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Have you noticed that a growing number of YouTube’s pre-roll ads are now unskippable? Most of the time, this is simply annoying. However, a promo ad for the upcoming horror movie, The Nun, was more than just a little irksome. YouTube pulled the seven-second spot because it contained a jump scare that violated the channel’s “violent and shocking content” policy. Not surprisingly, YouTube’s removal of the ad has given the movie a huge amount of publicity. What this reminds us of, though, is how impactful guerrilla marketing still is.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is unexpected, unconventional, original, imaginative, etc. Its goal is to surprise and engage the target audience, generate buzz, and possibly go viral.

The original term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book ‘Guerrilla Advertising’. The term guerrilla marketing was inspired by guerrilla warfare which is a form of irregular warfare and relates to the small tactic strategies used by armed civilians. Many of these tactics include ambushes, sabotage, raids and elements of surprise. Much like guerrilla warfare, guerrilla marketing uses the same sort of tactics in the marketing industry . . .Guerrilla marketing is said to make a far more valuable impression with consumers in comparison to more traditional forms of advertising and marketing. This is due to the fact that most guerrilla marketing campaigns aim to strike the consumer at a more personal and memorable level.*

Offline Guerrilla Marketing

In the real world, examples are everywhere:

  • Billboards
  • Crosswalks
  • Walls
  • Door Handles
  • Buses
  • Pop-up Shops

Basically, if there’s public space available, there is the potential for guerrilla marketing. If we return for a moment to the horror movie genre, we can examine a great campaign for last year’s blockbuster It. To promote the movie in Sydney, Australia, red balloons were tied to storm drains and messages stating, “It’s closer than you think. #It movie in cinemas September 7” were stenciled on the sidewalk. The balloons were a creative idea, but by stenciling the hashtag on the sidewalk, marketers were inviting the public’s interaction. In other words, they were asking them to take what they saw in the real world and explore it further in the digital one. Thus, the buzz created offline continues online.

Online Guerrilla Marketing

Social media has made guerrilla marketing easier for marketers because now the target audience is doing some of the work. Consider this: every time you retweet or share a piece of advertising online you are a guerrilla marketer. Also, your followers aren’t expecting to see this kind of content, unless your feed is full of retweets and shares of marketing messages. You are presenting them with something unexpected and extending the reach of the original post.

Guerilla Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

For business owners, this is good news. You can facilitate social sharing and your own guerrilla marketing in various ways:

  1. Follow social media integration best practices on your site: If you have product pictures on display, include clickable icons on each one that make it simple for your audience to share them on social media.
  2. Participate in social media group discussions: Making valuable contributions to group discussions on topics you are knowledgeable about is the first step. Once you’ve established yourself as a good source of information, it’s time to promote your products and services when opportunities present themselves.
  3. Start livestreaming: How exciting is it to stumble upon a video of something that is happening now?! The immediacy and a feeling of being a part of the event is engaging.
  4. Launch a contest: Be creative, though. Too many contests are just a way of gathering emails. Have people do something fun like vote for the name of your company mascot or take post photos of themselves with your product in interesting locations.
  5. Become a podcaster: Again, make this fun. Interview engaging people in your industry. Ask customers about their experiences with your products and services. Tell some great anecdotes about building your business, and what you’ve learned from those experiences.

Have you tried guerrilla marketing? Share your ideas in the comments.


*”What Is Guerrilla Marketing? 11 Examples to Inspire Your Brand” HubSpot. 2023. Web. 17 Aug. 2021.

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