Nearly as difficult to define as it is to implement, guerilla marketing is highly innovative and absurdly effective, bulldozing into consumers’ consciousness with unconventionality, surprise, and just a little bit of rebellion. Think Oscar Meyer’s wiener mobile, Red Bull’s pit stop in the middle of Time Square, and Good Year’s infamous blimp. But those are just the campaigns that most people are aware of; in general, this tactic is budget friendly yet delivers a huge punch.
Who it works for
If you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone, get creative, and take a solid risk, you can make guerilla marketing work for you. While the most famous campaigns don’t seem cheap on the surface (that blimp runs a cool $21 million, excluding operating costs), it’s one of the most effective marketing tactics out there, and can easily be scaled and reworked for just about any business and budget.
Examples that work (but make them your own)
You’re probably not going to buy a blimp or hire a whole crew to do a pit stop in Time Square, but that’s not the point of guerilla marketing. Those national companies spent some cash, but they got way more in return than they put out. Here are some examples of guerilla marketing that don’t require a seemingly bottomless budget:
Get clever with signage. Hit up any ‘what’s funny on the internet’ post and you’ll probably see a bar or restaurant’s sandwich board with a clever message. And you don’t even need to buy a sign; grab some chalk and write funny messages on the sidewalk outside of your storefront every day.
Take over a corner of your town. Get the city or property owner in on this, because fines could quickly make your cheap idea expensive. But swapping out street signs or public transportation signs (that you’ll replace after the campaign) with something quirky related to your brand, mowing your logo into the park’s grass, spray painting a huge mural on the side of a building (with the owner’s permission – can’t stress that enough), or power washing your logo onto a dirty slab of concrete, all blow your audiences’ minds and make them remember you.
Get super entertaining. Make a short video with your team that encompasses your message in a hilarious or heart warming manner, grab a projector, and turn it on at night so passerbys can enjoy. No storefront? No problem. Promote the video on social media.
Add some fun to your emails. Turn a picture you’ve taken while working or a funny, industry-specific photo into a meme and include it in a secret link in your email signature. Clients and prospects will eventually figure it out, and they won’t forget the company that makes them laugh with every contact. Host the meme on your website and remember to swap it out frequently to keep things fresh.
Update that flagship eBook. You know, the one you give people for signing up for your newsletter. Edit it so it’s funny, clever, and/or sarcastic, throw in some hilarious images, and host a giveaway on social media. Word will quickly spread about the quirky update (just make sure the facts are still valuable).
What to avoid
Guerilla marketing should be surprising, but kind hearted and fun.
Don’t try to make people angry or uncomfortable. ‘Ruffling feathers’ doesn’t mean being insensitive, cruel, or inflammatory.
Keep things legal. Discuss any plans that could get you in hot water with a lawyer.
Don’t be a copycat. If a competitor just hosted a flash mob in a downtown area, don’t do the same thing.
And, don’t focus on going viral. Your goal here is to target a small segment of your audience and then give them something fun, memorable, and enjoyable. If you get some notoriety out of it, that’s awesome; if you don’t, you’ve still given your customers even more reason to stick with you.