TOP Talk

Ambush Your Audience with a Little Guerrilla Marketing

Posted July 08, 2014 By Sue Parente

Topics: Content, Messaging and Positioning


So what separates a great guerrilla campaign from a mere stunt? Here are 5 hallmarks of guerrilla marketing success.

1. Think secret handshake.

The heart of a great guerrilla marketing campaign is cleverness. Somehow, in an unguarded moment, a brand manages to speak to its target in an unexpected way. Sometimes that takes the form of demonstrating how well the brand knows an audience’s proclivities or needs. This Super Glue 3 campaign harnesses our universal tendency to pick up loose change from the sidewalk. When you can’t pry the coin from the sidewalk, you might wonder why, then notice the Super Glue 3 sticker pasted above the coin:



A great campaign often reveals itself in stages, at first seizing the audience by surprise then gradually clueing you in. By requiring a little decoding, the campaign draws audiences in to engage more deeply – then boosts the chances that prospects will share the same unexpected experience with others. Consider this Bounty campaign, emphasizing that even HUGE clean-up jobs aren’t a problem for the paper towel:


Thirsty? You probably won’t be after encountering this Unicef vending machine, offering a choice of various water-borne illnesses instead of soda brands. By bringing the issue of dirty drinking water up close and personal, the message lingers in the target’s mind. Allied with a strong emotional reaction, it makes a powerful impression not easily forgotten.


2. Maximize on context.

Great guerrilla marketing campaigns bring your brand into contact with the right people in the right mindset to act on your message. They also happen in situations where your audience isn’t expecting a brand interaction. This Colgate campaign embedded toothbrush-shaped sticks inside sweet treats, to remind consumers of the need to brush.


3. Underline your brand message and strengths.

Ideally your guerrilla marketing campaign itself embodies one of your brand’s core strengths, so that a memory of the action is bound up with remembering a key brand value. Canadian airline WestJet engaged in an extraordinarily successful guerrilla campaign in the 2013 holiday season. Through fun and engaging Santa kiosks in airports, they got 250 Calgary-bound guests to share their Christmas wishes – then raced against the clock to fulfill those wishes in a big reveal at baggage claim in Calgary’s airport. The behind-the-scenes video shows WestJet employees operating rapidly and seamlessly in sync to speed the gifts to their destination safely and accurately – exactly what they deliver to passengers flying WestJet every day of the year.



4. Consider the entire message.

Guerrilla marketing campaigns happen in unexpected places and break the boundaries of the “usual” marketing interaction. As such, make sure you’ve thought through all possible outcomes.

Consider this controversial Vodafone campaign in Romania, promoting mobile phone insurance by slipping flyers unawares into prospects’ pockets, just as stealthily as a good pickpocket might. While the campaign is quite effective, hiring professional pickpockets is a questionable choice that Vodaphone customers might understandably object to. Whether intended or not, all the aspects of a guerrilla marketing campaign become part of the final message.


5. Track it!

Even when guerrilla marketing campaigns are less expensive in ad dollars, they still cost considerably in terms of time and effort. Make sure your campaign includes a tangible way to track its effectiveness. For instance, the Unicef campaign above enabled consumers to donate immediately through the vending machine. The WestJet campaign was well-documented for social sharing, so its viral reach was easily quantified. Tracking helps you make knowledgeable decisions later about repeating the concept in new markets or with different twists.

Want to learn more?

We loved these Creative Guerrilla Marketing’s 122 Must-See Examples, as well as Mashable’s 10 favorite guerrilla video examples. Entrepreneur’s 5 Basics of Guerrilla Marketing offer a concise, smart primer, and Tier One’s Hannah Roveto recently blogged about infusing your marketing message with true inspiration.

What’s your favorite guerrilla marketing campaign and why?

Sue Parente

About Sue Parente

What inspires me? Brave communicators who dare to put "right" before "safe."