Categories: Growth
Published June 5, 2023
Guerrilla Marketing

Understanding Guerrilla Marketing (GM)

Imagine planning a surprise party. It’s unexpected, creates lasting memories, and requires careful planning. That’s guerrilla marketing for you. It’s about catching people off-guard with innovative, low-cost strategies. Like a surprise party, it’s meant to leave a strong impression. It’s marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing, surprising consumers in unconventional ways. This not only grabs their attention but also makes the message more memorable.

Now that we’ve got the analogy, let’s explore the concept in depth.


Detailed Explanation of GM

Guerilla marketing is akin to a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It’s the surprise that makes you gasp, the trick you didn’t see coming. Just as the magician’s charm lies in his element of surprise, so too does the appeal of guerrilla marketing. It’s not the standard billboard you drive past each day, or the radio ad that fades into background noise. It’s the unexpected spectacle that makes you stop, look, and remember.

Now, consider a painter with an empty canvas. Traditional marketing would see that painter follow a tried-and-true pattern, maybe a landscape or a portrait. But guerrilla marketing? That’s the artist who throws paint at the canvas, creating a splash of color that’s hard to ignore. It’s innovative, it’s bold, and it refuses to blend in. Definitely it’s not about having a larger-than-life canvas or the most expensive paint. It’s about using creativity to make the most impact.

Guerilla marketing is not just about making a sale. It’s about creating an experience, a story. Like the magician who leaves you wondering how he did it, or the painter who makes you see art in a new light, effective guerrilla marketing leaves a lasting impression. It creates a narrative around the brand, making you part of the story.

With that understanding, let’s turn our attention to real-world examples of these principles in action.


Case Studies of Successful GM Campaigns

  1. Spotify’s Cosmic Playlists: Imagine receiving a music playlist tailored to your zodiac sign. Sounds fun, right? Spotify thought so too. In 2019, they introduced Cosmic Playlists, curated based on astrological readings. It was unique, fun, and kept listeners coming back for more. It wasn’t a groundbreaking innovation, but a clever twist on personalization that got people talking​1​.
  2. Domino’s Paving for Pizza: Have you ever been frustrated by a pothole ruining your pizza delivery? Domino’s tapped into this universal annoyance with their Paving for Pizza campaign in 2018. They identified poor road conditions as a problem for their customers and decided to do something about it. The campaign resonated with people, earning Domino’s a lot of goodwill and positive press​1​.
  3. Carlsberg’s Beer Caviar: When the World Cup rolled around, Carlsberg decided to celebrate in a unique way. They created the world’s first ever beer caviar, giving Danish football fans a taste of Russia with a twist. The idea was unusual, engaging, and tied in perfectly with the event, making it a hit with fans and the press​1.
  4. IHOP’s IHOb stunt: In an effort to promote their burgers, IHOP briefly rebranded as IHOb – the International House of Burgers. The name change stirred up a lot of attention and got people talking about IHOP’s burgers, which was exactly the point. It was a risky move, but it paid off in terms of publicity​1​.
  5. Hereditary’s Creepy Dolls: To promote the horror film Hereditary, the marketing team left creepy dolls outside the hotel doors of filmgoers. It was a simple, low-cost tactic that created a lot of buzz and left a lasting impression. This campaign is a perfect example of how guerrilla marketing can create memorable brand experiences​1​.

These examples show how guerrilla marketing can make a big impact with a small budget. The key is creativity, surprise, and a deep understanding of your audience. Now, let’s talk about how you can come up with your own guerrilla marketing ideas.


Generating GM Ideas

Step 1: Know Your Audience: Start by understanding your audience. What resonates with them? What are their interests, their habits, their values? The best guerrilla marketing campaigns speak directly to the audience they’re intended for.

Step 2: Be Creative: Now, let your imagination run wild. Don’t limit yourself to what’s been done before. Look for unique, unexpected ways to reach your audience. Remember, the goal is to surprise and delight.

Step 3: Consider the Environment: Guerrilla marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Think about where and when your campaign will take place. How can you leverage the environment to enhance your message?

Step 4: Keep it Simple: The most effective guerrilla marketing campaigns are often the simplest. Don’t overcomplicate things. Your idea should be easy to understand and remember.

Step 5: Align with Your Brand: Finally, make sure your campaign aligns with your brand. It should reflect your brand values and support your overall marketing strategy. A random act of creativity won’t do much good if it doesn’t connect back to your brand.

So, that’s a basic guide to generating guerrilla marketing ideas. But how do you know if your campaign will be successful? Let’s take a closer look at what makes a guerrilla marketing campaign successful.


Factors Contributing to the Success of Guerrilla Marketing

  1. Surprise Factor: Surprise grabs attention. The more unexpected your campaign, the more likely it is to be noticed. Spotify’s Cosmic Playlists capitalized on this by offering a unique, personalized experience​1​.
  2. Solving a Real Problem: Campaigns that address real issues resonate with people. Domino’s Paving for Pizza campaign connected with customers by fixing a common annoyance: potholes ruining their pizza delivery​1​.
  3. Innovative Use of Events: Aligning your campaign with a popular event can generate buzz. Carlsberg did this with the World Cup, creating a unique experience for Danish football fans​1​.
  4. Risk-Taking: Sometimes, taking a risk can pay off. IHOP’s name change to IHOb was risky, but it got people talking about their burgers​1​.
  5. Creating a Memorable Experience: Campaigns that create a memorable experience are likely to be shared and remembered. The creepy dolls promoting Hereditary left a lasting impression on filmgoers​1​.

Remember, the success of a guerrilla marketing campaign often hinges on how well it connects with the target audience. But what happens when a campaign misses the mark? Let’s look at some examples of guerrilla marketing gone wrong.


When GM Backfires: Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Underestimating Public Sentiment: Sometimes, what seems like a fun idea can backfire. Caltex Australia’s rebranding to “CahillTex” in honor of a footballer stirred controversy when some fans felt it influenced his selection for the World Cup team​1​.
  2. Misjudging the Impact of a Name Change: IHOP’s temporary name change to “IHOb” got attention, but it also sparked ridicule and memes. Always weigh the potential for negative reactions before making a major change​1​.
  3. Overstepping Boundaries: Guerrilla marketing can push boundaries, but it’s essential to respect your audience’s comfort level. The Hereditary movie promotion involved leaving creepy dolls outside viewers’ hotel rooms, which could be seen as intrusive by some​1​.
  4. Misjudging Your Audience’s Sense of Humor: Humor can be a powerful tool in guerrilla marketing, but it’s important to ensure that your audience will find it funny. GoldToe’s campaign involving dressing NYC statues in underwear was amusing to some, but not to everyone​1​.

Learning from these examples can help you avoid making the same mistakes in your guerrilla marketing efforts. The final part of this essay will provide you with resources to further your understanding and skills in guerrilla marketing.


Resources for Guerrilla Marketing

Let’s talk about some resources that can help you in your guerrilla marketing journey.


  1. “Guerrilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad Levinson: This is the book that started it all. It’s a great place to start for anyone interested in guerrilla marketing.
  2. “The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook” by Jay Conrad Levinson and Seth Godin: This book provides a practical guide on how to implement guerrilla marketing strategies.
  3. Buzzmarketing: Get People to Talk About Your Stuff” by Mark Hughes: While not strictly about guerrilla marketing, this book offers valuable insights on how to create buzz and make your campaigns go viral.

Twitter Accounts:

  1. Jay Conrad Levinson (@Jay_Levinson): The man who started it all. While he passed away in 2013, his account is still a good resource for guerrilla marketing insights.
  2. Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog): An author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin shares valuable insights on marketing, leadership, and the way ideas spread.
  3. Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee): A serial entrepreneur and an expert in social media and digital marketing. He often shares valuable marketing insights and strategies.

Online Resources:

  1. Marketing Blogs and Websites: Websites like HubSpot, Moz, and MarketingProfs often have articles and resources about guerrilla marketing.
  2. Online Courses: Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer online courses on marketing strategies, including guerrilla marketing.
  3. Marketing Podcasts: Podcasts like “The Marketing Book Podcast,” “Marketing Over Coffee,” and “The Science of Social Media” often discuss innovative marketing strategies, including guerrilla marketing.

Remember, guerrilla marketing is all about creativity and thinking out-of-the-box. Be open to ideas, keep an eye on successful campaigns for inspiration, and don’t be afraid to take risks​1​.



In conclusion, guerrilla marketing stands as a powerful tool in a marketer’s arsenal. It’s an art, combining creativity, ingenuity, and a keen understanding of the target audience. Remember, Spotify’s success hinged on personalization, while Domino’s addressed an everyday problem to win hearts​1​.

Yet, it’s a double-edged sword. Missteps can lead to public backlash, as seen in Caltex Australia’s campaign​1​. Bold moves, like IHOP’s name change, can create buzz but also court controversy​1​.

For beginners, start by brainstorming, keeping your target audience in mind. Books like “Guerilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business” by Jay Conrad Levinson, and experts like Seth Godin, can provide invaluable insights.

Lastly, remember to learn from both success and failure. Each campaign, whether triumphant or not, offers lessons. As a marketer, your goal should be to continually learn, adapt, and innovate. After all, in the world of guerrilla marketing, creativity is king. Happy marketing!