“Most people are great at absorbing information. Guerrilla marketing is needed because it gives small businesses a delightfully unfair advantage: certainty in an uncertain world, economy in a high-priced world, simplicity in an uncomplicated world, marketing awareness in a clueless world.” ~Jay Levinson


What is guerrilla marketing? Well, there is some difference of opinion around this subject. Some feel that guerrilla marketing is any kind of unique, unexpected marketing tactic that attracts attention and creates “buzz.” Others feel that if it incorporates traditional media (print, television) it is not guerrilla marketing. Still others believe that unless you are annoying city officials, it’s not guerrilla marketing. Jay Conrad Levinson, the guy who coined the phrase in his book Guerrilla Marketing, defines it as unconventional marketing intended to get maximum results from minimal resources. The building blocks of a guerrilla marketing campaign are imagination, time, energy, and the willingness and ability to take a risk.


Why would you use it? A well-planned and executed guerrilla marketing campaign can be extremely effective. Consider the promotion of the Blair Witch Project, which essentially created a monster out of thin air, and transformed a low-budget film into a blockbuster movie that turned an enormous profit.


What are the drawbacks to guerrilla marketing? Like any marketing campaign, if something goes awry, it can be messy. Do your research and make sure your team is media trained and able to properly respond to positive or negative feedback.


When does it work? There are no guarantees. That’s the point – it’s a risk. However, chances for success are better if the campaign has been well-planned, is appropriate for the industry and audience, is not aiming to incite fear, and (probably) won’t land anyone in jail.


When is guerrilla marketing the wrong choice? Some industries aren’t as well suited to guerrilla marketing. More conservative organizations would want to proceed with caution, because it’s usually more difficult for them to take risks; however, that doesn’t mean they can’t have clever marketing!


Can it work for larger businesses? If you don’t agree with the purist philosophy that only small businesses can truly execute guerrilla marketing, there are lots of examples of big businesses that have had great results using these unexpected marketing methods. Nike and Coca-Cola each had successful campaigns involving vending machines. Medecins du Monde’s tent city campaign helped raise millions of dollars for emergency relief for homeless people of France. And arguably the simplest of them all – the Pepsi Challenge: a table, two unmarked cups, and the confidence that their product would speak for itself as the winner.


What do you think? Is guerrilla marketing an approach you would consider? Have any success or “don’t do this” stories to share? Speak up in the comments!

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