So you own a small business but not too many people are visiting your store. Your budget is low so you can’t afford traditional marketing techniques. What can you do?

Over the past decade, our world has been changing at a rapid pace. Instead of plugging telephones into the wall, people are plugging them in their back pockets. We no longer have to leave our homes to shop or rent a movie. Our world has made way from tradition and accepted innovation. Why should marketing be any different?

More and more companies are moving away from traditional forms of marketing and moving to more innovative forms, like guerilla marketing. Guerilla marketing is a low-budget form of marketing that aims to increase the exposure of your product, service, or brand. The ad blends in with its surrounding environment to cleverly catch the attention of a potential consumer. Traditional ads- billboards, posters, and radio/TV- aren’t as effective as guerilla ads because consumers tend to block them out over time. The term “guerilla marketing” was created by Jay Levinson in 1984 to “create conventional goals using unconventional methods.” The name was inspired by guerilla warfare that was an irregular way of fighting. It included ambushes, sabotage, and raids. The idea of guerilla marketing stems from that idea. It is supposed to grab the consumer's attention and take them by surprise. It allows for marketers to be completely creative without being held back by any rules.

Compared to you small business, large businesses tend to have a larger budget which means that they have the ability to use more extravagant guerilla marketing techniques. Although it may seem expensive, it is not for a large business that already has a high profit margin. Many popular companies such as Discovery Channel and Nestle have already attempted guerilla marketing with great success.

Entice curiosity with Guerilla Marketing

Guerilla Marketing - Shark WeekDiscovery Channel wanted to advertise the popular week that many love: Shark Week. In addition to using commercials, Discovery Channel decided to put surfboards that looked like a sharks had taken chunk out of them on the beach. On the surfboard was all the information viewers needed to know about the renowned Shark Week.

Guerilla Marketing - Kit KatNestle decided to advertise Kit Kat Bars by turning a bland city bench into what looks like an appetizing Kit Kat Bar. This grabs the consumer’s attention and may even make them crave the delectable treat.

Guerilla Marketing - InteractiveGuerilla Marketing can also be interactive. By making it interactive, the consumers are much more engaged and more likely to remember the brand, product, or service. In New York City, Sharpie set up an interactive board near a bus stop that allowed people to write on a cast using Sharpies.

Guerilla Marketing - DentistGuerilla marketing is a great tool for your small business because of how inexpensive and simple it can be. This ad, made for a dentistry in Port Huron, Michigan, lets consumers pick off the business card, or tooth, from the ad. Instead of your everyday flyers on telephone poles that you tend to forget about, creative ads such as this will stand out to the people passing by and will create a more memorable experience.

Guerilla Marketing - zooIt was a cheap and simple campaign, using only supplies that can easily be found around an office. Other small businesses, like your local zoo or library, can use guerilla marketing to gain the attention of a wide-range of consumers. In this example, a local zoo used  a manhole to represent a turtle, curb-bumpers to resemble the scales on an alligator's back, and a cross-walk with a zebra drawn in it to resemble its stripes. Clever artwork that blends in with the surrounding environment of your business will help to grow awareness for your brand.

Guerilla Marketing - pop-up bookshelfA small public library used a pop-up bookshelf at the beach to show people that there’s always time for a good book. In today’s age of growing technology, this library has displayed that physical books are still as alive as the atmosphere of a beach.

Guerilla Marketing - Air GuitarThis rock station in Nineveh, Indiana setup a station where rockers could grab an air guitar and jam, as long as their imagination was up for it. This is as cost effective and simple as guerrilla marketing can get.

Guerilla marketing for small businesses can be simple, fun, and low cost. All it takes is a great idea to engage your customers and get your business booming.

What about Viral Marketing?

Viral marketing is similar to guerilla marketing in the sense that it is low cost and creativity based. Viral marketing relies on social media to spread the idea because you want to be able to create a buzz about your product or service. When someone says that it went “viral” it means that your picture of your product is all over the internet or your video already had X million views in X many days or weeks. Before the internet, viral marketing was considered “Word of Mouth” just by simply telling your group of friends about something. Now, it’s easy to share a video with someone from America to China with the click of a button. A video can become viral within days. By creating something compelling to represent your product or service, people are much more likely to share with their friends. Every person has a friend group of an average of 8 - 12. If you share something with those 8 friends, they may share it with their 8 friends and so on, causing it to multiply at a rapid rate.

One of the most famous and successful viral marketing campaigns would be the Blair Witch Project. It is a movie that was created by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. It was a low budget film that was made using hand held cameras and shot within 8 days. The two created a website called www.BlairWitch.com . It was set to release in 1999 at the Sundance Film Festival. Through this website, people were able to read the legend of the Blair Witch. There are even videos showing the 3 student filmmakers preparing for trip into the woods. The website created the idea that the Blair Witch really existed and that the 3 student filmmakers really disappeared. On IMDb, the filmmakers were shown as ‘missing, presumed dead’. SInce the movie was only shown on 27 screens, people had to make sure that they got a ticket. The two directors created a hype for the movie by using their website. This was also the first major use of the internet for marketing. The Blair Witch Project was such a success because the way they presented it was so different. Below is one of the trailers for the movie.

Following a similar strategy, the camcorder-recorded movie series “Paranormal Activity” made the viewer believe that what they were seeing was real. On top of its homemade movie feel with footage from security cameras placed around the home, each movie ends with final statements of the characters’ whereabouts as well as “Rest-in-Peace” memorials of each of the “deceased.” These realistic elements contributed to a wild internet buzz of those who thought the footage was real, sharing this frightening movie with their peers.

Guerilla Marketing - Paranormal Activity

The directors of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity hyped-up their movies in a way much different than other horror movies. This viral-marketing strategy gave them an edge on the industry and created successful ratings and ticket-sales that they wouldn’t have gotten from traditional forms of marketing.

Fuel your marketing with clever ideas

For a small company like yours with a low budget, viral marketing campaigns can be a great way to raise awareness for your brand, product, or service. Fur-kids, a local animal shelter in Atlanta, Georgia, made a video advertising the different cats they had up for adoption. Overnight, the commercial made its way to the front-page of Reddit and received over 1 million views. People from all over the world loved the commercial so much that they donated to the shelter. The commercial includes spoofs on the “Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Man” and Sarah Mclaughlin's “Arms of an Angel.” Shot in only 30 minutes, the commercial was completely improvised. The only expense of making the commercial was the rental of a camcorder and microphone. If you’re looking for some joy in your day, this video is a must-watch.

Another successful viral marketing campaign comes from the law offices of Brian “The Texas Law Hawk” Wilson in Fort Worth, Texas. As a defense attorney, his hilarious commercials are action-packed with funny scenarios you can get into with police, screeching eagles, and heavy doses of America. With all of the fast-paced repetition, this commercial is surely one you won’t forget.

When done correctly, your guerrilla marketing campaign can turn into a viral sensation at the click of a button. When a consumer finds your ad to be impressively clever, they will be motivated to share their experience with family and friends via social media. Not only will your campaign engage people passing by on the street, it will also capture the interest of those browsing social media platforms. Traditional forms of media are so common in our everyday lives that we’ve learned to unconsciously block them out like static white noise. Let your small business swim strong in a sea of drowning advertisements by using simple, innovative, and low-budget guerrilla and viral marketing techniques.

Written By:

Taylor Benedict

I am currently a junior at Nazareth college studying marketing with a minor in digital marketing and design. I am also an avid photographer in my free time.

McLain Erhard

With a knack for puns, I've always loved describing normal things in creative ways. Because of this, marketing has been a great outlet for expressing myself personally and professionally. I spend my free time chucking some disc and making a fool of myself on karaoke nights.

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About Micaela Contente

Digital Marketing Analyst

RIT graduate who loves the world of Digital Marketing. In my spare time, you'll find me watching Netflix with a pint of Peanut Butter Halo Top.

Certified in Google Analytics and Google AdWords

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