By Robert Bowen: Brief History of Guerrilla Marketing

    Guerilla Marketing

    Brief  History of Guerrilla Marketing

    Its the early 80’s and small businesses owners are struggling to compete with the larger Goliath sized like corporate companies that seemed to have an unlimited source of marketing funds. These larger companies could easily buy out buy the small business owners in the media without it scratching their budget. Before the early 80’s both large and small businesses depended on traditional marketing, though the larger companies dominated with their deep pockets and media connections.

    In the early 20’s it was newspaper and radio ads followed by television ads in the 50s’. The 50’s & 60’s were considered the golden age of of marketing with newspaper readership at an all time high in 1950. 1954 the transistor radio was invented making radios more portable. Companies were able to reach much more people and influence their buying on much larger scale than ever before.

    Problems, Problems, Problems

    Companies had taken advantage of their ability influence people with advertising with ads such as smoking would make you skinny for example. By the late 60’s and early 70’s consumers had had enough of constantly being bombarded with ads on the television, magazines, radio & newspapers. People just started changing the channel during commercials or muting the TV.  I remember in my house as a kid commercials were the time to let the family dog out, grab a snack or a drink from the kitchen, and go to the bathroom.

    I could say thinking as a kid it seemed like every 5 minutes there was a commercial on and everyone was doing anything but paying attention to them. I can remember the only time my grandfather had a foul mouth and used profanity was after getting annoyed by a number of commercials or over the phone whenever telemarketers would call. At least that is the only time I heard such words coming from his mouth. Companies were putting out large sums of money as the cost of advertising constantly grew and yet their revenue was steadily decreasing.

    Time for a change 

    Jay Conrad Levinson was the first to use the term Guerrilla Marketing in his 1984 book ‘Guerrilla Advertising’. The term was inspired by the term Guerrilla warfare. In Jay Levinson’s words Guerrilla marketing is the truth made fascinating. It’s going after conventional goals using unconventional means. Your prime investments in guerrilla marketing don’t have to be money – they should be time, energy, imagination and information.” The idea behind guerrilla marketing was basically not to play by the same rules that the larger corporate businesses were playing by.

    When it comes to paying for exposure for traditional adds the larger companies had the capital to win that battle every time. Yet if the small business owners could do something at a low cost that was unique, new, funny or especially surprising that they had a better chance at catching the attention of their target audiences. It was a way to level the playing field making it possible for small businesses to compete with the larger businesses and making it possible for the small business owner to win. David beats Goliath!

    Why you should use Guerrilla Marketing

    As history has shown us in the past when Guerrilla marketing is executed correctly, it will reach a high amount of your targeted audience at a low cost or even free in some cases. I don’t care who you are or what company you own or represent. When you come up with a marketing campaign that ends up being free and its generating revenue, you feel like a genius or a master of the universe.

    Guerrilla marketing will distinguish you from your competition. You will gain a reputation with your consumers for being fun, different and engaging. It can leave a lasting impression on your consumers that forces them to keep an eye on your company and constantly coming back for more. It puts the fun back into advertising. So now that you have an understanding of the origins and purpose of guerrilla marketing, it’s time to start discussing and creating some ideas & techniques for you to put to use for your business. So get your pen and notepad out and let’s begin!


    There is, of course, a wide variety of Guerrilla Marketing ideas and examples. These techniques vary and are unique from business to business. Below is a list of some general ideas that almost any business if implemented correctly can benefit from.

    Guerrilla Marketing Examples & Ideas

    Social Networking Promotions

    Social media just by itself is a great way to implement guerrilla marketing once you have started to build a following on whichever social media platforms your business is using. Running promotions that are specific to social media can be an effective way to market your product or service. Offer a small discount for a limited time to anyone who follows & shares your social media profiles.

    Create some quality images and videos for those visitors to share on their own social media profiles. Creative unique images and videos that are really eye-catching can sometimes go viral and when rapid online sharing begins you will attract a much larger audience. You may create a lot of images and videos before this happens but when you finally create one that does go viral, the payout will be huge.

    Email Marketing

    Email by far is one of my favorite guerrilla marketing techniques. It is so inexpensive and so powerful and honestly can be a lot of fun when your designing unique content for them. According to a study by SocialTwist. Over an 18-month period, SocialTwist monitored 119 referral campaigns from leading brands and companies. The results showed a significant advantage to email’s ability to convert new customers compared to Facebook and Twitter. Of the 300,000 referrals who became new customers, 50.8 percent were reached by email, compared to 26.8 percent by Twitter and 22 percent by Facebook.

    The largest obstacle here is creating a database of email addresses of your target audience. There are a number of ways that you can do this though depending on the type of business you have. One of my favorite ways is running some kind of contest or promotion along with a customer comment card. Customer comment cards are great because not only can you get your customers email address but you can get valuable feedback from your customers to improve your business. Example of a contest. I was once the general manager of a pizzeria so I had my servers handing out comment cards to all the guests. The comment card  Looked a bit like this.


    Weekly Drawing


    Fill out all fields for 10% off your meal now & your chance to win a free dinner for 4 up to a $100.00 Value




    Email Address:


    1-10 Rate the quality of service


    1-10 Rate the quality of meal


    Comments & Suggestions:






    This can be done with any business, you just have to decide what you are willing to pay for the email address. The fact that I was giving the customer a 10% discount off their current check was the draw to ensure that almost every single customer filled out the comment card leaving their email address. After about a week of doing this, I was able to start to send out a lot of advertisements through email and gain a tremendous amount of not only repeat business but new business. I would encourage customers I had an email address for to forward the promotions to their friends, family, and colleagues and offer incentives to do so.

    Public Speaking

    There are usually a number of professional associations or community organizations that are looking for speakers to give keynote addresses at their monthly meetings. You can host your own Luncheons or banquets. Pair up with a couple of casual restaurants that have a banquet room or space to hold a luncheon. This is business and promotion for the restaurant. You can even charge a small amount for these and give a portion of the money to charity which is great promotion for your business. Contact the local media to advertise the banquet or luncheon. The media will likely advertise the event for free since you are donating money to charity.

    Wild Posting

    Have stacks and stacks posters printed up advertising your business? Get out on the street and start covering walls throughout the city with your posters. It is the same concept that many small bands use to promote their local concerts. You can easily hire some cheap help. It’s unfortunate but every city has a homeless population. In a lot of cases, people look down on the homeless when the truth is we don’t know their situation and what put them on the street. Some homeless are victims of very unfortunate accidents that caused their situation and we should be grateful because you never know, something could happen that could force you onto the street one day.

    One of my favorite ideas for this is taking a homeless person to a goodwill for a change of some decent clothes a hot meal and hotel room for a night or two where they can clean up. Or you can offer them the hotel room for as long as they are working for you hanging your posters. You don’t have to book the Marriott for them. Hotel rooms can be found for around $50.00 a night.

    Every day they can hang posters for you and when they are done hanging posters for the day you can encourage them to start looking for a regular job since obliviously they won’t be hanging posters for you for rest of their life. Doing this you might just change some one’s life for the better while still marketing your business. You could also hire some teenagers or college kids for the same $50.00 a day to go around the city hanging your posters. There is a lot of inexpensive options to have someone hanging posters advertising your business.


    This is popular online. Businesses giving away free e-books or other informational based materials to market their business. Personally, I think this is one method that has a lot of room for creativity and doesn’t have to be limited to just online. You can do a giveaway in the form of hosting a BBQ event. Again alerting your local media. Contact the media and inform them your business plans on hosting a public BBQ for charity. Charge $10.00 admittance to cover the cost of food and the rest donate to your local red cross or charity of your choice. Sponsoring an event that helps children honestly would probably catch the media and public’s eye in a huge way. You can approach other local businesses about co-sponsoring the event as well. This would be a great way to start networking with other companies.

    During the event, you can give away promotional items as well that feature your business. Printed copies of your e-book, t-shirts & coupons that offer a discount for your product or service. This is a perfect chance to give away promotional items, transforming your marketing message into something useful. Coffee mugs, tissue packages, pens, notepads and other items can be imprinted with your logo and slogan, reminding customers of your company every time they use them. Because such items are practical, prospective customers are more likely to keep them than flyers or other marketing materials.

    Honor Your Competitors’ Coupons

    Just like the title says. This is actually a pretty common technique because it works.  If it is within your budget, meaning you can afford to do so and you are still making a profit or at the very least breaking even than you can use your competitors’ coupons, email promotions or whatever else to your advantage.  If you are only breaking even than I would recommend doing this only for a short period of time just to gain some extra exposure to your business to show why you are better than your competitor.

    Pay it forward

    Maybe you are in line at the movie theater or a fast food drive-thru. Give the cashier an extra $20.00 along with a business card towards the movie ticket or meal of the person behind you. You can do this in a restaurant as well. As you are getting ready to leave have your server bring you the check of another table and pay the bill and leave your business card for them. It won’t guarantee that person will become a customer but both the person and the cashier or server will be equally impressed and they will be telling their friends, family & colleagues about it. This will create some word of mouth marketing that could very possibly end up leading to a new customer down the line somewhere.

    Ever since its arrival, guerrilla marketing has played a significant and powerful role in the businesses world. It has dramatically changed the way companies big and small position themselves for success. It’s only true limit is that of our imaginations. You can see guerrilla marketing examples everywhere you look these days. For the small business owner, it is the most important marketing weapon in our arsenal, giving us the ability stand toe to toe with Goliath.

    I encourage you all to take action and put some of these techniques to use for your business along with any unique ideas you have of your own. Remember your prime investments in guerrilla marketing don’t have to be money – they should be time, energy, imagination and information. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on your Twitter or Facebook. Thank you in advance! What are some exciting ideas that your business have for your own guerrilla marketing and how are you implementing them? We would love for you to share.

    Please let us know in the comments.

    By: Robert Bowen

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    Saminu Abass Ola who is popularly called ‘Mr. Possible‘ is a young motivational and inspirational speaker and writer, who is also the brain behind this wonderful blog. He is also passionate about Social Marketing. He believes in the abilities of others and tends to bring out the hidden potentials in people’s lives through his motivational articles and words of inspiration.