What is guerrilla marketing and how it works?

Guerrilla marketing is a creative and highly effective marketing technique that small businesses in particular can greatly benefit from. Marketing is all around us. Turn on the TV, and you’ll see commercials. Open any website, and you’ll find ads. Drive down any road, and you’ll pass billboards and signs. In a world so inundated with marketing, how will you stand out? The answer could be guerrilla marketing. Interesting, innovative, and highly effective, it is a great way to leave a mark when promoting a business. And because it relies on novel tactics outside of the usual marketing practices, it can typically be done pretty affordably. This makes it especially suitable for new and small businesses as it yields excellent results with relatively low investment. But how does it all work?

What is guerrilla marketing?

Guerrilla marketing gets its name from guerilla warfare – a type of fighting conducted by irregular soldiers who conduct raids, ambushes, and other disruptive tactics, usually in order to fight a stronger and better-equipped enemy. In marketing, this translates to the use of (usually) low-cost, innovative, and unconventional methods to reach a wider audience. The goal is to shock, surprise, delight, intrigue, and otherwise produce an emotional reaction in interactions with potential customers. Emotions lead to action, which makes this type of marketing particularly effective in spreading brand awareness and increasing sales.

Person talking to a group of young people in the street.
Approach potential customers directly to elicit a response.

Although big brands (like Colgate, for example) have been known to employ these types of marketing tactics, it is typically small businesses that opt for guerilla marketing. This allows them to level the playing field – even businesses that cannot afford major TV ad campaigns can achieve great success by focusing on more personalized and emotionally charged interactions that typically don’t cost much.

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Types of guerilla marketing

There are different ways to employ guerilla tactics to attract customers and intrigue them about your brand. Based on these various tactics, we can talk about different types of guerilla marketing:

Ambient marketing

Ambient marketing is all about reaching the customers where they are – in their natural, everyday environment. Usually, this includes clever and creative advertising outdoors or in public. You could, for example, paint an interesting mural on the subway wall or put smart messages on coasters at the local pub.

  • Event ambush

Event ambush, also known as ambush marketing and copycat marketing, is a controversial tactic of crashing somebody else’s event and using it for your own purposes. The bigger the event you hijack, the bigger the payoff. But this also comes at a risk – stealing someone’s thunder is not necessarily the best look, and in some cases, it might even land you in legal trouble if you’re not careful

  • Stealth marketing

A great way to attract people who don’t respond to traditional marketing forms is stealth marketing – the art of advertising to people who don’t realize that what they’re seeing is marketing. It can be very effective when done right because people don’t feel like they’re being tricked into getting involved with a company. The key to stealth marketing is being cryptic, mysterious, and very, very subtle.

  • Experiential marketing

Any marketing that involves interacting with your potential customers, especially in a way where they get to first-hand experience your products or services, would fall under experiential marketing. You can do it outdoors or indoors, at your own events or someone else’s. The point is to give your audience a taste of what you’re offering.

Street sign advertising face painting.
Let your customers experience your goods and services first-hand.
  • Digital guerilla marketing

Any marketing you do these days must extend to the digital world, even guerilla marketing. Digital guerilla marketing can be great when combined with guest posts, as it is the best way to use your blogging skills. On the other hand, it can be all about social media posts or something completely different. It’s not so much about the platform; it’s about what you do. To make it guerilla, your marketing needs to be unique, unpredictable, and engaging. You can achieve this by using multiple mediums and telling good stories.

  • Viral marketing

One of the most effective ways to advertise your business these days is to go viral online. It’s a high-risk, high-reward game. You never really know what will capture the internet’s attention. But if you manage to do it, you can benefit greatly from the attention.

How does guerilla marketing work?

We know that guerilla marketing can be highly effective. Even without a huge investment, it can grab the audience’s attention and be an excellent tool in brand awareness. Why is that exactly?

Stand out from the crowd

One of the big problems for businesses looking to market themselves today is the oversaturation of the market. People are so used to advertisements that they’ve become almost immune to them. If you want to succeed, then you have to be different from all the rest. It is hard to do that if you’re reading from the same playbook that everyone else is. But with novel ideas, creative campaigns, and other guerilla tactics, you will stand out from the crowd.

Graffiti art of stormtroopers and one person in a Guy Fawkes mask.
Being different is the key to being memorable.

Get people talking

Creating a buzz surrounding your brand is vital to a successful marketing campaign. When you get other people to talk about your brand, you’re gaining free exposure. And to make matters even better, new potential customers will be more receptive to hearing about you from their friends and family than they would be to an ad campaign. Plus, all this can help you go viral, which is a great way to spread the word about your business.

Form connections

One of the most significant benefits of any street marketing campaign you do is the ability to interact directly with potential customers, not through forms on a website or behind a profile picture and username on social media but one-on-one and in-person. You should treat this as an opportunity to create a genuine bond with a customer. Let them see your passion and excitement – they’ll respond to it!

Advertise to people who don’t like being advertised to

It’s harder to advertise successfully today than ever before. Modern audiences are often numb to marketing ploys and even go out of their way to avoid them. For some, this resistance can extend to the business or product being advertised: they specifically won’t buy it precisely because they found the marketing for it so unappealing. But with more subtle and stealthier forms of marketing, you can avoid this. If you do your job right, people won’t even realize that what they’re looking at is marketing; they’ll think they’re seeing street art or a performance. This is how you sell to people who don’t like being sold to.

When is guerilla marketing the right choice for your business?

Although guerilla marketing has become more prevalent in recent years, not every business employs it. You should consider this strategy if you’re running a small or new business, if you’re on a limited budget, and if you’re willing to put in the legwork. Guerilla marketing typically involves low expenses (if any), making it perfect for businesses that don’t have much capital or many connections. But you cannot do it at random – it requires research, creativity, planning, organization, and coordination. If you decide on these tactics, you need to be dedicated. In the end, however, your hard work will pay off, and you’ll probably even have fun along the way!