35 Bold Examples of Guerrilla Marketing
What do brands like Samsung, Spotify, and Tesla have in common? They kill it with guerrilla marketing. In this roundup, see firsthand how leading brands are using guerrilla marketing campaigns to make a big splash (often without busting the wallet).
Nearly 100 years ago, Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly climbed up a flagpole and sat there for half a day—supposedly to draw attention to a Philadelphia department store.
It might not be the first example of guerrilla marketing, but it’s definitely the strangest.
First up: What is Guerrilla Marketing?
Guerrilla marketing is a cost-effective marketing strategy that uses unconventional and inventive tactics to get exposure for a product or brand.
When executed correctly, lets you generate a buzz, build brand awareness and even tell a story without dropping a ton of budget on paid ads, Out of Home placements, or ads in major publications. By capturing the public’s attention at little to no cost, you can maximize the impact of your event. Better yet: your company can create the word of mouth marketing it needs in the short-term and user-generated content it needs in the long-term.
Often budget-friendly, the guerrilla marketing examples here show that any business can be creative and effective while often not breaking the bank.
75% of content marketers believe live events are the most effective part of any marketing strategy. These examples of effective live guerrilla marketing events will inspire some of your own.
A little warning: guerrilla marketing looks easy. But it takes creativity and skill to be effective.
As some of the guerrilla marketing examples below reveal, an ill-conceived event can quickly go awry. Having an event marketing plan in place ahead of time will pay off in the long run. Before we dive into the examples, here are some reasons why you might want to include guerrilla marketing into your next big campaign.
Why You Should Invest in Guerrilla Marketing
Investing in guerrilla marketing says that your business is ready to capture the public’s attention in creative ways. With their attention, your brand becomes the distinct entity you want to be in the marketplace. Your company is more recognizable and becomes that much more likely to be the first choice that comes into a consumer’s mind.
Plus, you can easily use these guerrilla marketing do’s and don’ts to inform your b2b event marketing ideas.
Check out this list of 35 guerrilla marketing ideas to get a better sense of effective, and not so effective, ways your company could do the same.
35 Bold Examples of Guerrilla Marketing
Spotify has used its music streaming platform to drum up attention for its brand on a number of occasions throughout the year. Some have become yearly fixtures, like its year-end wrap up for each user, or Discover Weekly, which finds tailored tracks based on users’ listening preferences.
In January 2019, the company offered its latest guerrilla content: playlists based on horoscopes. Spotify teamed up with astrologer Chani Nicholas to create the Cosmic Playlists for U.S. listeners. The playlists are determined by Nicholas’ astrological readings to represent each sign’s theme at that moment.
Like most of the streaming services efforts, the playlists were picked up extensively by the media. This kind of digital event marketing might even spark some viral campaigns of your own.
Main Takeaway: The strategy doesn’t have to be innovative every time. Feel free to use and modify your past success for a similar effect this time around.
Nobody likes to get their pizza delivered with the ingredients sliding all over the place and the cheese stuck to the roof of the box. All too often, however, that is exactly the case. In 2018, Domino’s pinpointed the source of the problem – and it wasn’t bad driving.
Instead, the pizza brand placed the blame on America’s infrastructure and its copious amounts of potholes in the street. And thus, the Paving for Pizza campaign began.
Main Takeaway: Nothing earns the public’s admiration like fixing an everyday problem.
Source: Caltex Australia
The 2018 World Cup provided numerous brands with opportunities to flex its guerrilla marketing muscles. This happened at many sites around the host country, Russia, but extended across the globe as well.
Australian gas company Caltex Australia got in the mix by honoring one of the nation’s most beloved footballers, Tim Cahill. From May through June of 2018, five locations across the country rebranded to become CahillTex. While fun and cheeky, blowback did occur when some alleged that the re-brand was the reason for the 38-year-old being selected for the World Cup team despite his declining performance on the field.
Main Takeaway: Re-brands can be fun but they run the risk of public blowback for even the slightest miscalculations. Proceed with caution.
Another bit of genius World Cup marketing came from Danish beer brand Carlsberg. As a sponsor of the Danish national team, the brewer wanted to give its fans a taste of Russia with a special twist.
Instead of offering up the traditional caviar, Carlsberg made its own. Danish football fans seemed to love the beer-maker’s version. The effort received considerable press and earned Carlsberg the distinction of being the world’s first ever beer caviar.
Main Takeaway: Find ways to align what your brand can create with major events. Bring them together in ways that help boost your event ROI.
Source: LA Times
To promote its burgers, pancake restaurant IHOP teased and briefly became the International House of Burgers, or IHOb. The move certainly gained heaps of attention for the restaurant.
However, much of it came in the form of endless social media memes and public press. IHOP, or IHOb’s, social media team was seemingly prepared for the scores of criticism. They had all the the answers ready, complete with where Bs and Ps should be. By July, the brand was back to its original name.
Main Takeaway: Changing your name can get the public’s attention. Be sure it is for the right reasons.
Source: Xpress Magazine
Horror movie marketing has always been crucial to getting films seen beyond the typical horror movie goer. One of, if not the largest, horror movie in recent years was Hereditary.
Online buzz was generated for the film thanks to a clever and creepy stunt pulled on attendees of one midnight screening. The day after seeing the film, fans found creepy dolls outside their hotel doors. Between the film and this clever bit of guerrilla marketing, the film earned $13 million at the box office its first weekend.
Main Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to be scary. Sometimes, it’s the most on-brand your tactics can be.
Source: ALT TERRAIN
To celebrate the launch of its newest shirts and underwear in 2010, the GoldToe decked out famous New York City statues in t-shirts and underwear. The event took place during New York Fashion Week, but that did not relegate the bit of guerrilla marketing to the Fashion District. Instead, the most eye catching of examples came when the famous Wall Street Bull was wrapped in a hilariously oversized pair of tighty whities.
Main Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to be funny – especially when it playfully changes the perception of relatable icons and images.
Source: Fox 40
A few years ago, Chipotle went from being an up and coming fast casual dining brand to a chain that had lost the public’s trust due to a large health scare. The brand had been in need of any positive press it could get.
In the spring of 2018, an opportunity was (literally) born in one of its parking lots when Adrianna Alvarez pulled over with her husband in a Chipotle parking lot to give birth. To mark the occasion, Chipotle invited the happy parents, 911 dispatchers, and all their families to celebrate. They gifted baby Jaden a swaddle that looked like a tortilla.
Main Takeaway: When a gift opportunity arises, capitalize on it by adding your own bit of good news to the occasion.
Source: Jen Yamato / Los Angeles Times
One of the most iconic bits of guerrilla marketing in recent history occurred at the Golden Globes awards. While the red carpet is usually all about Hollywood’s who’s who, the talk of this year’s event was model Kelleth Cuthbert aka #FijiGirl. By standing in the background with a blue dress and tray of Fiji Water, the brand and the model stole the evening. Cuthbert’s photobombing skills led to countless memes and free publicity for the water company.
Main Takeaway: It all boils down to creative positioning. Whether a person or an initiative, the placement of the event is crucial.
Source: Ballyhoo Media
Ballyhoo Media found success with floating barges doubling as billboards back in Miami. The 60-foot double-sided barges could serve as additional advertising real estate as space on land becomes more difficult (and pricey) to find.
In October, signs began showing up in Manhattan and Brooklyn waterways. The floating ads featured promos for everything from TV shows to travel to the airport. After months of complaints from citizens and the press, the city pointed out that the marketing endeavor was illegal and the stunt was shuttered.
Main Takeaway: Sometimes what works in one market won’t work in another. Analyze the laws and public sentiment before launching any plans.
They say a 40th birthday is a milestone in a person’s life. Businesses also celebrate this milestone. Just like some advantageous friends or family, other businesses can also make the day about themselves.
To mark its 40th milestone, Intel planned to give away 8,086 copies of its limited edition 6-core-i7-8086k computers. To drastically undercut the occasion, AMD offered to give 40 of those winners its own 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 1950x to Intel prize winners. To counter the move, Intel took to Twitter to call out AMD and suggest it may have just wanted to win an Intel itself.
Main Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to take away another brand’s thunder. Leveraging occasions for your success is key in garnering attention.
Source: Payless Shoes
The affordable, low-cost shoe store threw Los Angeles shoppers for a loop last year when it had the launch party for a new luxury shoe brand, Palessi, created by a fake Italian designer Bruno Palessi. The swanky shop had all the trappings of a high-end store, including angel statues, sleek shoe displays and even a mini-runway. Needless to say, plenty of shoppers were willing to drop hundreds of dollars for the fake shoe line.
The stunt garnered the brand heaps of attention in the press. However, it did not save the business – Payless recently announced that it will be shutting down all its locations.
Main Takeaway: Asking people to change their perception can be fun. But it may not actually lead to increased sales.
While many find Tesla founder Elon Musk’s antics frustrating, plenty of them have resulted in heaps of press for little to no money.
The Tesla marketing above cost quite a bit of money. However, guerrilla marketing is commonly used by the brand. This includes when Tesla gave its patents away for free. Additionally, the brand is known for going viral thanks to humorous videos of its new technology, like when Tesla fans made videos of themselves using the car’s autopilot function. In all, the brand knows how to get attention.
Main Takeaway: Guerrilla marketing doesn’t have to be a solo event. It can be a series of acts that establish the brand as a consistent guerrilla marketer.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Hereditary was not the only horror film to cash in with a bit of help from guerrilla marketing. The Nun was aided by YouTube in 2018, causing the film earn over $380 million in U.S. box office revenue. The original plan was for the film to air an unskippable ad on numerous YouTube videos. After playing for some time, the public began discussing how frightening the spot was.
In turn, YouTube banned the ad for violating policies concerning what it deems violent and shocking content – and the buzz was created.
Main Takeaway: Sometimes getting banned is the best publicity possible.
Source: Homie for Senate
An election loophole in Arizona gave Utah real estate company Homie the publicity it was seeking in Fall 2018. Deciding that digital ads on major platforms weren’t enough, the company began running ads that bared a striking resemblance to political signs that commonly adorned yards and windows. The sign text even included the URL HomieForSenate.com. Soon enough, the company had struck a deal with Arizona to never pull the stunt again.
Main Takeaway: Venturing into politics can be risky, but it can pay off. Scrutinize your plan thoroughly before executing.
Ask forgiveness, not permission! Great to see a unique approach to advertising, reminds me of the fun we’ve had with our airlines. Congratulations on the book @samconniff #bemorepirate pic.twitter.com/ZLLnLpWLV1
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) May 3, 2018
Be More Pirate: Or How to Take On the World and Win author Sam Conniff Allende lived up to the title of his first published book when advertising it. Allende pasted hot pink eight meter ads along the first floor windows of Penguin Random House’s London offices. The thing is, Penguin hadn’t approved the ads. The author and a team snuck in as contractors to do the deed. As of December 2018, the book is available in eight countries including the U.S.
Main Takeaway: Live up to your brand. Authenticity is one of the most valued assets you can have.
If Samsung gave out free Galaxy S9 phones to the entire Apple community it’d surely go broke. But if it hands out a few hundred Galaxy S9s to the entire population of the Dutch hamlet Appel, it has a clever bit of marketing on its hands. The stunt is charming and shows that many of Appel’s community may now be part of Samsung’s community as well.
Main Takeaway: Find clever ways to leverage your competition to your advantage. You could win over a few hundred customers in a small Dutch village!
To gain more of New York City’s rental car market, Sixt continued its history of clever marketing by turning Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue into Sixt Avenue. In a span of five minutes, the brand was able to put up signs and even orchestrate a 10-car parade. Sixt also got drone footage in downtown Manhattan to add to its appeal.
Main Takeaway: Cheeky branding can work. Mix it with sleek footage and you will have a good bit of marketing on your hands.
some things from 2010 are worth revisiting—like your old tweets. and funnel cake fries. get them now for a limited time.
— Burger King (@BurgerKing) January 24, 2019
Source: Twitter/Burger King
Burger King recently relied on influencers to market the return of its funnel cake fries. The treat last appeared on menus in 2010. To generate buzz, BK’s Twitter account began liking tweets from influencers and verified accounts from 2010. Popular influencer Casey Neistat claimed he and others were exploited in the stunt, to which the fast food chain attempted to apologize.
Main Takeaway: Consider your participants when guerrilla marketing. A negative reaction will sour all your other hard work.
Source: Media in Canada
To drum up buzz for Jennifer Lawrence’s 2018 film Red Sparrow, Twentieth Century Fox Canada teamed up with two companies, Zenith Media and Eat It Up Media, to shake up the Toronto streets. Twenty models dressed as Lawrence’s Russian spy character to hand out business cards with the film’s showtimes. The movie took in over $151 million in box office sales.
Main Takeaway: Be bold and recognizable when seeking attention. Adding intrigue doesn’t hurt either.
Popular electronic music artist Aphex Twin’s logo and artwork was found around London, Turin, Hollywood and New York City in the summer of 2018. Adorning billboards and other heavy foot traffic locations, the ads promoted the artist’s latest EP, Collapse. For a 2014 release, the artist flew a blimp over London and New York City with his logo.
Main Takeaway: Use your iconic logo when you can. It could become a tradition in your marketing that fans expect.
Protective cell phone case Mous gave Apple fans minor heart attacks while promoting its brand. In 2018, the company sent a rep to buy a $999 iPhone X. They they invited people in London and Hong Kong to throw it on the sidewalk. But don’t worry – the phone was protected thanks to Mous’ Airoshock case. This became one of many videos in a series promoting the protection the case offers.
Main Takeaway: Turn a consumer’s worst nightmare into a fun experiential marketing campaign. Prove your product is the protector of their worst case scenarios.
Source: The Drum
U.K. retailer Lidl took a swipe at its rivals while positioning itself as the low cost alternative in its sector. The company used billboards adorned with familiar imagery from the competition while overlaying a Lidl ad showing the same product at a cheaper rate at its stores. To make the campaign that much more effective, ads were placed near rival locations.
Main Takeaway: Leveraging branding from your rivals can generate attention for your company. Strategic placement will drum up much more conversation.
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So.. something interesting happened today! Saw a huge crowd outside H&M Somerset for this vending machine so i decide to kpo & pay $3 for $50!! What can i say, im $47 richer now HAHAHAHA! Go ahead & try it urself tomorrow from 5pm-8pm! Don’t say i bojio! #3dollarballer #3dollarballers #uxm
Data provider Circles.Life got Singapore talking with a vending machine stunt in early 2018. Across the country, vending machines dispensed $50 in exchange for $3. The exchange came with a flier with a QR code and the hashtag #3dollarballer. The campaign was to promote the online telco provider’s on demand, unlimited data plan. Numerous social media posts followed while police had to come in to monitor the situation.
Main Takeaway: Money always gets people’s attention. Just be sure to avoid a major commotion.
Be there. Done that.
Bring something fresh… not frozen. https://twitter.com/wendys/status/914959134327484416
— Wingstop (@wingstop) October 2, 2017
Wendy’s earns high marks for its ability to engage with young audiences on social media. In the fall of 2017, the brand engaged in a tweet rap battle against fellow fast food restaurant Wingstop. The $0 stunt generated buzz for both brands while avoiding the outcome Burger King and others have fallen into.
Main Takeaway: Have a capable social media manager on your team. Their ability to connect with younger audiences is invaluable.
Who can beat free ice cream on a hot summer day? To promote his 2018 summer-themed EP, Childish Gambino stationed ice cream trucks in New York City, LA and London to dispense free ice cream and a loop of the two songs. The event generated long lines for free ice cream and photo ops with summertime themed grass props.
Main Takeaway: Strategically align your efforts. Make your seasonal offering help those looking for relief from the elements.
Source: YouTube/Vitamin Water
Coca-Cola decided that the best way to market Vitamin Water was by doing exactly the opposite. A series of ads popped up in the summer of 2018 marketing anything but the drink. The ads were heavily featured on Rotten Tomatoes, including a full-page ad for a Pomeranian-themed movie “financed” by Vitamin Water.
Main Takeaway: Sometimes going off brand is best for business. Just be sure to loop back to your actual company at some point.
Source: KMIZ/Fox 22
Scooter ride sharing companies caused quite a stir over the past year or so. They include Bird, who operated in cities like Columbia, Missouri without an proper license. Many accused the brand of skirting laws while others believe it engaged in similar tactics as Uber. The move earned Bird buzz in the city, appearing in the news and local outlets. However, its impact on public perception was uncertain.
Main Takeaway: Flirting with breaking the law can be a dangerous play. Executed correctly and it can be a hit. On the other hand, it could severely damage your brand.
Both Deadpool movies have relied on a series of hilarious guerrilla marketing stunts. They include turning bars into the anti-hero’s favorite bars from the films as well as popping up in covers of other films. But the most iconic one may be the Tinder profile setup for the crime fighter. All the efforts have helped push the film to become one of the most successful hero franchises in recent years.
Main Takeaway: Be funny, be bold and don’t be afraid to lean into your humor.
Source: Julius Sandor
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has often used guerrilla marketing tactics to get its message out. Its campaigns for ethical animal treatment focused on the brand Canada Goose in the winter of 2018. The group launched an “anti-marketing” campaign in Downtown Toronto to dissuade people for the brand due to its treatment of coyotes and geese. The campaign continues with other groups involved as well.
Main Takeaway: Foul language and harsh imagery can jar audiences which is what some campaigns need to be noticed.
Source: Jonathan Carroll
Warners Bay, Australia found itself with a bit of a local mystery in the fall of 2017 when purple bikes began appearing across town. Eventually, after some guessing, a local fitness chain owned up to the marketing. Anytime Fitness claimed that it was a reminder for folks to get active this spring.
Main Takeaway: A friendly reminder to keep healthy may resonate more with a quirky twist to the message.
Subway sandwiches used guerrilla and subconscious marketing to suggest its food to passersby in the summer of 2018. The chain’s “SUBliminal messaging” launched a three-day campaign in Chicago where images of footlong subs were projected onto buildings and on streets with chalk art. The brand has used similar tactics like these in years to generate buzz after its brand began declining a few years back.
Main Takeaway: Sometimes making your audience pause to wonder what they saw is the name of the game.
BlackPlanet was once a bustling online community. Like many social media platforms, it eventually ceded its popularity as its audience moved on. However, the site received a significant boost thanks to an artistic video page by artist Solange. The videos have piqued fan interest as rumors of new music began to swirl.
Main Takeaway: Be unconventional. Sometimes going back to popular methods can generate buzz a current popular outlet couldn’t offer.
Brooklyn restaurant A&E Supply Co. caused a stir in winter 2017 with its local marketing. After a series of financial setbacks, guerrilla marketing was all it had left. So they began tagging Park Slope and Gowanus neighborhood sidewalks with temporary chalk logos. Some in the neighborhoods weren’t thrilled and consider the acts vandalism. The location was rebranded later that year.
Main Takeaway: Changing your name might actually help your business. But no matter what you do, remember to gauge public opinion ahead of time.
Source: Wiki Commons
Bud Light UK came under fire in the winter of 2017 after it was caught giving out beer to the homeless. While the campaign focused on giving out free beer to any legal adult, the campaign caught significant flack for dispensing alcohol to people often associated with drinking related health problems. The operation was quickly shut down as public sentiment split on the issue.
Main Takeaway: Consider your demographic before going through with any campaign. A friendly gesture can go awry thanks to a bad image.
Wrapping Up: Gearing Up For Guerrilla Marketing
Guerrilla marketing empowers your organization to break out of the world of virtual events and into, well, the world. Consider your options and remember that countless possibilities exist. From the uncommon to the conventional, every campaign is different and could lead to success for your brand. Do not limit your company to one set of tactics. Explore every option you have.