Although guerrilla marketing has existed for some time, in the eyes of many it is seen as little more than an attention seeking stunt. While it is true that for some the sole aim is to be noticed, when employed skilfully and in good taste a guerrilla marketing campaign can in fact reap valuable rewards for your brand strategy. Not sure where to start? Here are our top tips for getting it right.
What is guerrilla marketing?
Literally meaning ‘little war’, the term guerrilla is best explained as ‘referring to actions or activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorisation.’
When it comes to marketing, Investopedia explains guerrilla marketing as a ‘tactic in which a company uses surprise and/or unconventional interactions in order to promote a product or service.’ Often conducted with a small budget and requiring personal interaction from the consumer, the aim is to send the content viral so as to increase the potential reach of the marketing message.
There are a number of benefits to guerrilla marketing that make it a useful element of your marketing toolkit.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that, as alluded to in the above definition, guerrilla marketing can be a budget friendly way to reach large numbers of potential consumers and get your name out into the online sphere. For this reason, it is often favoured by small businesses or start-ups looking for maximum return on investment, and has acquired an edgy, young connotation that comes with alternative methods and viral content.
Yet, even if this is not the situation your brand finds itself in, nor the image you wish to portray, done right guerrilla marketing can still reap rewards. The element of surprise can create feelings of awe and respect in the mind of a potential consumer, and provide an emotional connection that is increasingly important in an age when marketers find it difficult to make their brand stand out from the crowd.
Where to start?
We all know how difficult it can be to come up with an original idea, and so rather than let the pressure of being creative prevent you from pursuing a guerrilla campaign, why not take inspiration from those brands who have done it well? Here are three notable campaigns and the insight you can take from them.
1. Ad Block Piccadilly Circus, and why turning heads is about timing.
One of the major components of guerrilla marketing is timing, and being agile enough to respond to an opportunity when the moment presents itself is half the skill in making the technique work.
This is exactly what happened recently with Ad Block Piccadilly Circus. It was reported at the beginning of 2017 that the famous advertising boards, which have shined down on the iconic London junction for over a century (and in fact hadn’t been turned off since the Blitz of World War Two!) would go dark for around eight months to allow for renovation of the display screens.
As The Drum reported, the opportunity was too good to be missed by creatives at Innocean Worldwide UK Simon Carr and Tristan Lenczner, who used a nearby lamppost to plant a well-placed ‘adblock’ sign in front of the now black screens. Although not out to sell or promote a product as a result of their stunt, the creatives told The Drum that since ‘the lights are synonymous with advertising, we hooked onto the idea of adblocking.’
Well timed, in good humour, low budget and easily shareable, the Ad Block ticks all the right boxes for a guerrilla marketing campaign.
2. Whirlpool Care Counts, and why a simple idea can be perfect for storytelling
Although some guerrilla marketing campaigns can feel gimmicky, when the campaign has a story to tell, its message can spread far and wide as a result of its simplicity.
One U.S brand getting it right is Whirlpool with their Care Counts initiative. While selling washing machines doesn’t scream edgy or shareable, by creating a heart-warming video with a clear, relatable message the brand was able to not only promote its products but increase its CSR credentials.
Their beautifully shot three-minute video, which explains that every day thousands of children from low income or ‘at risk’ backgrounds in the USA skip school because they don’t have clean clothes to wear, shows how their simple solution of installing a washer and drier into schools is helping to solve the problem.
Since being picked up on by multiple international news outlets such as The Huffington Post, the campaign successfully blended the brand’s key slogan of ‘every day, care’ with the guerrilla marketing technique, embracing unconventional methods and demonstrating that it can deliver measurable results.
3. The NHS, and why guerrilla doesn’t work in all contexts.
Despite the fact that, as the range of campaigns above shows, guerrilla marketing can be extremely adaptable and is employed by a variety of brands, knowing when it could cause more damage than good is an important judgement to make.
This is one lesson that Yorkshire NHS recently learned the hard way, after somewhat misjudging their audience’s reception to a campaign message. Regional newspaper The Yorkshire Post has been covering the story in recent weeks, in which it is claimed that NHS chiefs have advertised the opportunity to design and run a guerrilla marketing campaign with the message ‘turn down the noise about cuts to services and risks to the NHS.’
Due to start in April and run throughout 2017, the campaign hasn’t yet launched, but is already facing mounting opposition for its insensitive response to social issues, the costs involved in running the campaign and its ‘bizarre’ approach to addressing the public’s concerns. Whether the campaign will go ahead remains to be seen, but the key takeaway for marketers, that choosing wisely when it comes to context for your guerrilla marketing campaign, is a sound one.
With good timing, clear messaging, a shareable story and cultural sensitivity, guerrilla marketing can be integrated into your brand strategy for minimal cost and maximum return on investment.