What is Guerrilla Marketing?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Guerrilla marketing is a form of marketing which relies on the use of innovative, unexpected, and quirky techniques to familiarize people with a brand or concept. The goal is to gain exposure by being unusual, and to attract buzz and discussion along the way. This style of marketing is very well suited to small businesses and companies with limited advertising budgets, although major corporations around the world have also been involved in guerrilla marketing campaigns, some of which have been very successful.

Part of guerrilla marketing might include adding stencil designs to public spaces, like sidewalks and buildings.
Part of guerrilla marketing might include adding stencil designs to public spaces, like sidewalks and buildings.

This concept was first named and discussed by Jay Conrad Levinson in a 1984 book of the same name. Levinson put forward a number of guerrilla marketing principles in his book and sparked enthusiasm for the trend, further refining it in additional books, articles, and workshops. By the early 2000s, guerrilla marketing had become so common that it was mainstream.

This type of marketing can pop up anywhere. In conventional locations like billboards, magazines, and TV ads, guerrilla marketing often involves the use of a quirky or bizarre device, such as an unusually shaped billboard, a peculiar magazine ad, or a video advertisement that doesn't follow the normal formula. Sometimes, the very product being advertised may be obscured, forcing people to engage with the advertisement and do some research to find out what's going on. This, in turn, generates buzz as people discuss the ads, so the ads become a catalyst for introducing new people to the brand.

Viral marketing ploys are another guerrilla marketing technique, and they can involve anything from carefully seeded web videos which spark conversation to printing stencils on sidewalks in major cities to draw attention to a brand. Any sort of advertising technique which is new, fresh, and distinctive can be considered guerrilla marketing, especially if it evokes discussion, comment, or even controversy. Many of the tactics used are also low-cost, which can appeal to a company with a limited advertising budget.

As the term would suggest, this form of advertising involves a very flexible approach to marketing which is more like sniping than waging open war. Instead of plastering the media with advertisements to force consumers to recognize a brand, a guerrilla marketer relies on stealth and clever tactics to get people interested and engaged. These campaigns tend to be very memorable; few people can remember basic print ads for famous soft drinks, for example, but many consumers remember guerrilla marketing campaigns which generate controversy or intense interest.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I was reading that a lot of guerrilla marketing companies rely on free publicity in order to get some buzz for the product or service that they are trying to promote.

For example, if a company creates a controversial billboard many of the news channels will be talking about it and allows even more potential customers to be exposed to the brand.

The same could be said for a steamy television ad that may have to be pulled because of its suggestive content. This type of ad will not only generate exposure to millions of potential customers because all of the media outlets will be discussing it.

Many news programs might discuss the merits of the ad on their program and scores of stories will be written about the ad on the internet especially if it features a celebrity. This type of product marketing can yield great results.

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