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Guerrilla Advertising Strategies

Guerrilla Advertising Strategies Featured image
Guerrilla advertising strategies are some of the most effective ways to provide authentic customer experiences. (Image Credit: Josh Durham)

Companies big and small need all the exposure they can get. At the end of the day, a business’s worth is determined by how much it sells.

Sadly, in order to sell, you need to spend money on advertising your products or services. Not all companies can afford mass advertisement for many reasons. It’s difficult to risk spending so many overheads on an untested product, for example. 

Sometimes it’s a way to refurbish the brand, a way to remind the world of your product. Online advertising can be a good substitute for advertisement but sometimes it just isn’t enough.  This is where guerrilla advertising comes in. 

Every now and then there are creative advertising ideas that grab everyone’s attention. What is different about these campaigns is their outside-the-box nature and originality. Throughout this article, we will delve into what guerrilla advertising is and how it can help your business.

What Is Guerrilla Advertising?

The term guerrilla advertising pays homage to guerrilla fighters that are new, unorganised, and underfunded. 

It was first used in 1984 when Jay Conrad Levinson wrote the book ‘Guerrilla Marketing’. It refers to unconventional means of advertising, using as little resources as possible. 

It’s a very risky approach as there is no data to predict the outcome. But, when done correctly. It is extremely effective. Guerrilla advertising ideas require a great deal of creativity and imagination in order to send a clear message on whatever space available. Some companies started hiring artists to help boost and execute the creative process. 

Despite it being a niche term, there are actually many forms of guerrilla advertising.

Ambient Advertising

This involves the clever use of the surrounding environment to advertise your products. 

Bags, bus handles, park benches, stairs, shopping carts and many more have all been used to advertise something at some point. Ambient advertising is best executed when the surface used is related to your product in any way. 

It’s important for guerrilla advertising to seem as seamless and unforced as possible. This can be difficult when you want to trick the eye but stand out. Check out this example below by Frontline:

Guerrilla Advertising example
This great example of ambient advertising from Frontline flea and tick spray. Note the use of visual illusion.

Ambush Advertising

Basically, ambush advertising is when you associate your brand with something bigger: it could be an event, a cause, or another well-known product. 

This may sound like a more expensive option, as usually these involve sponsorships. However, the term ‘ambush’ comes from riding on the coattails of a major campaign without actually paying for partnership. 

It is a good way to proactively jump on a trending or important topic, and can help a business stay relevant and show a stance.

This technique is used by larger companies every time there is a global event. Do you notice during World Cups or the Olympics the advertisements adapt to suit a more athletic aesthetic or promote a ‘bringing people together’ approach? 

On a small scale, smaller companies can do the same with any event or cause, by wordplay or via social media.

Ambush Guerrilla Advertising Example
IKEA's classic example of ambush advertising. (Image credit: The Drum)

Stealth Advertising

This is a controversial form of guerrilla advertising. You can’t walk down the street without being advertised one product or another. Sometimes, however, you aren’t even aware of the ad – and that’s where the controversy comes in. 

Stealth advertising involves tactics like product placement and subliminal messaging where the consumer is often not consciously aware that they are being subjected to advertising. 

Almost all visible logos in every movie are strategically placed to trick you into buying them. The way actors dress in public is sometimes a planned advertising strategy. It even comes down to people passing you in the street doing everyday things. 

Sony Ericsson hired 60 actors to pose as tourists and ask people to take their picture with their new camera, then proceeded to advertise the specs of the camera. This is probably one of the most famous and earliest examples of stealth advertising.

See below a great example of stealth advertising. It comes from Netflix show Stranger Things where they featured Eggo waffles as a product placement.

Stealth advertising used in Stranger Things.
Guerrilla advertising is highly related to product placement. (Image credit: Business Insider)

Street Advertising

It’s a strategy that uses streets and public places as its canvas in order to convey their message. 

From street performers to flyers, to walking billboards. This type of advertising is a favourite with the emerging or falling behind companies. Its low cost and direct human engagement are its main attributes. 

Have you ever been stopped by a product ambassador to review a product or try a product? That is the basic form of street advertising. Check out the example below, where twenty models dressed as Jennifer Lawrence’s Russian spy character to hand out business cards with the Red Sparrow movie showtimes in Toronto.

An example of street guerrilla advertising for the movie Red Sparrow.
The film industry is full of great examples of guerrilla advertising. (Image credit: Bizzabo)

Viral Advertising

Companies take advantage of the fact that campaigns – especially controversial ones – spread like wildfire between people. 

Nowadays, that statement is truer than ever thanks to the internet and social media. Remember Starbucks’s personalised cup campaign? Mainly, what people remember is how badly employees’ were spelling even the simplest of names. 

Whether intentional or not – this controversy sparked a viral reaction, with people sharing their misspelt names on social media. The trick here is causing enough buzz that the campaign keeps itself rolling, by rumours and gossip and sometimes media coverage.

Viral Guerrilla Advertising Example Starbucks cups
Starbucks use of customers' names on their cups is one of the most widely copied guerrilla advertising strategies. (Image Credit: MyDigitalInsight)
Viral Guerrilla Advertising
Starbuck's (in)famous personalised cup campaign that went viral. (Image: Thrillist)

How to Plan Your Guerrilla Campaign?

Every form of guerrilla advertising has its perks and risks. That’s why the most effective campaigns aren’t confined to one form, they cross-over where it’s the best fit. 

Large companies go as far as merging guerrilla advertising with conventional advertising channels. They do that by creating the guerrilla campaign in several locations at the same time. They then cover the campaigns and broadcast them as normal ads to show their creativity on a massive scale. 

This doesn’t necessarily defeat the purpose. That is being cost-effective, because every penny spent will be worth it. Most companies can’t afford this tactic and need to plan their funds and approach a little more surgically.

The first step is always having a plan. This may seem as anti-improvisation but even guerrilla fighters need intricately thought-out. You can start off by listing the available platforms that can be converted to canvases for your masterpiece. Is there a university nearby? Schools, bus stops, or shopping centres for example?

The next question to answer is where does your product fit with the consumer demographics? The answer to this question will help you determine where, when and how to place your guerrilla advertising campaign. A fast-food restaurant would benefit more by targeting universities during the semester for example.

Choosing the right strategy for your business requires breaking down your brand to its elements. This requires a more objective eye which is sometimes difficult for someone on the inside. Some companies hire specialists to add an outside view to the creative process. 

However, specialists can be expensive and that is not an option for startups – that’s why you can hire an artist instead in exchange for crediting them for their work. This way, if your campaign goes viral – this is a huge benefit for everyone involved in the creative process.

Online Advertising is Your Friend

No matter what advertising strategy you adopt, it’s important to use the internet to further the hype. A flash mob at a mall can get you a lot of exposure because of all the leg traffic. But it’s not going to be enough to boost your sales the way you need it to. 

Relying on word-of-mouth is a thing of the past and won’t give much momentum to your campaign. You can, however, film your campaign and post it on social media for example due to its high viewership and potential for traction. 

With a few SEO tricks, your video can access virtually unlimited viewers. An effective online marketing plan working hand-in-hand with a good guerrilla advertising campaign can be a real recipe for success.

If you need help getting your digital advertising strategy off the ground, contact ProfileTree and we will be happy to bring your ideas to life. 

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