What is Guerrilla Marketing? Examples, Advantages & Strategies
Captain Tony’s Pizza in Cleveland, Ohio has a whopping 30% response rate on its coupons!
Yes…you read that right. A 30% response rate. On a plain and simple coupon.
Now you must be thinking that Captain Tony’s proprietor has pulled a memorable stunt to grab that kind of share. He must have commissioned a hot air balloon – multiple balloons in fact – to draw the attention of his coupon recipients and encourage an influx of pizza eaters to his parlor.
That is a good guess. But it is an expensive guess.
Captain Tony’s has gone a more unconventional route. It has hired a distributor to visit almost all the houses in and around the shop and stick post it coupons to the front doors of the homes.
It is a brilliant move. People do not throw the post-it away…after all, who wants to squander the chance to grab a discount? It inevitably ends up on the refrigerator. Where it is the first thing that greets the eye when hungry mouths come foraging.
The result? An unprecedented cash-in on the coupons and unplanned visits to Captain Tony’s Pizza parlor!
This is the essence of guerrilla marketing!
A moniker popularized by Jay Conrad Levinson that is aimed at small businesses with limited budgets, Guerrilla marketing is the predecessor of “growth hacking”.
In this piece we will dive into the pros of Guerilla marketing, learn how to set a campaign up and reference some innovative ways to get “Guerrilla” on your buyers.
What is Guerrilla Marketing?
The term was first coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book Guerrilla Marketing: Secrets for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business. Inspired by the covert tactics armed civilians employed in Vietnam to take advantage of the element of surprise and “ambush” more well equipped opponents, Guerrilla marketing also looks to offer an experience that is so delightful, so out of the ordinary that buyers are left amazed, impressed and willing to purchase.
The mainstay of Guerrilla marketing is using assets such as energy, imagination and innovation, not just money, to achieve goals like:
- Brand recall
- Positive feedback
- An undeniable Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Why Is Guerrilla Marketing So Effective?
Most buyers are inured to conventional methods of advertisement like segments on television, radio channel snippets, hoardings, banner ads and pop-ups.
Since these promotional messages are often discordant, that is they are not delivered at the right time or in the right context, viewers have trained themselves to tune out the interruptions. It is almost impossible to get or hold their attention.
This is where guerrilla marketing wins.
Guerrilla campaigns do not fixate on process, rules or structure. They do not follow best practices. The only focus is on ensuring that buyers feel special, privileged, positively surprised, intrigued or thrilled by the interaction with the brand.
Everything else is secondary.
It is because the emotions of the target audience are involved that Guerrilla marketing manages to reach more people, elicit more responses and generate more word of mouth publicity than conventional promotions.
- Guerrilla marketing is unexpected. That makes it memorable.. Since it moves away from tried and tested channels like the ads after the 9 PM segment or the predictable “thank you email”, prospects do not have “filters” to tune out Guerrilla promotions. They cut through the clutter and leave an impact. This is also known as “disrupt and reframe” where the norm is purposely disrupted and marketing messages are presented in a way that is out of the ordinary.
- Guerrilla marketing flips the edutainment switch. According to Bushra Azhar of the Persuasion Revolution when content or promotional messages flip the edutainment switch – that is they entertain while advertising, the ROI of the campaigns increases manifolds. Guerrilla marketers always give priority to an enjoyable experience and stand apart from their more “corporate” competitors.
- Guerrilla marketing associates a brand with innovation and authenticity. Coca Cola isn’t a small company. It is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. However it too has benefited from guerrilla marketing. Remember the Coke Happiness Machine? What made the campaign go viral is the sheer genuineness of the students’ reactions. The brand embraced guerrilla with élan.
- Guerrilla marketing is cost effective. There is a formula to determine the ROI of a Guerrilla campaign. It is (Return – Marketing Investment)/ (Marketing Investment). Guerrilla marketers from around the world have seen reductions of up to 90% in their ad spend thanks to the unconventional approach of going Guerrilla.
It is important to remember that guerrilla marketing is not about being whimsical. If you are experimenting with direct mail, you need to send them out pretty consistently. Frequency still matters.
The only difference is in the way the messages are conveyed and perceived. You can start out with lumpy mail, follow it up with a QR code on a postcard that has to be scanned to reveal a discount coupon and end your campaign with a scratch and sniff pieces that urges your customers to “wake up and smell the coffee” around your new offer. The options are practically endless.
Guerrilla, Growth Hacking & Going Viral: How are They Connected?
By this time you may find guerrilla marketing strangely familiar. Aren’t the basics of the approach the same as the basics of growth hacking and viral campaigns?
Yes, you are right.
With growth hacking brands try to find a way to encourage exponential growth over a very short period of time. And often the best results come from marketing in an unconventional or unexpected way.
Take Dropbox as an example.
It hit the sweet spot when it started offering free space to users if they referred the service to their friends. Soon Dropbox was installed on 250 million devices. This is often cited as a genius growth hack. But upon deeper contemplation, you find that Dropbox “disrupted” the notion of buying additional space and then reframed to position a referral as the “payment”.
Virality is defined as encouraging rapid shares or views of a piece of content by appealing to the emotions of the target audience. The concept of “going viral” is not separate from guerrilla marketing. In fact it is one of the most used strategies in the tool kit of a Guerrilla marketer.
You can think of growth hacking (or accelerated growth) as the goal, guerrilla marketing as the means and virality as the technique.
Guerrilla Marketing: Is it For the Big Brands?
Guerrilla marketing done right can work for well established companies as well. But there is a potential risk involved. Since Guerrilla campaigns are crafted from scratch to suit the requirements of a brand and they play directly on raw emotions, if they are not executed right, they might lead to disastrous results.
A prime example of this is the bomb scare that gripped Boston when the marketing unit of Aqua Teen Hunger Force decided to install flashing LED boards in shapes that resembled detonation devices.
If a startup goofs its Guerrilla attempt, very few people know! And those who do right it off as an amateurish experiment!
Larger organizations don’t have the luxury of anonymity and may have to pay for the bad press.
Common Guerrilla Marketing Strategies:
Guerrilla marketing encompasses a large number of strategies that utilize closer, more human connections with prospects, the element of surprise and innovation to leave a mark on buyers.
Here are a few of the most common techniques that bring in good results:
- Ambush Marketing: It is also referred to as stealth marketing. In this set-up the publicity generated by a global or national event is used by a brand to further its own interests. The 1996 summer Olympics was actually sponsored by Toyota but General Motors scored over its competitor by promising a Golden Holden car to all gold medal winners. The vast majority of people still believe that General Motors had sponsored the event.
- Undercover Marketing: In this approach “plants” or undercover agents mingle with prospects and extend the marketing message of the brand under the pretext of regular interactions. Sony Ericsson’s “Fake Tourist” campaign had actors requesting passers-by to click photos of them using their cell phone.
- Ambient Marketing: It is the most visually entertaining form of guerrilla marketing. Here signage and brand logos are placed against (or on) unusual items that aren’t accepted backdrops for advertisements. But leaving the definition here doesn’t do justice to the ingenuity of ambient marketing. The placement is clever and creative ensuring that it utilizing the item itself and the objects around the item to actually reinforce a core benefit of using the company’s offerings.
- Experiential Marketing: This is the hardest to define. Experiential marketing is meant to create a close bond between the buyer and the brand by allowing the user to immerse himself in an altered reality that drives home the features and benefits of a particular product. This abstract concept is best described through an example. Doc McStuffin is a television show about a young girl who treats toys in her imaginary clinic. Disney promoted this program through a number of “McStuffin Clinics” that were set up in stores. Kids were invited to play with special merchandise and watch television clips, taking turns to diagnose an adorable teddy bear named “Big Ted”.
How to Set Up a Guerrilla Marketing Campaign?
- Know your audience and its hidden psychographics. A guerrilla campaign’s success depends on how apt the content is and how well the promotional channel delivers it. Buyer segments have conspicuous habits – ones your competitors know and keep track of. And then they have hidden habits, preferences and pain points which others don’t articulate or pay attention to. You as the company need to identify what lies beyond the obvious and target this need or requirement through your strategies. Dropbox not only addressed the primary want of “storing files in the cloud”, it also incentivized its user bases’ tendency to brag about new solutions and wove the secondary need of “additional space” into the follow-up offer.
- Choose the strategy that will work for you. Do you want a viral video to speak about your brand? Or do you feel that stealth marketing is the right direction for you? Based on the resources you have available, the reach you want from the effort and your budget any of the several guerrilla marketing strategies discussed in this article may prove to be the right fit.
- Calculate the ROI. And make sure you don’t stop at the monetary profit. It is essential to factor in the cost of a failed guerrilla campaign. Will it impact present conversions? Or will the slip up go unnoticed?
- Leverage traction. Guerrilla campaigns can’t be duplicated. If they are repeated too many times, they lose their effectiveness. So you must structure a strong follow up to your marketing efforts including more promotional acts and ways to convert the traction and interest into buyers.
These are uncertain times. And sticking to the rules may lead to mediocrity. Guerrilla marketing is a mindset that allows companies to break free and focus almost completely on the buyers and their perspective.