What is Guerrilla Marketing? Examples And Benefits

What is Guerrilla Marketing? Examples And Benefits

Whether you're a marketing professional or not, you'll have likely heard the term ‘guerrilla marketing' mentioned at some point. Like many of the best marketing tactics, it requires thinking outside the box in an attempt to capture the attention and interest of the target audience. But what makes it different?

Guerrilla marketing definition

Coined in 1984 by American business writer Jay Conrad Levinson, the term ‘guerrilla marketing' was loosely inspired by ‘guerrilla warfare' which relates to unusual tactics used by armed civilians such as ambushes, sabotage, and raids. Although perhaps not quite so aggressive, guerrilla marketing uses the same sort of tactics in the marketing industry. It relies on a heavily unconventional marketing strategy with a focus on low-cost marketing tactics that yield maximum results. 

Guerrilla marketing tactics are all about taking the consumer by surprise and creating copious amounts of social buzz, which often results in a viral marketing campaign.

What companies use guerrilla marketing?

Some of the world's leading brands have used guerrilla marketing campaigns to make a big splash without breaking the bank. Here are a few guerrilla marketing examples that stick out for us.

Coca Cola

An example of a guerrilla marketing campaign that went viral was Coca Cola's ‘Happiness Machine'. The fizzy drinks giant customised one of their vending machines on a university campus in the US, putting a member of staff inside to surprise unsuspecting students. Reinforcing their branding and positioning (share a coke, experience happiness) students were surprised with everything from giant pizzas to oversized sandwiches. The video was posted on YouTube in 2010 and received a million views in its first week alone. By 2012, the number of viewers had almost tripled. 

Coca-Cola then brought its Happiness Machine to Imperial College, London where a series of surprise items was instead tailored for a British audience, such as a punnet of strawberries and cream, and a game of Twister.


One of the most popular guerrilla marketing ideas is street marketing, which refers to marketing actions taking place outdoors, often employing street art to make a statement. During one of Switzerland's biggest public festivals, the Zurifest, McDonald's restaurants in the area face increased competition in the form of independent fast food stalls.

The festival just so happens to be the only time of year when official street markings, such as pedestrian crossings, are taken out of use. Spotting an opportunity, McDonald's restyled the pedestrian crossing in front of one of their restaurants into a portion of fries (something it coined the 'MacFries Pedestrian Crossing'). It turned out to be one of the most memorable campaigns for the brand.


Another popular type of guerrilla marketing is ambient marketing. This refers to marketing practices that help promote a product by interfering with the flow of things, so, for example, when brands place ads in unconventional places to increase brand awareness. Bic's ‘Grass Cutter' billboard is one of the best examples of this.  

In Japan, the brand developed this creative outdoor advertisement for their razors, where a blank billboard (except for a small logo) acted as the backdrop for a neatly cut line of grass leading up to a giant 3D razor. Thankfully, the grass was well maintained, otherwise, an overgrown, stubbly lawn may have had the opposite effect…

A few more of our favourites:

  • Guinness added small custom wraps to pool cues in bars, quenching the thirst of players to grab a pint after a game.  
  • Cover Girl cleverly mimicked the application comb of its Lash Blast Mascara in a city turnstile.
  • Discovery Channel placed bitten boards along Australia's beaches to remind visitors about its upcoming Shark Week.

So how effective is guerrilla marketing?

Guerrilla marketing has become increasingly popular in the past few years, but to prove beneficial for a business, it has to be done effectively. A few things to bear in mind…

  • Where possible, guerrilla marketing campaigns should be well thought out in terms of location in order to reach the target audience.
  • If the campaign has been done before or looks like something else, it's not guerrilla marketing. Remember, authenticity is key.
  • Invest time in the planning stages. Guerrilla marketing isn't replicable or scalable, so execution needs to be spot on. 
  • Timing is everything. The most effective guerrilla marketing campaigns usually happen when the audience least expects it. 
  • Thinking of making guerrilla the focus of your marketing plan? Think again. Guerrilla is best at creating a buzz, but shouldn't completely replace your advertisements.

The benefits of guerrilla marketing 

1) It's cheap to execute (most of the time)

Ask marketers what they like most about guerrilla marketing and they'll most likely say it's low cost. While the best ideas usually require an investment in terms of time, creativity, and imagination, the campaign itself doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, research shows it's generally much cheaper than traditional advertising.

2) It's perfect for building partnerships

Since the majority of guerrilla marketing relies on day-to-day activity, marketers have the opportunity to collaborate with local businesses, charities, and other organisations to increase the campaign's buzz (and therefore reach). In the case of Coca Cola's Happiness Machine, for example, the campaign relied on collaboration with the university to target an ideal audience.

3) It tends to grow with word-of-mouth

Unlike traditional marketing, guerrilla marketing leans heavily on word-of-mouth marketing, which generally means the message spreads much faster. Plus, what better result than getting people to talk about your campaign on their own accord?

4) Publicity can snowball

As you will have seen, the most successful guerrilla marketing campaigns get picked up by local and national news with the most notable campaigns going viral. The result? Millions of views and greater awareness of your brand.

5) It's memorable

By tapping into experimental advertising techniques, companies can use guerrilla marketing campaigns to draw out powerful emotions and place their brand at the forefront of consumers' minds. A successful campaign also develops trust between the two parties, filling the consumer with confidence to make a purchase.

Improve your brand awareness, audience engagement, and more in the company of some of London's most knowledgeable marketing experts. Find out more.

by Emma Gibbins | 27 Sep 23

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