Driven by originality and creativity, guerrilla marketing tactics tend to sneak up on the public when they least expect it. Whether it's a flash mob that appears out of nowhere or an amusing digital installation that reacts to people passing, its oddity and wittiness undoubtedly draw the public's full attention.
Growing brands gravitate towards guerrilla marketing ideas to build brand awareness with constrained budgets, whereas more prominent brands leverage guerrilla marketing to increase their share of voice in the already over-saturated advertising space. Whatever the case, it's a great marketing tactic to flaunt a brand's ingenuity and win over the consumer's hearts.
Before we dive into actual strategies and examples, let’s start by defining the term. What is guerrilla marketing?
Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy inspired by ‘guerrilla’ warfare tactics — exploiting the element of surprise through unconventional methods — to generate buzz and increase market share.
The word ‘guerrilla’ originates from Spanish, referring to small yet independent incongruous battles Spain fought against Napoleon’s invasion in the 19th century. A century later, the term we commonly use nowadays was first coined in 1984 when Jay Conrad Levinson, an advertising agency executive at the time, published a book called Guerrilla Marketing.
While the marketing landscape has evolved significantly since then, Levinson lived and breathed guerrilla marketing by teaching throughout his later career years at UC Berkeley. Levinson believed — which still holds true — guerrilla marketing was a great marketing tactic for small and new businesses due to its budget-friendly nature.
Brands can engage in four types of guerrilla marketing: outdoor, indoor, event ambush, and experiential. Depending on the industry, objective, or allocated resources, one might make more sense than the other, but the key strategy here is to think outside the box.
Typically taking place in an urban outdoor area with plenty of foot traffic, outdoor guerrilla marketing involves unusual installation, performance, or signage that looks out of place. It can also be an add-on to an existing object or make use of the surrounding environment.
Like outdoor guerrilla marketing, indoor guerrilla marketing takes place where there is plenty of activity but in an enclosed public space such as train stations, libraries, stores, and buildings. This guerrilla marketing tactic brings the surprise element to an indoor environment that is hard for the public to miss.
Event ambush guerrilla marketing promotes a brand at a pre-existing event in a noticeable way. It occurs in sports games, concerts, parades, or festive events where large groups gather to garner the most attention. As its name indicates, it ambushes an event and, more often than not, without permission from the event organizers.
Experiential guerrilla marketing invites the public to interact with the brand. This guerrilla marketing tactic can take place outdoors, indoors, or at an event. It is a great way to promote your brand by giving your audience a real-life experience with the brand.
As social media continues to grow in popularity, guerrilla marketing takes on an extra pair of wings. Due to the nature of social media and digital content, guerrilla marketing is no longer a one-time tactic with a limited shelf life. We all know how people on social channels are eager to share and capture the next big trend. The more inventive the guerrilla marketing tactic is, the greater the chance of it becoming a viral sensation on social — boosting extra reach and engagement for an even more successful campaign.
Brands can seamlessly integrate guerrilla marketing into social campaigns by sharing the buzz on their social channels. Creating anticipation and generating excitement is a great way to fully leverage the direct interaction and broad reach social media provides. People's participation is the core component for any social campaign to succeed, as they are for guerrilla marketing. Brands can take the extra step and encourage user participation by recognizing and rewarding their engagement, such as sharing UGC on the brand's social channels and responding to comments and feedback.
Here are some of the best guerrilla marketing campaigns from top brands you can't miss. Remember not to repurpose these ideas; instead, capture their ingenuity and be inspired.
This example is budget-friendly guerrilla marketing at its best. TikTok creator Daniel Aghashi wittily leverages guerrilla marketing to promote an app by casually skateboarding on college campuses with a box full of ping pong balls with the app's logo. After a dramatic yet intentional fall, he spills hundreds of ping pong balls, prompting people around him to pick them up with him.
In turn, the logo of the app he was promoting got tons of attention from the people helping him. Moreover, the same people posted his ping pong ball accident on their social media, which also got additional traction afterward.
This experiential guerrilla marketing tactic uses people's instincts to help those in need and a willingness to share a funny/unique moment with their friends on social media.
Playing on the words 'ice cream' and 'I scream,' this guerrilla marketing campaign took place on the streets of Singapore.
Using the digital signage that works as a barometer, the public was encouraged to scream for free McDonald's ice cream in front of the screen. Once they scream long and loud enough, the participant will pass the challenge and win a free ice cream cone coupon.
Another successful guerrilla marketing idea that was not just a sensation among the public that passed by but also among those online as the TikToks also went viral.
Axe Body Spray creatively repurposed the ever-common 'exit man' signage. This universal signage has a stick figure man running towards an exit door on a green background. Commonly known as the fire escape or emergency escape sign, it's easily spotted anywhere in a public building.
Axe Body Spray created a custom sticker that looked similar to the 'exit man' signage but with four women stick figures running towards something. When attached to the existing 'exit man' signage, the Axe Body Spray sticker created a story—female stick figures frantically running after the male stick figure. This guerrilla marketing campaign is a fresh twist on a familiar narrative of a stick-figure man trying to escape the fire through humor.
Guinness displays another delightful example by using everyday objects and turning them into guerrilla marketing campaigns. The brand places its logo on the end of the pool cues. As the cue tips are usually white on a pool pole, the added custom logo resembles its iconic glass filled with dark beer—a great reminder to grab a beer while playing pool.
Guinness takes guerrilla marketing tactics to another level by explicitly targeting pool players with immediate access to the beverage.
The quicker-picker-upper brand, Bounty, cleverly showcases its product with the solution the paper towel provides—cleaning up a big mess. In this case, by installing giant life-size popsicles in the heart of New York City. As the gigantic popsicle starts to melt, the people walking by can’t seem to ignore its oddity.
The success of this guerrilla marketing idea comes from its uniqueness. It may be easy to bypass a paper towel ad signage or billboard, but not a giant melting popsicle in the middle of the busiest streets in the world.
With Dash Hudson, you can easily optimize your guerrilla marketing campaign. Successful campaigns need to leverage multiple channels, but getting an accurate understanding of performance is difficult when they are all propagated in different places. Dash Hudson's newly minted Campaign Reporting can help aggregate insights from your owned, earned, and creator media. By doing so, brands can keep track of their own and all other syndicated content to measure the campaign's true effectiveness.
Knowing the right trends and staying relevant to your target audience can take time and effort. With the help of Dash Hudson's suite of tools, quickly uncover opportunities from Competitive Insights and Benchmarking. With Reporting, Insights, and Trends, brands can easily cut through the noise and deliver creative that truly resonates with your audience, ultimately driving ROI for your guerrilla marketing campaign.
Unlike traditional advertising, guerrilla marketing is a resourceful marketing tactic to drive publicity and increase brand awareness by directly connecting or interacting with the public. It breaks the norm with its unconventional ways and can reach many audiences with a constrained budget.
Guerrilla marketing can take many forms. They can be a custom sticker attached to the most common thing or a monumental art installation that seems out of proportion compared to the surrounding environment. It can also be digital/print signage, graffiti, street art, flash mobs, or even a stunt. It may not be apparent at first, but successful guerrilla marketing will definitely be noticeable despite its varied appearances.
Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy inspired by ‘guerrilla’ warfare tactics. The word refers to the small yet incongruous battles Spain fought against Napoleon’s invasion in the 19th century. Similar to the actual warfare tactic it originates from, guerrilla marketing tactics exploit the element of surprise and shock with unconventional methods.