The first time we heard of the term guerilla it was in reference to battle tactics; an unconventional style of skirmishes where small groups of stealthy combatants would use the element of surprise to their advantage. It required creativity, flexibility, commitment, courage, a willingness to take risks and, above all, it didn’t cost much money to pull off. In that respect, this idea of guerilla warfare is absolutely no different to guerilla marketing.
Most of the time, guerilla marketing first starts off when a business wants to get media attention, whether mainstream or social, but they don’t have the money to do it through conventional avenues.
It is the byproduct of being a small company that has big – no, huge – ambitions. It is a byproduct of small companies that are willing to be brave in their strategies, brave enough to do something bold to get themselves or their campaign noticed, that thing that will set them apart from the white noise of other marketing strategies, and set them apart from their competition, all the while garnering a reputation that so many marketing executives would love; a reputation for being, bold, brave, fun, exciting and different.
Basically, taking on guerilla marketing tactics takes a special kind of business, marketing executive and business owner – all of those things need to be right. So you could be reading this and thinking, “sounds great, but it wouldn’t suit the image of my financial consultancy firm,” which is fine, there are plenty of better-suited strategies out there.
However, you may have just read the above and decided that is exactly what your small business wants to achieve and wants to embody, which would mean your first question is going to be how? How do you go about implementing a successful guerilla strategy?
Well, we have spoken to a few well-known guerilla marketing agencies, specialists and consultants and compiled a list of their most need-to-know tips and tricks. Enjoy.
First things first: What is guerrilla marketing?
Unfortunately, there is no set definition, which kind of makes sense. If there was, well, it would hardly be the unconventional route that it is. However, to help you get a better understanding of what it is, here are a few things our guerilla marketing experts had to say about this strategy:
“It needs to involve high energy and imagination”
“It focuses on grabbing the attention of an audience in a totally memorable way”
“In its most basic form it should be unauthorised and disruptive, and something that sticks in the mind of everyone that sees it”
“Brand activity that isn’t 100% permitted”
“If your guerilla tactics don’t become newsworthy then your tactics weren’t guerilla, it is as simple as that”
The golden rule: This is not traditional marketing or media
This is where guerilla marketing really defines itself because guerilla marketing latches onto the idea of being an underground revolution of sorts. Seriously, if you were to speak to a wide range of people that have worked on a guerilla marketing strategy they would all tell you the same thing; guerilla marketing is about as far away from traditional marketing and media as you can possibly get.
If this is something you are seriously considering and, as a small business looking to make a name and a businesswoman looking to make an impact, why wouldn’t you, we recommend you read Guerilla Marketing (1986) by J.C. Levinson, the godfather of guerilla marketing. He explains some of the core differences between a guerilla approach and a traditional approach.
First off, traditional marketing requires you to invest money, whereas guerilla marketing requires you to invest time, effort, energy, imagination and creativity. Secondly, after a customer has made a purchase, guerilla marketers follow up the customer with passion, enthusiasm and sincerity, unlike traditional marketing. And the last distinction that sets guerilla marketing apart from tradition is that you have to understand that advertising alone doesn’t work; what works is a combination of marketing approaches.
The one thing you have to be willing to do is take risks
Most of the companies that take on this marketing approach are either small or independent and therefore taking risks is one of the few ways that they can grow quickly and effectively, building a brand reputation that won’t take years or decades. They are the kind of companies that don’t operate under a regulatory body, such as finance or insurance or the public sector.
In short, guerilla strategies are the kind of tactics that ruffle feathers, that get people talking, that can divide opinions and get both cities and consumers tut-tutting. The whole point is to hit the media for your actions and almost build up a cult following, people who celebrate the idea of rebel marketers smashing apart the mould.
If this isn’t something that could end up doing more harm than good to your business or is giving you the sweats just thinking about it, then we suggest you maybe don’t go down this route. Like we said above, ladies, there are plenty of marketing strategies out there, it is just about picking the right one for you.
However, if you are reading this and salivating at the idea of being able to take a risk, be a bit edgy, and walk on the wilder side of a marketing campaign, offer up something unique, original and newsworthy because that is what your consumers will love to see, then this is definitely going to be up your alley. Read on and find out how to get yourself started.
On your marks. Get set. Go make some noise.
The first rule, you can’t go at this alone. Why? To be successful you need to be as creative as humanly possible, and that means tapping into the collective imagination of those creative thinkers you have in your business.
The aim here is to consolidate your core message into five seconds (max.) of something wow. To do this, you need to know what your objectives are, you need to do your homework, and think about your brand, your market and your consumer. The latter is the key to all this, so know exactly who your consumer is, what their characters is like, and then decide on something that would appeal to them, grab their attention, intrigue them and awaken their spirit enough to talk about it to everyone and anyone, even snap a photo of it.
You are going to have to think about every angle possible, and that is why having a great team of thinks is going to be critical to success. Imagine all the ways your idea, your core message, can come to life. If you are struggling here, then try and imagine what your perfect headline would be. That is the aim, remember; to get media attention. So imagine the headlines, what the tweets should say, what photos you’d want to see on social media, what YouTube videos would be amazing in building your brand, the kind that would make you stop for 2 minutes and view yourself.
How to do your thing & do it good
It is all about your headspace. It is all about your attitude and mentality. What your guerilla campaign needs to achieve is transcendence; it is more than just a snapshot in time, or a one-off street stunt that will explode and then disappear. It needs to be longer lasting and more authentic than that. It needs to be a bell curve that is going to stimulate total intrigue and it needs to do it with genius. Put it this way, if you have to sell anyone on the idea of it then it isn’t going to work.
The other part of the battle here is making your audience take the next step. Yes, you need to make them stop, pause, think, smile, laugh and remember, definitely remember, but you also need to make them act on these feelings. It could be that you hold a flash mob in Times Square and then have these here lanyards, stickers, badges and straps to hand out, or dress up as a polar bear and then crash the Jingle Bell Ball, leaving hashtagged stickers in your path to promote a film like this person did. Whatever it is there needs to be a call to action somewhere along the line, how else are you going to know if your campaign has been successful?
Here are some of the greatest guerilla strategies that ever lived:
The ALS ice bucket challenge
When we are talking about numbers, the ALS ice bucket challenge was one of the most phenomenally successful guerilla marketing campaigns. There isn’t a person on the globe that didn’t here about the ice bucket challenge or a celebrity that didn’t partake. In the first 21 days alone, the challenge and the cause were mentioned 2.5 million times on Twitter, had 1.3 million videos posted to Facebook and had 15 million interacting with these posts. But the most staggering figure of them all is to do with the amount of money it raised; in a 30 day period, it raised over $100m, which when you compare it to the year before where they raised $1.7m in 365 days is incredible.
The Blair witch project
This is the most famous use of guerilla marketing in film ever. It was a film that saw a few students with a Handycam make a film that grossed over $250 million worldwide. However, the B-movie would have surely flopped if it weren’t for their innovative marketing strategy, which saw the creators set up an online campaign completely devoted to spreading rumours about the legend that was The Blair Witch. Their total film and promotion budget was less than $50,000 and yet it made a quarter of a billion. That’s how to do it.