Marketing 101: A Guide to Guerrilla Marketing + 10 Classic Campaigns


Marketing 101: A Guide to Guerrilla Marketing + 10 Classic Campaigns is about the guerrilla marketing style and some creative campaign examples.

Under-cover operations, executed with precision to create impact on the frontline. This is not a drill, we’re talking about guerrilla marketing!

Guerrilla marketing is a style of advertising, where a business uses unconventional interactions to promote a product or service and raise awareness of its brand image. Campaigns are usually targeted at small groups, who become promoters and spread the word.

The end-game is to create a buzz that increases sales. Guerrilla campaigns can be fun for marketers as they involve an element of creativity to stun or shock the audience.

The term was originally coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book ‘Guerrilla Advertising’. It refers to guerrilla warfare tactics, that depend largely on the elements of stealth and surprise. It’s different to other traditional marketing methods in that it heavily relies on personal interaction.

Guerrilla marketing and PR stunts can sometimes be confused. PR stunts are typically designed to garner the attention of the press and generate news coverage, whereas guerrilla is usually targeted at locals in urban locations. However, some guerrilla promotions are so well crafted that they make the main news too.

Explosive impact!

Guerrilla campaigns can be indoors or outdoors and are most commonly presented through; billboards, digital display, events, flash-mobs, signage, street-art, promotional items and adding something extraordinary to pre-existing urban surroundings.

The digital landscape offers a variety of twists on the guerrilla style, and typical campaigns can involve influencers, hash-tags, trends, profiles, QR codes, and viral visuals like memes and videos.

Both traditional and digital guerrilla campaigns depend on high social media engagement. A campaign with a mix of on and offline elements will guarantee all bases are covered.

There’s a world of clever guerrilla examples available, and a number of famous names have created explosive and impactful campaigns.

Read on for 10 classic guerrilla advertising campaigns! Let these examples inspire ideas that could be locked and loaded into your marketing cache!


1. KitKat ‘Have a Break’ Benches

KitKat launched a guerrilla campaign where they erected 500 purpose-built benches in different cities. They were strategically placed in the busiest districts to encourage consumers to ‘Have a break’, paraphrasing the company slogan ‘Have a break! Have a Kitkat!’. The benches were designed to look like the famous wafer chocolate snacks and some were fitted with other fun features like giant piano keys, causing a popular and viral sensation.


2. Deadpool’s Tinder Profile

When Deadpool opened a Tinder account ahead of the blockbuster movie sequel, it created a huge online buzz and is a great example of bold and fun, online guerrilla marketing. The profile on the popular dating app was created with the same adult-leaning humour of the character and interacted with users as if it was Deadpool’s personal profile. The activity formed part of an elaborate campaign that also included themed bars and cameo appearances in other media.


3. Folgers Coffee Manhole Optical Illusion

Folgers used a classic guerrilla tactic by creating a street-art optical illusion using a steaming manhole. Pedestrians on this city street see what appears to be a coffee mug embedded into the ground and emitting real steam. It’s an example of eye-catching and impactful street advertising, that is suggestive and provoking to the passers-by.


4. The Taco Liberty Bell

Back in the 1990’s, Taco Bell spread a rumour in Philadelphia, USA that they had purchased the famous Liberty Bell and shamelessly re-named it the Taco Liberty Bell. Announcements of the transaction were published in local newspaper ads in a convincing, matter-of-fact way. The campaign garnered nationwide coverage, and some hysteria, before it was all revealed to be a marketing ploy. It’s a great example of when a local guerrilla campaign makes national news.


5. Frontline Public Optical Illusion

Frontline is a brand that makes flea and tick prevention products for dogs. In this example they covered the entire floor of a crowded plaza with their image of a dog. It gave the appearance from the floors above that it’s suffering from fleas, these being the people walking across the floor space. The stunt drew attraction and crowds to the floors above, resulting in online photos and coverage.


6. ‘IT’ Movie Balloon Stunt

The horror movie ‘It’ received praise for its clever guerrilla marketing campaign. An iconic scene in the movie involves Pennywise the clown, hidden in a drain and holding a red balloon. A few days before the film’s release, a number of red balloons were seen attached to drains in cities around the world. There was also a stencilled chalk note with a hash tag. The campaign received a lot of attention on social media and contributed to the films record breaking box office stats.


7. Lidl’s False Sabotage Billboards

UK retailer Lidl is renowned for goading its rivals, while positioning itself as the best priced supermarket in its sector. In this instance the company used billboards decorated with similar imagery to their well-known competition while overlaying their ad – showing an alternative product at a cheaper price. The ads were placed near rival locations and made the campaign more notorious.


8. Copenhagen Zoo Bus Wrap

The Copenhagen Zoo took a page out of the guerrilla marketing playbook with an outstanding bus wrap to snatch the attention of city goers and passengers. The realistic 3D image gave the appearance that the snake was constricting and crushing the bus. The eye-catching display was designed to surprise and encourage talk about the zoo.  


9. Subway’s SUBliminal messages

Subway launched a 3-day guerrilla marketing campaign in Chicago that they dubbed, ‘SUBliminal messaging’. Images of their foot-long subs and giant meatballs were projected on to buildings and drawn on pavements with chalk art. The subtle but distinguishable branding would show the Subway logo or a question: ‘Seeing Subs?’. The campaign was a city-wide success and had people talking about the brand.

10. Discovery Channel’s Shark Week Surfboards

To promote their show ‘Shark Week’, the Discovery Channel distributed surfboards that appeared to have been bitten by sharks on various popular Australian beaches. Guerrilla marketers monitored the activities and made sure the surfboards were not stolen. The shock tactic was effective in generating interest in the show’s anniversary special.

A memorable guerrilla campaign can be used to present your business in a daring and unique way, causing a stir, and generating interest and conversation.

The style should always be considered when creating out-of-the-box or multi-channel campaigns. Guerrilla stunts can be a low-investment and cost-effective strategy for small businesses, especially if they succeed in creating a viral phenomenon.

For help enlisting special forces into your marketing plan, contact and we’ll create the strategy to gain advantage over your adversaries.

Which of these fierce guerrilla campaigns is your favourite? Let us know in the comments*

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All text ©J. Thomson, 2022


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