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What Is Guerrilla Marketing? Definition & Examples

If you're a business owner and you're looking for new ways to market your company because your customer base has dwindled down to very few, then you have likely been researching the different types of marketing strategies that are available.

As you are likely aware of, there are a number of ways to market a business, and choosing the right plan can be difficult, due to the variety of possibilities available.

Whether you need to change your marketing strategy, or you need to develop an official plan because you've never had one in the first place, some marketing strategies are more popular than others.

More and more business owners are opting for guerrilla marketing, because it has been identified as a very effective way to advertise a business. Here is a complete overview of guerrilla marketing, so you can understand every aspect of it before you decide to invest in it.

What is a guerrilla marketing campaign?

A guerrilla marketing campaign is one that is intended to astonish your audience by introducing a shocking and unconventional marketing tactic.

This is typically accomplished by performing a planned out strategy that interrupts prospective customers and, in a way, forces them to pay attention to the message that is being conveyed to them.

Many people believe that guerrilla marketing campaigns border on being illegal, but in most cases, they're perfectly legal. The aspect of these types of ads that leads people to believe that they're illegal because they're so over-the-top in many cases.

However, that's the intent of guerrilla marketing tactics, and it's why they're effective, because over-the-top is unexpected, making it more memorable.

Types of guerrilla marketing tactics

Guerrilla marketing consists of a variety of different tactics that can either be used alone or in combination with others for the best effect.

This type of marketing was made popular in 1984 when Jay Conrad Levinson's book, "guerrilla marketing," was published. When this book was published, it opened a whole new world for companies looking for new, exciting and cutting-edge ways to market their products and services.

Here are some types of guerrilla marketing tactics that you might want to try should you decide that this type of marketing is for you.

Viral marketing

Viral marketing is a type of guerrilla marketing that encourages individuals to spread information about a product or service via the internet.

Marketers deliberately use existing customers through various social media platforms to perform the marketing for them. Viral marketing can effectively create an image for your company, all through your existing customers, and through word-of-mouth.

Viral marketing can be implemented using many different avenues, such as a viral email campaign, videos, applications for mobile devices, and web pages.

One example of a successful creative marketing campaign in the past is Burger King's subservient chicken, which required a person to dress up in a chicken outfit and perform any act that he/she was requested to perform.

After only one day, the subservient chicken resulted in one million people ordering the chicken to perform ridiculous and unheard of acts, while simultaneously driving more business to Burger King in the process. This was obviously exactly what marketers intended.

Ambient marketing

Ambient marketing is an extremely creative marketing strategy that works by placing ads in unusual places where you typically would not expect to see advertisements.

The sole purpose is to catch people off guard and encourage them to not only familiarize themselves with your brand, but to also seek more information about obtaining your product or services.

Ambient marketing can be fun for the expert that creates it, as well as the people that see these ads, because they're made to grab a person's attention, which is exactly what the right campaign has the ability to do. Ambient marketing is often done so strategically that even if an ad is in an unusual and unexpected environment, it's done so tastefully that it appears as if it somehow fits.

One example of ambient marketing is an ad that Folgers, a popular United States-based company, implemented. Since New York City is referred to as the city that never sleeps, Folger's placed an ad over a manhole that stated, "Hey city that never sleeps. Wake up." This statement included a colored picture of a mug of black coffee that appeared to have steam coming from it, although, of course, the steam came from the manhole itself. After the statement, there was a Folgers logo.

Experiential marketing

If your goal is to grow your audience, which is the goal of many business owners, you might want to try experiential marketing. Also known as "engagement" marketing, this form of marketing intends to entice prospective customers to engage in a business in lifelike circumstances.

Experiential marketing requires that audiences become so involved with the business's ad campaign that participation and even hands-on involvement is encouraged. The goal of this type of marketing is to prove to their target audience what they represent, and not merely what they have to offer.

In order for experiential marketing campaigns to be successful, they must be strategically-planned by creative and experienced marketers. These campaigns must be fun and attractive so that a target audience won't be able to resist participating in these affairs. If implemented properly, experiential marketing can effectively reinforce a long-term connection between the target audience and a particular brand.

One company that has implemented many successful experiential marketing ads is M&Ms. From tasting rooms to the "Great Color Quest," and much more in-between, M&M has had some of the most unique experiential marketing campaigns that target audiences found quite memorable since it required them to participate in and actually taste up and coming flavors of these popular candies. M&Ms remains one of the most popular brands since making its debut more than eighty years ago in 1941.

Astroturfing marketing

Astroturfing is sort of a deceiving type of guerrilla marketing, and it's also known as grassroots marketing. In this type of guerrilla marketing, the marketing experts go through great lengths to appear as if they're from natural sources, while strategically concealing the name of the brand.

Astroturfing is a type of marketing most often undertaken by large corporations as well as those in politics, because, due to the fact that astroturfing has the ability to result in a campaign going viral, it can be extremely effective.

Astroturfing can be implemented in a number of ways, and an especially common way to implement this type of marketing is to create phony social media profiles. These phony profiles are then used to bash the competition while raving about the brand at hand.

Another manner in which to implement an astroturfing campaign is to make it appear as if customers prefer a certain brand, yet these "customers" have been paid in advance to carefully play their part in the facade.

Due to the manner in which astroturfing is implemented, it is often considered to be one of the most unscrupulous guerrilla marketing strategies out there. It certainly has the potential to be successful, but if the public discovers the truth, then the consequences may not be so pleasant.

It is true that astroturfing isn't always successful, and it can, in fact, have an adverse boomerang effect on a brand.

For instance, many companies have been sued and fined for deceiving their target audience. If you search the web for court cases regarding popular brands experiencing their astroturfing marketing backfiring on them, you will likely find plenty of information.

Major brands have had negative experiences with this type of marketing. Parents have even sued schools for using astroturfing as a means to promote their schools of choice.

Street marketing

This is a type of guerrilla marketing that focuses on using unconventional manners in which to market a brand.

Instead of using traditional marketing like television and radio ads as many brands do, those with street marketing campaigns often opt for the use of fliers, posters, art displays, and coupons as affordable ways to market themselves. Street marketing received its name because its marketing campaigns are literally implemented on busy streets and/or in or near shopping centers.

However, these alternative forms of advertising aren't always the types of ads that people expect. In fact, companies have been accused of being unethical with their street marketing ads, because they often contain some extreme and outrageous material. Some of it is even insulting or scary. Even though it's been touted as being unethical, street marketing is effective in many cases, which is why it's still a popular guerrilla advertising strategy.

Some street guerrilla marketing examples are as follows:

  • Flashmob - this entails a group of individuals who gather on a busy street and perform some type of entertaining dance or simply stand "still," before quickly scattering away.
  • Impromptu concerts - this entails a group involved in the ad campaign performing a spontaneous concert on a busy street or inside or near a well-populated mall.
  • Street art - urban paintings and sculptures have been a popular way to advertise for years, and it continues to attract the attention of new prospective customers.
  • Games, contests and tests - these types of activities are intended to involve the public, as it is an integrated marketing strategy. The more outrageous the topic or theme is, the more of a rise the brand will receive, which they hope is positive.

Pros of guerrilla marketing

Similar to different types of traditional marketing methods, there are many pros and cons of guerrilla marketing, and here is an overview of them, so you can decide if this type of marketing is worth it.

Get creative

Not only can it be fun for marketers to get creative, but it can also be fun for target audiences to be invited to be a part of the creativity. That's one reason why guerrilla marketing is so effective, because people love being included in fun activities, especially if it means they're supporting their favorite brand.

Go viral

The more shocking and outrageous a marketing campaign is, the more likely it is to go viral. Since shocking, over-the-top ad campaigns are the guerrilla marketing definition, the chances are significantly increased that they will go viral.

Save money

Guerrilla marketing is a great way to create enticing, creative, and effective ads while saving money simultaneously. For instance, street marketing avoids the use of pricey television and radio ads in lieu of very inexpensive alternatives that are often just as effective as the more expensive ads, if not more so, in some cases.

Appeal to customer emotions

The main intention of guerrilla ads is to evoke emotion in their customers and prospective customers. By evoking positive emotions in their target audiences, companies opting for guerrilla marketing ad campaigns are often a lot more successful.

Create memorable experiences

Guerrilla marketing certainly has the possibility to create memorable experiences, and the more memorable an experience is, the more likely a person is to become loyal to that particular brand.

Cons of a guerrilla marketing strategy

Unpredictable outcomes

Since guerrilla marketing ideas are so out of the ordinary, it can be difficult to gauge how the public will respond in advance. This is one negative aspect of this type of marketing campaign.

However, many marketers feel that their marketing campaigns are so ingenious that they must be implemented, but again, the company can be taking a huge risk since they can't predict the outcome.

Potential for controversy

Many companies have faced controversy as a result of their guerrilla marketing campaigns, which certainly brings negative attention to the company instead of positive.

However, whenever a company chooses to utilize this type of marketing strategy, they're taking all types of risks.

Difficult to measure results

Unlike other types of marketing, it can be difficult to measure the results. The ability to measure results is important because it helps a marketer identify what aspects of the campaign need to be changed or improved, as well as determine if a campaign needs to remain exactly the same in the future because it was so successful.

Guerrilla Marketing Examples

There are plenty of guerrilla marketing examples that have been implemented by well-known brands that you probably know and support. Here are some specific examples of guerrilla marketing, in case you didn't realize it was the type of marketing style that was being used.


Graffiti is usually associated with a crime involving a person defacing property with painted drawings. However, some of the most successful outdoor guerrilla marketing campaigns involve city streets and alleys being used as giant canvases in which to promote a brand.

Publicity stunts

Publicity stunts are an extremely common example of outdoor guerrilla marketing, and one popular brand features the live event of a man jumping from space.

Undercover marketing

This type of marketing can be considered deceptive because it is, in fact, deceiving prospective customers by hiding the fact that a certain brand is being advertised.

Companies implement these types of campaigns all the time, and undercover marketing often entails a brand paying people in advance in order to participate in a public event and then afterward bragging about the involved brand.

Does guerrilla marketing align with your brand?

Despite its chances of being a very effective form of marketing, guerrilla marketing isn't for every company. If you're on the fence about whether or not this type of marketing aligns with your brand, then you need to do some experimentation before implementing a full campaign.

Since there are different types of guerrilla marketing strategies, as you experiment with this type of marketing, you might find that one specific type works better than others. If you don't like the idea of possibly deceiving your current and prospective customers, then you should refrain from becoming involved in astroturfing.

However, if you like the idea of street marketing using inexpensive ways to create and implement successful marketing campaigns, then you should go for it!

It can also be helpful if you had a marketing expert by your side if you're going to be launching a guerrilla marketing strategy. By working with a marketing company that has experience with creating and implementing many successful guerrilla marketing campaigns for other companies, then you increase your chances of experiencing success, as well.

Manage your Marketing Campaigns with Mailchimp

As you can see, most companies who choose to implement guerrilla marketing campaigns feel that this type of advertising has more positive aspects than it does negative. If you'd like to begin a guerrilla marketing campaign but you're not sure how to go about doing so, then you should contact Mailchimp.

Mailchimp, an expert in marketing, is a company that can assist your company with a guerrilla marketing campaign that's almost guaranteed to drive more business your way. Even if you would prefer another type of marketing than guerrilla, Mailchimp can still help you to create the most effective marketing campaign possible.

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