The Best & Worst Of Guerrilla Marketing

The Best & Worst Of Guerrilla Marketing

Before we really get into it, how do we define Guerrilla Marketing? The term ‘Guerrilla’ has its roots in warfare, and it is characterised by tactics that employ the element of surprise. When applied to the world of marketing, it is an inventive form of inbound marketing that breaks convention, ultimately leading in a surge in brand awareness. 

Guerrilla Marketing tactics usually feature an air of eccentricity, along with the aim of leaving a lasting impression on the consumer. These campaigns usually (although not always) incur low costs when compared to the high levels of engagement they can potentially achieve through their creative and imaginative ideas. 

A very literal example of Guerrilla Marketing that still hasn’t left our thoughts even a decade after its initial appearance is the 2007 Cadbury Gorilla advert. This multi-media advertising campaign helped increase the sales of its core Dairy Milk chocolate brand in the UK by roughly 8% since its launch at the end of August 2007 (Financial Times, 2007). Although there was definitely an ad budget for this campaign, it still featured elements of Guerilla Marketing by virtue of its highly unusual and surprising nature.

Here’s a list of Guerrilla Marketing campaigns that worked, and a list of those that didn’t. Hopefully, this will allow you to identify the approaches that could result in a successful campaign, as well as what to avoid!

Unicef - Dirty Water

When’s the last time you purchased bottled water? It seems like such a triviality in the midst of all the other things you do throughout your day, and it can be difficult to zoom out and appreciate the privilege of clean bottled water. 

Unicef brought the many passers by in New York City back down to earth with a powerful campaign designed to make people think differently about the way they approach clean drinking water. The campaign involved offering people who walked past a bottle of dirty water, and they also had custom made vending machines for accepting donations. Understandably, many gawked in shock and surprise. 

Thankfully, no one accepted any bottles of dirty water, but many donated. The message of the campaign was to encourage people to spend less on bottled water, and instead donate that money towards incentives designed to bring clean drinking water to the areas that need it most. This goes to show that Guerilla Marketing can be incredibly effective in the non-profit sector, too. 

Watch their video to get a deeper insight into how they set up and ran their campaign.


Sarova Hotels Kenya - Save The Trees

This campaign is as eye-catching and thought provoking as it is symbolic of the problem of deforestation. Sarova Hotels have integrated social and environmental concerns in their business operations, and this Guerrilla Marketing campaign launched in Kenya illustrates this perfectly. The message here is that we are destroying the habitats of wild animals purely for our own worldly concerns, and the point is driven home by the cheetah resting on the street lamp after being forced out of its initial habitat. 


Sarova Hotels have a variety of CSR projects aimed at supporting and empowering the local communities for sustainable development as well as environmental conservation. They participate heavily in planting trees throughout Kenya in order to tackle the issue, and this campaign was incredibly effective in raising awareness around their environmental enterprises.


Nike - RUN

An important factor of any Guerrilla Marketing campaign is to maintain an air of authenticity around your brand values. This is what Nike do so well, and their attitude as a company is concisely summed up in their 3-syllable tagline “Just Do It” - an encouraging company motto designed to spur people on to keep active. 

This is one of many Nike Guerrilla Marketing campaigns that have seen success, mainly due to how it very simply embodies the company’s values whilst also being incredibly cost efficient. The message here pushes forward their brand identity and promotes the act of staying physically active by removing your most basic needs of resting - the seat of a bench! Here’s another example that uses the same kind of narrative:

Now it’s time for some lacklustre attempts at Guerrilla Marketing that didn’t do too well.

“You Suck Sarah Marshall”

Forgetting Sarah Marshall... do you remember it? What most people might remember is the directors attempt at generating interest in the film, and while the film ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ was commercially successful, the Guerrilla Marketing campaign promoting the movie was less so. 

Guerrilla-style ads were scrawled throughout the US saying, “You Suck Sarah Marshall”, and whilst this is a reference to the protagonist of the movie, the people behind this campaign clearly failed to realise that there are many women that have the same name.  This resulted in a bit of backlash, with some Sarah Marshalls even retaliating with similar “You Suck” messages aimed at the director of the movie. Think twice before naming names!


Snapple - Giant Ice Lolly

It was a hot summer afternoon in Union Square in the month of June, with temperatures climbing to around 30 degrees celsius. Sounds like the perfect time for some ice cream! Snapple had the same brainwave, but much larger. 

This marketing tactic was meant to promote a new line of Kiwi and Strawberry flavoured ice lollies. Their strategy? Erecting a 25-foot tall, 17.5 ton ice lolly in the middle of Union Square. This rogue attempt at both Guerilla Marketing and breaking a Guinness World Record ended up running thin, and the ice lolly anticlimactically started to melt before they even got close to standing it up.

This turned into a bit of a disaster and flooded parts of downtown New York, and in the end they didn’t break any world records, and their Guerrilla Marketing campaign was remembered for all of the wrong reasons.


Vodafone NZ - A Streak of Madness

This is one of the most infamous marketing stunts on record, and it occurred during a rugby match between Australia and New Zealand in 2002. Vodafone New Zealand came up with the inappropriately humorous idea of sponsoring some streakers to interrupt the Bledisloe Cup game, wearing nothing but the scrawlings of a Vodafone logo on their backs! 

This resulted in a big kick off, and Vodafone ended up paying a host of fines due to the stunt. The streakers themselves were also fined for trespassing and indecent exposure. Some argue that the stunt was brave, others argue that it was downright stupid, plain and simple. Even though the idea may have seemed funny to the Vodafone marketing team who sponsored the stunt, clearly their senses of humour were not aligned with those who had to witness the actual occurrence! In this case, of guerrilla marketing, it is safe to say it wasn’t all that effective.



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