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Guerilla Marketing: A Primer For The New Business Owner

Guerilla marketing shares a name with this type of warfare for a reason. Surprise ambushes are a tried-and-true tactic for grabbing attention and leaving an impression.

Guerilla marketing is an unconventional and low-cost marketing technique that maximizes a product’s exposure and minimizes a company’s risk. A bare-bones budget doesn’t have to mean a subpar marketing campaign. Learn how to use guerilla marketing to its fullest potential to grow your brand without going in the red.

Understand the Nature of Guerilla Marketing

Guerilla marketing is a nontraditional marketing method that cuts out the expense of other types of marketing campaigns. Guerilla marketing is a fantastic resource for small businesses. It has the power to make a big impact without needing excessive financial backing.

Small businesses and startups often don’t have the available funds to spend on marketing techniques that may or may not work. Instead of running the risk of breaking the bank and getting zero returns, small businesses turn to guerrilla marketing. Guerilla marketing is any type of marketing tactic that fulfills three qualifications:

1. Innovative

Copying others’ marketing techniques is not the way to impress today’s experience-hungry consumers. Consumers will only respond well to an ad campaign when the marketing is creative and innovative. During guerilla marketing, the company does not re-purpose someone else’s idea. Instead, it comes up with its own unique way to generate awareness.

2. Unconventional

Unlike big corporations, small businesses typically have a tight budget for sending their message to the public. With a smaller budget comes a greater need for nontraditional marketing tactics. Guerilla marketing has to be surprising. It has to change a space and grab the attention of people passing by. It uses shock value to its advantage, creating advertisements and campaigns consumers can’t miss.

3. Low-cost

Guerilla marketing is notoriously cheap to create and execute. It doesn’t take a large budget or a team of experts. All that’s needed is a creative, powerful idea and the determination to make it happen. Guerilla marketing can be as simple as sidewalk graffiti. It’s more a state of mind than an actual thing. Thus, it has no price tag.


Marketing is essential for new businesses, but it can also be expensive. Guerilla marketing enables a business with virtually any budget to get a solid return on marketing investments. Now that you know the basic principles of guerilla marketing, learn a few tips for initiating your own newsworthy campaign.

Know How Your Target Audience Thinks

As is the case with any good marketing campaign, your message will fall on deaf ears if you don’t consider how your target audience thinks and behaves. Guerilla marketing especially emphasizes the importance of understanding your audience because it could go terribly wrong otherwise.

One infamous example of this pitfall is when the owners of Casa Sanchez, a taqueria in California, promised free burritos for life to anyone who got a tattoo of the company’s logo. While this guerilla campaign certainly got people talking, it backfired.

The Sanchez family didn’t realize its audience would be so easily persuaded to get the tattoo. After 40 people took them up on the offer, the Sanchez’s realized they were in the hole about $5.8 million if each person who got the tattoo demanded their lifetime of burritos. They quickly backtracked and capped the offer to the first 50 people.

While this marketing technique is based on innovation and surprise, guerilla marketing is only as effective as the careful planning that goes into it.


You may want your audience to believe your campaign was spur-of-the-moment to grab attention, but in reality, it should be a carefully thought-out strategy: First, identify your target audience.

Then, find out what type of advertisement would speak to them the most. A millennial audience might appreciate a flash mob dance, for example, while an older audience might be more inclined toward tasteful surprise art installations.

Identify Your Marketing Goals

Guerilla marketing may be unconventional, but it has the same end-goal as any other type of marketing: getting consumers to follow your call to action. If you don’t pinpoint specific goals for your guerilla marketing campaign, you can’t expect consumers to understand your message or follow through.

The Ice Bucket Challenge, for example, was a clever marketing tactic with definite shock value. However, it had a clear point – to spread awareness and get donations for Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ASL). Without this goal, nobody (certainly no celebrities) would have gone along with the wild stunt.

Ask yourself: What is the core message I’m trying to send? If you’re trying to raise awareness of an issue, such as pollution or trash on the streets, think of all the ways you can achieve this goal in an unconventional way.


If you want consumers to reach out to your brand after seeing the campaign, consider including your company website address on whatever you decide to do. Once you identify your goals, you can gain a better idea of what kind of stunt would best express what you want to say.

Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Guerilla marketing wouldn’t be effective without a large does of creativity and innovation. The more creative an ad campaign is, the more consumers will react and engage with the brand. By its nature, guerilla marketing is memorable.

Brainstorm ideas with your team, opening the discussion to many people for the best chance of coming up with a gem. Browse through a few interesting guerilla marketing ideas to see if one speaks to you – but remember, don’t simply replicate someone else’s clever brainchild. Incorporate your company’s unique touch.

While creativity is at the heart of guerilla marketing, it is possible to take things too far. It can be tempting to pull a loud, disruptive, or completely off-the-wall stunt to attract attention to your company. However, remember that not all press is good press.

Take the Vodafone streaking incident, for example. Vodafone paid two men to streak across the field of a rugby match wearing nothing but the company logo painted on their backs. The men were detained and fans were furious about the game’s interruption. Needless to say, Vodafone didn’t gain any positive press from the stunt.

Remain true to your brand during your guerilla campaign and stay on the right side of the law. Don’t do anything that could compromise your company’s image, get you into legal trouble, or make your audience angry or upset. Guerilla marketing sounds aggressive, but the goal is to get people talking about your brand in a positive way.


Guerilla marketing works because it’s simple to understand, easy to execute, and incredibly inexpensive. Small businesses should leverage guerilla marketing to have a distinct advantage over their larger competitors.

Pull out your notepad, get your team together, and start brainstorming the next viral guerilla marketing campaign!

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