Guerrilla Marketing: How to quickly and affordably gain more attention and reach

Guerrilla Marketing: How to quickly and affordably gain more attention and reach

Sissy Scheible
Sissy Scheible
published on October 11, 2023   

Guerilla Marketing - The most important points in brief:

  • Guerrilla marketing is a marketing strategy that aims to achieve a high level of attention with unconventional and surprising actions and thus generate viral spread.

  • Guerrilla marketing aims to achieve maximum impact with limited resources.

  • There are different types of guerrilla marketing, including ambient marketing, ambush marketing, sensation marketing and viral marketing.

  • In addition to advantages such as low cost and high dissemination, guerrilla marketing can also have disadvantages, such as the unpredictability of reactions and the short-lived nature of the campaigns.

It’s everywhere, and no one can escape it: on the radio, on television, on the computer, on our smartphones, in the subway, on posters on the street or in the city center, on buildings, cars, etc.

We are constantly bombarded with so much advertising every day that we can no longer properly perceive what is being shown to us. Advertising has thus missed its actual goal: instead of retaining our attention, the countless advertising messages desensitize us to the point where we no longer pay them any attention. Therefore, companies are increasingly using very unusual and attention-grabbing advertising measures: they engage in guerrilla marketing.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

Guerrilla Marketing is a relatively young marketing strategy. Although advertising measures falling into this category may have existed before, they only received a name and an official definition in 1980, thanks to the business consultant Jay Conrad Levinson. According to this definition, Guerrilla Marketing is a marketing strategy aimed at achieving high visibility and generating viral spread through unconventional and surprising actions. Guerrilla Marketing relies on creativity, originality, and the element of surprise.

With Guerrilla Marketing, the goal is to achieve maximum impact with limited resources. The term “guerrilla” originates from warfare, where small, independent troops use unusual tactics to combat larger and more powerful forces. In the world of marketing, Guerrilla Marketing allows smaller businesses to assert themselves, especially in an arena dominated by large corporations.

The Goals of Guerrilla Marketing

  • Standing Out from the Crowd: The primary goal of Guerrilla Marketing is to stand out from the crowd of conventional advertising with exceptional creativity.
  • Surprise Factor: Guerrilla Marketing often takes place in unexpected locations and is presented in unusual ways to achieve a surprise effect.
  • Making a Lasting Impression: In contrast to advertising on billboards or banner ads on the internet, which we quickly forget after seeing them, Guerrilla Marketing is designed to leave a lasting impression on people through its surprising and unconventional approach.
  • Free Distribution: Guerrilla Marketing aims to achieve free, widespread distribution or even go viral through word-of-mouth and sharing on social networks or video platforms like YouTube.
  • Customer Loyalty: Successful Guerrilla Marketing generates positive brand associations in customers, thereby strengthening customer loyalty. As Levinson puts it: “Instead of trying to make a sale, guerrillas focus on building relationships – because long-term relationships are top priority.”

Types of Guerrilla Marketing

There are various ways to implement a guerrilla marketing campaign. The most well-known types include:

Ambient Marketing

In Ambient Marketing, advertising is placed in a highly creative and original manner within the direct, everyday environment of the target audience. This results in the individuals associating the advertising with the location and remembering it whenever they are in that place again. The advertising message becomes firmly associated with that location. Ambient Marketing primarily involves offline campaigns, but they can be filmed and shared online. Additionally, a connection to your online presence can be established on-site, such as by placing QR codes at the campaign location.

Ambush Marketing

Ambush Marketing involves linking current topics already in the public eye with your own advertising message. This makes the campaign appear current and relevant. Typically, these campaigns draw upon topics on which there is broad public consensus to strengthen the brand image. Ambush Marketing campaigns can take place offline and through social media and other media channels. An example of a successful Ambush Marketing campaign is the Deutsche Bahn’s commercial during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which focused on the then-current “World Cup oracle” theme.


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Sensation Marketing

Sensation Marketing typically takes place in public spaces as well. It aims to create a “Wow effect” through particularly large and elaborately staged actions or spectacular installations, which in turn should lead to rapid dissemination, especially through social networks. People should be surprised and excited by these actions, ideally not even realizing that it is advertising. They are often actively involved in the events. An example of such a marketing action is flash mobs.


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Viral Marketing

Ideally, all guerrilla marketing actions should go viral, but this isn’t really something that can be planned with certainty. There are some measures you can take to increase the chances of your marketing going viral, but there’s no guarantee.

The goal of viral marketing is to generate a high reach as quickly as possible, typically achieved through the use of social media or YouTube. The message’s design must be so compelling that recipients voluntarily share it, causing it to spread rapidly within a short period.

Collaborating with well-known influencers is advantageous for rapidly sharing the advertising message with many people.

Guerrilla Marketing: How to quickly and affordably gain more attention and reach
Learn more here about the 6 factors on which the success of your viral marketing campaign depends.

The Role of Social Media in Guerrilla Marketing

While Guerrilla Marketing is primarily known for actions in public spaces, it is also possible online, for example, through attention-grabbing activities in forums, chats, blogs, websites, and communities. These activities can involve text, photos, videos, or other creatives, as long as they are perceived as novel and extraordinary.

Even for Guerrilla Marketing actions that take place in the offline realm, social media plays a crucial role, as such actions are typically only experienced by a small portion of the target audience. Although word-of-mouth can help spread the advertising message, it is not nearly as effective as when video or photo content of the guerrilla campaign is shared online via platforms like YouTube or social media. Ideally, recipients of your advertising message themselves film and photograph the action and share it on Facebook, Instagram, and similar platforms. Additionally, you should also distribute photo and video content on your website and social media accounts so that users can share and link to it.

Examples of Successful Guerrilla Marketing

From small poster campaigns to large, spectacular installations, there are many examples of successful Guerrilla Marketing. We have a small selection of particularly successful actions for you.


Marketing can be so simple. The DIY store chain Hornbach created a buzz this year with simple posters and “missing person” flyers taped to lampposts. The posters, designed to resemble missing person reports, featured a customer who appeared to have shopped at a Hornbach store. The customer’s photo looked as if it had been taken by a surveillance camera. The text was a call for search. The customer was asked to contact Hornbach because the patio tiles he had purchased had been reduced in price, and Hornbach wanted to credit him the difference.

The posters advertised that Hornbach would reimburse registered customers for price reductions up to 30 days after purchase. 10,000 of these posters were distributed in several German cities. The campaign was also accompanied by an Instagram campaign.

Competing companies also took advantage of the success of this advertising campaign. For instance, competitor Toom, in response to the Instagram campaign, claimed to have found the missing customer in one of their own stores. “He probably wanted the best deals from the start,” Toom stated and supported the claim with a surveillance image showing the alleged customer shopping at Toom. The “counter-campaign” gained significant traction on Instagram.

Guerrilla Marketing Hornbach

The Guerrilla Marketing campaign by Hornbach and the response from Toom. (Source: Hornbach / Toom)


The toothpaste manufacturer Colgate gave away ice cream and lollipops that, after consumption, turned out to be toothbrushes. A small reminder not to forget to brush your teeth after indulging in such sugary foods.


Can sofas be marketing? A campaign by Beiersdorf for Nivea demonstrated that even furniture can be suitable for guerrilla marketing actions. The company placed sofas in furniture stores whose upholstery illustrated the difference between skin with cellulite and smooth skin.

Guerrilla Marketing Nivea

Which side of the sofa would you have chosen to sit on?

Burger King

An example of an online guerrilla marketing campaign is the American Instagram profile of Burger King. Here, a small drama was staged in the comments. Under what appeared to be a very ordinary post promoting their breakfast offering, a seeming couple started to argue. The argument escalated to the point where the couple appeared to break up, with the comment, “I hope the Whopper Jrs. were worth it. Your stuff is outside the door.” There were numerous incredulous reactions, such as, “Did I seriously just witness a breakup on BK’s Instagram?” The orchestrated incident garnered attention across America, and even news sites shared the story.

Guerrilla Marketing Burger King


Travel Agency Giller

Since guerrilla marketing is a particularly suitable marketing method for small businesses with a limited budget, here is another example of a small business that used the weather to promote itself. On a winter day, employees of the travel agency wrote destinations in warm vacation countries and their corresponding prices on snow-covered windshields and rear windows of cars. Additionally, promotional cards for takeaway were placed under the windshield wipers. A very creative and, above all, cost-effective advertising method.

Guerrilla Marketing Travel Agency Giller

Marketing where even the weather lends a hand – it doesn’t get much better or more cost-effective than this.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Guerrilla Marketing

Advantages of Guerrilla Marketing

  • Low Costs: Compared to traditional advertising methods, such as radio or television commercials, Guerrilla Marketing is usually cost-effective, unless a significant amount of effort is put into it. The use of unconventional and creative advertising approaches captures the audience’s attention without the need for a large budget.
  • High Visibility: Unusual advertising messages generally attract a high level of attention. If the campaign is well-planned and executed, it can spread very quickly.
  • Emotional Connection: If the Guerrilla Marketing campaign is original and surprising, it can contribute to a stronger emotional connection between the audience and the brand.
  • Increased Brand Awareness: If your campaign is successful, the high distribution naturally increases your brand’s recognition.
  • More Interactions: Sharing your guerrilla campaigns through your social media accounts leads to more interactions, as people will react to your campaign. The target audience will engage with your brand and, ideally, also recommend it to others.

Disadvantages of Guerrilla Marketing

  • Transience: Guerrilla Marketing campaigns often have a very short lifespan. What everyone is talking about today can become outdated tomorrow. Achieving a long-term impact with Guerrilla Marketing can be challenging.
  • Legal Consequences: When planning a Guerrilla Marketing campaign, you should clarify the legal situation beforehand and, if necessary, obtain permits. Of course, you can set up huge, attention-grabbing installations in pedestrian zones. However, if you don’t have the required permission, the installation will certainly be removed, and you may face a fine. For example, IKEA may already face such fines for setting up wooden benches.
  • Difficult Measurement of Success: Since Guerrilla Marketing actions are primarily spread through the social media accounts of your target audience, it is challenging to measure the success of your campaign. Therefore, it is difficult to trace the campaign’s impact on the sale of your products or the awareness of your brand.
  • Unpredictability: Neither the reactions nor the success of your Guerrilla Marketing campaigns are truly predictable. Instead of receiving positive feedback, such campaigns, especially because they tend to provoke, can also trigger a full-blown public relations crisis against your company. It is also not possible to predict how well the action will spread or whether it will generate the necessary interest.

Is Guerrilla Marketing Suitable for Your Company?

In principle, any company can engage in Guerrilla Marketing. It is particularly suitable for companies with a limited advertising budget, but even large companies like to use this form of advertising to generate attention.

If you want to build a strong emotional connection between your brand and your customers, increase your brand awareness, and enhance interaction with your target audience, you should not hesitate to launch a Guerrilla Marketing campaign. It is essential that you know your target audience well, approach the campaign with creativity and unconventionality, and, above all, think “out of the box.”