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Guerrilla marketing ideas for small brands looking to take down Goliath.

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Historically, smaller scrappier armies heavily outnumbered by larger foes would use their speed and agility to excel at a military strategy called Guerrilla warfare –– a hit-and-run approach to war used to pick apart gargantuan (but slower-moving) armies.

Think of the small nerd in grade school getting bullied by a group of teenage boys that are quite mature and large for their age. While he can’t out-muscle them, he can use a slingshot to crack them with a few rocks from a distance and then run like hell before they catch up. That’s a very simplistic less bloody example of Guerrilla warfare.

Guerrilla marketing, in many ways, is Guerrilla warfare –– it’s speedy, scrappy, unconventional and when done right, extremely effective.

The startup or small brand competing against the industry giant isn’t unlike the scrawny nerd trying to defeat his arch-nemesis… the neighborhood bully. If the startup tries to go head to head with a big powerful more established brand, it’s going to get the piss kicked out of it.

So, instead of trying to outspend them, startups can utilize Guerrilla marketing –– a low-cost scrappy approach to marketing that will raise awareness for their brand quickly before their competitor has time to respond.

In the advertising world, Guerrilla marketing tends to be looked down upon by old-school advertisers, viewed as inferior to more traditional strategies of promotion. I, however, have a deep love for essentially all forms of promotion and as long as it can sell (and it’s ethical)... I’m all for it.

Now, enough about what Guerrilla marketing is, let’s discuss a few Guerrilla marketing ideas your startup can utilize to sell like a Florida snow cone vendor on the hottest day of the year.

10 Guerrilla Marketing Ideas

Grab your slingshot, a pocketful of rocks and be sure to lace up those boots nice and taut. We’re about to take down Goliath. It’s my hope that these Guerrilla marketing ideas are helpful in driving awareness and sales for your brand, but at the very least, I think you’ll find they spark some creative ideas of your own. If you like them, please feel free to steal them… just be sure to let me know how well they work for you, okay?

Guerrilla market idea #1: Buy your customers a cup of coffee.

Partner up with a local coffee shop in your city and buy the first 100 or so cups of coffee for the day. Pay the coffee shop an additional amount to tell every customer that “ABC Brand” is covering their coffee.

To really take this idea the extra mile, work with an artist to creatively design your brand’s logo on the customer’s coffee cup. To use Twitter as an example, the artist could design bluebirds on the cup, flapping around having a grand time.

Guerrilla marketing idea #2: Vandalize a city with moss graffiti.

There’s a lesser-known form of graffiti called “moss graffiti” where an artist will use living moss to create an image on an exposed brick wall. This would be a great idea for brands looking to advertise around a city in a beautiful and creative way.

I found this really neat write-up on how to create moss graffiti. I would definitely recommend putting your most artsy employee on this because I imagine it’s crazy challenging.

Guerrilla marketing idea #3: Create a Spotify playlist and share it with your customers

People like to buy from people. Unfortunately, the trouble businesses run into is coming across as large untouchable entities. Like Facebook… Facebook feels more like a secret underground society of robots ran by Mark Zuckerberg than an actual brand that employs living breathing people.

If startups are willing to go the extra mile, they can do little-things that really impress their customers and add a (person)al touch that people want to do business with. Creating a Spotify playlist is a fun and easy way for brands to connect on a more intimate level with their customers.

Brands can spend a couple days compiling their favorite songs and then send their customers a link to their playlist with a short note… “These are some of our team’s favorite songs (we hope you love them), send us one of your favorites and we’ll be sure to add it to the playlist.”

Guerrilla marketing idea #4: Create a “Do Good” team.

While brands certainly give back through sponsorships and donations, it’d be neat to see one of them create an entire in-house team dedicated to making the world a better place.

They could be called the “Do Good” team. This team could do projects like creating comfortable hand-knit sweaters and socks for homeless people or planting trees in deforested areas. While this idea wont necessarily drive massive brand awareness, there’s something to be said for giving back.

Guerrilla marketing idea #5: Go all out on your holiday cards.

Brands either don’t do holiday cards or they half-ass them. There’s nothing worse than receiving a half-ass holiday card. You might as well be sending your customers half a sandwich or something.

Every brand should have their in-house designer or design team put together a unique and memorable card to send to their customers as a way of saying thank you during the holidays. While this might sound like a rudimentary idea, it’s one most brands don’t do and one that I imagine pays massive dividends down the road.

Guerrilla marketing idea #6: Do branded give-backs.

This idea sort-of kind-of falls under Guerrilla marketing idea #4: Create a “Do Good” team. But it touches on a much broader point.

When brands give back they should be doing branded give-backs. Instead of donating $1,000 to the charity up the road, come up with a more creative idea to give back. For example, Sephora or Ulta Beauty could give makeovers to less-fortunate individuals in the United States and help them land jobs. Not only would this do an immense amount of good… but it would be brand building.

Brands should be utilizing their resources (and money) to make the world a better place. And, they can do it a creative way that aligns with who they are and what they represent.

Guerrilla marketing idea #7: Throw some stickers into the mix.

In my hometown I witnessed first hand the power of stickers after a bunch of kids got together with a big audacious goal in mind… they wanted to rebrand the word “moist”. Generally, when people think of the word “moist” they sort of squirm a bit. These kids wanted to change that.

So, they printed off loads of tiny orange stickers reading “moist” and plastered them in clever areas around the city. Eventually, people started seeing the stickers everywhere and everyone was talking about them. What’s the deal with these Moist stickers?, was the question countless people were asking.

While these kids should have had a business behind the idea, they showed me the power stickers had. One way to build awareness for a brand or product quickly in a city is to spread cool stickers like wildfire everywhere. Give all your employees one hundred of them and tell them to get to sticking.

Guerrilla marketing idea #8: Get clever on Twitter.

For a long time people have been sold this idea that social media is a fix-all for brands looking to land more customers… as if simply creating a Twitter account announces to thousands of people around the world that they should buy from you –– bullshit.

However, there are brands who’ve done the social media thing very well and as a result have reaped the spoils. MoonPie is a brand I mention often for having an exceptional Twitter that people follow in droves. I wrote more in-depth about MoonPie in this article (scroll down to the image where an old man is holding a MoonPie).

The main take-away? One guerrilla marketing idea is to embrace being different on your social media accounts. Not tweeting and posting the same boring bullshit we see every other brand post, but truly getting funky.

Guerrilla marketing idea #9: Sponsor the inside of a pizza box.

Slap me if this is stupid, but I think an interesting guerrilla marketing idea would be to place a witty advertisement on the inside of a pizza box. Your brand would probably have to pay the pizzeria you partner with and you’d definitely want to create an ad that doesn’t feel like an ad. But, there might be something there.

Guerrilla marketing idea #10: Create a promotion in the form of a challenge.

When brands think promotion… they normally think “buy one get one free” or “free shipping” or “30% off”. But, a way to transform a promotion into a guerrilla marketing idea is to pair it with a challenge.

So, for example, if you’re a new gym in town your promotion could be… “if you can run a mile in under 6 minutes, you and someone of your choosing gets one month free at our gym. Yes, we’re going to time you so bring your running shoes.”

Imagine how folks would scramble around looking for a friend or family member that could run a 6-minute mile. Word would move around as people started asking around.

Some final thoughts on generating guerrilla marketing ideas for your brand.

I imagine I will add to this list as more guerrilla marketing ideas come to mind, but for the time being hopefully this gets your creative juices flowing. As you brainstorm guerrilla marketing ideas for your own brand, one thing to keep in mind is to stay on brand.

So, if you’re a coffee shop, it wouldn’t really make sense to advertise your coffee on the inside of a pizza box. But, if you’re Coke, it’s a different story.

The same can be said for the clever Twitter account. If you’re a funeral home, you probably won’t get too far being witty and funny on Twitter… you’re better off sending out holiday cards to the customers you’ve worked with in the past.

If you have any guerrilla marketing ideas you’d like to run by me, send me a note at cole@honeycopy.com.

By Cole Schafer.


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Cole Schafer