10 Creative Guerilla Marketing Tactics to Boost your Brand, Company, or Cause

How to gain exposure without breaking the bank

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

What is Guerilla Marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is an advertisement strategy concept designed for businesses to promote their products or services in an unconventional way with little budget to spend.

What marketers really enjoy about guerrilla marketing is its fairly low-cost nature. The real investment here is a creative, intellectual one — its implementation, however, doesn’t have to be expensive. Michael Brenner summarizes it nicely in his article on “guerrilla content,” where he frames this style of marketing in the same context as repurposing your existing content, like taking certain segments of a report, and expanding each one into a blog post. It’s an investment of time, but not money (or at least, not a lot of money).

In a way, guerrilla marketing works by repurposing your audience’s current environment. Evaluate it, and figure out which segments of it can be repurposed to include your brand.

10 Creative Guerilla Marketing Tactics to Boost your Brand, Company, or Cause

1. Stickers

Reddit Sticker

Everybody knows Reddit as “the front page of the internet” and as one of the most popular websites on the web. With over 36 million user accounts and 169 million unique monthly visitors, Reddit is showing no signs of slowing down.

While many people who have used the internet have come across Reddit at some point, or will at least be able to recognize the alien logo that is plastered across the web, others may not know that the creators of Reddit have only ever spent $500 on advertising, and that a great deal of that money was spent on stickers.

Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian said in his book, Make Something People Love: Lessons from a Startup Guy:

Yes, stickers [were] the soundest investment I ever made.
“I used to travel around the country a lot (thank you, Chinatown bus), and everywhere I went I took stickers with me. I put them on signs, poles, and even other advertisement.”
“‘Please sticker responsibly!’ we would say, and hand out these stickers at events, meetups, just to random people on the street. This may not sound like a major or even strategic marketing approach, but we kept at it. Within a few months we started seeing photos uploaded to the internet of people stickering with our stickers… often stickering in ways we’d never expected.”

2. Outdoor Installations

It Guerilla Marketing-Iconic Red Balloon in Sydney, Australia

While expensive outdoor installations can be an effective form of guerilla marketing, many of the best ideas require far less money to achieve noteworthy impact.

A clever guerrilla marketing campaign for horror movie It was met with both delight and horror on social media, with users saying it was “awesomely creepy.”

In September 2017, a number of red balloons appeared attached to drainage grates around Sydney CBD, accompanied by a stenciled chalk note saying, “It is closer than you think.”

The guerrilla marketing stunt played off audience recognition of the red balloon, which is associated Pennywise, a malevolent clown which preys upon the children in the Stephen King best selling novel, It. A number of murals were also painted around Sydney featuring artist’s impressions of Pennywise’s face.

These few strategically placed balloons yielded massive social media traffic and led to skyrocketing viewership of the film’s trailer.

3. Reverse Graffiti

Domino’s Reverse Graffiti

Reverse graffiti is when, instead of adding to a surface, marketers remove dirt and grime from a street or wall to create an all-natural marking message. Just put a stencil on a sidewalk and then wash the uncovered spaces. Domino’s is one of the larger companies to try this strategy.

4. Contextual Marketing

Weight Watchers Ad

Guerrilla marketing isn’t just found in urban settings — it can be found in print too. This Weight Watchers magazine advertisement changes shape as users remove perforated pieces. This same concept could be applied to flyers to further reduce the cost.

5. Creating Counter-Campaigns

Signs Designed to Trigger a Strong Reaction in Voters

After the recession hit, Troy, like so many municipalities, made some major cuts to its public spending. One unfortunate victim of the budget line was the Troy Public Library. The building was given just enough money to function as a storage facility until the operation shut down. They even set a closing date: June 30, 2011.

When the people of Troy were asked outside the ballot booth whether they’d be willing to pay for their library, they overwhelmingly said they yes. According to one survey, 72 percent of Troy residents wanted to keep the library’s funding level or even increase it [PDF]. Only 20 percent wanted its funding cut to some degree.

What was happening, according to library advocates, was thanks to a group called Troy Citizens United. The anti-tax organization contested any public proposal that included a tax increase, regardless of its purpose. Among the 19 percent of eligible city voters who turned out for these ballots, Troy Citizens United evidently held major sway.

In May of 2011, just weeks before the library’s demise, the city council delayed the closure long enough to let residents cast one last ballot. The vote was scheduled for August 2. This time the proposal on the table called for a 0.7 percent tax increase — enough to fund the library for 5 years.

True to form, Troy Citizens United — represented at public debates by soon-to-be-mayor Janice Daniels — opposed the proposal on anti-tax grounds. But this time they were joined in their opposition by a committee called Safeguarding American Families, which said it was rooting for the vote to lose so it could throw a book-burning party once the library closed.

Safeguarding American Families printed up signs that said: “Vote to close Troy library Aug. 2nd, Book burning party Aug 5th.” They planted them on lawns. They started a Facebook page and a Twitter account (“There are 200,000 reasons to close the Troy Library. They’re called books. #BookBurningParty”).

Needless to say, some people got a little angry. They left comments on the committee’s social media sites like “You people are sick” and “This is disgusting” and “Cheap imbeciles” and the like. Local leaders, voters, and media outlets took notice. Everyone assumed this was the group’s true intent. However the whole campaign was just a clever ruse to save the library.

Safeguarding American Families was an invention of the Leo Burnett advertising agency, which had been hired to create a blitz media campaign that would encourage voters to turn out and approve the library-funding proposal. Just before the election, Safeguarding American Families revealed its true message: “A vote against the library is like a vote to burn books.”

Leo Burnett says its goal was to change the conversation from taxes to libraries. Sure enough, come August 2, voter turnout hit 38 percent and the library proposal passed with 58 percent of the ballot.

6. Creative Product Placement

Prison Break File in Cake

People in media get free things all the time. So a cake turning up for them for them wasn’t seen as that unusual. But when they started to cut slices, they hit something rather hard. To promote the return of the popular TV3 show Prison Break, advertising agency have hidden a file within the cake. Once the file was removed, they were left with a simple message “Prison Break returns 19th Nov TV3.″

7. Improve Existing Space

IKEA Products in Unique Places

IKEA has been known for their creative and original marketing initiatives for some time now but their 2006 campaign “Everyday Fabulous” really stands out. The idea for the campaign was to improve the foundations of society by making everyday life that little bit better and more comfortable. IKEA toured the streets of Manhattan and Paris and used their products to decorate several settings such as windows on trains with curtains and bus stops with sofas and pillows. By placing their decorative items in plain sight across the city, IKEA cleverly increased their brand awareness. One of the best subtle, yet effective guerilla marketing campaigns we’ve seen.

8. Partnering with Another (Unexpected) Brand

Colgate partnership with local pizzerias

To promote the new Colgate Max Night variant local pizzerias were supplied with special Colgate-branded boxes for their dinner deliveries. The inside of the box was designed to look like the inside of a mouth. The message reminded people to use Colgate max night so their dinner breath does not become their morning breath.

9. Unconventional Social Media Marketing

Breaking up is hard to do in person, let alone when it’s publicly played out online. That’s what happened — allegedly — when one Instagram user left a comment on this post sharing a tale of his “girl” procuring food from Burger King. There was just one problem. This guy does have a girlfriend, but she was nowhere near a Burger King. So, who was he referring to? The drama ensued, via Instagram comments:

Burger King Breakup Stunt

After the comments began to make headlines, many speculated that the entire exchange may have been staged by Burger King.

Burger King has roughly one million followers on Instagram. Compare that to the 2.1 million followers of its chief competitor, McDonald’s. This famous “breakup” drew more attention to its social media presence, at least on this particular platform. People may have already been observing the brand on Instagram, but before now, were they actively discussing it?

10. Ambient Marketing

Encouraging readers to quit smoking

An ambient campaign that addresses smokers when they are reading. Iris, London slipped a specially designed page into physical books and Kindle — towards the end of books, readers come to a page that reads: THE END. If you smoke, statistically your story will end 15% before it should.


Thanks for reading this article and best of luck with your guerilla marketing efforts! Leave a comment or message me if you have any questions.

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Casey Botticello is a serial entrepreneur, private equity investor, and freelance writer. He currently works for BGR Group, a bipartisan lobbying and strategic communications firm. He also manages investments in a number of technology startups through his private equity fund Botticello.

Casey is the founder of the Cryptocurrency Alliance, an independent expenditure-only committee (Super PAC) dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain advocacy. He is also the editor of several Medium publications, including K Street, Side Hustle, and Wall Street.

Previously, Casey worked at several tech startups and in real estate development. He is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. in Urban Studies.