Guerilla marketing is about connecting with prospects when they’re not expecting it and engaging with them on an emotional level, says BDC Senior Business Advisor Rony Israel.
How does it work? Here are some tips and examples.
1. Guerilla marketing is disruptive
Israel tells the story of coming home one day to the usual stack of flyers in the mailbox—destined for the recycling bin. But there was also a sticky note on his door introducing a new local restaurant and offering a discount for coming in with the note.
“I was instantly intrigued,” Israel says. “It was a very simple tactic, but it got through my personal ad-blocking filters.”
Instead of tossing it away or losing it in a pile of mail, he stuck the note on his fridge to remember to check the place out.
2. Guerilla marketing can be done on any scale
Big companies with big budgets have mounted impressive—and memorable—guerilla marketing campaigns. For example, Red Bull organized a Nascar pit stop in New York’s Times Square. Folger’s coffee created an optical illusion of a steaming cup of joe, embedded in a sidewalk.
But successful guerilla marketing doesn’t require a big investment. As Israel found, a pack of sticky notes and some markers can do the trick. You can amplify the impact of your low-budget guerilla marketing campaign by videotaping it and sharing it on social media.
3. Use your imagination to stand out
Guerilla marketing is often novel, but it can also put a new twist on something tried-and-true. Israel gives the example of a shoe store offering a coupon.
“That’s very traditional,” he says. “But if the offer pops up while you’re at the mall using an interactive kiosk—when you’re not expecting to be marketed to—that’s guerilla marketing.”
4. It starts with knowing your audience
Because the whole point of guerilla marketing is to get through to people when they’re relaxed and receptive, you need to understand your audience’s habits and states of mind, so you can catch them at the right moment.
Israel recalls that in Italian tourist towns, restaurants and clubs that wanted to attract customers would hire propeller planes to fly over the beach during the day towing banners with their names on them. The tourists unwinding in the sun were curious and took note. The business owners knew where and when to capture their targets with their guard down.
Guerilla marketing has to do three things: be personal, involve the emotions and seize the right moment.
5. As with all marketing, goals matter
Choosing the right tactic depends on knowing what you want to achieve. When companies organize a flash mob or chalk their logo on sidewalks, they aren’t primarily looking for sales conversions, but rather to build their brand. The restaurant that left a sticky note on Israel’s door, however, was looking to generate immediate revenue.
Being clear about your goals also helps you to measure the effectiveness of your guerilla tactics.
In general, Israel says there are three metrics to look for:
- activity on social media in response to your campaign
- spending on the campaign versus what you would have spent on advertising
- improvement in your marketing return on investment
6. Be creative, but protect your reputation
When dreaming up your guerilla campaign, make sure your ideas won’t land you in trouble.
You want to amuse, not offend or hurt people. And you don’t want to break any laws. You can imagine, for example, how much planning it took for Red Bull to get a race car in and out of Times Square safely.
7. Never get discouraged
Guerilla marketing is by nature experimental. Israel says this is where small businesses have an advantage over bigger ones.
Experimentation involves taking risks, and for bigger brands, the risks are greater. For small businesses, he says, if one tactic doesn’t work, don’t worry about it—just try something else.