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What is guerilla marketing?

Here’s why so many brands are turning to guerilla marketing, and how to find out if it will work for your brand.

Some of the best moments in life are the ones that are totally unexpected.

The surprise birthday party; the unexpected call from a long-lost friend; that higher-than-expected tax refund. These are the moments that stick with us in our memories; that we look back on with delight.

Yet, anyone who has seen their cat run through the house with a mouse in its mouth will tell you that not all surprises are good. Some miss the mark; sometimes what seems like a good idea to one person can be annoying to another.

When guerilla marketing works well, it can really elevate a brand, increase sales, and deepen customer engagement, which is why so many are including the element of surprise in their marketing strategies. But you want to get it right.

Here’s why so many brands are turning to guerilla marketing, and how to find out if it will work for your brand.

What is guerilla marketing?

Guerilla marketing is a surprise or unexpected tactic used to promote a brand.

Guerilla marketing is an immersive experience usually involving personal interaction with a small group but relies heavily on that group talking about it to spread the word and elevate the marketing reach.

Guerilla marketing activities are conducted in public places – often in busy streets, parks, or at festivals – and can take many forms, depending on the brand identity and the customers the brand wishes to attract.

What is the history of guerilla marketing?

Guerilla marketing is a term coined by marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book Guerrilla Marketing, in which he drew parallels between warfare tactics, such as ambush and raids, and marketing.

The marketing industry took note and by the turn of the century, guerilla marketing tactics were being used on TV and radio, as well as in real life.

Types of guerilla marketing

When we think of guerilla marketing, we might instantly think of flash mobs or pop-up stalls, but really, the execution of guerilla marketing is only limited to your imagination.

Here are some of the different types of guerilla marketing:

Indoor guerilla marketing

Indoor guerilla marketing used enclosed spaces to generate brand awareness.

This type of marketing can happen at places like train stations, festivals, shops and university campuses and can include surprise stalls, art installations, performance pieces, and music.

In 2009, T-Mobile sponsored a flash mob at Liverpool Street Station in London, which gained more than 41 million views on YouTube, won TV commercial of the year at the British Television Advertising Awards, and converted to a 52 per cent boost in sales.

Outdoor guerilla marketing

Outdoor guerilla marketing happens in open spaces, adding the unexpected to the streetscapes we expect to look the same every day, and can include putting something removable onto a public statue, or adding artwork on sidewalks and streets.

One example of an outdoor guerilla marketing campaign was when Swedish furniture company IKEA placed full-size couches and cabinets at bus stops in Sydney and Perth to mark the launch of its 2018 catalogue. Representatives then handed out copies of the IKEA catalogue to commuters and passers-by, and gave away Opal and Smart Rider cards.

Guerilla marketing: A giant rubber ducks floats in Hong Kong’s harbour as part of an art installation by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman.

Guerilla marketing: A giant rubber ducks floats in Hong Kong’s harbour as part of an art installation by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman.

Event ambush guerilla marketing

Perhaps the riskiest form of guerilla marketing, event ambush guerrilla marketing engages members of an audience at events such as concerts or sporting matches.

It might involve a mascot dancing with audience members or asking participants to join in a video vox pop.

Experiential guerilla marketing

It can be indoor or outdoor, but the defining feature of experiential guerilla marketing is that it requires direct personal interaction, such as a make-up brand offering free makeovers, or a new cafe handing out free coffees to commuters at a train station.

Pros and cons of guerilla marketing

When done well, guerilla marketing can be inexpensive and requires just a few people over a short time period – the real marketing value is when people talk about it, or it goes viral online. That’s when your customers turn into marketing vehicles.

Guerilla marketing can show your brand to be creative, fun, and personable – and right there on the ground with you.

But best of all, guerilla marketing is memorable. It isn’t a sign that people see, or an ad people hear on the radio, it becomes part of people’s day; part of their memories.

Guerilla marketing is not without its risks, though. There’s only so much you can predict, and it can go horribly wrong. Some people get annoyed by surprises; some people don’t enjoy interacting with strangers, even if they are dressed up as fun mascots.

Failed guerilla marketing can embarrass a brand; fail to get all the necessary permits and you may end up in legal trouble. Results are also hard to measure.

Is guerilla marketing right for your brand?

Guerilla marketing can make a lasting impression on potential customers, but it isn’t for every brand.

Here are some questions you need to ask to discover if it is right for you:

  • Do you have a fun, new idea for engaging customers?
  • Is that idea culturally sensitive to the location or in keeping with the values of your audience?
  • How will passers-by interact with the campaign, and what is the likelihood they will?
  • What message will the event send and is it in keeping with your brand identity?
  • Is it legal, or what legal approvals do you need to obtain?
  • What potential controversies may arise?
  • Does it have the potential to go viral?

Speak to the marketing experts

It takes that delicate balance of creativity and marketing prowess to successfully pull off guerilla marketing. At Assemblo, we look at marketing holistically to ascertain the best marketing strategy for your brand.

Assemblo is a full-service marketing agency based in Melbourne, and we understand the role of all marketing activities, including guerilla marketing, in your marketing mix.

To find out how we can help your business, give us a call on (03) 9079 2555 or send us a note via the contact form below.

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