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Guerrilla Marketing 101

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Guerrilla Marketing 101
Image courtesy of Arturo de Albornoz

In 1984, the year Apple broke the mold, Jay Conrad Levinson published a now legendary book called "Guerrilla Marketing." It talked about unconventional ways of advertising, using smaller budgets and a larger imagination, to capture the attention of consumers. Think outside of the box (in this case, the TV) and get away from the printed page. Be different. Stand out. Be unexpected.

Over 25 years later, guerrilla marketing is now as commonplace as radio ads and outdoor. Here are some of the many ways you can advertise in non-traditional ways:

  • Undercover marketing - subtle product placement
  • Experiential marketing - interaction with product
  • Tissue-pack marketing - hand-to-hand marketing
  • Reverse Graffiti - clean pavement advertising
  • Viral marketing - through social networks
  • Buzz marketing - word of mouth marketing
  • Grassroots marketing - tapping into the collective efforts of brand enthusiasts
  • Wild Posting Campaigns
  • Wait marketing - when and where consumers are waiting

However, with the popularity of this advertising method comes a consumer overloaded with advertising messages. In 1984, seeing an ad in a urinal or on the sidewalk was extraordinary. You could not help but take notice. Now, many consumers are so sick of the ad bombardment they face every day that these guerrilla tactics are more than a little annoying. To some, they're insulting.

But that doesn't mean guerrilla marketing has come to an end. Far from it. Jay Conrad Levinson was right, it's a fantastic way to capture the attention, and imagination, of your target audience. You just have to do it right. And that means not only paying close attention to some of the important guidelines established in the Guerrilla Marketing book, but knowing which of these guidelines no longer apply.

The Core Principles of Good Guerrilla

When it was published in 1984, Guerrilla Marketing was groundbreaking. Times change. Rules change. And some things stay the same. One of Levinson's big ideas was that good marketing doesn't have to cost anything. It can be most effective when it's free, using news outlets to spread the message for you. That still applies today, and a savvy advertiser can take full advantage of the news to give the client real bang for the buck.

This example, by Amelie Company, Denver, generated six-figure publicity with a 3D billboard simulating a crash. All the major local news channels picked it up.

Other rules of guerrilla marketing that should still be followed include:

  • It should be based on human psychology rather than experience, judgment, and guesswork.
  • Instead of money, the primary investments of marketing should be time, energy, and imagination.
  • The primary statistic to measure your business is the amount of profits, not sales.
  • The marketer should also concentrate on how many new relationships are made each month.
  • Create a standard of excellence with an acute focus instead of trying to diversify by offering too many diverse products and services.
  • Instead of concentrating on getting new customers, aim for more referrals, more transactions with existing customers, and larger transactions.
  • Forget about the competition and concentrate more on cooperating with other businesses.
  • Guerrilla marketers should use a combination of marketing methods for a campaign.
  • Use current technology as a tool to build your business.
  • Messages are aimed at individuals or small groups, the smaller the better.
  • Focuses on gaining the consent of the individual to send them more information rather than trying to make the sale.

But one of Levinson's ideas needs to be updated. This one:

Guerrilla Marketing is specifically geared for the small business and entrepreneur.

In its infancy, guerrilla marketing was specifically geared for the small business and entrepreneur. Levinson was right at the time. But now, many major corporations are taking advantage of guerrilla marketing, including Nike, Apple, Proctor & Gamble, Nestle, AT&T and Sony. This is not exactly a pond full of small fish.

But regardless of the time, the client, product, service or location, this quote by Levinson will always be of the utmost importance. And it's not just for guerrilla marketing, but any communication between the company and consumer:

"In order to sell a product or a service, a company must establish a relationship with the customer. It must build trust and support. It must understand the customer's needs, and it must provide a product that delivers the promised benefits."

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