When you think of the word “guerrilla,” your mind probably goes straight to guerrilla warfare—small groups of combatants, often civilian, using mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military.

This blog post is part of Your Definitive Guide to Lead Generation” blog series.

If you apply this tactic to marketing, you’ll find that it’s a great way to compete with larger, more-traditional companies. Guerrilla marketing is a gold mine for startups and small businesses, as well as large brands wishing to shake things up.

Entrepreneur.com defines guerrilla marketing as “any promotion that's unconventional, unexpected and usually evocative of a unique, memorable reaction from or interaction with the viewer.”

guerrilla marketing

Jay Conrad Levinson, the coiner of the term, has written multiple books on the practice. Levinson prides himself on helping brands such as Apple, Playboy, Microsoft, and Marlboro reach the point they’re at today. He teaches that, "instead of investing money in the marketing process, you invest time, energy and imagination."

The practice is usually used in low-budget campaigns, yet has been taken to extravagant levels as well.

Working smarter rather than harder is a trademark of guerrilla marketing.



How Far is Too Far

Sometimes companies take things to the extent of breaking the law, and with that often comes backlash.

Vodafone’s infamous streaking campaign cost them a hefty $100k in backlash when it came to their decision to send out two naked men during a rugby match in Australia. With Vodafone logos painted on their backs, the two caused a huge stir while a New Zealand player prepared to take a game-changing penalty kick. The player missed and it cost his team the game.

Needless to say, New Zealand fans were not happy.


vodafone streaker


Successful guerrilla marketing campaigns take creativity and initiative. Rather than aiming for shock value, aim to please your audience and create a memorable experience. Campaigns that add some joy and humor to someone’s daily life help build a consumer-brand relationship.

VW built a simple slide in a metro station and I doubt the participants will be forgetting it anytime soon.



This campaign couldn’t have cost more than a few hundred dollars, yet it created thousands of impressions through viral and word-of-mouth communication.


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Coca-Cola produced one of the most successful guerrilla marketing campaigns using the “Happy Machine.” This idea was cost-effective, yet incredibly memorable for all the students that participated. The seemingly ordinary machine spit out never-ending coke bottles, flowers, balloon animals, pizzas, and eventually a massive sub sandwich. Just take a look for yourself.



This campaign won the CLIO Gold Interactive Award and the accompanying video has been viewed over 6 million times. Coke’s global slogan in 2009 was “Open Happiness” and this machine surely produced some smiles.

While the benefits of guerrilla marketing nearly always outweigh the consequences, it would be irresponsible to leave them out.



Cons of Guerrilla Marketing

  • It’s risky – Since the common practices of guerrilla marketing are unconventional and sometimes evocative, there is always a chance of receiving negative press.
  • The results are difficult to measure – We’re not given charts for reach and number of clicks here. It’s difficult to measure impressions when planting an interactive ad or art piece in a city.
  • There’s always a chance of failure – While many guerrilla marketing campaigns are highly successful, be wary of being too creative. Some consumers may not appreciate the often eccentric and startling tactics.

By examining past campaigns, we can deduce which practices led to failure and which ones led to success. With little to no cost, guerrilla marketing is a great way to generate publicity for businesses at any level.

As Al Lautenslager, co-author of Guerilla Marketing in 30 Days, states, “Your options are only limited by your imagination.”



Guerrilla Marketing for Good

We'll leave you on a positive note with an example of a guerrilla marketing campaign that started with a few little pieces of chalk and the big goal to eliminate hunger in New York.


street fare.png 


Guerilla marketing is just one way to generate awareness for your brand. Here are 4 examples of more traditional lead-generating magnets.

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Originally published May 18, 2017, updated January 23, 2024
Tags: lead generation Advertising