Marketing Overview Part 1 | Guerilla Marketing

Author: Anne-Catherine Kieschnick

Estimated reading time: 7 min

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It is well known that without marketing it is difficult to advance a company in its development. Marketing is done everywhere — in the working world as well as in private life. A recommendation from a doctor can be called marketing already.
A kind of promotion or public support or recommendation of a person, a product or even a theory falls under the category of marketing. The implementation of this, however, is the form in which different strategies differ from each other.

Today we are dealing with a more obvious strategy; Guerrilla Marketing.

Guerrilla marketing (G.M.) is an innovative communication strategy that thrives on surprise effects. — Creative ideas are staged in a particularly eye-catching way. In this way, advertisers try to convey their advertising messages through unconventional marketing measures. Often guerrilla marketing only uses a manageable budget, which is nevertheless intended to achieve the greatest possible effect.

“Advertising has become an integral part of all our lives, which our brain cleverly answers with stimulus filters. Guerrilla marketing is the magic word for advertisers to still penetrate people’s consciousness.” (Falk Hedemann, 2015)

History | Background
The word guerrilla marketing was established by US marketer Jay Conrad Levinson in the 1980s. The term is derived from the military language. Guerrilla warfare is a form of warfare in which the aim is to weaken the opponent in a targeted manner through unconventional tactics. It also aims to gain an advantage over the competition through untypical measures.

It is classified as “below-the-line communication”, as it does not usually use classic methods but unconventional measures with which consumers are addressed directly and personally.

How it works

G.M. is described as unusual, surprising and yet simple. The essential characteristics are unusual combinations of different elements that create surprise and amazement in as many people as possible. All this with relatively modest means. Today, advertisers are primarily concerned with getting the attention of the target persons. Today, they are bombarded with advertising messages in a matter of seconds, which cannot penetrate into the consciousness of the target person due to the sensory overload – unless they are unusual and surprising.

Advertising is placed on objects and in places where consumers do not necessarily expect advertising. The possibilities for advertising media are very diverse. Innovative forms of advertising are designed to address the target group emotionally, for example because they have to laugh, are surprised or shocked.

“Guerrilla marketing can pursue various goals. As a rule, the aim is to make products or brands known or to strengthen their image.” (Textbroker Expert-Center, 2017)

This form of marketing has often been used in the past to market new films. Guerrilla marketing is also a common advertising method in the field of sport. Because a high level of attention can be achieved with unusual actions even with a small budget, guerrilla marketing is recommended by experts not only to big brands, but also to small and medium-sized companies and self-employed people.

Ambient Marketing, Ambush Marketing, Sensation Marketing and Viral Marketing are assigned to Guerrilla Marketing.

Ambient Marketing
… refers to surprising product presentations that reach consumers in their normal environment. It is about the extraordinary implementation of outdoor advertising in public spaces. Ambient marketing can take the form of innovative advertising at the airport, on buses or trains or in restaurants, for example. Possible advertising media include beer mats, postcards or toilet seats in bars.

“Outdoor” involves the installation of temporary and removable elements at specific locations in a city, such as statues or works of art on the pavement.

“Indoor” works the same way as Ambient Marketing in outdoor areas, but in indoor areas such as railway stations, shops or university buildings.

Ambush marketing
… is also known as free-rider marketing. In this case, the attention for a topic or an event is used to put your own brand in the limelight. Ambush Marketing is also often used at large events to carry out a kind of image transfer to your own brand.
It is, however, controversial, as this form of advertising is used to make an association with an event, so to speak.

Sensation marketing
… involves unusual campaigns or spectacular installations, for example at the point of sale. Multipliers, such as promoters, are always used. Examples: surprising fashion shows or flashmobs in the pedestrian zone.

Viral marketing
The aim is to attract as much attention as possible in the respective target group as quickly as possible.
Viral marketing pursues the goal of spreading content virally, for example by consumers personally recommending or sharing it by word of mouth or online via social media.

Examples of Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns

Many companies use G.M. campaigns to draw attention to their brands or products. For example, the film “King Kong” was advertised with a giant footprint on the beach. In the run-up to the low-budget film “The Blairwitch Project”, the mysterious disappearance of students was staged in a witches’ forest.

Success factors of Guerrilla Marketing

Creative advertising not only penetrates our consciousness, but even goes one step further — we emotionalise ourselves with advertising because it makes us laugh, makes us think and briefly tears us out of our everyday life. These are also good ingredients for viral spreading, which can give advertising additional attention.

In addition to a creative idea, good planning and preparation are particularly important in guerrilla marketing campaigns. It is also crucial for success that the guerrilla campaign fits the brand and the target group — the keyword is “brand fit”. In addition, points of contact should be created so that consumers can deal with the respective campaign directly and immediately. Furthermore, successful guerrilla marketing is recommended to network the measures cross-medially and to involve consumers in the action. In order to enable the campaign to spread virally, the target group should be encouraged to place content on the Internet e.g. uploading photos to Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter.

Why is it important to know about Guerilla Marketing? | What are the most effective strategies?

1. Think about what solutions your product or service offers. Which one is most
important? Find an unconventional way to illustrate them to your target
group. Preferably without words.

2. Guerrilla marketing can be combined with traditional approaches to increase
its effectiveness. Because what is often the weakness of traditional
marketing is the strength of guerrilla marketing: attracting attention!

3. Think about the places your target audience passes by or comes into contact
with every day and create something that is both unexpected and interactive
in this context.

4. Find out how passers-by might interact with your message involuntarily, and
how they might manage to make people part of your campaign.

5. Under the right circumstances, guerrilla marketing can work with the
smallest or even no budget. As with all other forms of marketing and
advertising, care should always be taken to meet the circumstances and the
needs / wishes of the target group.

6. G.M. can also work in a digital environment. Ask yourself the question on
which platforms your target audience is active and whether there might be
an opportunity to stage a small show for them. Of course, you shouldn’t
invent anything, but a creative use of digital platforms can do a lot to get your
brand noticed.

7. It also works for non-profit organisations. Even if cruel or sad images are
often a very impressive way to communicate your mission, there are ways to
get it across to people in a more subtle and interactive way.

8. Do not think about it too much. Sometimes the silliest idea is perhaps the

9. It is perfectly OK to become a bit “sentimental”. Think about the emotions
your products evoke in consumers. Offer your target group the opportunity to
create authentic content around your brand.

Pros and Cons

If you get it right, guerrilla marketing can achieve amazing results without costing a fortune. Guerrilla marketing is often seen as a low-budget form, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Most people combine this method with creativity and rely on word of mouth. And although this is true in most cases, there are also examples where it is so obvious that the company has invested a lot of money in something that can be considered guerrilla marketing. This technique involves a high degree of creativity and appeals to people in this way. It tries to talk to the audience in a more unconventional way and is not obsessed with selling something so “crass”. Instead, it tries to introduce the element of “play” by creating a kind of stunt, performance or

“Simply put, guerrilla marketing tries to get under people’s skin.” (Lucas H. Parker, 2019)

Guerrilla marketing can be quite risky, however. If you don’t create that special atmosphere, things can go very wrong and you can harm your business much more than you can imagine. Therefore, guerrilla marketing must be carefully planned step by step. And even if you do that, there is no guarantee that people will like it and that it will go viral.

The least harmful thing would be to develop a strategy that nobody notices. But even then you are the one who is essentially at a loss. It does not matter whether you have invested money or not-you would still have made considerable efforts, and without success.

“… it’s a hit-or-miss strategy, so you need to ready yourself that it can turn out to be a complete failure.” (Lucas H. Parker, 2019)

What’s a great guerilla marketing campaign? Best cases: e.g.

(Textbroker Expert-Center, 2017)

  • Colgate gave away popsicles. After dinner, a stick in the shape of a wooden toothbrush appeared, printed with Colgate advertising.
  • Beiersdorf placed two-part blue sofas with the Nivea logo in furniture stores, their upholstery illustrating the difference between orange peel and smooth skin.
  • McDonald’s transformed a zebra crossing into a large bag of French fries.
  • Nike used Nike equipment to create a media-effective presentation of an 80-year-old runner in Nike gear at a marathon sponsored by Adidas, thus weakening the advertising impact of the actual sponsor Adidas.

How do Start-ups use Guerrilla Marketing?

(Daniel Hüfner, 2016)

“The theory that “if you build it, they’ll come” doesn’t really work when it comes to startups. While getting your business under way is the first important step you need to take, it’s also critical that you start promoting it from day one. After all, how else could you expect your target audience to find out about your startup?” (Carolin Petterson, 2019)

“Internship reaches millions”
Even if startups are still faced with the challenge of having to win over as many users as possible for their product as quickly as possible in order to enter the market successfully – fortunately, successful advertising does not always have to be this spectacular and expensive. Even with a relatively small budget, start-ups can attract a considerable amount of attention.

Last year, the travel portal “”, founded in 2012 in Holzwickede near Dortmund, advertised an internship of a special kind. They were looking for someone to test travel on a full-time basis and at the company’s expense. Within a short time, over 5,000 applications were received. A “world trip at company expense”: The guerilla marketing campaign of was a direct hit. It proved to be useful not only for the future trainee – the start-up attracted the attention of numerous media during the tendering process. The WAZ dedicated an entire front page to the campaign and RTL even accompanied the selection process over a period of three weeks with regular TV reports. The media response had a noticeable effect on the number of visitors to over the next few months.

“Whenever the trainee published new travel reports on our blog, the number of entries in the social media increased and then the traffic on the respective article increased as well. In December we had almost 17 million page impressions”, reports Jens Krömer. The campaign, including all flights, accommodation and additional costs, cost just over 25,000 euros. However, this was an investment that was offset by enormous growth in the social channels. “The number of our Instagram followers has increased sevenfold”, says Krömer.

“Guerrilla marketing by messenger”
But guerrilla marketing does not necessarily have to take place on the street. Assuming the right timing and a good nose for new technologies, valuable surprise effects can also be achieved online with minimal resources. The latest coup is likely to have been achieved by the makers of Smartsteuer, an online service for tax returns.

Right on time for the tax deadline on 31 May, the young company “Smartsteuer” from Hanover launched a bot for the Facebook Messenger, which gave defaulting users the opportunity to automatically send an application for an extension of the deadline to the tax office by entering their tax number.
The idea was born just a few days ago: “Facebook had just released the Messenger API (…) and I still had to do my own tax return. So I had a problem that I shared with many of our customers. And I had a new toy. So what could be more obvious than combining the pleasant with the useful,” says Smartsteuer founder Björn Waide.

Although it was no more than a prototype, according to Waide, about 100 users applied for a time extension via the bot and thus came into contact with the main product. The comparatively small amount of effort the company put into development is particularly remarkable: “The bot was created for the most part in one week, when I was in bed at home with flu,” explains Waide. Against this background, he does not want to talk about a marketing stunt. Nevertheless it was a successful campaign!


Guerrilla marketing campaigns can attract a high level of attention in a positive sense and spread virally. But guerrilla marketing also harbours risks, for example in the case of too daring actions such as ambush marketing or insufficient brand fit. If companies overshoot the mark in guerrilla marketing, this can trigger a shitstorm in social media. Guerrilla marketing also often operates in legal grey areas.


Textbroker Expert-Center. (2017). Guerilla Marketing. Retrieved from:

Falk Hedemann. (2015). Guerilla-Marketing: 44 kreative Beispiele für etwas andere Werbung. Retrieved from:

Amanda Zantal-Wiener. (2020). Was ist Guerilla-Marketing? Die inspirierendsten Beispiele. Retrieved from:

Lucas H. Parker. (2019). The Pros And Cons Of Guerilla Marketing. Retrieved from:

Carolin Petterson. (2019). 8 Simple Ideas for Marketing Your Startup. Retrieved from:

Daniel Hüfner. (2016). Guerilla-Marketing für Startups: Diese Strategien knallten durch die Decke. Retrieved from: