Guerrilla Marketing - Hits and Misses

If your revenue dictates that you need to do more with less, guerrilla marketing is a highly impactful way of increasing brand awareness for little or no cost. Discover what is possible and what can happen if not properly planned and executed.


Bill Arnold

2/1/20246 min read

guerrilla marketing
guerrilla marketing

Earlier-stage companies and startups must always figure out a way to do more with less. If you want to get exponential growth quickly, you must adopt techniques and strategies that can move the needle, but for little cost. In previous articles, we discussed using Growth Hacking as one strategy that every company with limited resources and the need for 30% growth month over month should utilize. Guerrilla Marketing is another marketing strategy that can also achieve phenomenal results quickly.

It is not easy to find and implement marketing strategies that can result in walk-off grand slam home runs and that are inexpensive enough for cash-strapped companies to implement. However, one strategy that we have utilized is the power of guerrilla marketing.

Guerrilla marketing (GM) is a marketing strategy that had its modern origins in 1984, when brands began looking for ways to disrupt traditional advertising to promote their products. (Coursera) This strategy focuses on unconventional, low-cost, and high-impact tactics to promote a product, service, or brand. It aims to create a memorable and buzz-worthy experience that captures the attention of the target audience, often through unexpected and unconventional means. Like many marketing strategies that had their origins pre-internet, the real benefits happened when these activities could be shared and amplified across social platforms.

Unlike traditional marketing, which relies on large budgets and mass media channels, guerrilla marketing leverages creativity, innovation, and a deep understanding of the target audience to create a lasting impression. It is about thinking outside the box and finding unique ways to engage with consumers.

Today, we will start a three-day series on guerrilla marketing that will cover the definition, provide real-life hits and misses, discuss the benefits, provide proof of its effectiveness, provide best practices, and then give several examples we executed. In this blog post, we will define guerrilla marketing, discuss its benefits, and explore the effectiveness of this unconventional approach through relevant statistics.

Over the years, we have done many guerrilla marketing campaigns and learned a lot about how best to implement them and which organizations can benefit the most. Here are some of the hits and misses:

Types of Guerrilla Marketing

Trying to define all the types of guerrilla marketing programs is a bit presumptuous, because the only real definition, or type, is what your mind can conjure up. That being said, we already are presumptuous, so why stop now?

Ambient Marketing - Ambient marketing involves placing advertising messages in unconventional locations or situations that are unexpected and creatively integrated into the environment. This type of guerrilla marketing aims to surprise and engage the target audience.

Success - One highly successful ambient marketing is the "Red Bull Stratos" campaign. Red Bull sponsored Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking freefall from the edge of space, capturing the attention of millions worldwide. More than 8 million people worldwide watched on YouTube via live video stream. In addition, 40 TV networks and over 130 digital outlets covered the event. A single Facebook photo of Baumgartner generated over 216,000 likes, 10,000 comments, and over 30,000 shares within the first 40 minutes. (Becore)

Failure -An example of an ambient marketing program, that gathered a lot of attention but was not positive, was done by Coca-Cola. They employed an agency to use temporary marketing chalk to paint logos and advertising messages on French Quarter sidewalks during the Final Four college basketball tournament that was being held in the city. The agency they used failed to check city ordinances and ended up violating a number of laws. Coca-Cola received a lot of bad press for defacing the iconic French Quarter and was forced to remove the logos and apologize to the community. (V3B)

Experiential Marketing- Experiential marketing focuses on creating memorable and immersive experiences for consumers. It aims to establish a deeper connection with the target audience by allowing them to interact with the brand directly.

Success - The "IKEA Sleepover" campaign is touted as the best and most successful example of experiential marketing. It started out through a Facebook group called “I wanna have a sleepover in IKEA.” The idea exploded, and over 120,00 people became part of that group. The story took on a life of its own and was amplified by over 330 editorial pieces and countless shares on social media.  While only 100 contest winners were able to spend the night in one of their stores, this became an idea they replicated in other cities around the world. (Davidson)

Failure -An example of a total fail happened in 2013 in Leon, Mexico where experiential marketers poured liquid nitrogen into a pool to try and create a fog effect. However, a reaction with the chemicals in the pool resulted in a toxic fog that sent guests to the hospital. (Infegy)

Ambush MarketingAmbush marketing involves capitalizing on a major event or campaign without officially sponsoring it. This type of guerrilla marketing aims to associate the brand with the event or campaign, creating brand recognition and exposure.

Success - A well-known example of ambush marketing is the "Beats by Dre" campaign during the 2012 London Olympics. Beats by Dre provided athletes with their headphones, resulting in widespread visibility during the games. This campaign effectively associated the brand with the Olympics, despite not being an official sponsor. (Billboard)

Failure -An ambush marketing failure was done by Vodafone, who at a 2002 rugby match had two streakers interrupt the game wearing nothing but the Vodafone logo on their back. This was not taken well by the spectators or the televised audience. Vodafone CEO was forced to issue an apology. (Brandsfun)

Viral Marketing -Viral marketing relies on creating and spreading content that quickly captures the attention of the target audience and encourages them to share it with others.

Success - The "Dollar Shave Club" campaign is a prime example of successful viral marketing. The company released a series of humorous videos showcasing its subscription-based razor service. The first video cost only $4,500 to produce and was shot in one day. In just a few days, over 3 million people watched, and that number now exceeds 27 million views. This not only generated lots of new customers but increased the valuation of the company. The company sold a few years later for a billion-dollar cash acquisition. (OptiMonk)

Failure – The Cartoon Network learned in 2007 that not all viral publicity is good publicity or free. To promote a new cartoon, they planted dozens of electronic blinking devices in 10 cities. In Boston, the residents thought they were explosive devices and called the police. This turned into a full-scale terrorism scare, and the bomb squad was called. Turner Broadcast had to pay $2 million to cover the response by the Boston emergency response teams. (Business News Daily)

Street Marketing -Street marketing involves using public spaces and urban environments to promote a brand or product. This type of guerrilla marketing often utilizes eye-catching and interactive elements to engage passersby.

Success – In 2015, the "Carlsberg Beer Billboard Dispenser" campaign was a notable example of street marketing. Carlsberg installed a beer tap on a billboard in a busy London street. People passing by were able to get a free glass of beer. This clever and interactive campaign attracted a large audience and generated positive brand associations. It helped the brand increase its 2015 sales by 20%. The campaign even reached 60 million people across all media platforms. (Valens)

Failure– In 2005, Snapple learned that street marketing can create a sticky problem for everyone. The beverage brand decided to mount a 25-foot-tall, 17½ ton ice popsicle right in the middle of New York City. Well, the June temperatures caused the popsicle to melt quickly, forcing firefighters to close streets to wash away a sticky sugary mess. (Vista)

Guerilla AdvertisingGuerilla advertising focuses on creating unconventional and attention-grabbing advertisements that stand out from traditional forms of advertising.

Success - One example of guerrilla advertising is the "Nike Just Do It" campaign. Nike placed billboards with motivational messages and their iconic logo in unexpected locations, such as on top of buildings or on the sides of bridges. This campaign effectively caught the attention of pedestrians and drivers, increasing brand visibility and reinforcing Nike's brand message. (World Brands)

Failure – In 2005, Sony wanted an unconventional way to promote their new PlayStation Portable (PSP). The brand hired a bunch of graffiti artists to spray-paint images of kids playing with the gadget on random buildings in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Miami. The cities viewed this as an act of vandalism and Sony was forced to pay fines. (Vista)

Stealth Marketing – This is an approach to place your product or brand placement in movies or television shows, so the viewing public will see their favorite stars or celebrities using the product.

Success– Audi hit a home run when they were able to get their Audi R8 into all three Iron Man Movies. The car was driven by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who was a tech-savvy billionaire. This was the perfect exposure for the Audi car. (Endurance)

Failure – Samsung wanted to take advantage of the success of the Jurassic Park movie franchise, so they sought to have their phones and security systems fully branded and shared on screen. It was an unmitigated disaster for them when characters using the phones then died, because the Samsung smartphones stopped working. The company took another hit when their security products allowed a dinosaur to escape. (Love Money)


Guerrilla marketing campaigns offer a unique and creative approach to marketing that can capture the attention of consumers and leave a lasting impression. The different types of guerrilla marketing, such as ambient marketing, experiential marketing, ambush marketing, viral marketing, street marketing, and guerrilla advertising, provide brands with opportunities to engage their target audience in unconventional ways.

While the effectiveness of guerrilla marketing campaigns can vary, when executed well, they have the potential to generate significant brand awareness, customer engagement, and sales. By understanding the target audience and leveraging creativity and innovation, brands can create impactful guerrilla marketing campaigns that resonate with consumers and create a lasting impact.