Guerilla Marketing - Shocking yet Effective

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1400 , Published on 05 March 2015

Sometimes things hit you right in the face, in the most unexpected way at the most unprecedented times. If they can bring a smile to your face, you tend to remember them forever. Such is the concept of Guerrilla Marketing. An advertising strategy based on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics which marks the epitome of out of the box thinking.


In the age of rising competition, of devastatingly addictive social media and of a world with consumer choice range going out of the roof, one wouldn’t be wrong to say the need of the hour is a device that is cheap, catchy and at the same time an experience in itself.

Flash mobs for example. It may be argued that it’s merely music and dance, but is that all it is? The concept is merely to convey creative messages through aesthetics and appeal of movement and grace, just that in an organized fashion. The idea is to portray a company in an entirely fresh perspective. It enunciates the kind of creativity that makes one swell with awe and delight; the delight of difference. Have it on a subway or a class and it only adds. Guerrilla Marketing deals with ideas. An idea that is crisp, stark and in short a new imaginative solution on how to present a company. It aims to surprise, to amaze and to create a memorable impression in pursuit of a large amount of social media buzz.

To sum up, Guerilla advertisements tend to be shocking and all-consuming, so most people who encounter them would remember the brand and become acquainted with its essence. All in all, they are viable not just for the mavericks barely entering the market wanting to create a ripple but even for the age old thorough professionals who over time have realized even passing fads can be lucrative. And no, Guerilla isn’t just a fad. It’s cheap, it gets results and it is creative. That is what defines a whole package isn’t it?

The first thing one has to remember when trying to use guerrilla marketing techniques is, it is not so much what is being sold or advertised that matters, it’s how it makes the user feel. Why it is so important, is that with rising competition and dropping margins all that survives is what seems different. Whereas earlier traditional competitive advantages like low costs, good quality, cross functional products were actually rare and defined, now with rising competition such pros have become rather than state of the art, necessary. Nevertheless one can still stand out in the consumer mind based on the strategy he adopts when being revealed to them. Coca cola for example is one brand that has stepped up its experiential marketing quotient to a rather high level over the past two years. With simple vending machines or trucks in different locations all over the world like Singapore, Ecuador and Istanbul providing more than just free coke bottles, it seems to have established itself in selling a product stronger in abrasive action capability than pesticide! Truly the best marketing ideas are those that haven’t been created yet.

So where did it start one may ask? Not surprisingly it started where all the creativity of expression and of literature naturally flows, in theatre. Theatrical Actors, writers as passionate as they are, are often not so big on funds. Also, with the big screen flicks coming out by the million they have a small but demographically targeted audience mostly adjourned by those interested in the culture of the practice. And hence, the unimaginable was made possible and plausible. Through their efforts and the juvenile rawness of budding entrepreneurs who through them decided to go rogue, guerilla marketing was born. Today even the biggest brands in the business use it. Over time as reimagining ways to use the traditional media can itself become nontraditional, hence one has to keep looking for new avenues to seek being the odd one out. In this era, it is what works.

However be wary in guerilla, although there is the presence of business specific customization, the well-defined facts and figures that are measurable and tangible in other media platforms like newspapers and TV advertisements (what we know as ROI) are questionable. Hence whereas in normal media techniques one has to be very careful while planning impressions and cost per million with guerilla, the challenge lies in crafting the message so as to use the data gained through the CPM measurement of these other channels. Another issue with the tactic is that finding, defining and employing new media platforms that are in a constant state of evolution is also difficult. At the end of the day it’s all about how creative one can get. But with limited resources, even that does have a line. The road ahead seems steep, where like all other marketing forms perhaps there will be a standardizing. We humans, we take pride in structuring what cannot be structured. Probably a governing organization may be formed that would standardize campaigns for as they say, the greater good. However one has to understand that it’s the eccentricities and the quirks that make guerilla work. Structure it and it may fail. Its dependency on defying convention is what breathes the life into it.

Yet, with all bindings and new age challenges it is necessary to accept and employ it mostly because it is targeted, that is it wins over a set of consumers in a specific environment where they live, work or play. Also, it is cost effective. Not only does it involve the consumer into an experience that would tag him for life, it comes at very low cost. The coco cola campaigns, a few free burgers, soft toys, maybe even an LCD on the whole would cost them somewhere around a few lakhs (max) and win them at least a small base for life. Adding to it the media reach, you tube channels, twitter and Facebook makes it a frenzy waiting to happen. Also, because it is so unique its front page material/ reportable and newspapers as such are genuinely acknowledged to be the best advertising tools ever made.

Another plus with guerilla marketing is that it can be used to market/ advertise delicate matter. A company that has diligently managed that is Durex. As shown its ‘street legal’ condom advertisements haven’t failed to impress, whether it be the knob or the ribs advertisement.

However a good guerrilla marketing plan like a normal marketing plan has to be designed to perfection. This starts identifying who it is you want to reach, timing the impression, planning the place of the impression, identifying the obstacles and competitors and budgeting the final roadmap. Also there are certain limitations to the company that have to be considered. Take for example a company that sells diapers, no matter how innovative it gets, if its major add campaigns happen after nine, it’s a loss. Hence consumer insight is not just important but a prerequisite for guerilla. Although one does want to be in a newspaper, it isn’t to be in the bloopers section.

Guerrilla does not always deal with being new. For example, if a competitor has achieved something in a certain way does not mean it cannot or should not be coped or better still countered. Take for example the Audi and BMW billboard battle who are constantly attempting to rip at each other through catchy slogans and allegations.

Moving ahead, the growth in experiential marketing over the past one year has resulted in most marketing campaigns now having that innovative guerilla element in them. Some may argue that it is a passing fad and for all you know it may be, but what matters is that it will be a combination of companies and consumers that will decide what works. In an era where the main says of advertising a few years back like traditional marketing and door to door selling are literarily non-existent one has to give in to how the consumer is growing in persona and consistently evolving new techniques and channels will have to be devised to stand out in the mind of the consumer. Hence it won’t be wrong to say, that a mix of guerrilla and current marketing practices will be the call of the hour for the coming year as companies look towards innovating once again.

This article has been authored by Raj Walia from IIM Udaipur



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