Top 5 Rules of Guerilla Marketing close

Lisa-Marie Leitner
Lisa-Marie Leitner
In Codegent News, Musings
14th May 2010
Top 5 Rules of Guerilla Marketing

Guerilla Marketing campaign

In a world where people have become almost completely de-sensitised to advertising in any traditional sense of the word, trying to infiltrate people's consciousness is an increasingly impossible task. Smart advertisers recognised that the way to combat this apathy was to get their message into places where people wouldn't expect to find them, making them impossible to ignore. This practice has become known as 'Guerilla' Marketing.

Guerilla Marketing is all about surprising people, breaking their concentration and making them have an unexpected and emotional reaction.

Pioneered in 1984 by Jay Conrad Levinson, Guerilla Marketing was originally intended to establish a new tactic for small companies to keep up with the big players. Since then even organisations like Nestle, BMW and Unilever have learned to appreciate the advantages of a well developed Guerilla Marketing campaign.

Enough of the theory; here are some of our favourite examples of Guerilla Marketing campaigns:

If you think the first image simply shows a woman carrying a crate of beer, you have been taken in by a successful Guerilla campaign! This crate, looking like it only weighs half a pound, is a shopping bag in disguise.

Woman carries crate of beer

This should make you smile. Hundreds of people appear to be coming out of a Mini Cooper, when in reality it is a subway exit. Well done, BMW!

Mini Cooper

Vacuum cleaner producer Miele is proud that their products suck :-)

Miele advertisement

Mr Clean puts other zebra crossings to shame...

Mr Clean

As you can see, Guerilla Marketing campaigns include giveaways so that on closer inspection people realise that they are being advertised to, but hopefully the pay-off in terms of entertainment means they don't mind. The key is to add something unexpected and exciting to a space, not consume it with a corporate and boring advertising message.
Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Here are 5 golden rules, which you should keep in mind when creating your own Guerrilla Marketing campaign:

1. Don't forget to define your goals
Although Guerilla Marketing is all about creativity and the element of surprise, it still needs to be planed thoroughly. You still need to know what to do, where to do it and what you want from it.

2. Know your audience
Guerilla Marketing is effective because it is provocative. This is why it can bypass the 'corporate' constraints of traditional advertising. However, you also have to carefully consider your audience's sense of humour, you want to be memorable but not offensive.

3. Provocative or offensive?

This carries on from the above point. Prompting a positive emotion is what any advertiser wants, but in the case of guerrilla marketing you don't have to focus on humour. Appealing to people's sympathetic emotions can be just as effective.

However, you do have to bear in mind that there is a very fine line between being emotive and being crude. This is a good example of a campaign that manages to straddle the line well:

Child in shopping cart

4. Be brief
A Guerilla campaign should appear out of nowhere and then disappear just as quickly. The mysterious and temporary nature adds to the effectiveness. In a nutshell, don't let the joke get old.

5. Do your research
Don't be caught out by any unforeseen issues:

  • Permissions: You're not Banksy. Contact the responsible authorities and make sure you have got all permissions you need.
  • Law: Know and obey the law. There are some crazy rules out there which you need to be aware of. For example, in Switzerland you are not allowed to dance on bank holidays. In Maine, USA it is forbidden to display Christmas decorations after 14th of January. And in Illinois, USA it is illegal to whistle in public on Sundays. Those are just some of millions of unbelievable laws that might constrain you and your work.
  • Protests: Check the animal and eco friendliness of your campaign.

All in all, everybody enjoys a little surprise, a thought-provoking impulse or a reason to smile in his/her everyday life. Guerilla Marketing can turn ordinary and mundane activities, like watching people leaving a subway station, into entertaining events. Advertising can be fun for everybody, who'd have thunk?