Guerrilla Marketing or viral communication marketing and propoganda concept as a paper plane burning in flames as an audience group of human heads made of crumpled office papers.

Guerrilla Marketing For SMEs

In the winter of 2015, Bangalore was rocked by a spate of graffiti asking just one question. “Mohan Kaun?”. A seemingly innocuous artwork splattered all over the city’s main streets, empty billboards, broken down and rusty vehicles, and even the cement block kept outside the Café Coffee Day (CCD) outside my house, which for some reason no one ever moved. It was enough to get newspapers to talk and people to change their Facebook and WhatsApp status.

During the guerilla marketing campaign for the restoration of an ageing building, "Mohan Kaun" was spray painted on goods vehicles.


During the Guerilla Marketing campaign fo the restoration of an ageing building, "Mohan Kaun" was spray painted on walls.

Finally, in December of the year, the big reveal happened. The city was invited to meet Mohan – an ageing building in one of the oldest parts of Bangalore. A non-profit art organisation Klatsch had painstakingly cleaned and restored the building. Myself Mohan 1909 was a three-day festival of the building’s – and by extrapolation, Bangalore’s – history, with mixed-media art installations and guided walks into a bygone century.

It was their innovative marketing that got the city interested in a dilapidated building and made marketers take notice. It was the perfect example of guerrilla marketing at play.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

Hopefully, the long drawn out introduction above would have helped you understand what ‘Guerrilla Marketing’ is all about. For the sake of this article though, let’s spell it out in easy-to-understand terms. Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that uses low-cost marketing and advertising strategies with maximum impact. The ROI for these strategies is usually high because the returns obviously match the input and effort.

Jay Conrad Levinson, then Creative Director for the advertising company Leo Burnett, first introduced the term in 1984. The inspiration for this comes from the military strategy called guerrilla warfare where a small troop can take on the big guns by their smartness. The main objective of guerrilla marketing is to create a buzz around an event or product through word-of-mouth and the element of surprise. A subset of this is Street Marketing, which Klatsch used to their advantage when advertising their exhibit. But this is not the only type of guerrilla marketing strategy out there; there is quite a nifty list which we have detailed below.

Guerrilla Marketing Strategies – How and When to Use Them?

There are quite a few types of unconventional marketing strategies that you can use for your brand and this would depend on your company’s voice and the product you are trying to sell, as well as the budget. These are some of the most common guerrilla marketing ideas followed by brands across the globe:

  1. Viral Marketing: Though not a completely new trend, viral marketing has the power to make your audience stop and stare. And it’s accessible to almost everyone. All you need is a team that is willing to tweet, retweet, heart, like and share your posts across the digital space. This will create a buzz strong enough for customers to notice.
  1. Ambient Marketing: You can get very fun and creative with ambient designs. Think Anando Milk’s advertisement in Mumbai or the Folger’s coffee cup street art in New York. The idea is to use existing structures and items in the cityscape and place your advertisements on them, or around them so that it attracts eyeballs.
  1. Tissue Pack Advertising: This method was invented in Japan, but is so simple and ingenious that it can be used anywhere. Basically, you hand out packs of tissues with your company’s branding. The pack is bound to stay with your potential customers for a while. Result – instant brand recall!
  1. Live-In Marketing and Experiential Marketing: Both these marketing strategies allow the user to experience the product and form a direct response to it before they buy it. An example: someone giving away free samples of your latest recipe to customers at a mall.
  1. Astroturfing: Astroturfing is, perhaps, the lowest of all guerrilla marketing gimmicks. Astroturf marketing usually creates a fake buzz around a product. It can include fake reviews on aggregator sites like Yelp, Zomato, and TripAdvisor etc. or fake Google reviews about a business by its competitors. Astroturfing does not always work in the digital age because it is easy to flag wrong reviews and block users, but many companies still resort to it in some form or other.

Guerrilla Marketing in the Indian Context

Though first invented in the 80s, guerrilla marketing is still quite unexplored in India. Globally, even the big names use guerrilla marketing strategies along with more conventional advertising. Think Coke with its Happiness Machine, Nike with its ambient advertising, Vodafone and Axe. All of these have used creative and unconventional methods of advertising to further their client base.

In India, the good examples of guerrilla advertising have been few and far in between. However, the scope for unconventional advertising is huge, especially for the up-and-coming SMEs.  Decades of conventional advertising and Google Ads have made the average Indian consumer feel bored and blind. Unless you are Amul with one of your uterrly butterly billboards, no one is really going to give you a second glance. To stop your audience dead in their tracks, you need something that is not just ‘out of the box’ but which completely redefines the box.

One note of caution though – it is not that guerrilla marketing has never fallen flat on its face. For all its creativity and boundary-pushing abilities, many companies have had to face the brunt of a marketing strategy gone wrong. Take Sony for example. When they created a fake site to promote their PSP launch in 2006, the vast numbers of video gamers, marketers, and online trolls had a whale of a time embarrassing the tech giant for its faux pas. Now, Sony has the resources and money to build its brand back up after a wrong move but you may not. So, always think of your end consumer and what their reaction can be before making a marketing decision.

Here are a few tips that might actually help you in this regard:

  1. Don’t attempt to provoke, scare, or upset anyone – especially not your customers. This can spiral downward pretty fast. As a small enterprise, you may not have the wherewithal to deal with the outcome.
  1. Don’t think of guerrilla advertising as a street stunt or as a single moment. Like every other marketing campaign, this also has to tie in with your brand’s overall ethos.
  1. While being creative, don’t forget to set the right metrics in place and track your ROIs. This will tell you a lot about your potential client base than a normal market survey would. It would also give you insights into how your customers perceive your brand and your advertising strategy.
  1. Inspire your customer to take the next step. Painting streets might get you the recognition, but follow ups and good customer service will still hold the fort.

We hope this article helps you get your creative juices flowing. For more awesome ideas on how to advertise your business, don’t forget to ask our freelancing experts for help!

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