A Brief History of Guerilla Marketing
With the outbreak of the coronavirus, what better time is there to talk about viral marketing methods to help your business get through the tough times ahead?
So, just what is guerrilla marketing? We’ll explain how it can be some of the most effective small business advertising.
What is Guerrilla Marketing?
Consider the fact that everyone enjoys the tale of how the smaller guy can overcome the bigger guy using smarts and ingenuity to surprise his opponent. That’s what we call guerrilla warfare. So when a new startup utilizes an underground marketing method to reach success and shock the business world, that’s called guerrilla marketing.
The term “guerrilla marketing” is becoming ubiquitous these days. It’s being used to describe all manner of different types of marketing campaigns. But just what exactly defines guerrilla marketing? What makes it different from more traditional types of advertising? Let’s dive into these questions now.
History of Guerrilla Marketing
Guerrilla marketing is iconic and frequently controversial, but it didn’t appear in the mainstream until late in the 1970s. Before this period, advertising was all about how big your budget was, how much exposure you got, and whether or not you had a catchy jingle for your business. It was easier to make huge profits while bringing in tons of new customers at the same time.
However, we can contrast this to the beginning of the 20th century up until around the 40s or 50s. At this time, the main goal of advertisers was to educate their target audience rather than entertain or engage them. The primary purpose of an ad was to teach people something that they weren’t aware of before. It didn’t matter what form of media it was, television ads, newspaper ads, radio, posters, etc.; the ad was always trying to educate the consumer about something new.
Of course, advertisers eventually realized that this technique of educating the masses was becoming more and more ineffective. People became increasingly aware of how this seemingly helpful advice was just a disguised sales pitch. So by the 1970s, that’s when everything changed in the advertising world.
In 1984, the paradigm really started to shift when Jay Conrad released his book in bookstores. His ideas were about how to get big advertising results with only a small investment put into it. His book Guerrilla Marketing brought the knowledge of more subtle marketing into public awareness. After the book came out, not even the author could’ve predicted how much his ideas would influence the small businesses at that time to follow these teachings.
The Secret to Guerrilla Marketing
The secret is to not come across as preachy or educational; it’s all about making the prospect feel like they’re being let in on a secret…
The best kind of guerrilla marketing event makes the audience feel lucky to have attended it.
Basically, it all comes down to using unconventional techniques to advertise with the least amount of money possible. That usually eliminates radio and television ads, which means you’ll have to think outside of the box. In fact, forget about the box altogether and turn it into a trapezoid. See what we’re getting at? Think of the “box” as your campaign – make it ridiculous, funny, outrageous, shocking, clever, unique, and so creative that people can’t stop paying attention to it. You’ll, of course, need to back up your claims and have a product worthy of all that discussion.
Levinson’s methods are still used today by underdog businesses to overcome their bigger competitors.
Now for the first time in history, small businesses were able to get more attention than the big dogs. The shock factor was the new “x-factor” of success for small businesses. By being personal, quirky, and full of surprises, these advertisers were able to leapfrog the competition.
Guerilla Marketing in Action
Fast forward to 1987, and we can see one of the most prominent (and still used to this day) examples of guerrilla marketing. It’s called the “buy me a drink” technique. When a pretty lady at the bar asks you to buy her a drink, but not just any drink – only Brand X drink will do. And then she goes on and on about why that drink is her favorite brand of vodka. In that situation, you might just be a happy victim of guerrilla marketing in action. Yes, this technique was so successful that it’s still used by companies to this day when a new drink or liquor hits the market.
Another Guerrilla Marketing Example
Meanwhile, the company Adidas was struggling to stay above water. Yes, even Adidas faced huge setbacks at certain points. Due to unwise changes in management, Adidas needed a miracle. The praise from Olympic athletes was no longer enough.
After French businessman Bernard Tapie took over management of the company, he implemented a brilliant strategy to save the company. His solution? Give away a pair of Adidas to each up and coming rapper in New York.
This was certainly an unexpected move. Who would give away shoes to rappers anyway?
But as it turned out, Tapie happened to strike gold. One rap group called DMC released a single known as “My Adidas.” And just like that, overnight Adidas shoes were being worn by every hip youngster from coast to coast.
This is just one example to show you how an unexpected marketing method can work wonders. However, copying this method today likely will not bear much fruit, since the shoes would probably get lost among all of the other things stealing attention away from celebrities.
Another reason it probably wouldn’t work as well as it did before is that once a guerrilla marketing method becomes known, it loses effectiveness soon after. That’s why to be an effective guerrilla marketer, you must be stealthy and utilize the element of surprise.
In conclusion, guerrilla marketing is personal marketing. A cute girl at the bar selling the merits of that brand of alcohol to you is an example of guerrilla marketing. The rappers wearing those Adidas shoes are guerrilla marketing. And there are many more guerrilla marketing examples out there.
However, you should learn from these examples, but not copy them, because guerrilla marketing requires ingenuity and originality.