Guerrilla Marketing: An In-Depth Guide for Small Businesses

Learn how to create a successful guerrilla marketing campaign for your small businesses using these tips, and gather some inspiration from these five successful examples.

Updated August 13, 2020

Let me guess: You want a marketing strategy so crafty and unique your customers are rendered helpless against it, don’t you? But you want something low-cost and highly effective that ends in your customers taking out their wallets.

Believe it or not, such marketing methods exist. That’s what guerrilla marketing strategies are all about.

While seeing a spike in audience engagement and sales, businesses that use guerrilla marketing are often lauded for their clever approach — it’s that good.


Overview: What is guerrilla marketing?

Guerrilla marketing uses low-cost and unconventional marketing campaigns to reach a broad audience and produce great results.

At its core, it’s about taking your audience by surprise and making an impact with non-mainstream methods. Compared to other types of marketing strategies, guerrilla marketing emphasizes creativity and unconventional methods.

Small businesses can run a high-performing marketing campaign by being creative and smart through guerrilla marketing. But big brands, like Coca-Cola, also use guerrilla campaigns to complement their media plans.


The 3 types of guerrilla marketing

Guerrilla marketing is a niche, but it can be broken down into different types. The following are the most commonly used guerrilla campaigns.

1. Ambush marketing

Brands that join events to promote their products, services, or awareness without the event organizers’ permission or knowledge are doing ambush marketing.

Ambush marketing also takes advantage of other campaigns to generate attention.

Canadian home improvement firm Rona, for example, saw an opportunity with Apple’s iPod billboard and placed their paint advertisement directly below it. It’s a simple but creative way of ‘hitchhiking’ on Apple’s campaign.

Apple's iPod Nano ad on top and Rona's paint ad below.

Rona used Apple's billboard ad to promote their own campaign. Source: wordstream.com.

2. Grassroots guerrilla marketing

Most marketing strategies target large groups of people; grassroots guerrilla marketing does the opposite.

This marketing plan targets a small audience believing they’ll spread the message to larger groups. It’s relatively affordable to run grassroots marketing campaigns because they focus on a few people.

The Dove Real Beauty campaign is a good example of an inspiring and memorable grassroots marketing campaign.

3. Stealth marketing

Stealth marketing has a lot to do with subtlety. You promote your products or services so your audience won’t even notice.

Popular examples of stealth marketing are free taste samples or product placements on television shows and movies. This marketing method is mostly used to stir audience interest rather than generating immediate sales.

Is guerrilla marketing right for your small business?

While guerrilla marketing yields amazing results despite the relatively small amount of money you put in, it isn’t always the best marketing strategy to use. Consider these situations to know if you should use guerrilla marketing.

When guerrilla marketing makes sense

Guerrilla marketing makes sense under these circumstances.

  • Reduce marketing spend: The efficacy of guerrilla marketing campaigns hinges primarily on creativity rather than marketing budget. With guerrilla advertisements, you focus on unique ideas instead of the funds for your marketing campaigns.
  • Capture your audiences’ attention: Because guerrilla marketing is unconventional, people are often captivated by the advertising campaign. This makes it easier for businesses to capture the attention of their customers.
  • Create something memorable: Most people are shocked when they come across guerrilla advertisements. And because of that, they are likely to remember the experience and your brand.

When other marketing tactics may be a better fit

Avoid using guerrilla marketing for these situations or goals.

  • Targeting a general audience: Guerrilla campaigns work because they resonate with a specific group of people. Consider using other channels, such as social media or paid ads, to market to a broader audience.
  • Generating sales: Guerrilla marketing is often used for brand awareness and relationships with customers. Rarely is it used (or expected) to generate immediate sales. Pay-per-click (PPC) and email marketing are some of the best marketing channels to generate sales.
  • No time to manage your marketing campaigns: Guerrilla advertisements require a lot of thinking. Outstanding creativity takes time. You’ll probably come up with mediocre advertisements if you don’t have enough time to sit down and give your marketing campaigns careful thought. Use marketing automation tools instead to create quick and streamlined campaigns.

5 guerrilla marketing examples to inspire your small business

To get a better context of guerrilla marketing, let’s take a look at several guerrilla marketing examples from big and small brands.

1. IHOP to IHOb

In 2018, IHOP briefly changed its name to IHOb (International House of Burgers) to promote its full burger menu.

Photo of IHOP's store sign changed to an IHOb logo

IHOP trended online after changing their name to IHOb to promote burgers. Source: blog.bizzabo.com.

The sudden name change created a buzz on social media. Their tweet announcing the change alone had over 5 billion impressions in its first week and was a trending topic online.

The name change was on their website and social media accounts only. The signage in its physical stores remained as IHOP.

2. GoldToe dresses statues

GoldToe placed shirts and undergarments on famous New York City statues to promote their new line.

Photo of New York's charging bull wearing an undergarment.

GoldToe turned heads after using this simple and cost-effective marketing campaign. Source: blog.bizzabo.com.

The campaign took place during New York Fashion Week taking advantage of the event’s audience and purpose. This was a successful yet simple and cost-effective campaign by GoldToe.

3. Prestige’s strong handles

Kitchen appliance shop Prestige fully used a billboard to showcase its products’ strong handles.

Photo of a frying pan that illustrates the billboard’s pole as a handle.

Prestige uses the entire billboard to emphasize the strong handle of the frying pan. Source: blog.bannersnack.com.

It’s a good example of ambient marketing as it emphasizes the cookware’s best feature by taking advantage of the billboard’s structure.

4. Dental posters

A dental clinic cleverly promotes its services using a dental shaped ad stuck on a telephone pole. This was a memorable and brilliant example of street guerrilla marketing for small businesses.

Teeth shaped poster wrapped around a pole.

It's a simple and clever ad for promoting a dental clinic. Source: keap.com.

This proves that guerrilla marketing doesn’t always have to be over-the-top to surprise or delight people.

5. Labello lip balm’s kissing point

Labello placed spots on train stations for travelers to kiss their loved ones. Successful guerrilla campaigns not only turn heads but also inspire people to participate.

Photo of two people kissing on the kissing point sticker

The simple kissing point sticker encourages travelers to engage with the campaign. Source: keap.com.


Maximize your campaign with guerrilla marketing

Successful guerrilla campaigns rely on creativity, impact, and connection. These campaigns don’t have to be extravagant to catch attention. Simple and clever marketing ideas that highlight a problem and offer a solution work wonders.

Remember, guerrilla marketing is not about you, but your audience. Study and know your audience well so you can create guerrilla campaigns that connect and engage with your niche.

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