Guerrilla Marketing – Definition

Cite this article as:"Guerrilla Marketing – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated September 7, 2019, last accessed December 4, 2020,


Guerrilla Marketing Definition

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising tactic, employed as part of the marketing strategy of a company, that involves disrupting target consumers in their daily routines through unconventional methods of brand interaction (often incorporating the element of surprise), as a way of promoting a product or a service. The motive behind such an exercise is to beget conversation through the creation of a disruptive, news-worthy event that could ensure the spread of brand-awareness either through word of mouth or by indirectly leveraging the power of mass influencers such as conventional and social media. As such, guerrilla marketing is much more personal in its method of communication, compared to traditional media, and typically involves much smaller budgets as well. Moreover, such a marketing tactic relies on much smaller groups of promoters  to drive the advertising campaign in specific target locations rather than partaking in extensive countrywide media campaigns.

A Little More on What is Guerrilla Marketing

The term Guerrilla Marketing owes its existence to guerrilla warfare — a strategy employed in warfare that involves small groups of insurgents performing irregular, mostly surprise attacks on enemy forces. Like its martial namesake, guerrilla marketing seeks to catch its target audience by surprise in settings such as public thoroughfares, concert venues, parks and recreational facilities, shopping malls, beaches and other public places that offer easy access to large audiences. In guerrilla marketing, any form of intense emotional response — laughter, shock or sadness can be great sellers. In order to instantly appeal to the emotions of its target demographic, a guerrilla marketing campaign typically relies on direct, in your face promotions that are likely to be propagated through viral marketing or via word of mouth. Although such a marketing strategy allows businesses to showcase their products or services to a large audience on a minimal budget, its use is restricted to certain products or services as well as specific target audiences. More often than not, guerrilla marketing campaigns are only suitable for avant-garde that are intended for mostly younger consumers. Moreover, choosing the right place and time is vital to conducting such a campaign — a flash mob in the wrong place or time might not only fail in its intended purpose but may also bring with it legal issues for the company. Once optimally planned though, a guerrilla marketing campaign will be successful, irrespective of whether it is conducted indoors or outdoors or if it is just a harmless little social experiment or a high-energy event ambush.

History of Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing marked the advent of electronic media as the dominant form of mass media, slowly taking over from traditional media channels such as print media, radio and television. The term guerrilla marketing was first conceived and popularized by American business writer, Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book Guerrilla Marketing. The book offered hundreds of marketing ideas, especially to cash-strapped small businesses, about how they could create a “buzz” in the market about their brand or the products or services they were offering. Levinson’s idea was not only to get consumers interested in the product or service, but also to motivate them to talk about it to other potential consumers. This radical, yet cost-effective marketing strategy instantly appealed to businesses and Levinson’s book became a classic in the field of business literature. Over the next few decades, Jay Conrad Levinson wrote several more books on the subject, turning guerrilla marketing into a household name in the marketing domain. At present, the concept of guerrilla marketing continues to develop and propagate organically.

Types of Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing can be of several different types — the following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the more common forms:

  • Ambient marketing: This marketing strategy places advertisement on every practical and available physical surface that forms part of the physical environment of the targeted consumer.
  • Ambush marketing: This marketing strategy makes use of associative marketing techniques in order to associate the targeted company or brand with a certain event or a property with which it is not officially associated.
  • Stealth marketing: Stealth marketing is a strategy that involves a business advertising to its target consumers without them realizing that they are the audience for the marketing pitch.
  • Viral or buzz marketing: This marketing strategy relies on motivating individuals to spread brand or product awareness among other potential consumers. Executed well, a viral marketing campaign can spread exponentially purely by word of mouth. However, the downside to a viral marketing campaign is that it cannot be planned and its outcome cannot be predicted.
  • Street marketing: Street marketing strategies rely on the extensive use of unconventional means of advertising in public locations as a means to stimulate the mind of the target consumer to remember and recall  the brand or the product or service advertised.
  • Presence marketing:  This type of marketing strategy is similar to ambient marketing and seeks to make use of all available physical marketing spaces available so that the brand or product is able to maintain a constant presence in the daily routine of the target customer. The goal is simple — to make the business name recognizable and familiar.
  • Grassroots marketing: The grassroots marketing strategy seeks to target customers on an individual basis by creating a personal connection between the consumer and the brand.
  • Astroturfing: Astroturfing is a strategy that involves a business creating a positive image of its brand or products on online forums, blogs and e-commerce websites by way of fake endorsements, testimonials and recommendations penned by paid individuals. Such an approach is both risky as well as controversial.

References for “Guerrilla Marketing”

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