Guerrilla Marketing – A Case of Non-Traditional Marketing

When some starry-eyed startup or a small company takes on the big budget corporate in the marketing domain with an underground marketing campaign that costs nothing but causes shock-waves for months, its called guerrilla marketing.  Guerrilla marketing is a different kind of marketing which does not involve big budget but it is about out of the box thinking; it is about using anything around to market a product, an idea or a social message virtually anything under the sun.  It believes in entertaining and engaging the target customer. It does not involve preaching or educating but it is about exciting the viewer to find out a secret or solve a puzzle. Guerrilla campaigns purely depend on creativity, intensive word of mouth campaigns and its oddness like using unconventional locations. Some guerrilla campaigns are so brilliant that it has made bystanders feel lucky to be there to witness them.

AMA defines Guerrilla Marketing as “Unconventional marketing intended to get maximum results from minimal resources”.

The goals of guerrilla marketing are relatively simple: use unconventional tactics to advertise on a very small budget. It is based on the idea that one does not need radio or TV ads to market something. Make a campaign so shocking, funny, unique, outrageous, clever, or creative (even controversial) that people cant stop talking about it thus create intense word of mouth publicity.  Guerilla marketing involves approaches like interception in public, giving free products, PR stunts basically any unconventional marketing approach intended to give maximum result from minimum investment.  The main objective of these campaigns is to create a thought provoking buzz which would lead to viral marketing.

In traditional marketing advertising was mostly about big budgets, big exposure, and catchy tag lines. Advertisers were all about the profits and bringing in new customers. Guerrilla Marketing, which was coined by the great marketer Jay Conrad Levinson, was created originally as an unconventional system of promotions that relies on time, energy and imagination.  This is much different from conventional marketing which just tried to glam and glitz its way to people’s hearts with their big names. This however is not the case anymore and guerrilla marketing proves it.In recent years, many companies, even the well established ones are moving from traditional marketing implementations to guerrilla marketing.

Although companies of all sizes utilize different approaches of Guerrilla marketing, the reasons why they opt for that instrument differ. For small and medium sized companies the advantage is still the cost-effectiveness that makes it so interesting to implement. Larger, often more solvent companies on the other hand do not have to opt for such an inexpensive way of advertising. Guerrilla marketing is an additional marketing instrument to them, which provides additional value in form of attention. Classical advertising alone often fails to provide that extra value.

Origins of Guerrilla Marketing

The term Guerrilla first appeared during the war of independence in Spain and Portugal at the beginning of the 19th century. It is a Spanish expression which can be translated as battle. Guerrilla stands for a combat operation that was used by smaller groups that stood against a massive military force.

The term and the connected operations became famous through Che Guevara, who used and defined this military tactic. Since Che Guevara and his followers did not possess as many resources such as weapons, money, or fighters as their opponents, they based their operations on the surprise effect and on acts of sabotage. The usage of unconventional weapons and activities helped them to destabilize their rivals and led them to their final success. Che Guevara defined and shaped basic principles for his fighters and summarized them in the book GuerrillaWarfare that he wrote in 1961. These are the most important elements that can be pointed out:

  1. Ultimate goal: victory over the enemy
  2. Usage of surprise effects
  3. Tactical superiority

Based on the idea of Guerrilla Warfare, marketers came up with the new marketing strategy called Guerrilla Marketing. During the late 1970s the idea of teaching consumers about the benefits and features of products seemed too old-fashioned and didnt do well for the promoters. So, they had to do something different and entered the Guerrilla Marketing with the main focus on entertaining and engaging people.

Also, during that time, the consumers behavior had changed and businesses had to come up with offers that fit their consumers needs and not only their own. Consequently marketing experts had to find realizable concepts for businesses with limited resources; something that lets one company stand-out in the crowd. The only promising way was to use an anti-marketing concept that included attrition and attack strategies in order to gain as much attention as possible and to weaken competitors considerably.

Though, earlier marketers had the idea of using this strategy, Guerrilla Marketing became popular after Levinson defined its concept in his book Guerrilla Marketing in 1983. He introduced new ways of advertising where very little investment is used and results are better than the conventional marketing strategies. He based the success of a marketing campaign strategy on the use of non-traditional marketing channels, insistency, customer proximity, and patience. A company should create as many points of contact with customers and prospects as possible in order to stay in their memory.

Examples of Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns

Pomegranate Phone

This phone is publicized to have features like built-in harmonica, coffee maker, movie projector, global voice translator, trimmer etc. But, its a fake phone used in real online marketing campaign, ran in September 2008 to promote Nova Scotia or New Scotland, a Canadian province as a destination for tourism, place for business enterprise etc. Inquisitive net users who go the phones website and click on Release date gets to see the opportunities available in New Scotland along with the facilities provided, economy, culture etc to attract him/her to the place.

Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns - Pomegranate Phone

Copenhagen Government

Even governments all over the world have started using the marketing for various purposes. In the photograph shown, Copenhagen government is promoting its Zoo with realistic imagery of a giant constrictor snake squeezing a complete Co penhagen city bus. This is one quick of way of telling all the tourists that the city has a zoo with variety of animals.

Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns - Zoo Ad

Jet Airways vs Kingfisher vs Go Air

Where first Jet Airways came up with their hoarding saying ” We’ve Changed”. Replying to this Kingfisher put their hoarding above Jet’s hoarding implying that Kingfisher is the reason they have changed, to which Go Air conveyed their strategy that they did not need to change as they are still the cheapest airlines and the smartest way to fly.

Guerrilla Marketing - Go Air Kingfisher

Traditional Marketing vs Guerrilla Marketing

  1. Traditional marketing has always believed that for a successful marketing campaign you have to invest money, on the contrary guerrilla marketing believes that if you want to invest money you can – but you don’t have to if time, energy, imagination and information are invested.
  2. Traditional marketing is mainly for big businesses whereas guerrilla marketing helps small businesses with small budgets with big dreams.
  3. Traditional marketing measures its effectiveness by the increase in its sales whereas profits are the most important thing in guerrilla marketing
  4. Traditional marketing uses experience and judgment which is a fancy way of saying ‘guesswork’ whereas guerrilla marketing focuses on the psychology of the consumer to come up with campaigns
  5. Traditional marketing focuses on making the sale and forgetting after the sale is made whereas guerrilla marketing preaches fervent follow up and building relationships with its customers
  6. Traditional marketing focuses on competition whereas guerrilla marketing focuses on cooperation
  7. Traditional marketing focuses on a logo, a visual way of representing your organization whereas guerrilla marketing has a meme which is representing what the organization stands for and communicates the entire idea behind the organization
  8. Traditional marketing focuses on ‘me’ marketing where everything is about the company, about the management, about the products etc. whereas guerrilla marketing focuses on ‘you’ marketing in which every word and every idea is about the consumer
  9. Traditional marketers at the end of the month count money whereas guerrilla marketers count new relationships
  10. Traditional marketing has always aimed it messages at groups whereas guerrilla marketing aims at individuals and even if not individuals then at smaller groups.

Guerrilla Marketing and Consumer Behavior

During the 1980’s marketers supported the belief that prospects have to be exposed to the same marketing message as often as possible. One research showed that people need to see an advertisement up to 13 times before they understand what the product is and that it can be beneficial for them. Consequently business owners were urged to publicize their name, logo, and message at every possible opportunity. Thus the aim was to catch the consumers attention over and over again. Furthermore a chosen strategy had to be kept for a long period even if it did not bring the desired success immediately. Levinson, who founded the idea of Guerrilla marketing, suggested that only a certain number of exposures can bring the customer to a final purchase. Simply put, Marketing takes time and consequently business owners have to wait. A hasty change in strategy would reset the customers mind and the invested time and money would have been wasted.

Based on a research by Saxion University, Guerrilla Marketing seems to be something that amuses people and inspires them to take a closer look. 59.5% people in the survey believed that they would have taken a closer look if they had seen or heard such advertising in reality. A closer look would mean that they would remember the information they saw better and that might influence their purchase decision later on. This is the ultimate goal of advertisements. It is a myth that an advertisement can push a person into the next shop to buy a product. Customers have to be exposed to advertisements up to 15 times before they feel the wish to buy a product.

In order to sell a product to a customer, the organization should concentrate on building a relationship with the customer, build trust into the customer, understand the needs of the customer and last but not the least provide the benefits which he offered. The above statement is the basis on which the concept of Guerrilla Marketing works. The unconventional system of advertising creates an interaction of the consumer with the organization. Guerrilla Marketing seems to be the right way to get the first two steps of the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) model, the attention and the interest of customers, even at the first contact. Often advertisements need several contacts before they get the attention or even the interest of a prospect. Even though the survey revealed that people spend some thought on unexpected and unusual advertising’s, the survey also showed that people do not necessarily consider buying the product at least not right away. Even though the desire and the action are not inspired yet, the huge effects of Guerrilla Marketing on the attention and the interest of a customer leads one to suspect that a prospect does not need as many contacts with the advertisement as with other marketing strategies to bring them to a final purchase.

Criticisms of Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing goes another method than traditional marketing. Therefore it is often difficult to spot the fine line between incitement and offence, between capturing the attention to an organization and to create a negative reputation, to get new customers and to lose prospective customers.

The example below site an incident that shows a Guerrilla Marketing campaign that failed. There are sometimes invisible borders that a corporation should not cross:  An organization, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, promoted its new comedy series by placing a large electronic hoarding featuring an adult character in the city center of Boston, MA. Lose cables were hanging out  of the hoarding. Persons passing by believed that they were explosives and panicked. They called the police and an anti-terror unit was sent to disarm the hoarding which was wrongly understood as a bomb. The city center and all access roads were closed. Later that day the mistake was exposed and it resulted in two arrests and costs of USD 500,000. Even though the advertising was already in the city for some days and was also placed in other major US cities and did not cause any excitement there, it is obvious that those in charge should have dealt with this topic in a more sensitive way. The incident raised the hits on the website of the organization on that particular day, however it can be inferred that the reasons might not be very encouraging.

New technologies, internet, mobile telephony and 3G etc., are a blessing and a curse at the same time. Viral and Mobile Marketing are the most successful marketing trends that spread the word so fast that it often cannot be retraced or controlled anymore.

As explained in the instance above an innovative idea can quickly turn into bad promotion and poor PR. Particularly in these circumstances it would be valuable if the advertising could be just wiped out and would thereby limit the number of people that see it. Consequently an even greater impairment could be circumvented. But in today’s context of Viral Marketing and media coverage from all over the world, it is almost impossible to let something disappear that was accessible to the public earlier. Thus this means that every promotion that has not been thought through cautiously can impair the reputation of the organization and can result in the loss of customers.

Guerrilla marketing as detailed earlier lays emphasis on time, energy and imagination rather than marketing budget. However in competitive industries where there is crowding and mix of small and large producers large producers might swipe away small firms following Guerrilla tactics by their huge market expenditure. Another point of view states, Guerrilla marketing does not have to be cheap and is not very cheap most of the time. It is cost effective, but that is something really different. It is possible that using the same investments, the effect of alternative media is greater. It has been argued that financially strong companies should use Guerrilla marketing as a complementary tool.

Generally speaking, Marketing takes time to show tangible results and therefore corporations have to wait because of the lag. An impulsive change in Guerrilla marketing strategy creates a dissonance in customers mind and the invested resources, time and money would be wasted.

Even though the explanation sounds logical it is not valid in today’s context. The market and the environment is very dynamic and change rapidly, therefore all companies try to retain the attention of the customer as often as possible.

The Guerrilla Marketing appearances of smaller companies are often more radical and on the verge of crossing the line. Thereby it is of utter importance that the advertising is not at the expense of the audience. If the aim for awareness and publicity is placed higher than the interest of the people, the brand image is damaged.

While there are more successful implementations of Guerrilla marketing strategies and related advertisements, Guerrilla advertising campaigns that are not developed and implemented properly may lead to certain ethical trouble. It is particularly more relevant to advertisements that exploit fear appeals, annoy the target consumers or those that are baffling may be ethically problematic. As it can be seen an improper use can lead to side effects even of an effective emotion-arousing advertisement.

Therefore planning of advertising without considering the facts from the contextual use may lead to certain ethical problems. The original intention of the advertiser may be to increase the sales, increased customer reach or better brand recall. Irrespective of the goal it will capture the attention of the customer and influence the perception of the consumer. These kinds of advertisements generally do not aim to entertain the audience. They build a notion of anger, disturbance, turbulence, fear and sad among the audience. It may lead to a temporary discontent and temporary impatience in the behavior of the audience. The audience situation can be called as worse than just dislike. Therefore the aim is to evoke negative emotions like sadness and fear instead of positive feelings of joy, calmness, peace and love. It is viewed that these factors may spiral and lead to development of long term or permanent negative towards the brand.

International organizations are more reluctant than small companies when using Guerrilla Marketing. It is the innate need to maintain a focused brand image globally; their marketing functions need a definite direction.

Future of  Guerrilla  Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is much more than just a trend today. It is rather an instrument that is utilized by companies of all sizes. Today’s Guerrilla Marketing, though, differs from the Guerrilla Marketing philosophy that Levinson developed in the 1980s.

Even though they often rely on a classical marketing mix, advertising campaigns make use of the Guerrilla surprise effect and its witty ideas. With the help of only a small budget, the maximum attention is drawn to their advertising. The approach to insist on a chosen Marketing campaign, even if it does not lead to the expected return for quite a long time, for instance, is difficult to put into practice at a time where economical conditions and markets are changing rapidly.

The concept of Guerrilla Marketing will also work in the future if not too many companies work with this alternative. In case the traditional advertising is repressed more and more and Guerrilla Marketing activities are a rather normal appearance among advertisings, the essential surprise effect will not be guaranteed anymore. It could come to this development when weak economic conditions diminish marketing budgets even further.

But in all probability classical advertising will also exist in the future and will not be displaced by alternative forms like Guerrilla Marketing. Nevertheless classical advertising has to change to get through to customers. Therefore it is likely that traditional marketing will transform for example by taking over characteristics of Guerrilla Marketing. This might result in advertising’s with pointed formulation and direct address towards the target group.

Advertising would need to activate as many senses as possible. Also it should act multimodal, being present in all kinds of channels their target group moves in. The fact that classical advertising is often perceived negatively among customers should be a warning for future Guerrillas. Although customers often perceive Guerrilla Marketing as something new and interesting today, in the future it can also turn to be something that bothers prospects. This is a real threat due to the fact that a single Guerrilla Marketing activity cannot influence customers behavior or their purchase decision.

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