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Guide to Guerrilla Marketing | Definition, Types & Examples

What is guerrilla marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is a marketing strategy that leverages unconventional ideas and advertising techniques that require minimal investment to achieve maximum media coverage. The success of guerilla marketing campaigns largely depends on the element of surprise.

Such campaigns seek to catch people’s attention in the midst of their daily routine so the focus of guerilla marketing is to create an ambush. Given the nature of this out-of-the-ordinary marketing strategy, guerilla campaigns are relatively low-cost and therefore accessible to businesses of all sizes. Companies don’t need to spend huge amounts of resources, they just need the right dose of imagination and time. 

Guerilla marketing basically consists of doing things that others aren’t doing and surprising the consumers with unconventional actions that they might not even consider as advertising. Given that this type of campaign has a wow element, it generally creates buzz through social media platforms and word-of-mouth. 

In our day and age where people are absorbed by digital screens and bombarded with excess advertising, guerrilla marketing brings a breath of fresh air and allows brands to stand out from their competition. No matter the size of the organization, using a portion of the marketing budget towards actions of this type is a valuable resource for companies who wish to increase their visibility and reach. 

History of guerilla marketing

The term guerilla marketing was initially introduced by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book Guerilla Marketing: Secrets for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business. It was originally used as a way to describe the shift from traditional marketing to more modern marketing

In the early 1980s, the United States faced a business crisis and small businesses were eager to find some way to compete at the same level as the industry giants. In his book, Levinson cited that small business owners with limited resources could outperform the corporate giants by leveraging unconventional strategies rooted in creativity. 

Instead of following the same old rules of the game, Levinson suggested resorting to more quirky and exclusive strategies to capture the attention of consumers. For small businesses, the idea of reaching a large audience for a relatively modest price was very tempting, and they took it very seriously. It didn’t take long for big brands to notice this shift and start campaigns on their own.

As the real and technological world has evolved, today guerilla marketing has been forced to become more creative as its main aim is to curate viral marketing campaigns that create buzz around a certain brand or product.

Types of guerilla marketing strategies

Below are some of the most exciting types of guerilla marketing strategies that are commonly used by brands:

Street Marketing

Street marketing is a guerilla marketing tactic where brands bring their marketing to the streets. They use the foot traffic that is generally guaranteed in busy public spaces to advertise their brand in numerous ways. 

This use of the streets can be done in mundane ways, such as simply placing adverts on the side of bus stops or on park benches but companies can also leverage more creative forms of marketing on the streets. For example, brands can repurpose things that have always been there and put a spin on them to showcase their brand. Manholes, parking spaces and zebra crossings have all been repurposed by marketing teams for their street marketing strategy. 

Brands can also have staff in the streets to sample products, communicate key messages, promote new products, etc. Companies can get creative with street marketing and adjust the campaign according to its objective. You can choose to simply play with visual elements or create a more interactive experience by involving brand ambassadors and appealing installations.

Ambient Marketing

The main aim of ambient marketing is to gain the attention of consumers by exposing them to something out of the blue. It consists of promoting services or products in unusual locations or using different items to communicate with consumers in an innovative way. 

Ambient marketing leverages creative advertising messaging in order to create a memorable experience for consumers on an emotional level. This can be something as simple as scaling up or down a billboard. The marketing team is able to create something that customers don’t expect so it’s more likely to have an impact. 

Example of ambient marketing 

Ambush Marketing

Ambush marketing is not for the faint-hearted, if a marketing team is going to adopt an ambush marketing strategy, they need to commit to it wholeheartedly for it to be effective. 

This form of marketing involves taking over a competitor’s marketing campaign in one form or another or even piggybacking on the traffic generated by a festival or sporting event.  And yes, Emily Cooper’s last minute strategy to take over the Grey Space fashion show and ambush their red carpet with Pierre Cadault’s refreshed designs may just be the most popular example of ambush marketing we’ve experienced in the past year. Although the first season of Emily in Paris may exaggerate every cliché Paris has to offer, it also portrays an array of past, current and future marketing trends.

If a company has already established a marketing campaign in a particular place at a particular time, a competing company could go to this place at the same time and try to take the attention away from the original campaign. That’s why it’s called ambush marketing!

Similarly, a brand could take advantage of the traffic generated by an event to sample or communicate with passersby surrounding that event. This technique is cost-effective and offers performing results. 

Food sampling

One of the most enjoyable forms of guerilla marketing is food sampling. Let’s face it, no one can say no to free food, so consumers often seek out this form of marketing. Food sampling has more benefits than you might initially think. Of course, you’re pleasing the customer and there are obvious marketing benefits to this form of experiential marketing. However, there are also economical and environmental benefits to food sampling that are often overlooked. 

One thing that few people talk about is how to deal with sampling products that are approaching their expiration date? Food companies have to pay to destroy expired products so it’s often advantageous for them to conduct mass guerilla marketing sampling. At least the products end up in the hands of consumers! It’s a win-win situation. Unfortunately, there are still several companies that destroy products which increases food waste. 

If you’re interested in mass guerilla marketing sampling, feel free to reach out to our team. 

How businesses of all sizes benefit from guerilla marketing

Despite the fact that the world of marketing is largely dominated by big businesses and corporations, thanks to guerilla marketing, new and emerging businesses can also benefit from these marketing strategies. 

Guerilla marketing can be successfully used by businesses of all sizes, and is often more accessible to smaller businesses than other big-budget forms of marketing that big corporations have a monopoly over. 

The key driver in guerilla marketing is creativity. Although money and resources always help, if you have innovative ideas as well as customer data and knowledge, you can effectively develop a guerilla marketing initiative that will be successful.

Successful guerilla marketing examples to inspire your creative marketing campaigns

By now, it’s hopefully obvious that there’s a lot that can be done with guerilla marketing. Whether you go all out on a huge activation or utilize small-scale street marketing, there will be something that could benefit your company in some way. 

However, if we have overloaded your senses and you’re struggling to visualize what exactly guerilla marketing is and how it could help you, here are a few examples of when we think guerilla marketing has been used the best. 


IT Balloon

When the Stephen King cult classic was being rebooted in 2017, the marketing team really hit it out the park. In order to promote the film which features a plotline centered around a boy who is lured into a drain by the child-eating clown Pennywise, a number of balloons were tied to drainage systems throughout the city of Sydney. Accompanying the balloons was a message printed onto the sidewalk that read “IT is closer than you think. #ITMOVIE in cinemas September 7”. 

This is a classic example of a street marketing strategy that easily draws people’s attention to it. This is a particularly effective strategy as the story of Pennywise haunts many people’s dreams, not just horror fans and the red balloon is an easily recognizable symbol of the film. 

Although the movie studio had a huge marketing budget for this film, this is actually a great example of how street marketing can be effective for companies with a smaller budget. A couple of red balloons and some paint is all you really need.

Mr. Clean

The Mr. Clean marketing team realized that there’s no place dirtier than a busy street and they didn’t hesitate to seize this opportunity. They painted over a single white section of a zebra crossing to showcase the immense cleaning abilities of Mr. Clean. If Mr. Clean can tidy the dirty streets, he can definitely clean your greasy kitchen. 

To make sure consumers knew exactly why the road looked like that, an image of Mr. Clean was included on the single white line, creating an unmistakable link to the brand. 

McDonald’s McFish

This guerilla campaign is the result of a collaboration between Uber Eats and McDonald’s in Auckland, New Zealand. Through customer data analysis, Uber Eats discovered that 90% of Kiwis (Newzealanders!) enjoy eating fish and over 50% of them eat fish at least once a week. However, this research also found that ‘’at least a million Kiwis are yet to reel in a Filet-o-Fish, with 39% saying they have never tried one’’ (source).

As a result of this discovery, the two giants paired up to turn heads this summer on Tamaki Drive at Mission Bay. They created a scenario of a shark bus hunting a Filet-o-Fish burger to surprise Kiwis and entice more of them to try this delica-sea!  


Guerilla marketing strategies are the past, present and future of marketing. It’s easy for brands to fall into the same boring monotonous marketing strategies that they have been using for decades. Times are changing and billboards simply don’t cut it anymore, brands need to surprise and delight to have an impact. 

Our attention spans are getting smaller and smaller and it takes more to catch our attention, so brands need to start being more creative to get customers to notice them. In the current international pandemic context, with internet usage increasing between 50% and 70% (source), users are constantly exposed to advertisements so ad fatigue is becoming a real issue for businesses.

This is especially true for social media ads, where almost 3 out of every 4 users (74%) believe there are faced with too many ads (source). If a brand is able to think creatively and diversify its marketing strategy to include guerilla marketing, it will gain an edge over its competitors. 

If you think your company could benefit from guerilla marketing but you don’t know where to start, take a look at our marketing services. Our creative team can help you plan a killer XM marketing campaign, hire temporary staff, take care of ideation and design as well as help with web development and data collection

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