Guerrilla marketing

Guerrilla marketing

Ashwin, Andrew

Imagine walking down the street and seeing a wallet on the floor. You pick it up, and inside is a £5 note. What do you do? Hand it in to the police? Keep it? You look for some details to identify the owner, but the only other thing in the wallet is a business card with the name and address of a pizza delivery company.

This story has a basis of truth, strange as it may sound. A similar situation faced New York shoppers during Christmas 1999. Some 8,000 wallets were found on the streets of the Big Apple. In this case, there was just a card inside with the slogan “get out of hell free” and a web address – The card prompted shoppers to donate money for different charities during the Christmas period.

The New York wallets did not contain any money, but why not leave some cash inside the wallets? Why not stage a mock fight at a bar between two people who are arguing about the merits of your product? Why not buy a Chinese Red Army rocket and launcher truck, and park it next to a busy main road to advertise your website?

How about buying a London Routemaster bus and driving it around to advertise your company – you could stop and welcome people on board to get a taste of your products and services. Why not get people to have a go at rearranging Michael Jackson’s face via the internet? Or how about going around and sticking Post-it notes on every door in a neighbourhood to advertise your business?

These are all actual examples of marketing techniques that have been used by real businesses in attempts to attract customer attention and push their products. It is a far cry from the typical marketing strategies that the vast majority of students might offer as suggestions in response to an exam question.

These approaches have been largely pioneered by small businesses. Marketing is as important for many small businesses as it is for giant corporations, if not more so. But how does a small business compete and get noticed when it is faced with competition from companies with multi-million pound marketing budgets? Television and radio advertising, as well as billboard space, can be way too expensive. So firms have had to develop more creative ways to put across their message and tell consumers that they exist. The answer is guerrilla marketing.

As guerrilla marketing has become more popular in recent years, and is seen to be successful, the ideas are being taken on by larger organisations. It is becoming more difficult to separate out the tactics being used by small businesses with limited marketing budgets and the large players who have millions to use for marketing. As a result, guerrilla marketing approaches are becoming increasing prevalent.

Pages 6 and 7 are designed as a handout for students that introduces and sets out the main principles of guerrilla marketing. It contains a short activity that can be carried out individually or in small groups depending on the way the teacher wishes to use the exercise.

The term “guerrilla marketing” was first used in 1984 by J Conrad Levinson, an academic and marketing expert. It can be defined as the use of unconventional marketing tactics designed to extract the maximum exposure, attention and results from minimal use of resources.

There are a number of key principles that characterise guerrilla marketing. These can be remembered by the acronym NEAPS.

* Networks – businesses should constantly look to make contacts and build relationships.

* Energy – remember that every contact and every day is an opportunity to market your company. This is called 360 degree marketing.

* Activity – be aware that there are always opportunities to make your product known and find ways of doing this when the opportunity arises.

* Presence – find ways to make your business known to the market. This could be through chat rooms, email, forums, discussion boards, radio, magazine, street posters, graffiti and so on.

* Smart – make sure that you do not offend customers. (Some businesses have in fact turned this rule on its head by deliberately offending people they know are unlikely to be customers, and they then use the controversy to create awareness in their target audience.)

Guerrilla marketing has a number of key advantages, especially for small businesses that have limited marketing budgets.

* Flexibility – it can be changed easily because it is small scale. As a result, the campaign can respond to changing conditions and circumstances quickly.

* Cost – because of the types of activities, it is a very low-cost way of marketing.

* Targeted – activities can be targeted at the market that is most likely to buy the product or service. This improves the efficiency of the marketing campaign and improves returns.

* Simplicity – many guerrilla marketing methods are simple and easy to implement, and they do not require massive financial outlay.

Guerrilla marketing methods

The very nature of guerrilla marketing means that it has no bounds. There is no limit, it is up to the imagination of the business. This is a list of some methods that can be used.

* The internet:

* pop up advertising

* logging details of visitors and users

* improving rankings on search engines such as Google

* blogs

* banner advertising and sponsored links on websites and search engines

* Stickers and badges

* Spray paint logos

* Pavement chalking

* Biodegradable tree posters

* Product give-aways, including free demonstrations and consultations

* Intrigue – generating mystery to engage customers

* Peer marketing – bringing people with similar interests or ages together to build up interest in the product (an approach adopted in building interest in the Arctic Monkeys, for example)

* SMS text and video messaging – this approach helped create interest in the Crazy Frog

* Roach baiting and buzz marketing – using actors to behave as normal customers to create interest, controversy or curiosity in a product or service

* Live commercials – using people to do live commercials in key places such as clubs and pubs

* Bill stickers – an approach used to promote DJs and club events, for example


These websites will give you some more ideas of the different ways devised by marketers to get their products and services known. Look at these sites to get a feel for how guerrilla marketers have operated.



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Note that some of the examples in the article on The Economist website involve very large organisations using stunts to promote their products. This is not quite in the category of guerrilla marketing by our definition, but it shows how similar ideas are being used by larger organisations as a means of generating competitive advantage. Of course, if /ou have a large marketing budget the “stunts” you can afford to do can be more spectacular.

Andrew Ashwin is content developer at Bizled and chief examiner for the GCSE Nuffield Business and Economics.

Copyright Economics and Business Education Association Autumn 2006

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