Guerilla Marketing: Resurgence and Still Going Strong


You’ve probably heard of guerilla warfare—unconventional military methods that involve an unexpected strategy.  So what exactly is guerilla marketing? Broadly speaking, it is an advertising strategy that uses low-cost, unconventional means to promote a product or idea to a large number of people, often in a localized, public fashion.

As a marketer, guerilla marketing is one of my favorite tactics.  It’s usually very low cost in nature and allows you to use a ton of creativity.  It also generates what’s called “word of mouth” marketing—a priceless form of marketing that involves spreading the word about your campaign. This is worth thousands to a brand because what’s told to you from a friend or colleague is generally more trusted and sticks more than what’s seen in the mainstream media.  So how do you come up with your own unique idea?  You can start by looking at what others have done.  This will help you brainstorm and think outside of the box to come up with your own guerilla tactic.

Guerilla marketing has taken hundreds of different forms over the last few decades: from graffiti to flash mobs to buying coffee for strangers. Companies, both large and small, have utilized several different forms of guerilla tactics to generate interest in their product or service.  In fact, 122 examples of different techniques can be seen here. (

For instance, here in Denver in 2003, United Airlines was preparing to launch a new sub-brand called Ted—a low-cost airline. Rather than using typical advertising methods to tell people all about it, they decided to take a more mysterious route. United spoke about Ted as if he were an actual person, and they took to the Denver streets with several interesting tactics. A video chronicling these tactics can be seen here (, but they included all kinds of things: giving away free flowers to people on the street from a mysterious “Ted,” spelling Ted out in a farm field, and hiring people to wear shirts that say things like, “I’m not Ted,” or “I know Ted.”

While some of the tactics were a little pricier than the average guerilla marketing campaign, United Airlines reaped tons of benefits from their strategies. The media took quickly to the campaign, and thousands of people were dying to know just what the Ted stuff was all about. By the time United was ready to unveil exactly what Ted was all about, the vast majority of people in the area had already heard about it through the media, word of mouth, or personal experience.

A marketing challenge we have here at Goodwill Industries of Denver is to have people understand the story behind our store—where the profits go and who they help.  We’ve decided to utilize guerilla marketing to tell the story.  For instance, right now in Cherry Creek, we’re featuring our “Success Silhouettes.” These life-size, blue statues are placed throughout the Cherry Creek North shopping area, so that shoppers will happen upon them on foot. The silhouettes, which are representations of real people who have been a part of one of our community programs, are complete with QR codes, so that passersby can use their smart phones to connect to the participants’ video stories on our YouTube channel. We decided this campaign would be a great way to let the community know that their donations really are changing lives on a daily basis.

This success silhouette represents Jorge Nieve’s story with Goodwill. His quote reads, “I didn’t think I would make it through high school. Now I’m striving for college. Your donations to Goodwill did that.”

A picture of Nieve's silhouette is located in the picture gallery to the left.

Want to bring some new guerilla tactics to your marketing plan in the upcoming year? Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Think about who you’re trying to reach. Different types of guerilla marketing will appeal to different genders, age groups, etc. Make sure you consider who you want to receive your marketing message first and foremost!
  2. Look at other guerilla marketing campaigns to get inspired to create your own. A simple Google search for “guerilla marketing” will bring you hundreds of pages to peruse. Find something you like and see how you can add your own twist.
  3. Make sure you consider cost vs. worth. The best guerilla campaigns typically use limited funds to reach a large number of people. Figure out how you can get the most bang for your buck.


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