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Attention is the new economy, with Americans increasingly spending more time on streaming services, video games, TikTok, FaceTime, and Zoom. So what’s a small business to do? How can you get consumers to look away from their screens and actually pay attention to you?
Guerilla marketing—immersive experiences, mind-boggling surprises, and larger-than-life moments of enchantment, inspiration, or joy. To capture attention, you need to create something so remarkable that even the most disinterested passersby can’t help but notice and join in.
Let’s explore what guerilla marketing is, how it can help you grow your small business, and some brilliant guerilla marketing ideas from some of the world’s leading brands.
Guerilla marketing uses unconventional marketing tactics to surprise and delight consumers, resulting in an undeniably memorable experience and favorable impression of your brand. Think skyscraper-sized dolls, billboards that bring Dracula to life, Deadpool’s Tinder profile, or even good ol’ flash mobs—these are all examples of guerilla marketing.
There are four major benefits of a successful guerilla marketing campaign:
Guerilla marketing tactics vary wildly, ranging from KitKat park benches to the legendary Red Bull Stratos space jump. This is one of the perks of guerilla marketing—these tactics offer much more flexibility and capacity to be creative than traditional marketing methods, whether your budget is candy bar-sized or history-making.
Here are some of the most popular guerilla marketing tactics:
Infuse your product or campaign into the consumer’s environment with the intention of blending it into the experience rather than disrupting it. You probably see ambient marketing examples every day. Small ads on gas pumps, hand dryers, or golf balls are common examples of this guerilla marketing tactic.
Promote your product unexpectedly at an event, often without the event team’s permission. A well-known example of event ambush marketing is the Fiji Water model, featuring a photobombing of many of the 2019 Golden Globes red carpet photos, exposing the brand to millions of viewers.
This kind of marketing can have a major downside, though: if you work without permission from the event team, you run the risk of removal from the event or even facing legal consequences.
Use endorsements or recommendations from celebrities or influencers to build interest in your brand. Rather than paying for brand mentions like traditional influencer marketing, buzz marketing typically relies on organic endorsements from high-profile individuals, which makes it cost-effective but difficult to execute effectively.
Create immersive experiences or activities consumers can directly participate in so they become part of your marketing campaign.
For example, Coca-Cola created a virtual reality experience during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Zurich that enabled sports fans to “play soccer” with Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri. Passersby couldn’t resist the opportunity to try their skills against a professional soccer star, making the campaign a success.
Quite literally, marketing or promoting your product on the street or in other heavily trafficked public places to ensure widespread exposure. Street marketing isn’t confined to billboards and flyers—it often involves sidewalks, park benches, trash cans, and more.
Encourage consumers to share your brand or product online or through word of mouth. The benefits of viral marketing are undeniable—Dollar Shave Club used a viral video to capture 12,000+ orders in just 48 hours. However, there’s no guarantee that your campaign or product will go viral, making this guerilla marketing tactic often less predictable than others.
We can’t talk about guerilla marketing without highlighting the pinkest of them all: the “Barbie” movie campaign. From turning bus stops into Barbie’s living room to renting out a real-life Barbie Dreamhouse on Airbnb, the “Barbie” marketing team brilliantly turned consumers cotton candy pink with “Barbie” fever—and gave us a masterclass in guerilla marketing along the way.
The worldwide campaign catapulted “Barbie” into Hollywood history: it’s now the highest-grossing Warner Bros. film ever made, surpassing every film in the “Harry Potter” and “Dark Knight” series—and the largest-ever film debut for a female director, a huge milestone in an industry that’s historically male-dominated at almost every level.
While the “Barbie” team had a healthy marketing budget, you can leverage some of the same tactics even if your budget is as small as a Barbie doll’s wallet:
What can we learn from the “Barbie” movie campaign? When you thoroughly understand your audience, you know exactly how to prompt excitement, encourage participation, and build brand affinity. Delight your customers, and they’ll gladly share and support your brand. This is the ideal outcome of guerilla marketing.
Unfortunately, guerilla marketing isn’t as easy as baking a chocolate creme pie the size of an Olympic swimming pool and hollering “free dessert.” Like any other marketing approach, be thoughtful to be successful with guerilla marketing.
Start with a clear goal in mind—do you want to increase social media followers, foot traffic, or sales? Then reverse-engineer a campaign that directly supports your goal.
Here are some gut-check questions to ask as you plan your guerilla marketing campaign:
Now that your guerilla marketing campaign has ended, don’t forget what comes next. Once you’ve captured the eyes (and hopefully hearts) of your campaign participants, how will you convert them into loyal customers?
You’ve just sparked positive relationships with all these people, so don’t let them fizzle out post-campaign. Create a way to stay in touch with participants as part of your guerilla marketing experience. Then, launch an email or SMS nurture campaign to ensure all those happy participants become loyal customers.
That’s where we come in.
When you sign up for a free Twilio SendGrid account, you’ll gain access to expert advice, tips, and templates to help you with every step of the customer journey, from gathering contact information to increasing sales. If you need help getting started, check out this guide.
We’ll keep an eye out for your guerilla marketing campaign when we’re out and about—we can’t wait to see what you come up with.