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Guerrilla Marketing

Unusually creative marketing tactics

Guerrilla Marketing is an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results.

The original term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book 'Guerrilla Advertising'. The term guerrilla marketing was inspired by guerrilla warfare which is a form of irregular warfare and relates to the small tactic strategies used by armed civilians. Many of these tactics includes ambushes, sabotage, raids and elements of surprise. Much like guerrilla warfare, guerrilla marketing uses the same sort of tactics in the marketing industry.

This alternative advertising style relies heavily on unconventional marketing strategy, high energy and imagination. Guerrilla Marketing is about taking the consumer by surprise, make an indelible impression and create copious amounts of social buzz. Guerrilla marketing is said to make a far more valuable impression with consumers in comparison to more traditional forms of advertising and marketing. This is due to the fact that most guerrilla marketing campaigns aim to strike the consumer at a more personal and memorable level.

Guerrilla marketing is often ideal for small businesses that need to reach a large audience without breaking the bank. It also is used by big companies in grassroots campaigns to compliment on-going mass media campaigns. Individuals have also adopted this marketing style as a way to find a job or more work.

The History of Guerrilla Marketing

Advertising can be dated back to 4000 BC where the early Egyptians used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters. What we consider traditional advertising and marketing slowly developed over the centuries but never really boomed until the early 1900s.

It was at this time that the main goal of advertisements were to educate the consumer on the product or service rather than to entertain and engage them.

In 1960, campaigns focuses on heavy advertising spending in different mass media channels such as radio and print.

It wasn't till the late 1980s and early 1990s that cable television started seeing advertising messages. The most memorable pioneer during this time was MTV where they focused on getting the consumer to tune in for the advertising message rather than it being the by-product of a featured show.

Agencies struggled to make an impression on consumers and consumers were tired of being marketed to. It was time for a change.

In 1984, marketer Jay Conrad Levinson introduced the formal term in his book called, " Guerrilla Marketing."

Levinson comes from a background as the Senior Vice-President at J. Walter Thompson and Creative Director and Board Member at Leo Burnett Advertising. In Levinson's book, he proposes unique ways of approaching and combating traditional forms of advertising. The goal of guerrilla marketing was to use unconventional tactics to advertise on a small budget. During this time, radio, television and print were on the rise, but consumers were growing tired. Levinson suggests that campaigns need to be shocking, unique, outrageous and clever. It needs to create buzz.

Small businesses started changing their ways of thinking and approached marketing in a brand new way. The concept of guerrilla marketing continues to develop and grow organically.

You can find more information about Jay Conrad Levinson at the Official Site of Guerrilla Marketing.

How Big Businesses Are Using Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing originally was a concept aimed towards small businesses with a small budget, but this didn't stop big businesses from adopting the same ideology.

Larger companies have been using unconventional marketing to compliment their advertising campaigns. Some marketers argue that when big businesses utilize guerrilla marketing tactics, it isn't true guerrilla. Bigger companies have much larger budgets and their brands are usually already well established.

It can also be far more risky for a big business to do guerrilla marketing tactics. In some instances, their guerrilla stunts can flop and ultimately become a PR nightmare. Smaller businesses don't run as much risk as most people will just write it off as another failed stunt.

One such example would be the famous 2007 Boston Bomb Scare caused by Turner Broadcasting on January 31, 2007. What started off as a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote a new film featuring a Cartoon Network show called Aqua Teen Hunger Force, turned into a citywide bomb scare. Turner Broadcasting with the help of guerrilla marketing agency, Interference, Inc., placed battery-powered LED placards resembling the 'Mooninite' character on the cartoon show. The LED placards were placed throughout Boston, Massachusetts and the surrounding cities.

The placards were placed in random locations and remained unlit during the day. At night the placards lit up to show the 'Mooninite' character putting up his middle finger. The devices resembled some characteristics of explosive devices and soon caused the scare.

The campaign ended up costing Turner Broadcasting and Interference, Inc. $2 million for the incident. The campaign itself received a lot of criticism both good and bad.

"Nobody could have conceived that Lite-Brite cartoon character was going to evoke a bomb scare. Once you take the emotion out of it, it was a really innovative campaign. That's what people will remember. Many of the brands we work with are asking us for guerrilla marketing campaigns, with an element of mystery, but they don't really understand what it means. Ewen could elevate this experience into something for the industry to learn from, counseling on what it means. He should be out there speaking about this to industry groups." - Donna Sokolsky, Co-Founder of Spark PR in San Francisco

Well it seems that many companies have learned from past successes and failures. One major brand that has been doing a wonderful job is Coca-Cola.

In January 2010, The Coca-Cola Company created the " Happiness Machine" video with the help of interactive marketing agency, Definition 6. The video featured a Coca-Cola vending machine that dispensed a lot more than just a cold beverage. The film was shop at St. John's University in Queens, New York, using 5 strategically placed hidden cameras. The reactions from the students were completely unscripted.

The video went viral and now has over 4.5 million views on YouTube. In May 2010, it won a prestigious CLIO Gold Interactive Award. The film had the highest penetration in Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Russia.

After seeing the amazing ROI on this video, Coca-Cola decided to continue the 'Happiness' theme by releasing several other videos using the same concept.

On October 14th, 2012, Red Bull and Austrian extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner set a world record for the highest skydiving jump. The Red Bull Stratos was a campaign to send Baumgartner on a death defying jump at over 128,100 feet into the stratosphere. Baumgartner broke the speed of sound reaching an estimated speed of 833.9 mph (1,342.8 km/h) after jum[ing out of a helium-filled balloon. The entire trip back to earth lasted 9:09 minutes with 4:22 of that time in freefall.

More importantly, Red Bull attracted much deserved attention for this grand stunt. On this day, they also broke social media records when they reached over 8 million confirmed concurrent views on YouTube. The team achieved this with several grand efforts on their social media team. By visiting the Red Bull Stratos website, users could tune in to the jump LIVE, stay engaged via the twitter stream and a connect with others on Facebook.

Related Posts on Creative Guerrilla Marketing:

Sources: INC, Coca-Cola, Red Bull Stratos

How Small Businesses Are Using Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing may be the right solution for your small business. Why? When executed well, it will often be low cost yet reach a highly targeted audience. It can also be a great way to get noticed, distinguish from the competition and earn a reputation for being fun and different.

In an interview with Entrepreneur magazine, several guerrilla marketing agency experts divulged that good guerrilla marketing is...

"...unauthorized and disruptive" and "sticky." - Brett Zaccardi of Street Attack

"...brand activation that isn't 100 percent permitted by the city, event or establishment." - Adam Salacuse, Founder and President of ALT TERRAIN

"...is a state of mind. It simply isn't guerrilla if it isn't newsworthy." - Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade Marketing

One of the most famous examples is The Blair Witch Project, a film that was promoted using guerrilla marketing efforts. The Blair Witch Project is a 1999 American psychological horror film that was produced by five graduates of the University of Central Florida Film Program with a minimal budget and a camera. The two set up an internet campaign to spread rumors about a fictitious legend of "the Blair Witch."

The duo created a website devoted to the Blair Witch to help support the case for this fictitious woods-based spectre. They ran with the tagline, "In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary. A year later, their footage was found."

In April 1998, the preview aired on Bravo and it drew a lot of attention. The producer of the Bravo show Split/Screen asked the duo to build a stand-alone website, because Blair Witch comments were dominating its own site and discussion board. There were people interested in this and the film wasn't even done.

" That's how the whole thing started. The website launched in the summer of 1998 and in November, we found out we were accepted into Sundance Film Festival. We had all this buzz going into Sundance. It was not because we spent money. It was because we had fans already, who hadn't even seen the film. It was eye-opening," says Mike Monello, a co-creator of The Blair Witch Project.

The Blair Witch Project grossed $248,639,099 worldwide.

Related Posts on Creative Guerrilla Marketing:

Sources: Entrepreneur

We recently posted a presentation on best practices in email marketing. These tips are contrary to what you might hear from so-called email marketing experts and stem from stats that we've analyzed within our email ad network.

Here's the full video presentation:

Here are the slides from the presentation:

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When the classic strategies aren't delivering, you send in the guerrillas. They're the extra-special forces - the ones that implement killer strategies to turn the tide and defeat the enemy.

Guerrilla marketing is a great alternative to traditional marketing. It thrives on original thinking and creativity, where imagination and ingenuity beat out big budgets.

Guerrilla marketing tends to be cheaper than traditional marketing, relying on smaller, more localized brick and mortar strategies like:

Graffiti: Graffiti marketing uses city streets and alleyways as a giant canvas. While smaller, more covert operations will make their mark wherever they want, for most businesses it's recommended to get permission from a property owner before going Monet on the walls of their establishment.

Stencil Graffiti: Stencil graffiti uses stencils to create repeated works of street art. The advantage of stencils is that you can create multiple instances of your art across many different spaces in a short period of time. Stencils tend to be small in size (as opposed to a full-wall mural) and consist of simple designs.

Reverse Graffiti: Reverse graffiti is when, instead of adding to a surface, marketers remove dirt and grime from a street or wall to create an all-natural marking message. Just put a stencil on a sidewalk and then wash the uncovered spaces!

Stickers: Creative use of stickers is another great guerrilla marketing tactic that can be very successful when implemented well.

Undercover Marketing: Also known as "stealth marketing," marketers disguise themselves as peers amongst their target audience. One example is Sony's campaign in 2002, in which actors were hired to wander about cities, asking strangers to take a photo of them. During the interaction, actors would rave of their cool new phone, boasting of its features and capabilities.

Flash Mobs: Flash mobs involve organizing a group of individuals to perform a specific action or task at a pre-determined location and time. In some cases participants are hired actors, other times they are simply members of the community who enjoy the randomness of flash mobs!

Publicity Stunts: Publicity stunts involve specific feats of awe and amazement, usually sponsored or in partner with a brand. Red Bull is very adept at this practice, exemplified by their 2012 skydiving record as part of their Stratos project. Red Bull sent Austrian extreme-sports athlete Felix Baumgartner above the stratosphere, dominating the world record for highest skydive, launching himself from over 128,000 feet above earth. Arguably much more than a mere stunt, the Red Bull Stratos project set numerous world records and was viewed live on YouTube by over 9.5 million users (setting yet another record).

Treasure Hunts: Creating custom, high-quality treasure hunts is another cool guerrilla marketing tactic that can energize audiences. Guerrilla marketing treasure hunts often involve posting online clues to hidden items scattered across a single or several cities. Winners are rewarded with digital codes, prizes, or a hint for the next level of the treasure hunt.

Urban Environment: The most successful guerrilla marketing strategies make great use of the spaces around them. Urban environments allow for many opportunities to implement clever marketing strategies.

While today we're mostly showing physical, visual examples of guerrilla marketing, there are plenty of online examples. Online guerrilla marketing campaigns often appear in the form of:

  • Viral videos
  • User generated content competitions
  • Creative landing pages

Guerrilla Marketing Pros and Cons

Guerrilla marketing has some advantages and disadvantages. Take both into consideration before choosing to move forward with a campaign.

Pros of Guerrilla Marketing
  • Cheap to execute. Whether using a simple stencil or a giant sticker, guerrilla marketing tends to be much cheaper than classic advertising.
  • Allows for creative thinking. With guerrilla marketing, imagination is more important than budget.
  • Grows with word-of-mouth. Guerrilla marketing relies heavily on word-of-mouth marketing, considered by many one of the most powerful weapons in a marketer's arsenal. There's nothing better than getting people to talk about your campaign on their own accord.
  • Publicity can snowball. Some especially noteworthy or unique guerrilla marketing campaigns will get picked up by local (and even national) news sources, resulting in a publicity powerhouse affect that marketers drool over.
Cons of Guerrilla Marketing
    Mysterious messages can be misunderstood. There's often an air of mystery to guerrilla marketing campaigns, and while it's this sense of mystery that can often propel a campaign's attention and notice, the lack of clarity can also skew audience interpretation.

Confusion associated with guerrilla marketing campaigns can have extreme implications, such as in 2007, when flashing LED circuit boards promoting a new animated series, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, were quietly installed around the city of Boston. The objects were mistaken for explosive devices, causing citywide panic as bomb squads were brought in to examine and remove the unknown devices.

The hired installers were even arrested for mounting "hoax devices," but were later released. While it'd be easy to label this campaign as a disaster, the story got picked up on major media networks across the country, so despite whole ordeal, some would probably call it a success.

  • Authority intervention. Some forms of guerrilla marketing, such as non-permissioned street graffiti, can result in tension with authorities.
  • Unpredicted obstacles. Many guerrilla marketing tactics are susceptible to bad weather, thrown timing, and other small instances that could easily threaten to undermine an entire campaign.
  • Potential backlash. Savvy audiences may call out businesses who are implementing guerrilla marketing campaigns they don't approve of. This is especially true of undercover marketing campaigns - if you're caught, prepare to face the wrath.

There's no doubt that guerrilla marketing can provide fantastic results while allowing marketers to exercise their creativity in a unique way, but it will only work for businesses who aren't afraid of risk-taking.

20 Real Examples of Guerrilla Marketing

Axe Body Spray uses custom stickers attached to the classic "exit man" signs that are so commonplace in establishments everywhere. The added stickers create a story about the familiar exit man - and to think all this time we thought he was escaping from a fire!

Guinness adds small custom wraps to pool cues in bars, offering a clever reminder to pool players to grab a brew. This guerrilla marketing strategy is not just adorable - it also does a great job of targeting Guinness's key audiences by working off of existing bar paraphernalia.

Discovery Channel reminds beach goers about upcoming Shark Week by placing these bitten boards along beaches.

These unusual towels serve as not-so-subtle warnings to sun soakers tanning on the beach.

Guerrilla marketing isn't just found in urban settings - it can be found in print too. This Weight Watchers magazine advertisement changes shape as users remove perforated pieces.

This sticker was placed on the floor of elevators, giving riders a taste of the Swiss Skydive experience.

An organization raising awareness of Alzheimer's created an ingenious marketing strategy involving city maps. These free Hamburg city maps were given out at tourist booths. When users opened the map, they saw only a mess of unmarked, unlabeled road, mirroring the confusion and sense of misplacement associated with Alzheimer's disease.

There's no shortage of stairs in the world, and many genius guerrilla marketing tactics make use of staircases for their own benefit. This IKEA ad reminds users of how IKEA furniture works to save space in your home.

This guerrilla marketing campaign for King Kong 3D had people snapping photos and sharing their experiences on social media.

Similar to the elevator ad above, this ad for the Maximum Ride book series uses the edge of an outdoor staircase as a tool in their optical illusion.

Crosswalks are another urban structure often used by guerrilla marketers. In this example, Mr. Clean shows off his cleaning power on a crosswalk.

National Geographic reminds users just how hard it is to capture that perfect shot.

Beau Rivage Resort Casino uses airport baggage belts to capture users' attention as they wait for their luggage. It's also another great example of audience targeting, as people who can afford to travel are good potential customers for a resort casino.

Tyskie beer turns a regular door handle into a call for a cold brew.

Unicef reminds city-dwellers of the millions of people around the world who do not have access to clean drinking water.

Duracell adds their flashlight posters to illuminated areas, reminding users of the power of Duracell.

Cover Girl makes clever use of a city turnstile to mimic their Lash Blast Mascara application comb. (This example has to be my favorite!)

Burn 60 makes creative use of a drawstring bag in this physical piece of guerrilla marketing. In an industry packed with false promises and big talk, the simplicity of this design sets it apart from other health and diet pill peddlers.

The Copenhagen Zoo covers a local bus in a custom design, which catches eyes all over the city.

Colgate creates toothbrush-shaped wooden popsicle sticks to inset into ice cream bars, reminding children (and adults) of the importance of brushing. Presumably the importance of brushing with Colgate.

This disturbing (but effective) guerrilla marketing strategy from Campaign Against Landmines uses restaurant ketchup packets to drive home the horrors of landmines and the injury to innocent victims in war-torn countries.

Note: Images above were borrowed from Creative Guerrilla Marketing, Creative Pool, Guerilla Freelancing, and . Check them out for even more examples.

As you walk home today, look at your surroundings and try to pick out the setting for your guerrilla marketing campaign - stairs, benches, and street corners could become your marketing masterpiece.

Do you have any favorite examples of guerrilla marketing we didn't discuss here? Share your thoughts in the comments below!