What Is Guerrilla Marketing and How Does It Work?

What Is Guerrilla Marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is a marketing strategy in which a corporation promotes a product or service through surprise and/or unusual interactions.

The term “guerrilla marketing” was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in 1984, as a solution for small companies who can’t afford the expensive marketing campaigns used by larger companies and corporations.

It was named with guerrilla warfare in mind, a strategy used by smaller groups of combatants to compete against larger and more traditional armies.

Guerrilla warfare leverages creativity and surprises to enhance the impact of limited resources available and catch the enemy off guard.

Guerrilla marketing leverages unconventional methods to achieve conventional goals in an inexpensive way. Guerrilla marketing strategies are ideal for small businesses that want to make a big impact.

Guerrilla marketing differs from traditional marketing in that it frequently relies on human interaction, has a lower budget, and focuses on local groups of promoters who are responsible for spreading the word in a specific place rather than through broad media campaigns.


  • Guerrilla marketing is the use of novel or unconventional methods in order to boost sales or attract interest in a brand or business.
  • These methods are often low-cost or no-cost and involve the widespread use of more personal interactions or viral social media messaging.
  • This marketing method has increased in popularity with the rise of ubiquitous mobile and connected technologies that can amplify messaging and focus on target groups of consumers.

Guerrilla Marketing Explained

Companies that use guerrilla marketing rely on viral marketing, or word-of-mouth, to spread their in-your-face promotions to a wider audience for free. Guerrilla marketing relies on a connection to a customer’s emotions. 

The use of this tactic is not designed for all types of goods and services, and it is often used for more “edgy” products and to target younger consumers who are more likely to respond positive. 

Guerrilla marketing takes place in public places that offer as big an audience as possible, such as streets, concerts, public parks, sporting events, festivals, beaches, and shopping centers. 

One key element of guerrilla marketing is choosing the right time and place to conduct a campaign so as to avoid potential legal issues.

Guerrilla marketing can be indoor, outdoor, an “event ambush,” or experiential, meant to get the public to interact with a brand.

Guerrilla Marketing History

Guerrilla marketing arose as a result of the shift away from traditional print, radio, and television marketing to electronic media. Jay Conrad Levinson, who originated the term in his 1984 book, Guerrilla Marketing,

Its purpose is to generate buzz around a product or brand in order to increase the possibility that a customer would buy the product or service or tell others about it.

For small businesses, guerrilla marketing can be incredibly cost-effective, especially if they are able to generate viral marketing phenomena.

Guerrilla Marketing Types

There are several kinds of guerrilla marketing. Some examples include:

Guerrilla Marketing Tactics

Guerrilla marketing exists both online and off and utilizes creative ways to resonate with people in a unique manner. Below are four distinguishing characteristics of guerrilla marketing tactics. A method that meets all four of these characteristics is what categorizes it as a guerrilla marketing tactic.

However, some methods may focus on one that requires more than others, depending upon the objective of the campaign and the stage of the business running it.

1. Low Budget

The chief goal of guerrilla marketing tactics is to spend the lowest amount of money and get the highest impact. If you have to invest in any marketing method, such as by hiring a team to create a promotional film, this would not be a considered a guerrilla marketing tactic.

On the contrary, getting a few of your coworkers together to make a quick video for YouTube or a Facebook ad, would be considered a guerrilla marketing tactic.

2. Nontraditional

Guerrilla marketing tactics are not just low budget; they must also be nontraditional. For example, producing business cards or stickers are cheap methods of marketing, but they are also widely used by many businesses. Producing business cards that have a knock-knock joke on them, on the other hand, would be a nontraditional twist.

The nontraditional aspect of guerrilla marketing for small business is a good characteristic to focus on if you are a more well established business in your community. When customers are used to you doing things a certain way, changes will stick out more.

If you’re a newer small business without established practices, it may be harder to for customers to recognize the change, so it will not grab their attention as strongly.

The term “nontraditional” can also apply to your industry or to business in general. Think of the most basic things you do, both in your business and when engaging with other businesses that come as second nature, such as filling out forms and answering phones. Then find alternative ways to carry those out or put a twist on them.

3. Memorable

With guerrilla marketing for small business, you don’t just want to get your name in front of people. You want to get your name inside their head and you want it to stay there.

People remember things that stick out to them, so nontraditional actions automatically fulfill the memorable requirement of guerrilla marketing. However, there are other ways of being memorable, such as with powerful Facebook ad images, or using catchy songs or rhyming slogans.

The memorable aspect of guerrilla marketing tactics is an especially important point of focus for new businesses. When people are presented with an ad or piece of content from a business with whom they are less familiar, they are less likely to engage.

The more memorable you can make yourself to them, the easier it will be for them to recall your business name when presented with an ad or piece of content, and the more likely they are to engage with it.

4. Unexpected

A pleasant surprise or a spin on something commonplace or ordinary is a terrific approach to pique people’s interests and engage them. Rather than simply knowing about or being exposed to your brand, people must make meaning of something that surrounds it.

This necessitates them involving more sections of their brain with your brand, giving it a stronger mental presence. Guerrilla marketing strategies’ surprise element is beneficial to both new and established small enterprises.

Advantages of Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing for small business can be risky. Due to their unique nature, you can’t exactly iterate on the same tactic, so it is somewhat hit or miss. However, when done right, there are many advantages of guerrilla marketing tactics to be enjoyed.

1. Costs Little

As stated above, guerrilla marketing involves making do with the resources that you have. Because you can’t afford much, you have make sure that what you can afford has a big impact.

Having maximum effect with a minimum hit to your wallet is one of the advantages of guerrilla marketing.

2. Spreads the Word

Guerrilla marketing is one of the many methods you can use to get the word out about your small business. Guerrilla marketing tactics are focused on grabbing people’s attention in a unique and personal way, of creating an experience that people will want to talk to others about or share.

The second advantage of guerrilla marketing is that it can increase social media engagement and trigger word-of-mouth, which is an especially powerful marketing

tool for small businesses.

3. Increases Brand Recognition

Guerrilla marketing tactics are powerful but lightweight methods of getting a specific message across. This message is meant to be in line with the essence of your brand, the mission of your company, and the values you stand for.

In this sense, the advantage of guerrilla marketing for small business is that it facilitates the distlling of your brand into its most powerful components and effectively conveying them to your audience.

4. Facilitates Employee Engagement

Guerrilla marketing tactics require creativity, and it is a known fact that a group is likely to come up with a more creative idea than any one individual.

Bringing your employees together to brainstorm a guerrilla marketing tactic is a great team building activity, and encourages communication in a fun context. The different and creative thinking may also be a refreshing break from your employees’ typical day-to-day.

Engaging your employees is essential because a happy team is a productive team. In addition, your employees are your most valuable promoters. So it’s important to keep them happy!

5. Facilitates Collaboration

Some of the most effective guerrilla marketing tactics involve partnering with other small business, sponsoring a community event, or joining forces with a neighbor.

The collaboration advantages of guerrilla marketing strengthen your relationship with your community as well as your employees.

6. Boosts Conversions

The point of guerrilla marketing is to make a high impact at a low cost. To make a high impact, you must target the right audience at the right time, and appeal to the appropriate emotions and interests.

When you follow these practices and make a high impact on people, the chances of those people turning into customers are greater. Leads are important for your business, but they are not very valuable if they don’t convert into customers.

There are many ways to increase conversions from leads to customers, and guerrilla marketing is one of them.

The advantage of guerrilla marketing here is that because it is so specified and targeted, there is a greater chance that the people you reach will become customers, rather than simply leads.

7. Keeps You On Top Of Your Business

Guerrilla marketing can be hit or miss, so it is important to make sure your tactic is carefully planned out and highly specified. You’ll want to identify a concrete objective and resonate with a certain type of customer in a certain way.

This requires knowledge of your business goals, marketing plan, customers, community, and even your competitors.

Before planning out a guerrilla marketing tactic, it is absolutely essential to check back in and make sure you have an accurate and up-to-date understanding within each of these areas.

The last advantage of guerrilla marketing is that it forces you to make sure you’re carrying out your marketing plan and learning about your customers, which are two essential components of growing a successful small business.

Guerrilla marketing for small business involves finding unique ways to achieve common objectives. Nontraditional, memorable, and unexpected will look different from business to business.

The key to coming up with effective guerrilla marketing tactics is to know both your business needs and your audience, and to take your thinking out of the box.

While there are millions of small businesses out there and millions of marketing campaigns going on at any given moment, there is only one of you! Find that special approach your business can take and you will find that a little can indeed go a long way.

Guerrilla Marketing Mistakes

With the risks inherent to guerrilla marketing, and the sometimes uncharted territory it travels in, there are a number of examples of campaigns gone awry.

  • In 2007, the Cartoon Network promoted a show by placing LED signs resembling a character from the show all over Boston. The signs created a bomb scare and cost Turner Broadcasting (the network’s parent) $2 million in fines.
  • In a 2005 Guinness World Record attempt, Snapple promoted its new frozen treats by erecting a 25-foot popsicle in a New York City park. It melted faster than expected, covering the park in sticky goo, requiring the fire department to come and hose it down.

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