Guerrilla Marketing – Not a Code Word for “Cheap”

If you’re a marketing professional, you’ve probably read the book “Guerrilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad Levinson. Published in 1983, the book outlines innovative marketing tactics that can help small and medium enterprises grow their customer base.

The use of the word “guerrilla” was, of course, appropriated from the concept of guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla warfare involves the use of irregular military tactics by a small group of combatants against a larger, immobile, traditional military.

What is guerrilla marketing?

Transposing the concept of “guerrilla” to the marketing world, guerrilla marketing involves the use on unconventional or disruptive tactics in order to get your message out to your audience with the most impact.

The power of guerrilla marketing lies in the way it captures the attention and interest of the audience more easily than traditional marketing. It does this by creating a dialogue with the consumer. Traditional marketing is a one-way street where the business communicates with the consumer. Guerrilla marketing breaks this mold by encouraging interactivity. It focuses on building relationships, not increasing profits.

Levinson provides businesses with marketing concepts that would allow them to employ guerrilla marketing – ambient marketing, word-of-mouth, undercover marketing, viral marketing etc. In the updated and expanded version that was published in 2007, Levinson has revised some of the text to include how to leverage on new technologies, how to manage remote workers and freelancers, and how digital marketing strategies can be a excellent and effective source of guerrilla marketing.

Levinson’s 16 Monumental “Rules” for Guerrilla Marketing

In his book “Guerrilla Marketing,” Levinson stipulates basic rules for effective use of his concept.

  1. You must have commitment to your marketing program.
  2. Think of that program as an investment.
  3. See to it that your program is consistent.
  4. Make your prospects confident in your firm.
  5. You must be patient in order to keep a commitment.
  6. You must see that marketing is an assortment of weapons.
  7. You must know that profits come subsequent to the sale.
  8. You must aim to run your firm in a way that makes it convenient for your customers.
  9. Put an element of amazement in your marketing. 1
  10. Use measurement to judge the effectiveness of your weapons.
  11. Prove your involvement with customers and prospects by your regular follow-up with them.
  12. Learn to become dependent on other businesses and they on you.
  13. You must be skilled with the armament of guerrillas, which means technology.
  14. Use marketing to gain consent from prospects, and then broaden that consent so that it leads to the sale.
  15. Sell the content of your offering rather than the style; sell the steak and the sizzle, because people are too sophisticated to merely buy that sizzle.
  16. After you have a full-fledged marketing program, work to augment it rather than rest on your laurels.

The pros and cons of guerrilla marketing

Like any business strategy, there are benefits and disadvantages in having a guerrilla marketing campaign.

One of the best benefits of guerrilla marketing is that it is generally much, much cheaper than traditional marketing. Instead of relying on ad buys or creating advertising material, a guerrilla approach focuses more on the use of imagination and creativity. Guerrilla marketing also snowballs via word of mouth, which is the best kind of advertisement there is. This can lead to media coverage or even more publicity about the campaign. Basically, a well-crafted guerrilla campaign has the ability of taking on a life of its own with a multiplier effect – augmenting the effect of branding and other messages.

On the flip side, messages are generally communicated in a subtler manner in guerrilla marketing versus traditional marketing. As such, mysterious messages could be misinterpreted or misunderstood which could undermine the whole campaign. Care must also be taken to ensure that any action is not against local laws. Certain tactics also depend heavily on external factors such as weather, bad timing or interruptions from bystanders. When using guerrilla marketing, it is absolutely important to stay limber and to be able to react and adapt to changing situations.

Guerrilla marketing is not for the faint-hearted! It definitely carries an element of risk, but the rewards can be exponentially great.

The Cost of Guerrilla Marketing

In the book, Levinson states, “Traditional marketing is geared toward big business…. The soul and spirit of guerrilla marketing – is small business: companies with big dreams and tiny budgets.” He posits that all is that needed for guerrilla marketing putting in sufficient effort, creativity and imagination into it.

According to Levinson, small enterprises have the benefit of agility and the ability to react more quickly than large companies. Moreover, they enjoy a closer relationship with their customers than large companies. These characteristics make small enterprises the best at employing guerilla marketing tactics.

The reality of it is somewhat different: despite the assertions in his book, large companies have shown that they too are capable of guerilla marketing, and often at a much-larger and visible scale due to the massive marketing budget they have.  If you search for examples of successful guerilla marketing campaigns, the names of well-known brands such as the Discovery Channel, Guinness, Duracell, Cover Girl and IKEA come up.

However, the essence of guerilla marketing – that it relies heavily on imagination, cleverness, and subverting expectations – still means that small enterprises can be successful at it.

Moreover, there are now more opportunities to engage in guerilla marketing in the online sphere. Marketing efforts such as creating videos that go viral, interesting and innovative landing pages, and interactive content for users are some ways that businesses can engage in online guerilla marketing.

Regardless of whether you engage in physical guerilla marketing or online, what’s crucial is that the design and content of the campaign is crafted to get the maximum audience attention. But remember, people care more about substance than style! Ultimately, it is not the type of tactics that really matter; if you put out high quality content, the audience will come.