Guerrilla Marketing is a term that was coined in the 80’s about achieving conventional marketing goals with unconventional methods… i.e. generating demand creatively without spending lots of money.  Before the age of the internet, that might have meant deploying a team of people to the streets to create some sort of spectacle in the hopes of spreading your marketing message through word-of-mouth.

In today’s terminology, the term growth hacking is simply an evolution of the term guerrilla marketing to fit today’s online marketplace.  The modern equivalent of guerrilla marketing could be a viral video or social media hack that puts a company on the map without spending a lot of money.

This concept of generating a ton of demand, for not a lot of money, is very appealing to entrepreneurs and marketers, but is it a realistic goal?


Risk vs Reward

To answer the question of whether or not to spend time and energy on guerrilla marketing tactics, it’s important to understand the risk/reward tradeoff of these types of strategies.  Obviously, the potential rewards can be huge, but what is the risk?

The reality is that very few attempts at viral guerrilla marketing succeed.  For every success story, many attempts fail.  Ultimately, it can be a very unreliable customer acquisition channel.



It’s a much more comfortable position to be in to have a reliable marketing channel such as paid advertising that obtains a predictable return on your marketing dollars.  Every marketer and entrepreneur should make it a goal to create a predictable marketing machine that turns dollar bills into ten dollar bills.

If you had a machine like that, it wouldn’t make sense to divert time and energy away from your reliable marketing machine to something much more risky.


Who It’s Appropriate For

That being said, guerrilla marketing tactics can be effective for the right companies.  For example: if your marketing budget is extremely limited, these sort of tactics might be your only option.

It can also be appropriate for a company that has already established a stable marketing machine, and has the resources to take the risk.

Here are a few types of modern guerrilla marketing tactics:

  • Viral Content – Creating a video or some other sort of content that evokes strong emotions can potentially go viral.  To succeed, this content needs to stand out and grab people’s attention using some sort of shock value or appeal to emotion.  Achieving the right tone can be tricky though…  If you’re not careful, this approach can backfire if it ends up offending people.
  • Influencer Outreach – Another form of modern guerrilla marketing is reaching out to influencers.  Influencers are people or organizations that have a large following.  Celebrities, media outlets, bloggers, etc. are different forms of influencers.  The object is to form a relationship with these people and somehow get them to plug your stuff. For example, you might propose some sort of content swap, or even just pay them to promote you.
  • PR – Effective PR campaigns can be a very powerful way to expand awareness of your brand.  Appearing as a guest on a newscast or radio show, for example, can get you in front of a lot of people for free.  The news media has a constant need for content to fill their time slots, and this might present you with an opportunity to get some exposure if you can provide them with some compelling content.
  • Social Media – Social media has made it much easier to talk directly to potential customers… especially on public platforms like Twitter and Instagram.  If your niche lends itself to the types of people who are on these platforms, there may be an opportunity for you, or some hardworking interns, to discover and engage with potential customers.


Sum Up

Guerrilla marketing tactics, while somewhat risky, can be an effective supplement to a more stable marketing machine.  Be sure to weigh the risk with the reward before putting all of your eggs in this basket.