Guerilla Marketing Ideas To Shut Down Your Competition

In this post, you will find guerilla marketing ideas to turn your advertising strategy around.

guerilla marketing ideas

Dear marketers reading this,

we’ve been scammed.

We’ve been played like 5-year-olds who believed that it was Santa who ate the cookies (hellooo? Cookie Monster, d’oh!)

I don’t know what to think of this world anymore.

Why we’ve been lied to about Guerilla Marketing

I have spent the past few days looking for guerilla marketing ideas for a client project I’m working on. I had collected quite a few of them when it dawned on me.

The search results were all wrong.

I remember looking at this amazing guerilla marketing example, and as I was writing down takeaways and notes and how-to’s, I figured out it was not guerilla.

And then I went back to my Pinterest account. I was looking for a needle in a haystack, but there it was.

You see, I love collecting guerilla marketing ideas on my Pinterest account because it helps my creative process. Consider it self-learning.

But guerilla marketing goes beyond plain ol’ smart advertisements.

And however cool your marketing campaign looks, Susan, calling it “guerilla” doesn’t make it so.

What is guerilla marketing?

what is guerilla marketing?

The definition of guerilla marketing relies heavily on the definition of “guerilla warfare” (also spelled “guerrilla”).

What is guerilla?

Guerilla refers to a non-tactical army, loosely organized, fighting a bigger, more organized force.

Guerilla marketing, thus, is a set of marketing actions employed to launch a marketing campaign at a fraction of the cost it normally would cost, with multiple times the impact of the money spent on that.

In other words, guerilla marketing acts as a magnifying glass for the impact of a marketing campaign launch.

In my words, Guerilla Marketing is like the Banksy side of Marketing.

Types of guerilla marketing ideas

I did my fair amount of research to find whether these so-called “guerilla marketing types” exist.

Even though I found none of these types to be underpinned by scientific research, I will present them for the purposes of comprehensiveness.

Here’s a mashup of the most important bits:

  1. Street marketing, the more recently coined term for the outdoor guerilla marketing type, refers to all marketing actions taking place outdoors, bringing street elements into play.
  2. Ambient marketing refers to marketing practices which help promote a product by interfering with the flow of things and placing ads at unconventional places.
  3. Event Ambush marketing is when marketers take advantage of the audience of one event and use it to promote their own product or service. Of course, as with most daring guerilla ads, businesses might be faced with legal issues by such practices.
  4. Guerilla projections involve mastering the installation of hidden projectors onto high-rise buildings at high-traffic streets to generate buzz. Yes, imminent legal risks involved.
  5. Experiential marketing, aka participation marketing or live marketing, is the design of immersive, pop-up experiences which invite users to “talk, live, breathe” the brand. These usually provide sensory and emotional bonds between consumers and brands.
  6. Viral marketing is, ironically, named after the aspiration of the impact brought on by the marketing action. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably read a similar comment by yours truly. My main criticism lies in that “viral” cannot possibly represent a conscious choice on behalf of the marketing team designing it. No one can guarantee that an idea can go viral, it is a decision that lies with the audience, not the marketers. As such, it cannot be classified as a guerilla marketing type, since most ads have similar potential (and all marketers have the same aspiration) (</rant>).

What are the elements of guerilla marketing?

elements of guerilla marketing

To write the book on guerilla marketing, I need to establish the components of a successful guerilla marketing technique.

These are the characteristics of the majority of guerilla marketing examples I have collected:

  1. Guerilla marketing campaigns are highly targeted in terms of location where they are launched.
  2. Authenticity is key. If it’s been done before or looks like something else, it’s not guerilla.
  3. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
  4. Guerilla happens when and where your target audience least expects it. But it must be well-timed, still.
  5. Execution must be perfect on the first go. Guerilla marketing is not replicable or scalable.
  6. Guerilla marketing does not replace your promotional plan and advertisements. It generates buzz for you.

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7 most powerful guerilla marketing examples

Strongly preferred by NGOs and start-ups thanks to the low budget requirements, guerilla marketing ideas are the go-to choice for their low budget and their promising impact.

However, very well-known companies engage in guerilla marketing ideas as a way to show their resourcefulness and demonstrate their creative, playful side.

Also, it is an interesting way to challenge their customers’ perception of the brand, as well as have a lasting impact by creating a memorable campaign.

#1: Employ this powerful awareness campaign to engage the community

guerilla marketing ideas

Walking down the street, we’ve learned to look at what pleases us. We know that this shop window is beautiful so we either choose to go down that road and spend a minute or two like Audreys or remind ourselves of our bank account and head home straight.

Learning to look is a mechanism we improve less consciously. And this NGO knew it had to draw attention to a much-avoided sight; homeless youth.

What they did is that by placing a white space where a homeless person would be, they “force” viewers to reproduce the image of a homeless person.

This is a powerful advertisement aiming to raise awareness for homeless youth and sensitize people on the topic.

The fast pace of life takes its toll on what we see, or what we choose not to see, altogether.

This ad does a great job at alerting passers-by by handing them a new set of eyes and food for thought.

The characteristics that make it guerilla are that it’s a plain poster (cheap and simple), placed at spots where a homeless person would sit (resembling something else), making a change in the eye of the beholder.

#2: Steal Jeep’s guerilla marketing strategy

This is another great guerilla marketing tactic, this time by Jeep.

This ad plays on the outdoorsiness of the Jeep and the powerful driving (and parking, apparently) features it offers its drivers.

Of course, some may argue that this is a little on the risky side because there could be arguments over parking guidelines and respect within the community – but, I think we could all agree that guerilla marketing does exactly that; it is juuuust the right mix of provocative and witty.

It expresses the brand’s positioning and it establishes the brand’s relationship with the world (customers and not).

#3: Check out this guerilla marketing for environmental issues

guerilla marketing ideas

What if the woods in the park where kids play every day after school or the park you pass by on your way to work were replaced by a new building or a cement installation? How could you raise awareness among all these people?

I am sure you’ve noticed those volunteers and environmentalists outside supermarkets and metro stations asking you whether you have a moment.

And I believe there is no other accurate way to represent this exact strategy than this video from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix). Kimmy was trying to avoid the reporters outside the court so Titus Andromedon stepped in and made sure that everyone went away. All with a help of a question:

 

Do you have a minute to talk about the environment?

So, handouts and volunteers might not cut it after all.

But, if you really want to make an impact there, you can think of a way that will do the trick.

The original concept is like a quick time travel in the future, in a treeless park.

The very fact that people can see the trees “about to be cut off” is also a suggestion to passers-by that they can take action and stop this.

At the same time, this could also help make people realize that they were not asked their opinion about this in the first place.

#4: When Snapchat decided to hog the spotlight

How do you break through the clutter of a pretty saturated market?

That was the question that Snapchat’s marketing team had to answer.

The digital world, dominated by Facebook as it was, was not an easy one to penetrate. Snapchat had to make some noise, somehow slam the door open.

Snapchat generated buzz with giant billboards featuring nothing other than the logo.

Such guerilla marketing ideas help crack a hole in the wall of dominant businesses in the industry.

And since no one knew what this logo represented and what it was all about, Snapchat’s very competitors, the brands which were going to be directly affected by it, did not know what was coming.

These giant billboards helped create hype for the ghost-logo app which led to thousands of people googling the brand.

Properly making use of their momentum in the best way possible, this launch was followed by press releases and posts by influencers who all benefited from the traffic.

#5: An environmental campaign that is beautiful just as it is impactful

What would you do if you were driving down the highway and saw a giant cat resting on these road lights?

Normally, you would probably slow down for a moment, or call Wildlife services.

But, as soon as you realized this is an ad by an environmental organization you’d let out a sigh of relief, right?

You would, nevertheless, think twice before ignoring the next “Save the trees” campaign!

#6 & 7: Why NIKE has always owned Guerilla Marketing ideas

One of the most important components of a successful guerilla marketing idea is for it to incorporate or embody the brand values.

NIKE has been known for its “Just do it” attitude and tagline. This abstract bench, therefore, serves as a signifier for the company motto.

Consistent with its brand personality of pushing one’s limits, NIKE makes the perfect guerilla marketing example with its history of ads.

This is why I wanted to share the following guerilla marketing idea with you:

OK, I bet no one riding the metro that day was particularly happy to see this. But, I think most of us will agree it does a good job at suggesting a benefit, doesn’t it?

I am positive that whoever ran into this escalator was reminded of the brand’s motto and was “forced” to take the stairs, thus initiating their workout routine. What a great idea it would be to launch this in early January and those who do take the stairs are greeted by a message such as “It’s the first day of the rest of your life”!

I believe this would go on to reinforce the association between the brand and determination; it is aligned with the brand’s values for “doing” instead of “promising to one’s self” they will do better.

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Guerilla VS Smart advertising aka What is NOT guerilla?

Here is my point and, by all means, I invite you to chip in.

Not everything that makes you stop and look is guerilla marketing. Some of it is just excellent marketing. So, I would like to make a distinction between what guerilla marketing is and what it isn’t.

Let us consider this ad:

Characteristics that point to guerilla marketing:

  • It’s unconventional and creative in their use of ad space.
  • Doesn’t have to use words to make its point.

BUT, at the same time:

  • It communicates the same message as the rest of its competitors in the industry.
  • The ad only uses conventional ad space in an unconventional way.
  • This ad space is paid.
  • It’s not powerful in the message it communicates, however fresh.

Verdict: I only see this as a borderline guerilla marketing idea.

Is this a guerilla marketing example by Snickers?

guerilla marketing ideas

I found this ad under “guerilla marketing ideas” on Google.

This is a perfect embodiment of the brand’s tagline “You’re not you when you’re hungry”, hopping on the STAR WARS wagon after the new movie was out.

This is a great way to capitalize on a trendingevent and put your best foot forward.

But I found it under “guerilla marketing”.

It’s not. This is just purely great marketing.

The 9 best guerilla marketing tips for your campaign

While it all started from a guerilla marketing book written back in 1984, guerilla marketing ideas and examples on how to run your own campaigns are plenty.

Unfortunately, guerilla marketing cannot be your one-stop shop. It has to be part of an integrated communications plan.

Here is the recipe to succeed in your guerilla marketing:

  1. Choose your targeting: Know who you advertise to. Outdoors doesn’t mean random; it means finding more of the people who mean more to you. Know where to find them. Choosing the right open space is crucial, so choose it strategically. For example, if you are taking part in a summit or conference like SXSW you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to put your brand in front of hundreds of thousands people’s eyes who are waiting to make the most of their experiences there.
  2. Location is everything: Choose the place, bring its characteristics into play. For instance, if you are in a place with echos you could post an ad of a burger joint, such as: “Imagine if your stomach rumbled now”. Or at the cinema, where they sell pop corn: You don’t want your first date to be “remember when your stomach rumbled?”
  3. Be original: If you sound like anyone else or another brand forget about it.
  4. Get inspired: Enter ideation stage with 100 ideas in one hour. Gather your entire team or anyone who wants to join in with creative thinking from the company. Make sure there is a mood board in that office because that will inspire your team.
  5. Be relevant: Take your biggest competitor, strip them off their superpower and use it to your benefit. If you are still trying to make it under the spotlight, a good idea and a great execution can earn you a spot there. Take advantage of your competitor’s USP or said competitive advantage and show how you are different. Now, this reminds me of this sketch here:
    guerilla marketing ideas books
  6. Craft your message: Speak to your audience’s hearts and brains.
  7. Make it interactive: The limitations of outdoor or print advertising are that they reach a wall when it comes to actually jump out of the page. In the same way that you would be amused to see an ad with a driver on the side of the road waiting for Roadside assistance and Mercedes Benz logo underneath: “No one driving a Mercedes. Ever.” .
  8. Don’t fall for “viral”: Nobody can promise you viral. But you can do everything on your part that could lead up to viral. From Press Release to Paid promotion, to coordinating your influencers and audiences’ support, viral is hardly ever made to order.
  9. Measure performance: Decide how you will measure the success of your Guerilla Marketing campaign: shares? User engagement? Sales? Brand recall? Optimize for your goals.

Conclusion

Before you take your guerilla marketing project off the ground, be sure to have done your homework.

Study your competitors’ history of ads, their claims, their guerilla marketing ideas.

Once you’ve done that, map out your plan considering your brand values and where you want your brand to be in the foreseeable future.

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