Guerilla marketing, guerilla advertising: Getting ahead in the digital age

Guerilla marketing, guerilla advertising: Getting ahead in the digital age

You may have heard of guerilla advertising or guerilla marketing. But what is it and is it as aggressive as it sounds?

This is not to be confused with “guerrilla warfare” which are small yet effective actions or strategies carried out by armed civilians, usually through raids and sabotages. This is where the term “guerrilla marketing” comes from, in the same way this marketing strategy uses those tactics to create unconventional means to market their products with an element of surprise.

According to the Digital Marketing Lab, guerrilla marketing is a low-cost advertising strategy for businesses to promote their services and products in a surprising and unconventional way. It is often used by businesses who are on a budget, but still want their campaign to be effective and impactful on the customers. What sets guerrilla marketing apart from traditional marketing is its witty and provocative nature that has a strong reliance on personal interaction

Guerrilla marketing is aimed towards existing customers in order to increase their engagement with the product or service. They are easier to recognize and will more likely share the experience with their friends. In order for guerrilla marketing to be successful, it must be extremely unique, because these campaigns can easily go viral and boost your brand.

Types of guerrilla marketing

One of the most common and interactive types of guerrilla marketing is ambient marketing, which involves placing advertisements in unusual places one normally wouldn’t expect to see them in. This prompts any passersby to stop and reflect on what they see.

Marketing company Iris, London slipped a page towards the end of some books which reads: “THE END. If you smoke, statistically your story will end 15% before it should.,” followed by a hotline to help quit smoking. This was a powerful message conveyed in an unconventional way, which not only interrupted your reading and gave you a premature ending, but reminded you of the harmful effects of smoking and how it can lead to a premature life.

An example of guerilla advertising found in a book.

Photo from Digital Marketing Lab.


Another common type of guerrilla marketing is street marketing which include placing posters, fliers, stickers, and street art in public places to reach more people.

A good example is the street marketing for the horror movie IT in 2017. A few days before its release, red balloons attached to drainage gates appeared around Sydney with an accompanying message reading, “It is closer than you think. #IT movie in cinemas September 7.”

Many viewers called this marketing strategy “awesomely creepy.” The red balloon tied to the drain references the iconic scene in the movie where we first meet the villain, Pennywise. This imaginative street marketing was posted all over social media and drastically increased the views of the movie’s trailer. Not only was this marketing strategy eye-catching, but it was also very resourceful and successful at a low-cost.

Promotion for the movie "IT" featured tying red balloons to sewer grates as guerrilla marketing.

Photo tweeted by @DianaDJ7.

Another example of guerrilla marketing, and also one of the most popular, is outdoor installations.

In 2011, McDonalds set up a big light installation which shows yellow beams of light pointing towards the sky that resemble the iconic McDonalds french fries. A simple but genius idea, this light installation could be seen from up to three miles away and it evokes a sense of nostalgia and memory association for one of America’s favorite fast food joints. It captures your attention right away because of its unorthodox way of marketing something as simple as french fries. 

The McDonald's symbol is plastered on a billboard as guerilla advertising.

Photo from Ads of the World.

While these guerrilla marketing strategies have proved beneficial to many companies, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced consumers to stay home, leaving them unable to interact with or spot these usual forms of marketing. So how can businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises engage in guerrilla marketing through online platforms?

The unconventional, interactive, and surprising elements of guerrilla marketing can be carried through to the digital world where there are now hundreds of platforms to market to the right audience.

Be witty and creative on social media

Whether you’re using it as a guerrilla marketing platform or not, social media should not be left out of your marketing strategy. As of 2019, there are 3.5 billion social media users which is 45% of the world population. Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and even Tinder, the popular dating app, can be a good platform for your guerrilla marketing if you are creative enough. 

In order to promote the release of Deadpool in 2016, Marvel found an extremely creative way to market the movie to their target audience. In 2015, a few months before the movie’s release, Tinder users got the chance to see a profile of Deadpool complete with photos and a witty bio in complete character. At the end of the bio it read: “Check out Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds, in theaters Friday, February 12.” 

The movie was marketed on Tinder because it is an app used mostly by 18-year olds and up, which is the target age range for the movie. When released in 2016, Deadpool dominated box offices and grossed $785 million. This digital guerrilla marketing tactic was the first of its kind and also hilarious, which was one of the reasons for its success.

A poster from the Deadpool movie is used as guerrilla marketing.

Photo from

Viral videos

Videos go viral everyday because of two important factors: the psychological response it evokes from viewers and the motivation it creates to share the video to others. Guerrilla marketing can also come in the form of videos, especially in a digital era. A video on social media can generate 12 times more shares than images and text combined, while 51% of marketers say it’s the type of content with the highest return on investment (ROI).

A video doesn’t have to be witty to go viral; it can be a video that promotes an inspiring message in a creative and unconventional way. 

Always is a popular brand of feminine and menstrual hygiene products. In 2014, Always launched their #LikeAGirl campaign through a video which answers the question: What does it mean to do things #LikeAGirl? The video aimed to tackle societal limitations placed on young girls who struggle to keep their confidence during puberty. The interviewers asked participants to demonstrate what it means to “run like a girl” to teenage boys and girls, who both proceeded to run in a very slow and mocking manner. The interviewers then asked younger girls aged 10 and below to show what it means to “run like a girl.” All of them demonstrated how they ran which was fast, focused, and overall, the way everyone runs. 

This video racked up more than 68 million views on YouTube and received high praise for the way it presented gender stereotypes. Always reported that 94% agreed that #LikeAGirl has helped girls to be more confident and that 76% of girls have a positive association with the phrase “like a girl,” as compared to the past 19%. 

A picture from the #LikeAGirl guerilla advertising campaign.

Photo from Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign. Watch the video here.

In digital guerrilla marketing, it is still possible to get the audience involved. Digilar Media suggested holding Instagram photo competitions wherein brands ask customers to share short videos or stories of their experience with the brand. This can strengthen the relationship between the brand and its existing and potential customers. It is a very interactive and fully-online marketing technique.

In guerrilla marketing, actions speak louder than words. Your campaign should tie in creativity, emotion, a shock-factor, and of course, your brand.


-Written by Mica Magsanoc

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