What Is Guerrilla Marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since 1984 when the first book by Jay Conrad Levinson was released, but the way it continues to progress and change makes it feel newly formed each time a new guerrilla advert comes out. The term guerrilla marketing is a name for a wide range of different aspects within this topic, although it has been given many different names including ‘experimental’, guerrilla is the only term that has been most successful.

Jay Conrad Levinson introduced guerrilla marketing into mainstream business, aiming to help small companies to tackle large corporations in the advertising field and to publicise their name in a way that would make them stand out from the competition. The term is used for unconventional advertisements – ones that don’t conform to traditional TV, print or radio advertising methods but use different ways to gain customers and an audience. Guerrilla marketing wasn’t intended to be a countrywide campaign; it was aimed at small businesses for localised advertising; Jay Conrad Levinson stated the essence of guerrilla marketing:

“I’m referring to the soul and essence of guerrilla marketing which remain as always — achieving conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money”

This was the basis of his guerrilla marketing book, which has been so popular that it has been re-written into 35 volumes in 41 different languages with 41 million copies being sold around the world. This highlights the need for a different approach for small businesses in advertising.

On the whole advertising, for all extents and purposes was used as a way to educate its target audiences before 1984, stating facts about the product or what it could do for the consumer if they were to buy the product. But by 1984 people had started to see through the adverts, and stopped paying attention to them, they were all similar and they didn’t always state the truth. The same could be said about today’s society’s attitude towards advertising; people are bored of looking at the same ideas. Billboards and posters don’t stand out anymore and have just become another part of our social and commercial environments. TV advertisement slots are now used as a time to make a drink, get something to eat or just talk with friends. This means that people are not seeing the adverts, or are just ignoring them. People in 1984 needed something different, and guerrilla marketing brought them that, and it is still working in advertising today. But with so many different visual strategies and approaches it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell what an advert is and what is not.

One of the earliest guerrilla marketing campaigns is said to be a very simple idea of girls talking to men in clubs asking them to buy them a certain brand of vodka whilst telling them why they love it so much. The girls would then leave and the men would be left thinking about the brand of vodka.

Adidas was also one of the first companies to start using guerrilla advertising, though it could be said it was utilised by accident. The company was having difficulties, and the new owner, Bernard Tapie decided to send out free trainers to music rappers in New York. One group, Run DMC, prompted by the gift, wrote their song ‘My Adidas’, sending Adidas sales back up to high figures again. However, this wouldn’t always work in today’s society, as free gifts from companies to celebrities are sent out every day, the company now would have to specifically choose the artist and pay them a large amount of money to write a song and release it for them.

Using unconventional methods is the main objective behind guerrilla advertising, although in the 21st century the methods have become even more eccentric. This approach was used as it costs less money to apply, so more energy was put into them instead. Many large companies have also used guerrilla marketing as they realised how successful it had been for smaller businesses. Because of the unusual delivery manner of guerrilla marketing it usually consists of a localised campaign, which works well for the smaller company, as it gains them a contained audience on which to focus their campaign.

Many major companies are adopting guerrilla advertising techniques, which is constantly evolving from its original purpose. Organisations are investing more money into this new sector of advertising, taking chances with radical ideas; ‘spreading the word’ to audiences with the help of technology. T-Mobile is a good example of a large company that is applying guerrilla marketing with great effect (see page 18).Bigger companies are changing the way that guerrilla advertising is utilised, and are also increasing the number of people that view it. The methods behind it are also changing rapidly. Print has been used in guerrilla advertising and press adverts can still create unusual ways of product promotion. The advert for Terminix (see right) by Publicis Dallas, USA is a good example of this, using magazines and the spine to create their advert).  Placing an image of a cockroach, an insect that no-one would like to find in their house, makes the reader wonder what it is and why it is in there, making them curious enough to pick up the cut out and look at it. In doing so the cockroach reveals a message to the reader about Terminix’s services for getting rid of insects. Adverts like this, work on people, creating curiosity – encouraging them to pick up the physical piece of communication. Alternatively, Terminix could have paid for a simple A4 print in the magazine (like so many other companies), which the reader would glance over and immediately dismiss without reading it or digesting the information. This is the power of guerrilla advertising. Adverts like this one linger in peoples’ minds and the clever uniqueness of the promotional piece is possibly articulated to friends and family.

Technology is becoming more advanced on a daily basis, and it is one of the main reasons that guerrilla advertising has become more popular. The levels of interactivity of these new technologies are the main focus of this dissertation. Technology is being used to create an increasingly personal experience for the consumer – whether a simple sound clip is used, where an advert directly communicates with the receiver, or a touch-screen may be applied within the advert, they are becoming more popular as technology advances and become more cost effective to produce, the effectiveness of traditional methods may be seen to be declining.

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