Guerrilla Marketing: What It Is and How It Works

26 mins read
Guerrilla Marketing.

There is a growing number of ads, and marketers do their best to attract customers, but it becomes more difficult to do so. Research shows that on average per person is exposed to 5000 advertisements per day.

Because of this chaos, people have so-called advertising blindness, when the banners and slogans no longer have the same effect as before. In such a competitive business world, it’s difficult to hold people’s attention. Hence Guerrilla Marketing becomes a one-stop solution for brands to engage their target audience through creative and innovative ideas.

Guerrilla marketing is one of the best ways to overcome the typical competitors’ ads.

What is Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is the promotion of goods and services in unusual, creative, eye-catching ways. This approach can achieve the following goals:

  • draw attention to the product through creativity, non-standard presentation, and humor;
  • increase brand recognition to form a corporate identity;
  • stand out from the competitors.

This notion appeared in 1984 when it was introduced by Jay Conrad Levinson, a writer and creative director of an advertising agency in the past. Initially, it was a question of placement of printed materials in locations with a potential target audience. For example, promotional flyers with other company goods were put inside the packages with the particular products. But gradually other more interesting options have also appeared.

Guerrilla marketing is a marketing strategy where an organization utilizes shock and additionally unusual communications to advance an item or administration.

The end goal for all types of marketing is, of course, the same – to get more customers and increase sales and profits. But guerrilla marketing has its own specific characteristics. For example:

A wide audience. Most methods of GM do not imply narrow targeting, which means that as many people as possible should know about the product or brand.

Short-term effect. Hype in the media and social networks can give a powerful increase in visits and other indicators, but, as a rule, it is not long-term. Without the usual methods of promotion such as SEO, contextual advertising, community management, and others, you are unlikely to achieve serious long-term results.

Conditionally cheaper. Classic guerrilla marketing involves a small investment of money or even free advertising. It is cheaper than traditional marketing. As it is cost-effective and focuses more on reach than frequency, most small as well as big brands try to indulge and get customer attention.

For example, Procter & Gamble – which painted the crosswalk in bright white color and used Mr. Proper’s image did not spend much money. But the result was noticed by thousands of potential customers.

Guerilla marketing is a broad term used to describe creative approaches to traditional marketing tactics.

A key advantage of guerrilla marketing is the ability to stand out from the competition, skillfully sidestepping the very same advertising or banner blindness.

The main disadvantage here is no guarantee of results. The campaign may not succeed, even if everything seems to have been thought out and expected.

The thing with successful campus guerrilla marketing is that it’s hard to replicate using the same strategy – it tends to work well the first time mainly because of the novelty factor, the fact that it was unexpected or attention-grabbing in some way.

Types of GMGuerrilla marketing can be divided into several kinds. ViralThe purpose of viral marketing is to cause a strong emotional reaction, to reach the maximum number of people. The expectation is that users will eagerly share content or an advertising message, thereby multiplying the number of views and reactions and brand awareness. For this purpose, companies can use different formats: YouTube videos, posts on social networks, pictures (memes), blog articles, flashmobs, and games.


It can be classified as a subtype of viral marketing. Usually, its creators use explicit, sexual topics and headlines at the edge of foul. A suitable format may be both videos, humorous sketches, and photos. The main thing is to get maximum response from the audience and a desire to discuss the content.

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On the one hand – publications in the media, memes on social networks, mentioning the brand and increasing recognition, on the other – condemnation, and public outrage.


Otherwise, this method can be called native advertising. The essence is an unobtrusive, neat offer of a product or service. This approach also helps bypass banner blindness.

One of the methods is the publication of reviews and comments on social networks, forums or blogs. Another way is to collaborate with bloggers. TikTok and YouTube often provide reviews of cosmetics, appliances, and other items. Some authors simply put some product in the background – using so-called product placement.

Cooperation (Collaborations) 

This is a format in which two companies team up to engage customers. Both participants can increase the sales and credibility of their products.

As an example, we can check out the collaboration of “Dochki-synochki” and the laboratory network “Citylab”. In the store, you can get a discount on tests, and in the laboratory – a discount on the purchase of certain baby goods.

Ambient Marketing

Ambient marketing is the interaction with the audience through the elements of the surrounding world: stops, benches, and some other branded items. This is a relatively young direction of guerrilla marketing.


Life Placement 

This is another extraordinary scheme of product promotion. 

Life placement is similar to a stage play – you hire actors, and choose a place with a lot of potential customers. And then the actors begin to extol the product, wildly excited about the purchase. 

The task is to arouse emotion, provoke potential buyers, and gain interest.

Online and Offline

Also, marketing activities can be divided by the way they are promoted. These are online or offline types.

Viral content (videos, infographics, pictures, memes, tests, songs – anything that catches the customer and makes them share with others).Unique advertising at bus stops, transport, and workers’ uniforms.
Hidden advertising from bloggers, influencers, and other popular people; product reviews.Newsletter of free branded souvenirs.
Conducting interactive events with prizes. For example, launching challenges on brands’ names on TikTok and other social media platforms.Gift bonuses and different promotions, and collaborations.
Product reviews, discussions on social networks and forums, and comments on feature and promotional articles.Branding of public facilities.

Who is Guerrilla Marketing Suitable for?

Although guerrilla marketing is presented in most articles as a cheap (free) and very effective way of promotion, you should remember its specifics.

Viral content, unusual advertising, and challenges are tools that can give a good, but short-term effect. And if the company is not working in a comprehensive way in different areas (search engine optimization, email marketing, SMM, and others), it is unlikely to keep your audience and provide long-term results.

Therefore, if we consider guerrilla marketing, it is better as an additional tool rather than the main one. That is, it should be tried when the company is already doing well with the website, product, customer service, etc.

Another important point is the lack of precise targeting and the impact on a wide audience. So, most of the methods of GM will be suitable, for example, to promote FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), but not some narrow specialists.

Moreover, it is worth bearing in mind that not all guerrilla marketing is inexpensive or free. To order a product review or product placement from a famous blogger with a large audience, you may need more than $1000.

PR and marketing experts on Guerrilla Marketing

Robert Zeglinski, Managing Editor & Researcher at BreakingMuscle: Reverse graffiti is eco-friendly

“Reverse Graffiti, in my opinion, has been one of our most successful guerilla marketing projects. It’s the most environmentally friendly way to cause damage. Putting graffiti on private property is clearly against the law, but many people are more tolerant of it when it’s painted on public land, especially if it’s a beautiful mural.

Reverse graffiti, or “clean” graffiti, involves a stencil, a power washer, and a bit of work, although few people know about it. Big-name brands like Domino’s Pizza, Starbucks, and Ajax have been using this method for a few years now. One of the most environmentally friendly guerilla marketing techniques, as it doesn’t require any paper, ink, or paint to set up. Sustainable brands who wish to attract attention while staying true to their ideals can consider this option.”

Ross Kernez, head of digital marketing strategy at Ross Kernez Consulting:

“One of the guerilla marketing campaigns my team and I managed in the past was creating a social media post with just a QR code on it. We hired animators to create interesting graphics related to the client’s business around the QR code without providing any information. My client posted it through their platforms and it circulated through different online communities. The QR code led to a discount on my client’s products.

This increased their engagement metrics by eight percent, thereby, increasing brand exposure and converting users into unique visitors to their site. As a result, their online sales doubled and their profit margin increased.”

Joe Troyer, CEO & Growth Advisor at ReviewGrower:
Custom stickers are flexible

“Custom stickers, in my opinion, have been the most effective guerrilla marketing tool in our practice. Some stickers are more successful than others when they’re applied to public or private locations.
A few brands have been able to get away with it, while others have gotten permission in advance from property owners. When it comes to increasing brand awareness, bespoke stickers are a fun and creative option. Companies like Axe, Pedigree, and Frontline have employed this strategy to great effect.”

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder and CEO of Mavens and Moguls:
“I started a global branding and marketing firm 20 years ago in Cambridge, MA but years before when I joined Zipcar as the first head of marketing we were raising money and had no budget so I had to be very scrappy and resourceful to find people to sign up and got good at guerrilla marketing.

I did not have money to hire people either so I offered the only currency I had to our members, free driving credit for every hour they would help me by attending street fairs and festivals standing next to one of our cars decorated with helium balloons passing out free postcards I got printed online offering free trial memberships to join. I had an army of folks who wanted to help us succeed and they ended up working enough hours each month to drive for free by helping us grow. We had cars popping up at events all over town!

Chipotle was famous early on for being very scrappy, creative, and resourceful with their coupons napkins, cups, etc. printed with marketing messages and fun facts. I think you can still find their coupon coins for free burritos on eBay!”

Mark Weiser, owner of Shake Rattle & Roll Pianos:
Sometimes, to promote our brand, we have to use what’s available on the street. Luckily for us, every year in the summer, NYC places dozens of pianos around the city for the SING FOR HOPE program, where ordinary New Yorkers can sit down and have fun. For us, this is free advertising.

We routinely send our performers out to these pianos, which are situated in high-traffic areas (like Times Square), and get the passers-by singing along with the most popular songs imaginable (Piano Man, Don’t Stop Believin’, etc.) We put out some request slips for people to write down their favorite songs, and of course, our site is written at the bottom for a takeaway. Furthermore, we wind up grabbing new followers, new ticket purchasers, and new business leads every time.

Ellie Shippey, Digital Marketing Specialist at Lumina: Aesthetic Viral Videos

“My company’s guerilla marketing strategies have found great success with the use of viral videos created by our in-house team. Online guerrilla marketing tactic Creative Viral Video has come a long way in the last few years and has been able to draw in audiences.

A viral film produced by my company has been utilized as an advertisement on YouTube and other social media platforms, for example. We converted a complex video into a light-hearted parody of our daily routines. Guerrilla marketing relies heavily on viral videos.”

Max Whiteside, SEO & Content Lead at Breaking Muscle:

“A company called Frontline produces dog flea and tick prevention products. It’s a business that uses guerilla marketing techniques that are completely effective. They have spread the image throughout the entire floor of a packed area.

They were aware that some people would be walking through the area while others would be viewing it from the upper floors of the building or the stairs, giving the impression that dogs were being attacked by flies when in fact it was people standing on that floor. It’s a fantastic method to draw interest.”

Sofia Voudouroglou Content Marketing Executive at Teemill:

“One of our top stores used TikTok to launch their business. Posting simple videos over trending music, they showed several pieces that made up cool outfits – and one of the pieces was always from their own brand. One of their videos went viral, gaining 350 thousand views. In the following month, they received 34x more visits to their site – and made 39x more sales than usual.

By creating outfit videos that reflected the style of their brand, they were able to curate consistent branding that they could then carry over to their website. The customer experience is consistent, from viewing the first TikTok to buying an item. Social media platforms are coded to deliver content to those who will enjoy it. As a business owner, harnessing that algorithm means you can reach your audience without needing to pay for advertising.

Teens are spending over an hour and a half on TikTok every day. It’s where they connect with the world and their peers. Most of all, the TikTok algorithm is uniquely good at showing people what they want to see. So once you unlock ‘what teens care about, you can reach them right where they are. And, in cases like this, you can build your entire business on that market.”

Bram Jansen, Chief Editor & Co-Founder of VPNAlert: Graffiti stencil artworks
Although, stencil graffiti is considerably smaller than murals, I would believe that it is simpler and more advantageous because it is made in small places in various locations in a short amount of time.
This method has been adopted by businesses to offer their products and services to the existing market. You may have witnessed photographers assembling a group of subjects at a designated place for their photography and videography campaigns.
Flash mobs are an excellent guerilla marketing strategy that instantly captures the attention of audiences. The majority of persons who pose for flash mobs are celebrities and random individuals who like participating.

Brady McAninch, Founder & Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HM-Attorneys: Axe guerilla marketing campaign

This clever guerilla marketing campaign by Axe, in my opinion, made something mundane fun and exciting. Axe affixed stickers depicting women pursuing a man to the exit signs of subways and other public places. It captures people’s attention during some of the most tedious and frustrating parts of the day.

This campaign is successful because it provides the audience with something they can find interesting, discuss with their friends, and laugh about throughout the day. This campaign also emphasizes the importance of using Axe products to attract women and smell good.

Tiffany Payne, Head of Marketing at Replace Your Docs: Tyskie Beer Gets the Handle for Beer Mugs

It is a well-known beer brand in Poland. These individuals have painted beer mugs close to glass door handles. It is inconvenient to ignore because of how it has been placed.

The goal is to leave a lasting impression on clients that don’t appear forced or made in an effort. Additionally, it demonstrates how, if you can connect your concept to the needs of your target audience, it might easily rank among the top guerilla marketing examples.

Tyskie Beer Gets the Handle for Beer Mugs guerilla marketing.

Jason Ball, Director at Considered Content: McDonald’s Paints the Logo on the Road

You would expect a brand like McDonald’s to not only employ effective guerrilla marketing methods, but also serve as an example for others. In order to attract customers, one well-known American chain of fast-food restaurants adopted a fantastic strategy.

The road that serves as the zebra crossing has its logo painted on it.

McDonald's Paints the Logo on the Road uerilla marketing example.

Daniel Foley, Founder of Daniel Foley SEO Consultancy: Coca-Cola Shows How Guerrilla Marketing Examples Should Look Like

A few years ago, Cola-Cola came out with a new bottle with a grip, and the company needed to let people know about the change. The French Marcel Advertising Agency was responsible for its promotional efforts.

They have made posters that are three-dimensional and were printed on Velcro. Those were mounted on the walls of bus stops all across Paris. People had to look at the ad because the clothes were attached to the poster. It is one of the most impressive examples of guerrilla marketing to ever emerge from a thing institution.

Robert Warner, Official Member of Forbes Agency Council and Head of Marketing at VirtualValley:

Impactful Experiences In my perspective, the most enduring effects of successful guerilla marketing initiatives in our practice result from personal interactions. Experiential guerilla marketing is a live event that disturbs consumers’ regular routines, catches their attention, and may even involve them. As part of their larger PR strategy, his guerilla marketing stunt was “the cherry on top,” helping to “slicken up” and “interest the public” a bit. When it comes to moviegoers’ overall impressions of the movie, this innovative use of experiential marketing stands out beyond all other forms of traditional advertising.

Connor Ondriska, co-founder and CEO of SpanishVIP

In my experience, some of the most successful guerrilla marketing campaigns I have implemented for my clients are:

1. Parking Lot Literature Drop – For this campaign, we created attractive literature to hand out to potential clients in parking lots. This allowed us to connect with people who were likely in need of our services.

2. Creative Billboards – For these campaigns, we designed custom creative billboards ads to run in high-traffic areas. These ads allowed us to connect with people who were likely in need of our services and to position ourselves as industry leaders.

3. Branded Carts – For these campaigns, we designed and branded mobile carts that would be stationed in high-traffic areas. These carts allowed us to connect with potential clients while also providing an eye-catching piece of branded real estate.


Guerrilla marketing is a better way in every sense of the word; it is more effective, more engaging, and less costly. All you need to invest in Guerrilla marketing is time, energy, and imagination. Guerrilla tactics use unconventional communications, often in unexpected places, and focus on low-cost strategies that make a high-impact impression. This marketing requires an adventurous mindset and attitude and, of course, clients who aren’t afraid to step outside their comfort zone to create a memorable impact with consumers and the public.

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Illya Skrypka

Marketing manager at PRNEWS.IO

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