Guerrilla marketing is an unconventional form of marketing. It involves using advertising strategies which focus on imagination, innovation and energy rather than a big marketing budget (Levinson, 1983). The term guerrilla marketing was originally devised by Jay Conrad Levinson in 1983 and since then has become recognised by academics as a valuable marketing tool. When Levinson first coined the expression it mainly described advertising strategies that were free or inexpensive and were useful for smaller firms who didn’t have the money for anything else (Turner, 2000). Early guerrilla marketing strategies included word of mouth marketing, viral marketing and innovative techniques such as flash mobs and reverse graffiti (see below) where companies clean dirt from a surface to display their logo and / or a message.
In current times guerrilla marketing is a term that has changed to incorporate all unconventional branding projects. These can cost millions of pounds and are often used by multinational companies such as Sony (see below).
It’s probably worth noting here that there are hundreds of other examples I could give you, all showing global companies splashing the cash to promote themselves in really unique and fun ways, but this isn’t what this blog is about. I’m interested in the small-scale stuff. I’m interested in the guerrilla marketing that could really help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) particularly those who have little or no marketing budget.
Let me give you an example. Imagine you run a private dental practice and you want to remind people from the local community that you exist. Well, what better way to reach your target audience than placing an advert in an area where you know local people will visit regularly – the community gym.
Especially if it’s an advert that’s going to be remembered, right? Well how about this:
Personally, I love it. It’s cheap to make, it stands out and it puts a smile on your face (please excuse the extremely well thought out pun). This is exactly what guerrilla marketing is all about – encouraging companies to be creative and to step away from the traditional forms of advertising.
What’s the psychology behind guerrilla marketing?
Like all marketing, guerrilla marketing is initially concerned with getting people’s attention (Sacharin 2000).
According to Blackwell, Miniard and Engel (2006) attention is defined as “the amount of thinking focused in a particular direction” (p. 585). This means that companies must not only get people to look at their advert but also to concentrate on it and even engage with it.
How does guerrilla marketing get people’s attention?
Researchers have found that advertisers use a variety of approaches to get and then keep people’s attention, these include; aesthetics, arousal, colour and brand identity to name but a few (Hoegg and Alba, 2008; Kahneman, 1973; Mikellides, 1990; Zajonc and Markus, 1982). Guerrilla marketing does, of course, utilise all of these elements as well as a host of others. I am, however, only going to focus on two main techniques that guerrilla marketers use to get people’s attention; novelty and humour.
Berlyne and Parham (1968) argue that using novel elements is a good way to break through the clutter of advertising stimuli as well as being a good way to get through people’s selective perception filter. This is demonstrated by the fact that novel products such as JK Rowling’s first ever adult book (again please excuse the exquisitely crafted pun) often sell well in their first year (Lavinsky, 1993).
The rationale behind the fact that novel products and novel marketing strategies are frequently successful is because they are distinctly different from the competition and can therefore easily grasp the audience’s attention (Boyd, 2010). The below example demonstrates how a SME can use the novelty of guerrilla marketing to make their advertising stand out.
This is actually an advert for the film Ratatouille but I think it would work really well for a pest control company. Either way, it’s a clever idea, cheap to produce and people would be more likely to pick this up and read it than any of the other junk mail lying on their doormat.
Humour is commonly used in advertising (Krishnan and Chakravarti, 2003). Research has shown that humour affects attention positively (Lammers, 1991; Weinberger and Gulas, 1992) and it is for this reason that is so widely used in guerrilla marketing.
As well as gaining people’s attention, humorous advertising campaigns are also more likely to be spread by both word of mouth and over the internet. Lindgreen and Vanhamme (2005) found that viral marketing is more likely to be successful and wide-spread when the content is fun, humorous and exciting. The below example demonstrates how humour can be a powerful factor in guerrilla marketing.
Initially this message about global warming would have just reached those people in the boat but because it was broadcast all over the world, via the internet, countless people will have seen it and then shared it with their friends and family.
The last example really sums up the nature of guerrilla marketing – it’s always cool and it’s often funny. So people notice it, they sometimes laugh at it, they remember it, they talk about it, they share it (either face to face or through social media channels) and maybe they even blog about it. In fact, they quite often do the marketers job for them.
It is for this reason that guerrilla marketing can be such a great tool for SMEs to help them break through the clutter of advertising. SMEs don’t have vast marketing budgets so why not let Joe Public raise awareness for them? The majority of examples that have been highlighted here are relatively inexpensive, and it is the strategies such as these which could stop smaller companies being ‘out-marketed’ by the corporate giants.
In the future I hope that more and more SMEs will use their creativity, their imagination and their energy to make people aware of their products and services rather than just concentrating on the conventional forms of advertising.
I hope you found this interesting. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this blog and guerrilla marketing in general.
Thanks for reading.