Guerilla Marketing: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Success





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Darrin C. Duber-Smith

Since 2000, Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA, has been president of Green Marketing, Inc., a Colorado-based strategic planning firm offering marketing and sustainability planning, marketing plan implementation, and other consulting services to companies in all stages of growth. He has over 25 years of specialized expertise in the marketing and management profession including extensive experience in working with natural, organic, and green/sustainable products and services. He is a co-founder of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS, c. 1999) market concept and leader of the first U.S. industry task force that helped frame an industry definition of natural (c. 2005). He has published over 60 articles in trade publications and has presented at scores of executive-level events over the past 15 years. Mr. Duber-Smith is Visiting Professor of Marketing at the Metropolitan State College School of Business in Denver, CO and Affiliate Marketing Professor at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Mr. Duber-Smith was the recipient of the Wall Street Journal's In-Education Distinguished Professor Award for 2009, and is author of Cengage Learning's KnowNow! Marketing blog. He can be reached at

Guerilla warfare includes military campaigns that are unexpected and unconventional.  It targets the enemy in unexpected places in unexpected ways at unexpected times.  The tactics for guerilla marketing were developed using similar concepts.  Promotional tools (advertising, personal selling, sales promotions, and public relations) are used in unique and unexpected ways to reach consumers in unexpected places. 

The objective for guerilla marketing is to create a unique and thought-provoking promotional concept to create buzz.  In fact, the practice is also known as buzz marketing.  Some of the unusual approaches used are intercept encounters in public areas, street giveaways of products. PR stunts,  flash mobs, or any promotional attempt designed to create maximum impact with minimal resources.  That's right, guerilla marketing campaigns are most commonly used by companies with small promotional budgets. 

Unfortunately, some early guerilla marketing campaigns that utilized littering, graffiti and defacing public property gave guerilla marketing a bad reputation.  Because of this, many companies are reluctant to get involved in such "stunt" marketing.  However, just like the success of guerilla warfare, guerilla marketing can also be extremely successful, if designed carefully to not offend people and to enhance, rather than damage, a company's reputation.  Small businesses have enjoyed as much as a 250% increase in sales by using this type of marketing.

Guerilla marketing, once thought to be cutting edge and risky, has almost entered the mainstream of marketing.  A short discussion about the concept is often included in marketing textbooks and at some universities (e.g., Texas A&M in Corpus Christi), it is an elective course that can be taken by marketing majors.  The original inventor of the concept, Jay Conrad Levinson, created and maintains a website for "all things guerilla," found at

Guerilla warfare was developed to give small military forces a chance, and sometimes even an advantage, over much larger military forces.  Likewise, guerilla marketing can give small businesses an advantage, or at least a chance to succeed against seemingly overwhelming competition.  However, care must be taken so that a guerilla marketing campaign is congruous with a company's product and the image of the company.  For example, it might not make sense to do some of the sensational approaches to guerilla marketing if you own a funeral home.  But, if you have a small business and your company and product are suitable for such, you might consider this relatively inexpensive form of sensational marketing.

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