Guerrilla Marketing can stretch your marketing budget
Guerrilla marketing is marketing activity, usually in a public place, that is disruptive, unconventional and often controversial. It may include visual illusions, or a message that cause people to stop and notice.
As advertising rapidly increased in the mid-20th century, consumers started to tune out and filter what they paid attention to. Marketers realized that they had to be clever and more creative to get noticed.
In 1984, marketing and business writer Jay Conrad Levinson published his book, Guerrilla Marketing, which described marketing and advertising ‘out of the box’ on a limited budget for small businesses. He used the term ‘guerrilla’ from ‘guerrilla warfare’ that contains impromptu, disruptive and surprise elements.
Guerrilla marketing originally focused on low-cost, grass-root strategies for small businesses but today it’s also used by large companies. The internet and social media allow small campaigns to quickly gain the attention of a larger audience.
A familiar example to many is Molson Coors Canada’s beer fridge. In 2013, a fridge with a Canadian flag was placed in inconspicuous locations in Europe. The only way to open the fridge (which was stocked with Molson beer), was to scan a Canadian passport. The campaign garnered massive attention and the beer fridge is now an iconic part of Molson’s advertising strategy.
Calgary’s RedBloom Salon is an example of a simple, low-cost guerrilla campaign that worked so well that it won the industry publication Salon Today’s annual marketing program’s award for guerrilla marketing in 2018.
Two lead stylists asked staff members of the salon why they love their job. They wrote all the responses on the salon’s windows with colourful markers. The campaign cost no more than $40 but caught the attention of hundreds of people walking passed the salon, and reached over 13,000 through Facebook. Photos of the initiative spread on social media under the hashtag #RedBloomPhilosophy.
As with any marketing campaign, reaching the target audience is key. That is something Raising the Roof, a Canadian charity dedicated to raising awareness and finding solutions to homelessness, and its advertising agency well understand in their unconventional, thought-provoking marketing.
In 2015, a large billboard was erected in an affluent Toronto neighbourhood saying that a homeless shelter would be opening on the location. The uproar was massive and immediate. People were extremely upset about a shelter being built in their neighbourhood. The next day, a new sign was unveiled in the same spot. This time it read “You told us you don’t want a shelter here. Neither do we. Support us in creating long-term solutions. Let’s end homelessness.” This campaign consisted essentially of just two billboards, but received attention by making it personal in an unexpected, unconventional way.
However, there is a fine line to walk in this type of marketing. Guerilla marketing can backfire if you don’t plan well. That’s something Coors Light experienced in with their ‘Search and Rescue’ campaign in Toronto. Briefcases were left in public places around the city containing clues that led to various prizes. Unfortunately, one of the unattended briefcases had people to call 911 which resulted in a complete road closure during rush hour. Another example of ‘guerrilla gone wrong’ was IKEA Canada’s campaign which was meant to promote IKEA’s catalogue with stenciled graffiti all over Vancouver, but that led to complaints of vandalism and violations of city bylaws.
Try it out
To get started, simple, attention grabbing techniques such chalk on the sidewalk, a cleverly designed poster with a surprising and unique message, or public (but legal) artwork and involvement in local events are all good ideas. Other popular techniques are product giveaways and ‘reverse graffiti’ which means using an area covered by graffiti and clean it to create a visible message such as a company logo.
Guerrilla marketing can benefit small and large companies—in particular start-ups and entrepreneurs on a limited marketing budget—to create awareness about your brand or product and get people talking. Guerrilla marketing can even work for the online, digital space with online networking events, webinars, videos and contests. The power of social media and the internet allows for initiatives to spread with minimal costs.
By understanding who your target audience is, and by using creative, out-of-the-box thinking, guerrilla marketing can be an excellent way to break through the advertising clutter without spending a fortune.