Struggling to make an impression on consumers tired of being marketed to? Here’s how to maintain your business’s relevance

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

Guerrilla Marketing is an advertising strategy that by nature, is as unique and outrageous as its name. The term was first created by Jay Conrad Levinson in 1984, who proposed the strategy as a response to consumers’ increasing tolerance for traditional forms of advertising.

As his proposal was to use unconventional marketing tactics to combat the failing traditional forms, Levinson derived the name ‘guerrilla’ from the irregular warfare tactics used by armed civilians in the war. Similar to how armed warfare consisted of ambushes, sabotage, raids and surprise, Levinson re-imagined the idea of effective advertisements to be strategic, shocking and outrageous enough to create a social buzz.

These types of campaigns were a godsend for the time it was in (where traditional marketing was out) and it continues to be a highly effective method of marketing. As the strategy typically aims to create low-cost campaigns that can gain high reach, guerrilla marketing is ideal for small businesses who are looking to make a valuable impression. However, in fear of missing out on the great potential benefits, big businesses also still use the strategy to complement many of their ongoing mass media campaigns.

How are businesses using it?

Times have changed and advertisements are no longer only aimed at educating the consumer on a product or service. Businesses are now also using their advertisements to entertain and engage their consumers, just to get their attention!

In fact, the main goal of some advertisements now is to engage, where education about a product or service is secondary to making a good first impression. In this way, a shift in focus can be seen in the marketing landscape, where the focus of a guerrilla advertisement is now on first creating interest in a company rather than informing them about their product or service. By aiming to spark interest in what they are witnessing, companies are now aiming to gain the consent of a consumer to send them more information about their product or service.

Some marketers argue that when big businesses use guerrilla marketing tactics, it isn’t true to the idea because the company already has a big budget and is already well remembered.
But, by whomever it is used, if the guerrilla tactic is executed well, it will often be a cheap and highly effective method of reaching targeted audiences. It is a fun and inexpensive way for a company to get noticed, distinguish themselves from their competition and earn a reputation for being fun and different.

Some examples

For a better idea of what guerrilla advertisements are, it is good to have a look at some examples.


To encourage donations, UNICEF strategically placed a vending machine in Manhattan, selling dirty water for a dollar and provided observers with a choice of ‘flavours’ including malaria, cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. The machine displayed data and statistics about the number of children in need of clean drinking water and how just one dollar could provide them with 40 days’ supply. A number to text was also displayed to encourage people to donate more to the cause.


To create top-of-mind awareness, Volkswagen hung cartoon thought bubbles over all the spaces in a parking complex in Dubai, so that parked cars appeared to be thinking, “I wish I was a Volkswagen.” As people first entered the car park, they were welcomed by a feature wall that read, “Have you ever wondered what your car is dreaming of?”


Lastly, to demonstrate that its vehicles are not only suitable for an outback environment, the Jeep company drew parking spaces in unexpected locations such as across plaza stairs or up curbs. By giving the car a distinct presence in an urban setting, it cleverly implied its versatility.