So… What is Guerrilla Marketing? An 8-Part Guide to the History and Approaches to Guerrilla Marketing
Over the past month, WebUrbanist has explored the ins and outs of the weird world of guerrilla marketing. What was once a fringe movement in the world of advertising has become much more popular and mainstream since the 1980s, when marketing expert Jay Conrad Levinson introduced the concept to the world at large.
But what is guerrilla marketing, exactly? If you’re still scratching your head about what this guerrilla stuff is all about, step onto the tour bus as we take one more look around. Keep hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times, please. We’ll review the highlights at each of our stops. Feel free to hop off and visit any of the sections that interest you, then hop back on to navigate the rest.
In part one of our gmarketing series, we took a look at how advertising went from boring, educational, and sometimes downright false ads to the entertaining spectacle we know and love today. Jay Conrad Levinson, author of many books on the subject, is credited as the father of Guerrilla Marketing. His ideas paved the way for small businesses to compete in the marketing arena with the big companies, ushering in an era of innovative and sometimes extreme marketing ideas. But Levinson’s ideas aren’t just about getting the customer’s attention: companies have to be ready and willing to back up their advertising with excellent products and services.
Have you ever wondered how guerrilla marketing got so popular? J.C. Levinson’s book was only part of the equation. The main reason guerrilla marketing took off was its incredible effectiveness at breaking through our advertising blinders. The first instances of guerrilla marketing were radical for their time, but the techniques continued to develop. Girls convincing men to buy them drinks was suddenly more about marketing than about flirting. Even rappers got into the game when Run DMC released a song called My Adidas, sending sales of Adidas through the proverbial roof.
Although J.C. Levinson’s ideas were geared toward the small business evening the playing field against bigger rivals, major corporations soon began using guerrilla tactics to sell their products. Their efforts aren’t always rewarded, especially when existing customers feel like the big businesses are overstepping their bounds or being deceitful.
Advertising executives are under a lot of pressure to make their campaigns successful. At some point, it occurred to some ad people that they could make ads so irresistible that they would actually be passed around willingly by customers. The result: self-propagating advertising. Guerrilla marketing sometimes takes the form of a viral campaign. The viral campaign happens organically and spontaneously; if it’s pushed too hard by its creators there’s a pretty good chance it’ll never get off the ground. Some of the most successful guerrilla marketing campaigns have taken the form of viral videos or websites.
So far, our guerrilla marketing tour has focused on businesses and making money. Nonprofit organizations need to spread their word, too, and today many of them are turning to guerrilla marketing tactics to reach their target audience. The Red Cross has created some of the most ingenious and eye-catching socially aware guerrilla marketing messages.
Did you know that guerrilla marketing isn’t just about putting up some posters or creating a rad short video? It can take on nearly any form. From strangers chatting with people on the street to making a product really hard to get hold of, marketers have lots of sneaky, amusing, and intelligent ways to get you to want what they’re selling.
You don’t have to be a business (big OR small) or a socially conscious nonprofit organization to reap the rewards of guerrilla marketing. You can use unconventional techniques to land a job, get a date, or promote your talents. Of course, if you’re a small business owner you should know that guerrilla marketing isn’t all about the flashy message. It’s essential to back up the advertisements and never disappoint your customers. As quickly as guerrilla marketing messages can spread, negative feedback spreads even faster.
We can’t see exactly what is in the future for guerrilla marketing, its devotees, and the public who alternately loves and hates the constant advertising. But as we become more commercially oriented, it seems that advertisements are popping up nearly everywhere. Will we soon see ads on any and all available surfaces? Will the forehead tattoo ad become mainstream? Perhaps, but one thing that’s sure is that future advertisements will be even more difficult to tell apart from real life.
We’ve reached the end of our guerrilla marketing tour. We’ve seen some amazing sights and gained some valuable knowledge about the world of advertising. You’ll probably find yourself looking differently at ads now that you know the secrets that marketers use to grab your attention. We hope you’ve enjoyed your tour, and you’re invited back to re-visit all of your favorite stops at any time. Please watch your step as you exit the bus.