Marketing strategy

Local advertising in 2024: Guerilla marketing

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When we surveyed U.S. business owners for our 2024 Business Owner Success Survey (or, the BOSS Report), they told us that increasing their investment in local advertising was a top marketing priority for 2024. This article is part of a series that explores strategies for leveraging different types of local advertising to grow your business.

If you’re looking for a local advertising push that’ll really embed your business in the local culture, guerilla campaigns are the fastest, most affordable, and most adaptable strategy. Guerilla campaigns require a creative, resourceful, and shifting strategy that can be especially fun and rewarding to plan and deploy, and they’re also ideally suited to flexible small businesses, allowing them to leverage their small size for outsized results. 

What you need to know

  • A guerilla campaign is a low-cost, memorable form of marketing which can yield large brand recognition for small businesses.
  • Because guerilla marketing is deeply interwoven with local culture, your business must be adaptable, creative, and in tune with your audience for success.
  • A successful guerilla campaign will exploit the benefits of small businesses to remain relevant with the local community.

What is guerilla marketing?

Guerilla marketing refers to a targeted, low-cost, and unconventional marketing strategy used by businesses to gain an advantage or attention in a market. The name, “Guerilla marketing,” is a derivation of guerilla warfare, and was popularized by Jay Conrad Levinson’s 1984 book of the same name.

Much like its military inspiration, a guerrilla marketing campaign is typically short-term and focuses on specific objectives, such as promoting one product or event. These usually involve coordinating many guerilla advertisements or actions to create a larger impact than they would have individually.

The pros and cons of guerilla marketing

  • Guerilla marketing is low-cost and adaptable. Posted guerilla ads can appear in a wider variety of places than standard out-of-home (OOH) ads. Some guerilla strategies can be quickly updated to remain in sync with dynamic social or physical environments.
  • Guerilla marketing is especially fun and memorable. Crafting and executing a deliberately unconventional campaign can be a creative and fun project for your team, and your audience will appreciate the unique, playful results.
  • Your audience will help you market your products. As with other types of targeted local advertising, guerilla campaigns can turn people who see and enjoy your ads (including those who don’t buy your products) into brand ambassadors.
  • While financial risk is lower, the risk to your brand is higher. Guerilla campaigns are more integrated in the community than traditional advertising, so if your campaign fails to connect, you risk alienating your target customers.
  • The impact of guerilla campaigns can be harder to track. Although guerilla campaigns will influence marketing and sales KPIs, their direct impact can be difficult to measure without integrating digital tracking methods.

Read the full BOSS Report to see what your fellow business owners are focusing on this year.

Main types of guerilla marketing

A guerilla campaign will usually combine two or more of the following marketing types:

Ambient marketing 

Post ads in unexpected or unusual places that aren’t designated for OOH ads. Carefully consider how your ads will blend into or deliberately contrast with their environment. 

  • Tactics include posters, murals, statues, art installations, green spaces, and cleanups/renovations of public spaces.

Buzz marketing

Use small, attention-grabbing actions to create exponential word-of-mouth or social media hype. Buzz marketing can exploit initial exclusivity between brand and customer (which is then shared between customers), or it can celebrate the audaciousness of attaching your brand to something unexpected.

  • Tactics include live stunts, private texting lists, cryptic messaging from marketing channels, company profiles on local apps, and mystery boxes or giveaways.

Ambush marketing

Exploit the element of surprise by advertising yourself in an unexpected context or in a way that siphons an audience away from a different event. 

  • Tactics include flash mobs, ads played at or during popular events you’re not affiliated with, hosting competing events, and publicity stunts at other events.

Grassroots marketing

Mobilize local people to campaign for your brand via one-on-one interactions with target customers or to contribute brand materials like art or copy. Consider hosting an in-person event to bring together potential brand ambassadors.

  • Tactics include handing out flyers, canvassing, charitable volunteering on behalf of your business, and local artist collaborations.

Tips for a successful guerilla marketing campaign

1. Surprise everyone

The most exciting and challenging part of a guerilla campaign is to find a creative, original idea that will resonate with a specific demographic and stand out in your industry. You have far more options for where to advertise than with standard OOH ads, so consider what industry white spaces you can exploit to create something fresh and memorable. 

2. Leverage asymmetry against larger companies

Your larger competitors may have large marketing budgets, but it’s much easier for your small business to coordinate and operate an adaptable, low-cost, high-reward campaign. Exploit these advantages to beat your rigid larger competitors in the local market.

For example, you’ll see less competition in smaller channels, so be personable when canvassing target customers, create unique posters for different bulletin boards, or personalize direct mail with hand-written letters and postcards. These are relatively inexpensive methods, but ones that large companies struggle to coordinate across large teams and geographic areas.

3. Maximize the use of limited resources

Marketing doesn’t require huge budgets—in fact, the limitations of a modest budget can inspire unique thinking. Encourage employees to think and propose ideas freely, then consider how to wield your human and financial resources efficiently. Integrate your digital marketing strategy to stir conversation among your customers.

4. Be adaptable and consistent

Guerilla marketing doesn’t end at deployment—you’ll need to know how your ads are being received. Repetition and consistency within your target area will reinforce your brand among customers. Be sure to respond quickly to changing conditions and keep your campaign relevant by updating marketing materials.

5. Dialogue with your community

Any guerilla campaign is built on support from the local community. Your customers are your brand advocates, so encourage engagement with customer loyalty programs and continuous personalized marketing strategies. Gauge reactions to your campaign and adapt accordingly. Collaborate with local creatives who want to support your company, and connect customers to one another at in-person events or on social media.

Remember that your guerilla campaign exists in public space, so be mindful of how your marketing augments the environment and what emotions it inspires.

Boost your marketing efforts with a business loan that fits your needs.

Disclaimer

This content is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice of any type, such as financial, legal, tax, or accounting advice. This content does not necessarily state or reflect the views of Bluevine or its partners. Please consult with an expert if you need specific advice for your business. For information about Bluevine products and services, please visit the Bluevine FAQ page.

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Disclaimer

This content is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice of any type, such as financial, legal, tax, or accounting advice. This content does not necessarily state or reflect the views of Bluevine or its partners. Please consult with an expert if you need specific advice for your business. For information about Bluevine products and services, please visit the Bluevine FAQ page.

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