Understanding the Marketing Beast called ‘Guerrilla Marketing’

By: Marcia Bent – Think Premium! (Chief Executive Officer)

Guerilla Marketing has always been one of those under-explained concepts in Marketing. In Jamaica, when people think of Guerilla Marketing, they usually think of Digicel or Flow and the expensive and aggressively competitive marketing tactics that they use against each other to increase their consumer base – even if it means taking it from each other. However, Guerilla Marketing so much more than what is portrayed in that example and it can even be applied by small companies. In this article, I will attempt to demystify the Guerilla Marketing concept by defining what Guerilla Marketing is, the characteristics of Guerilla Marketing, types of Guerilla Marketing, Guerilla Marketing can be incorporated into other Marketing Concepts, how effective is it, and how it can be applied by businesses.

Figure 1 – IWC Watch Strap Sticker on a Bus Strap Campaign (Lees, 2015)

The picture in the heading, lead to the creation of this article. It highlighted the fact that Guerilla Marketing is a multi-faceted concept that we often equate to large companies that have the large financial wherewithal to execute it. I hope that by the end of this article that you appreciate that you can use your company’s personality, your product or service and your budget to create an effective Guerilla Marketing Strategy.

Figure 2 – Digicel Cash Vault used in Anguilla (Anguillan, 2016)

What is Guerilla Marketing?

“Guerilla Marketing is an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results” (Creative Guerilla Marketing, 2016). Now hang on to this definition, we will be breaking it down during this article. This source further elaborates that Jay Conrad Levinson created this concept in his book titled ‘Guerilla Advertising’ where it was “inspired by guerrilla warfare which is a form of irregular warfare and relates to the small tactic strategies used by armed civilians. Many of these tactics include ambushes, sabotage, raids, and elements of surprise. Much like Guerrilla Warfare, Guerrilla Marketing uses the same sort of tactics in the marketing industry.”

In Jamaica, we know of the competitive Ambush Marketing Tactics that Digicel and Flow would have used against each other that are deploying funds in their Marketing Arsenal to execute competitive Marketing that is like this. However, “for Levinson, guerrilla marketing was all about the little guy with limited resources besting corporate giants by using unconventional marketing tactics rooted in creativity and a willingness to take smart risks” (Pixartprinting, 2017). This source highlights that during that time small businesses in the United States were “desperate to find ways to compete” with the large companies who had the resources to silence them by running more advertisements in the media.

Characteristics of Guerilla Marketing

The definition from Creative Guerrilla Marketing (2016) highlights three fundamental characteristics of Guerilla Marketing. “Guerilla Marketing . . . focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results” These characteristics set the standard for identifying and measuring the effectiveness of a Guerrilla Marketing Strategy. Here’s what each of those characteristics means in no order:

  • Maximum Results: “Guerrilla Marketing means going after the conventional goals of profits, sales, and growth but doing it by using unconventional means” (Entrepreneur Staff, 2017), At the end of the day, the goal of any business – regardless of its industry or business model – is to make money. While it is often challenging to quantify the Return on Investment (ROI) on Marketing Strategies, a Guerrilla Marketing strategy must be geared towards achieving a result, which in business, is to make profits, whether it is raising awareness, increasing interest, or facilitating customer interaction with the product or service. Hence, as Entrepreneur Staff (2017) highlights, Guerrilla Marketing “puts profits, not sales, as the main yardstick” To do so, this source explains that “it urges that you grow geometrically by enlarging the size of each transaction, having more transactions per year with each customer, and tapping the enormous referral power of current customers.”
  • Low-cost: “Instead of asking that you invest money, Guerrilla Marketing suggests you invest time, energy, imagination, and knowledge instead” (Entrepreneur Staff, 2017). Many companies think that Guerilla Marketing should be this expensive and grand odious venture that has a physical structure somewhere that people interact with and it really doesn’t have to be. Guerrilla Marketing focuses on you using your imagination to communicate a message to appeal to your consumers on a personal level. Honestly, it doesn’t even have to be a large physical structure like what is depicted in Figure 3 or Figure 4 because not every company in Jamaica has the kind of money to execute something of that nature (After all it’s a car on the side of a building!). It can be gesture or activity like what is depicted in Figure 5 with the ‘Pay with a Smile’ Campaign by Project Change. What it should do is that it should lead to maximum results, and showcase your brand, product or service in an unconventional way. Unbelievably Guerrilla Marketing “was a concept aimed towards small businesses with a small budget, but this didn’t stop big businesses from adopting the same ideology” (Creative Guerrilla Marketing, 2016).

Figure 3 – New Castle Brown Ale Street Standees in the United States (Creative Guerrilla Marketing (2016).

Figure 4 – ATL Automotive created this setup to advertise their Audi Quarttro vehicle in Jamaica (Loop Jamaica, 2017).

Screenshot of Guerrilla Marketing - Pay with a smile - Project Change

Figure 5- ‘Pay with a Smile’ Campaign by Project Change (Creative Guerrilla Marketing, 2012)

Figure 6 – Shark Week Bite Out on a car 1/4 Panel and Fender (Pixartprinting, 2016)

Unconventional Marketing Tactics: “Guerrilla Marketing is the truth made fascinating. It’s going after conventional goals using unconventional means” (Pixartprinting, 2017). It should be done where your target audience is going to see it but uses a method to communicate your message that is both surprising yet vastly impactful. ATL Automotive seemed to have done this in Figure 4. The Promoters for Shark Week also did this in Figure 6. As Pixartprinting (2017) explains, that “where traditional marketing plays it safe with radio spots, TV commercials and glossy ads in magazines, Guerrilla Marketing gets wild and unchained with unconventional tactics executed in unexpected places with the goal of surprising people with something they didn’t see coming.” This source went further by providing a quote from Jonathon Margolis, the Author of the book ‘Guerrilla Marketing for Dummies’ which states that “even though Guerrilla Marketing can use traditional methods (such as print, TV, and radio) to get the word out, what sets it apart is that it breaks traditional expectations by applying these tools in a different way.”

Types of Guerrilla Marketing Strategies and how they are implemented

Pixartprinting (2017) and Guerrilla Online.com (2009), the types of Guerrilla Marketing Strategies are:

  • Astroturfing
  • Viral Marketing
  • Undercover Marketing
  • Tissue – Packing Advertising
  • Wild Posting
  • Ambient Marketing
  • Presence Marketing
  • Alternative Marketing
  • Experiential Marketing
  • Presume Marketing
  • Ambush Marketing

An explanation of each of these concepts are as follows:

  • Ambient Marketing – “Ambient marketing focuses on getting advertisements in unusual places where they wouldn’t normally be found. In some cases, ambient marketing turns a “place” into an advertisement by using objects or items in the environment in a clever way. Ambient marketing doesn’t necessarily push the product, but creates awareness by creating sights and scenarios that are out of the ordinary (Pixartprinting, 2017).” So with this strategy, space is transformed into the advertisement as depicted in Figure 7.

Figure 7 – Frontline Flea and Tick Spray that used the floor of a mall as an advertisement (Pixartprinting, 2017)

  • Viral Marketing – Guerrillaonline.com (2009) explains that “the viral marketing is basically any marketing technique that induces Web sites or users to pass on a marketing message to other sites or users, creating a potentially exponential growth in the message’s visibility and effect (Anvil Media, Inc., 2009).” This source further elaborates that Viral Marketing assumes “that people like to share interesting and entertaining content and they do so willingly and with no persuasion from the external environment. Viral Marketing creates the content to share and very often also functions or tools how to share the content easily.” It can be sweepstakes or free samples, efforts aimed at branding rather than promoting a product or service or Content Marketers (for instance on Social Media) create content that they hope will go viral. For example, Patrick Bet – David, from Valutainment, created the ‘Life of an Entrepreneur’ which went viral by reaching 1,613,785 views and 33,086 likes which are shown in Figure 8.

Life of an entrepreneur screenshot

Figure 8 – The life of an entrepreneur in 90 seconds (Valutainment, 2015)

  • Undercover Marketing – As Pixartprinting (2017) highlights “Undercover marketing (sometimes called Buzz or Stealth Marketing) attempts to sell a consumer on a product or idea without them ever knowing they’re being hit with a sales pitch. Sales Agents pose as average Joes and create scenarios that put the product front and center in a way that just seems natural, sometimes getting the consumers to interact with the product themselves.” An example of this in Figure 9 where a representative from Samsung tried to give away their latest Samsung Galaxy Phone in 2013 to an elderly lady on the plane who turned out to have a company with over 200 employees that she offered to buy the phone for if she liked it.

Guerrilla Marketing by Samsung - TheRelevantReport Screenshot

Figure 9 – A Samsung Representative who offered an elderly lady on a flight to Orlando, Florida to offer her the Samsung Galaxy S4 phone and she offered to buy it for 200 of her employees if she likes it (TheRelevantReport, 2013)

  • Tissue – Packing Advertising – Is an example of Presence Marketing. As Pixartprinting (2017) discussed, “one of the greatest examples of this is “tissue-pack marketing”, a phenomenon that started in Japan as early as the 1960s’. Advertisers put their branding on tissue packs that are handed out at train stations and in public areas. Because they’re useful, they’re less likely to be thrown away and stick with the consumer throughout the day.” A common example of this would be giving out branded pens or other stationery at Trade Shows to persons who visit your booth.
  • Wild Posting – Pixartprinting (2017) discusses that “one of the timeless methods of Guerrilla Marketing is wild postings: Plastering posters, stickers and other print materials all over a concentrated area to draw attention. Marketers can get really creative with this one, coordinating the printed material by size or color for dramatic effect.” This source further explains that due to “its affordability and ease of execution, wild postings remains a tactic heavily used by small businesses. Still, it’s common to see movies, albums, and events advertised this way.” As a matter fact, this is a very commonly used tactic during the Student Election period at the University of the West Indies – Mona Campus. While I was a student, there were very few places that you could go on campus and not see some flyer, stick, chalk drawing, bottle fence design, even SMS Messaging encouraging you to vote for someone who was vying for a Guild Positon from the upcoming Academic Year.
  • Astrosurfing – As Pixartprinting (2017) explains “Astroturfing attempts to fabricate a consumer movement while at the same time giving the marketing the appearance of being a grassroots phenomenon. In reality, supporters are paid for their positive endorsement and incentivized to spread positive information. Marketers will pay people to create fake blogs and post manufactured comments in forums.” This tactic works because it is a customer mimicking a customer to target other customers . . . until customers realize that it is exactly that. Therefore, it can be deemed as misleading since it breaches the customer trust by attempting to fake customer testimonials or recommendations to gain sales. An example of this would be the select infomercials that pay actors to give fake customer testimonials.
  • Presence Marketing – According to Pixartprinting (2017), “Presence marketing aims to make the business name recognizable by putting it in contexts where it shows up daily. Something as simple as handing out mugs, pens, and other office items branded with your company’s logo could be considered a form of presence marketing. Online, presence marketing often takes the form of online interactions on social media or prominent placement in search results.” Figure 4 would be a good example of this, particularly since it would be seen on a public road where cars, potentially even the Audi Quattro owners and prospective customers would be driving on and see the vehicle on a building.
  • Alternative Marketing – Pixartprinting (2017) explains that “The basic idea of alternative marketing is publicity earned through events that seem completely unrelated to the company itself. Something else makes the news, and the brand is just along for the ride.” As Guerrillaonline.com highlights Alternative Marketing is “. . . publicity that looks like it is completely removed from the company itself (Delana, 2008)” For example: CONSERVE IT Limited (A Jamaican Renewable Energy Company) sponsored Marbana 2017 (A Soca party on the beach which caters to the Upper – Middle Class and Upper Class) and hired Promotional Hostesses for the event. Sure, it may not seem like the company would have a direct need to be at the event, however, they used that strategy to get in front of members of their target audience (the Upper – Middle Class and Upper-Class persons in attendance) in Figure 10. This demonstrating how the publicity (the attention from the target audience) was removed from the company itself (more attention being placed on an event that seemed unrelated to the core services of that company) in order to generate interest in the brand.

Damion Crawford at Marbana 2017

Figure 10 – Damion Crawford ‘goes Solar’ with CONSERVE IT (CONSERVE IT Limited, 2017)

  • Experiential Marketing – As Pixartprinting (2017) states, “this is a highly active and engaged form of Guerrilla Marketing that connects people with your brand through a shared experience and capitalizes on the immediate emotional responses that come out of that interaction. The goal is to engage as many senses as possible. In most cases, the experience is intended to be documented and shared elsewhere, whether it’s online through videos and social media, or through word of mouth. Some of the most well-known examples of Guerrilla Marketing are experiential marketing campaigns by major brands.” An example of this would be the Footprint poster that was done for the Antibear Farming Campaign highlighted how a lack of concern contributed to the cruel act by using the footprints from them walking away to create the real picture. This is depicted in Figure 11.

The Footprint Poster

Figure 11 – The Footprint poster promoting the Anti-bear Farming Campaign (TheSupernormalcomm, 2015)

  • Presume Marketing – Guerrillaonline.com (2009) discusses that “Presume Marketing is based on thought, according to Philippine Business, 2008, that people need to feel the presence of the product. The company uses Presume Marketing for increasing exposure and recognition of the product on public places, as it is very often achieved during festivals, TV shows or by product placement in movies. Presume marketing may be applied on the Internet by placing the visuals or notes about the product on social networks like TwitterFacebook, and others.” In other words, Presume Marketing mainly uses imagery that connects and or arose human emotion.
  • Ambush Marketing – “With ambush marketing, the advertiser’s goal is to piggyback off . . . someone else’s promo – usually that of a major event – to capitalize on the publicity without paying any sponsorship fee” (Pixartprinting, 2017). A popular example of this is Digicel’s advertising hijack at Champs in 2015 when they branded the Calabar Athlete’s uniform with their slogan / central message during that year “Be extraordinary” as depicted in Figure 11 yet LIME was a major sponsor for the event.

Figure 12 – The Calabar High School Captain and Star Performer Michael O’Hara at the Issa / Grace Kennedy Boys and Girls Athletic Championships in 2015 which was sponsored by LIME (now Flow) (The Gleaner, 2015).

Figure 13 depicts the potential reactions and level of risk for each type of Guerrilla Marketing Strategy.

Figure 13 – Table 4 Guerrilla Marketing types assessment, created by Vit Horky on GuerrillaOnline.com (2009). A business risk factor assesses how large is the potential business risk of loss of brand image, loss of sales or loyal customers” (Guerrillaonline.com, 2009).

What makes Guerrilla Marketing effective and how can you execute it in your business?

What makes Guerrilla Marketing so effective are:

1.     The ‘surprise effect’ – As Pixartprinting (2017) highlights that Guerrilla Marketing should create an unusual experience that is so distinct that consumers cannot help but notice. This source explains that because humans “process surprising stimuli on a deeper level than everyday events (Waddill & McDaniel, 1998)” You can create that through humour, absurdity, or even a shocking message. Whatever your strategy is, ensure that it is usual and something that is usually for your target audience to grab their attention, after all, they are people first before they are anything else.

2.     The ‘diffusion effect’ – The experience or interaction needs to be able to be shared by many persons in order for it to be effective. Pixartprinting (2017), people tend to share information about stimuli that surprises them. After all, the more persons interact with your content, the more attention your product/service or the brand, which puts your company in a better position to gain the maximum results that Guerrilla Marketing should achieve.

3.     The ‘low – cost effect’ – as Pixartprinting (2017) highlighted companies should remember that effective Guerrilla Marketing should focus on heavy investments of creativity, imagination, and surprise not a high amount of capital. Remember Guerrilla Marketing was born for the small business and not necessarily the large company.

To execute Guerrilla Marketing effectively understand your business, find a strategy that matches the value that your brand delivers while bearing in mind the three characteristics of Guerrilla Marketing and what makes Guerrilla Marketing successful. You strategy be one or incorporate multiple types of Guerilla Marketing Strategies, particularly with the vast and extensive use of Social Media among consumers.

Bringing it together

Guerrilla Marketing is an unconventional Marketing strategy that uses low-cost methods to achieve maximum results. It requires interesting customers through imagination, surprise, and emotion at low-cost. What makes Guerrilla Marketing successful is the low-cost, unconventional Marketing Strategies and its capacity to achieve maximum results. In order to execute it effectively, businesses should focus on their needs and the strategy that is best for their business and what they are trying to achieve and incorporate the features that make Guerrilla Marketing successful. Guerrilla Marketing isn’t necessarily for the company with the deepest pockets but the ones that can communicate a clear message that connects with the mind of your consumers while surprising them. I hope that this will empower your company, regardless.of the size to execute it effectively. Feel free to share this with anyone that you may know that needs to learn more about Guerrilla Marketing.

You can also check out Think Premium!’s website at http://www.thinkpremiumja.wordpress.com for other articles on Marketing topics. Think Premium! is a Jamaican Marketing Company that specializes in the provision of premium Promotional Hostesses, Promotional Hosts, and Brand Ambassadors, along with Event and Booth Planning and Execution, Social Media Marketing services, among many other services to corporate clients. Feel free to contact us at 1-876-359-6158 or thinkpremiumja@gmail.com for us to discuss how we can serve your company.


Anguillian (2016). Digicel brought the beat at their Block-O-Rama Summer Launch and has invested over $150,000 in Carnival events, troupe’s, prizes and more! The Anguillian. Retrieved from: http://theanguillian.com/2016/07/digicel-brought-the-beat-at-their-block-o-rama-summer-launch-and-has-invested-over-150000-in-carnival-events-troupes-prizes-and-more/

CONSERVE IT Limited (2017). [Facebook page]. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/conserveitjamaica/photos/a.10150538431380132.438158.359936795131/10155117937635132/?type=3&theater

Creative Guerrilla Marketing (2012). Guerrilla Marketing – Pay with a smile | Project Change. [YouTube Channel]. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/-cRXRxepsKo

Creative Guerrilla Marketing (2016). What is Guerrilla Marketing? Creative Guerrilla Marketing. Retrieved from: http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/what-is-guerrilla-marketing/

Entrepreneur Staff (2017). Guerrilla Marketing. Small Business Encyclopedia – Entrepreneur. Retrieved from: https://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/guerrilla-marketing

Guerrillaonline.com (2009). Types of Guerrilla Marketing. Guerrillaonline.com.Retrieved from: http://www.guerrillaonline.com/cs/Guerrilla-Marketing-types-65.htm

Lees, M. (2015). Startupedia: What is Guerrilla Marketing? The Whiteboard – Startup Institute Blog. Retrieved from: http://blog.startupinstitute.com/2015-04-22-what-is-guerilla-marketing/

Loop Jamaica (2017). ATL Automotive creates ‘quattro’ buzz with its audacious wall installation. Loop Jamaica. Retrieved from: http://www.loopjamaica.com/content/atl-automotive-creates-quattro%E2%80%99-buzz-audacious-audi-wall-installation

Pixartprinting (2017). The unexpected history of Guerrilla Marketing. Pixartprinting.Retrieved from: https://www.pixartprinting.co.uk/content/unexpected-history-guerrilla-marketing/

The Gleaner (2015). Guerrilla Marketing – LIME furious over Digicel’s advertising hijack at Champs. The Gleaner. Retrieved from: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20150330/guerrilla-marketing-lime-furious-over-digicels-advertising-hijack

TheRelevantReport (2013). Guerrilla Marketing by Samsung. [YouTube Channel].Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/vIRvEYIFo1Y

TheSupernormalcomm (2011). The footprint poster (Antibear farming campaign). [YouTube Channel]. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/0f-W4qawJRk

Valutainment (2015). The life of an entrepreneur in 90 seconds – Best motivation video for entrepreneurs. Valutainment. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/h-KHWUq3B7I


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