Guerrilla marketing is an advertisement strategy in which a company uses surprise and/or unconventional interactions in order to promote a product or service. It is a type of publicity. The term was popularized by Jay Conrad Levinson's 1984 book Guerrilla Marketing.
Guerrilla marketing uses multiple techniques and practices in order to establish direct contact with the customers. One of the goals of this interaction is to cause an emotional reaction in the clients, and the ultimate goal of marketing is to get people to remember products or brands in a different way than they are accustomed to.
As traditional advertising media channels—such as print, radio, television, and direct mail—lose popularity, marketers and advertisers have to find new strategies to get their commercial messages to the consumer. Guerrilla marketing focuses on taking the consumer by surprise to make a big impression about the product or brand. This in turn creates buzz about the product being marketed. It is a way of advertising that increases consumers' engagement with the product or service, and is designed to create a memorable experience. By creating a memorable experience, it also increases the likelihood that a consumer, or someone who interacted with the campaign, will tell their friends about the product. Thus, via word of mouth, the product or service being advertised reaches more people than initially anticipated.
Guerrilla marketing is relatively inexpensive, and focuses more on reach rather than frequency. For guerrilla campaigns to be successful, companies don't need to spend large amounts, they just need to have imagination, energy and time. Therefore, it has the potential to be effective for small businesses, especially if they are competing against bigger companies.
The message to consumers is often designed to be clear and concise. This type of marketing also works on the unconscious mind, as purchasing decisions are often made by the unconscious mind. To keep the product or service in the unconscious mind requires repetition, so if a buzz is created around a product, and it is shared amongst friends, it enables repetition.
Etymology and origin
The term "guerrilla marketing" is traced to guerrilla warfare, which employs atypical tactics to achieve an objective. In 1984, the term guerrilla marketing was introduced by Leo Burnett's creative director Jay Conrad Levinson in his book Guerrilla Marketing. The term itself was from the inspiration of guerrilla warfare which was unconventional warfare using different techniques from usual and small tactic strategies used by armed civilians. It involves high imagination and energy to execute a guerrilla marketing campaign. This kind of marketing is purely focusing on taking the consumer by surprise, creating a greater impression and eventually leading to buzz through word-of-mouth or social media platforms. Guerrilla marketing is perfect for any small or medium size businesses to bring their product or services to its consumers without investing more money on advertisements. This has also been used by large companies to show the difference from its competitors and to make use of social media campaigns. Lately, individuals use unconventional methods of job hunting or to work more. As a result, the concept of street marketing was born. It has evolved from being only the application of activities on the streets, to be the development of innovative practices of promotion. For example, one method used by many enterprises to promote their products or services on the streets is the distribution of fliers. This activity does not focus on creativity, but on making publicity on the streets. However, with the passage of time, companies have developed more unconventional techniques to catch the attention of the clients.
Ambient communication is advertising presented on elements of the environment, including nearly every available physical surface. It is a compilation of intelligence, flexibility, and effective use of the atmosphere. These kinds of ads can be found anywhere and everywhere from hand dryers in public bathrooms and petrol pumps through to bus hand straps and golf-hole cups.
Ambush marketing is a form of associative marketing, used by an organization to capitalize upon the awareness, attention, goodwill, and other benefits, generated by having an association with an event or property, without that organization having an official or direct connection to that event or property.
It is typically seen at major events where rivals of official sponsors attempt to build an association with the event and increase awareness for their brands, sometimes covertly. For example, Nike during the 2012 London Olympics created 'find your Greatness' spots where they featured athletes from several locations called London (but without showing the real London or referring to the Olympic games) which was intended to build a strong association between London Olympics and Nike.
Stealth marketing is a deliberate act of entering, operating in, or exiting a market in a furtive, secretive or imperceptible manner, or an attempt to do so.
Viral marketing describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, to millions. Off the Internet, viral marketing has been referred to as "word-of-mouth", "creating a buzz", "leveraging the media", "network marketing", But on the Internet, for better or worse, it's called "viral marketing".
Similarly, buzz marketing uses high-profile media to encourage the public to discuss the brand or product. Buzz marketing works best when consumer's responses to a product or service and subsequent endorsements are genuine, without the company paying them. Buzz generated from buzz marketing campaigns is referred to as "amplified WOM" (word-of-mouth), and "organic WOM" is when buzz occurs naturally by the consumer.
Grassroots campaigns aim to win customers over on an individual basis. A successful grassroots campaign is not about the dissemination of the marketing message in the hope that possible consumers are paying attention, but rather highlights a personal connection between the consumer and the brand and builds a lasting relationship with the brand.
Astroturfing is among the most controversial guerrilla marketing strategies, and has a high risk factor for the company marketing the product or service. Astroturfing derives from artificial “turf”, often used in stadiums or tennis courts – also known as fake grass. Hence, fake endorsements, testimonials and recommendations are all products of Astroturfing in the public relations sector. Astroturfing involves generating an artificial hype around a particular product or company through a review or discussion on online blogs or forums by an individual who is paid to convey a positive view. This can have a negative and detrimental effect on a company, should the consumer suspect that the review or opinion is not authentic, damaging the company's reputation or even worse, resulting in litigation.
Street marketing uses unconventional means of advertising or promoting products and brands in public areas. The main goal is to encourage consumers to remember and recall the brand or product marketed. As a division of guerrilla marketing, street marketing is specific to all marketing activities carried out in streets and public areas such as parks, streets, events etc. Street marketing also encompasses advertising outdoors, such as on shopping trolleys (shopping carts, in the US), public toilets, sides of cars or public transport, manhole covers, footpaths, rubbish bins, etc.
Street marketing isn't confined to fixed advertisements. It is common practice for organisations to use brand ambassadors who distribute product samples or discount vouchers, and answer queries about the product while emphasizing the brand. The brand ambassadors may be accompanied by a kiosk which contains the product samples or demonstration materials, or they may be wearing a "walking billboard". The physical interaction with consumers has a greater influencing power than traditional passive advertising.
Street marketing is understood as mobilizing not only the space of the streets but also the imagination of the street: that of street culture and street art. The Y-generation broadly consisting of young urbanites (15 – 30 years old), is often put forth as the most susceptible target for the campaigns due to its associations with the culture of the street.
- Distribution of flyers or products
This activity is more traditional and is the most common form of street marketing employed by brands.
- Product animations
This consists of personalizing a high-traffic space using brand imagery. The idea is to create a micro-universe in order to promote a new product or service.
- Human animations
The goal of such actions is to create a space in which the brand's message is communicated through human activity.
- Road shows
This form of mobile presentation is based on the development of means of transport: Taxi, bike, Segway, etc.
- Uncovered actions
These activities involve the customization of street elements.
- Event actions
These activities take the form of spectacles, such as flash mobs or contests. The idea is to promote a product, service or brand value through organization of a public event.
First, enterprises identify the public places where the campaign can be developed such as beaches, cultural events, close to schools, sporting events and recreation areas for children. Next, companies have to develop a plan to get close to different media and the target market. In order to attract attention, street marketing events not only involve unusual activities, but use technology as part of the events. The purpose is to increase the value of the campaigns and get potential consumers' attention.
Besides, the plans that companies develop take into account that guerrilla or street marketing involves global communication and interaction not only with the customers or the media. They are also developed to identify opportunities and collect enough information about products, markets and competitors. For example, for business it is important that customers stay with them, instead of choosing the competitors’ offers. They implement innovative strategies with which they will not lose position in the market, and they consider supplementation with other advertisement through other mediums, such as radio and television, when using street marketing.
There are various examples of strategies that are used in guerrilla marketing. One of them is to provide offers to increase sales. In many cases, businesses do not only supply their products or services to be recognized, but they also offer other things for free. Another instance is to present a fundraiser offer. The point of this strategy is to help other organizations, such as schools, by offering them money. Most companies implement this method not only to increase their sales, but to improve their reputation and image among the community. Finally, there is a strategy called "team selling" that consists of conforming groups of people, the majority of them young, who go knocking the doors of different houses in a neighborhood. They do this in order to help companies promoting and selling their products or services.
When doing guerrilla marketing or street marketing, organizations also consider focusing on the psychological approach. For many companies, this implies if they are having success or not. Street marketing focuses on some psychological aspects to know customers' behavior and preferences. For example, certain psychological areas study how people's brains are divided: 45% of people are left-brained, 45% are right brained, and 10% are balanced. Left-brained persons tend to be logical, right-brained ones tend to be emotional, and the rest combine the two. Then, according to the product or service that enterprises provide, and also the kind of customer, businesses decides the way they are going to manage their street marketing campaigns. Besides, almost all the enterprises base their street marketing campaigns on repeating the messages they spread among their customers. Repetition is related to the unconscious part of the mind. This is the one in charge of making decisions. It lets people know what they are going to choose, as well as what they are going to buy. Businesses follow the principle that establishes that, the more people paying attention to the campaign, the more possibilities that campaign has for being remembered.
When a company decides to do a guerrilla marketing campaign which could be anything out of viral, ambient, ambush, street or stealth, the focus for them is to meet the objectives. The main objectives for them are:
- To create enough buzz to serve in word-of-mouth, helping the brand to establish well with its products.
- To touch most of the five sensory identities of the customer/consumer enhancing personal experience with the brand and building good reputation.
- To reach the target successfully by taking the brand to them in their daily routine.
Through the experience and the ephemeral feelings shared between the company and the target, advertisers and agencies generate a feeling of intimacy that resonates beyond the encounter. This feeling of nearness becomes all the more lasting as the affected individuals relive this encounter on the internet through social media.
The guerrilla marketing promotion strategy was first identified by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book Guerrilla Marketing (1984).The book describes hundreds of "guerrilla marketing weapons" in use at the time. Guerrilla marketers need to be creative in devising unconventional methods of promotion to maintain the public's interest in a product or service. Levinson writes that when implementing guerrilla marketing tactics, smaller organizations and entrepreneurs are actually at an advantage. Ultimately, however, guerrilla marketers must "deliver the goods." In The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook, the authors write: "...in order to sell a product or a service, a company must establish a relationship with the customer. It must build trust and support the customer's needs, and it must provide a product that delivers the promised benefits..."
Online guerilla marketing
The web is rife with examples of guerrilla marketing, to the extent that many of us don't notice its presence - until a particularly successful campaign arises. The desire for instant gratification of internet users provides an avenue for guerrilla marketing by allowing businesses to combine wait marketing with guerrilla tactics. Simple examples consist of using 'loading' pages or image alt texts to display an entertaining or informative message to users waiting to access the content they were trying to get to. As users dislike waiting with no occupation on the web, it is essential, and easy, to capture their attention this way. Other website methods include interesting web features such as engaging landing pages.
Many online marketing strategies also use social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn to begin campaigns, share-able features and event host events. Other companies run competitions or discounts based on encouraging users to share or create content related to their product. Viral videos are an incredibly popular form of guerrilla marketing in which companies film entertaining or surprising videos that internet users are likely to share and enjoy, that subtly advertise their service or product. Some companies such as Google even create interactive elements like the themed Google logo games to spark interest and engagement. These dynamic guerrilla marketing tactics can become news globally and give businesses considerable publicity.
There are various organizations who have implemented the guerrilla and street marketing strategies. The majority of them are small companies, but there are also big companies that have involved in the guerrilla and street marketing environment. Most of the examples of the strategies that both small and big enterprises have put into action include costumed persons, the distribution of tickets, people providing samples, among others. As stated before, one guerrilla marketing conventional method that is used by many businesses is to provide fliers. The goal is to create awareness on the customers about what the enterprise is doing. One example of this took place in Montpelier, Vermont, where the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) sent a group of students to a movie theatre to hand out 400 fliers. Those fliers had coupons in which NECI was inviting people to go to its monthly Theme Dinners. Another company, Boston's Kung-Fu Tai Chi Club, chose the option of disseminating fliers instead of placing its advertisements on the newspapers. The purpose of the fliers was to promote the company's self-defence classes for women.
Other businesses apply the technique of sending disguised people to promote things on the streets. For example, match.com organized a street marketing activity in the “Feria del Libro” (“Book Fair”) in Madrid. It consisted of a man dressed like a prince who was walking among the crowd looking for his “real love”. He had a glass slipper and even got to try the shoe on some people. A woman behind him was giving bookmarks to the people which contained messages such as “Times have changed; the way to find love, too” or “You have been reading love stories all your life; experience yours on Match.com”. Also, in Madrid and Barcelona, Nokia developed a campaign called “Avestruz” (“Ostrich”) to promote the 5500 and 5700 mobiles. In the campaign, a group of real-size ostrich puppets tried to interact with young people in order to let them know these mobiles provide a high-quality MP3 playback. The puppets were holding their own telephones and listening to the music. When a young person appeared, the puppet tried to catch his/her attention to show him/her the quality of the mobile. The reason why Nokia decided to use ostriches was that they are big animals, so people could easily look at them.
There are enterprises that disseminate passes or tickets to different events. For example, Sony invests on joining promoters and tells them that they have to infiltrate in public meetings. What they have to do is to distribute free tickets to concerts and other musical events sponsored by the company . Another instance is the Spanish company Clickair (an extension of Iberia airlines), that developed a campaign in which a group of five people had to walk through Barcelona streets dressed as Euros. The group was supplying approximately 3,000 tickets to promote different Clickair destinations. The people who first sent a text message with the required information would get free tickets to go on a trip. In the end, the company received a total of 3,390 messages. Along with these examples, there are other street marketing techniques that are even more unusual. Lee Jeans, a French company dedicated to the selling of jeans, promoted the opening of their new store in rue des Rosiers in Paris. The method they applied consisted of distributing denims, as well as denim accessories, on the different streets of the neighborhood. Furthermore, in Italy, the members of the company Nintendo put into action a campaign in which they used post-it's to promote the Wii console. They pasted several post-it with the shapes of some characters from different video games. Those images were placed as if they were billboards on the streets. “Wii not forget”, the name of the campaign, and a brief explanation of it, were the words written on the post-its. In some cases, some street marketing may incite the ire of local authorities; such was the case in Houston, Texas, when BMW's ad agency (Street Factory Media in Minneapolis)attached a replication, made from Styrofoam, of a Mini-Cooper to the side of a downtown building. For the cost of a small city-issued fine, the company received front page advertising on the Houston Chronicle.
Sony Ericsson used an undercover campaign in 2002 when they hired 60 actors in ten major cities and had them accost strangers and ask them: "Would you mind taking my picture?" The actor then handed the target a brand new picture phone while talking about how cool the new device was. "And thus an act of civility was converted into a branding event.
Guerrilla marketing is not just exclusive to small companies. For big companies it is a high risk, high reward strategy. When successful it can capture even more market share, but if it fails it can damage the company’s brand image. One successful guerrilla marketing campaign is the Coca-Cola ‘Happiness Machine”. In January 2010, Coca-Cola, with the help of Definition 6, filmed a reaction video of a Coke vending machine dispensing ‘doses’ of happiness to unsuspecting students in St. John's University. A seemingly normal vending machine surprised students by dispensing items that were more than they bargained for. The students received goodies ranging from extra coke, pizza, flowers, to even a twelve-foot hero sub. “Coke’s goal to inspire consumers through small, surprise moments of happiness” said Paul Iannacchino Jr., Creative Director, Definition 6. With a budget of only $60,000, the video generated 500,000 views in the first week. It now has over 7 million views to date. The campaign was so popular that a 30-second edit of the footage was featured during American Idol's season finale. The Coca-Cola “Happiness Machine” also went on to receive the CLIO's prestigious Gold Interactive Award at the 51st annual awards dinner held in New York City. After the campaign's success, Coca-Cola decided to continue with the ‘Happiness’ theme and has released similar videos since then.
Because of the nature of guerrilla marketing, the message and objective must be clearly defined in order to avoid being misunderstood. Misinterpretation by the targeted audience of the message intended to be promoted is a risk. Word-of-mouth advertising does not always stay focused enough to present the intended message. The rumor-like spread of word-of-mouth marketing is uncontrollable once released, and can result in a misrepresentation of the message or confusion about a brand.
Another risk involves wrongly timed (or wrongly placed) events, which may actually be perceived to be against the interests of the consumer. For instance, in an ill-conceived promotion which took place on January 31, 2007, several magnetic circuit boards—each with an flashing LED cartoon figure—were attached to metal surfaces in and around Boston, Massachusetts to promote the animated series, Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The circuit boards were mistakenly taken for explosive devices. Several subway stations; bridges; and a portion of Interstate 93 were closed as police examined, removed, and (in some cases) destroyed the devices.
Some guerrilla marketing may incite the ire of local authorities. Then risks are assessed and may still be considered worthwhile. Such was the case in Houston, Texas, when BMW Auto's ad agency, Street Factory Media, attached a replica of a Mini-Cooper (made of Styrofoam), to the side of a downtown building in January 2013. For the small cost of a city-issued fine, the company received front page advertising in the Houston Chronicle.
Another problem presents itself if marketers fail to properly execute an undercover campaign. They run considerable risk of backlash. An example of this can be found in Sony Entertainment's on-line debacle with Zipatoni. The company attempted to promote Zipatoni through a stealth marketing campaign, which was quickly detected by the internet community, resulting in Sony immediately experiencing a backlash from video game enthusiasts.
Street art is thus a subversive activity, hijacking public places and inventing rather paradoxical forms of expression that reformulate ways of communicating, all of which inform street marketing practices. Thus marketing in the street, given that it is inspired by the work of such artists, brings with it constraints and statutory risks for which agencies and advertisers are generally not prepared. The main problem is that, by definition, street mobilization campaigns require the use of public space, and that use must be authorized by government authorities to be legal. This is just as true for simple operations like distributing flyers as it is for mobilizing products or people and, of course, for a disguised campaign.
The authorizations necessary to carry out such a campaign are often very difficult to obtain within the time allotted for bringing the plan to fruition. Numerous potential operations have failed to obtain authorization for safety reasons, and in certain urban areas it is even expressly forbidden to undertake a guerrilla marketing campaign. In such cases, many agencies and advertisers will simply go ahead with the operation, meaning that they choose to act without authorization. How is such a choice reached, and on what bases? How is it justified? What impact does this choice have on the performance and costs of the operation? What transformations does this choice bring to the agency–advertiser relationship? These are the main questions posed in the development of street marketing operations today.
In a declining economy, guerrilla marketing is an increasing solution to giving companies the comparative edge over others. During times where companies are downsizing and cutting costs, companies look to guerrilla marketing as a cheaper strategy than conventional marketing. Instead of investing money in the marketing process, guerrillas invest energy, time and creativity. If done successfully, companies will be able to reach conventional goals for profits and growth with a smaller marketing budget. One such example is the Blair Witch Project. A group of film students filmed an amateur horror movie. By setting up an internet campaign devoted to spreading rumors about the fictitious 'Blair Witch', it created a lot of interest for the film. With a budget of $50,000, the movie grossed $250 million worldwide.
According to Jay Levinson, guerrilla marketing emphasizes strongly on customer follow-up rather than ignoring customers after their purchase. Focusing on customer follow-up is a cheaper strategy because the cost of selling to a new customer is six times higher than selling to an existing customer. During a tough economy, it is important to focus on building relationships rather than sales, and aiming at individuals instead of groups. This promotes repeat sales, referrals and increased size of purchase. The use of telephone as a follow-up tool is helpful in improving customer relationships. Email is also another inexpensive tool for maintaining relationships. Emails can be used to direct people to the company website. The site can be then used to provide information and to advance sales.
Honesty is an important attribute when marketing to customers during tough times. When companies show that they are fully aware of the economic situation and why they have priced their products accordingly, this earns the customer's respect. Explaining the current situation and the risks and the steps the company is taking to the customers will give the customers assurance and also maintains their trust. One example is the Las Vegas tourism board. During the 2008 recession, Las Vegas was one of the cities hit the hardest. They released an ad campaign showing people they were fully aware of the recession, yet, in a dramatic way, showing 'that regular people are coming here and having a blast'. This piqued a lot of interest which led to an increase of tourism in Las Vegas during the recession.
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