationally and legally – if they run afoul of public perception. Perhaps you remember the Fyre Festival, after all?
Arguably, this is a much more palatable approach to creating buzz for a new product; it involves a little more work but, if done right, can yield much better results, too. A grassroots guerrilla marketing campaign focuses on winning over blocs of customers one by one and hoping that their enthusiasm will carry over to a larger stage.
It is worth remembering that while effective, a good grassroots campaign is ultimately a slow burner. However, on the flipside, empowering individuals to advocate for your brand will yield better results for a much longer period. If you are confident that your vision statement is something that a committed group of followers can get behind, a grassroots campaign is a great way to pursue your marketing plans.
One of the more ambitious guerrilla marketing tactics, ambush marketing occurs when a company interrupts an event with its own message. This has two effects – it forces someone who may be a competitor to share its platform and creates a memorable diversion that can help drive attention to your brand.
However, much like undercover advertising, ambush marketing is a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Interrupting a large event, such as a widely-viewed sporting occasion, will certainly put your brand on the front page, but it can also put it in significant legal jeopardy – especially if other sponsors have pre-existing agreements in place with the event organisers. If your marketing team comes up with a great ambush marketing opportunity, then you shouldn't discount it – but you should certainly make sure that your legal team is consulted prior to any potential fallout from the event, as Dutch beer company Bavaria found out at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Stealth marketing is, for want of a better term, the more 'accepted' version of undercover marketing. It is essentially a sophisticated version of product placement, where a company uses products branded with its logo in a realistic setting to improve recognition.
There are multiple ways to enact a successful stealth marketing campaign, although the level of exposure will generally be equivalent to the amount of money you have to spend on it. Getting your company's logo in a movie or television series, for instance, will probably cost your marketing team a significant portion of its overall budget. Therefore, it's better to look for local opportunities that might help increase your visibility within your community, professional or otherwise.
This approach focuses on providing your potential customers with an experience that they can interact with. Indeed, the best approach to experiential marketing is one that will provide your customers with a memorable situation and connect them with something that symbolises your brand.
To create a strong experiential marketing opportunity, you need to identify a good location to interact with your customer base, and then design an activity that will leave a lasting impression. This could be a sporting event, a fair or even a convention. Once you have identified the event, your marketing team needs to design an experience that connects it all together.
The 'flash mob' craze of several years ago is a good example of experiential guerrilla marketing in action.
While there is an argument to be made that all forms of guerrilla marketing are viral to a certain extent, the concept is important enough to warrant discussion. Essentially, when creating guerrilla marketing materials, you are striving to make them worthy of being discussed. Strong visuals, intriguing content and attention-grabbing execution all help to create sharable content that will do the work of marketing itself.
Therefore, when you are creating your campaigns, try to make them fun, daring and original. Avoid anything that might disturb the law or your core consumers and, with a little effort, your content will help spread your brand and increase sales.
Of course, these are just some of the ways in which you can craft an effective guerrilla marketing campaign, but by the concept's very definition, there is nothing stopping you from innovating and creating an entirely new way of getting noticed. The important thing is that you grab the imagination of your potential customers and do something that is different enough to make you stand out from your competitors. Just make sure you stay on the right side of the law in the process!
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