Advertising can be an expensive path to travel down, especially as a small business with a very limited budget. Getting a 30-second ad on a radio station can cost you anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on where and when you want your ad played. If you want a television commercial, that will run you even more money. The high cost of advertising is essentially what led to the birth of guerrilla marketing.
What exactly is guerrilla marketing? It’s a little difficult to pin down to one solid definition but it’s generally defined as “an advertising strategy concept designed for businesses to promote their products or services in an unconventional way with little budget to spend. This involves high energy and imagination focusing on grasping the attention of the public on a personal and memorable level.” Many marketing experts have different opinions on what exactly describes guerrilla marketing, but what they can all agree on is that it doesn’t require a large budget and it doesn’t involve traditional media.
Guerrilla marketing can be tailored to almost any small business. However, depending on the industry, some businesses may have a more troublesome time doing a guerrilla campaign. Guerrilla marketing, at its core, is an unregulated, creative, and unconventional form of marketing and that can make it difficult for heavily regulated industries, like financial and insurance, to pull off.
Still unsure what guerrilla marketing looks like? There are a number of successful campaigns that you can find, but below I’ve listed a few of the more popular ones:
Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World)
This french organization provides emergency and long-term medical care to the world’s most vulnerable people and advocates to end health inequities. This group worked to fight homelessness in the Paris community by distributing tents to all the homeless. This campaign was known as “tent city” and commanded public attention when large clusters of tents started popping up all over the city. The French government, as a result, allocated $10 million for emergency housing.
Taco Liberty Bell Guerilla Marketing Campaign
In the mid-90’s, Taco Bell drummed up a lot of hysteria over a rumor that the company had purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell,” even going as far to create ads that backed up the claim. In the end, it turned out to be nothing more than a successful publicity stunt by the fast food giant that garnered a lot of attention.
Sony Playstation Graffiti
This is not a guerrilla marketing tactic I would recommend considering the questionable legality of what Sony did, but I decided to include it on the list because it did turn out to be a successful campaign. The Sony Corporation paid graffiti artists to decorate brick walls around New York City with playstation-themed images to generate excitement for the release of the PSP. There was a mixed reaction to the street advertisements, but it was a creative and innovative (admittedly illegal) way to market their product.
While the Sony campaign turned out to be rather successful, their tactics lead to my next part of this article: What NOT to do in a guerrilla marketing campaign.
Sony’s campaign was highlighted due to the innovation and success of it, but we have to keep in mind, they are a multi-billion dollar company that can afford to take those risks. For small businesses, however, there are more rules that need to be followed. Some things to avoid include:
- Provocation, scaring people or intentionally upsetting anyone. While these tactics could definitely increase the odds of your business garnering attention, it will likely be for all the wrong reasons.
- Being something you’re not. When you built your brand, you gave it a certain look, feel and personality to it. Don’t try to do something or behave in a way that doesn’t reflect what your brand is or what you stand for.
- Breaking the law.
Guerrilla marketing can be risky and challenging, but it can also be fun, creative and successful. When it comes down to it, Bianca Male from Business Insider said it perfectly:
“…guerrilla marketing can really mean anything, as long as it’s unexpected, non-traditional, and memorable. If your strategy embodies the spirit of your brand and your customers, it’s a winner.”