Guerilla Marketing for Your Online Store
Are you looking for ways to promote your online eCommerce website? We’re here to help. Cheap to execute. Unexpected. Loud. Guerilla marketing is a strategy to get your business noticed in unconventional ways.
So what exactly is guerrilla marketing? Let's explore key elements and benefits of this type of marketing, some inspiring examples and how you can get started on your own campaign.
What is guerilla marketing?
Guerilla marketing is an advertisement strategy that uses elements of surprise. This tactic gets in front of shoppers when they least expect it. In short, it’s a highly visible, low-cost way to make a powerful statement about your brand.
Guerilla Marketing Features
Jay Conrad Levinson coined the phrase in his 1984 book Guerilla Marketing.
Levinson describes the following key features of guerilla marketing:
Unconventional: Uses “out there” approaches like street art, viral videos or publicity stunts.
Imaginative and creative: Usually has an innovative “wow-factor”, with wit, humor or spectacle to get an audience talking.
Memorable: Creates a buzz that sticks in your customers’ minds. Your brand starts to feel familiar. That’s a good thing because a new study from Red C Marketing Agency shows that shoppers are 82% more likely to purchase a product from a brand they already know.
Unexpected: Appears in unpredictable places, like the side of a bus or pedestrian paths.
What are the benefits and challenges of guerilla marketing?
If you want to make a memorable impression, guerilla marketing could work for your online store. Consider the pros and cons before you get started:
Low-cost (free in some cases). Whether creating a short, shareable video or a graffiti stencil, guerilla marketing tends to cost less than classic advertising. So it’s ideal for small businesses looking to make noise on a budget.
Engages local customers. Guerilla marketing, like pop-up shops or events, goes beyond an online storefront and connects you to your community.
Highly effective. When it works, it works big time. Successful guerilla marketing campaigns can instantly change brand perception. A stunt could turn into a publicity snowball, go viral and reach a huge audience.
Works for businesses of all sizes. It works for both small and large businesses. Small business can make a big impact on a lower budget. On the other side, large companies can reach their audience in more personalized ways, like graffiti down the street or by throwing a neighborhood event.
Brings your products out of their normal context. You can show your product outside of the digital store, giving shoppers a chance to connect with your brand through interactive experiences.
It’s fun. Art installations. Interactive shopping experiences. Instaworthy photo-ops. You can get creative and use your imagination to come up with unusual, fun ways to catch everyone’s attention.
It may fall through. A guerilla marketing campaign could backfire. Your audience might misunderstand your message, or it may be too provocative. For instance, when Turner Broadcasting promoted Adult Swim, the television network placed magnetic lights all over Boston. People mistook the lights for bombs. When developing your own campaign, consider the timing and audience. Ensure your message comes across the way you intend.
Results are difficult to measure. You can measure traditional marketing metrics like traffic, sales, stats, hits and calls. Then you can optimize marketing to improve metrics. With guerilla marketing however, measuring results are less clear.
Guerilla Marketing Examples
You can get a better idea of the concept by looking at some of the best guerilla marketing examples. Take the National Geographic ad for Shark Week. A shark painted on a bus devours passengers as they walk through the door. The unusual placement and interesting effect sticks in everyone’s memory and has an entire bus talking about it.
Similarly, Austar’s Discovery Channel in Australia took a similar marketing approach. The network placed shark-bitten surfboards around beaches of Sydney to promote an upcoming documentary. This surprising guerilla campaign made beachgoers stop and snap photos. With shareable posts like these, your ads get promoted around the world.
McDonald’s took a creative approach by painting its french fry logo on a city walkway. This campaign entertained pedestrians and built positive associations with the brand.
The fast-food chain turned heads again with a giant cup of coffee. In turn, people sharing their photos online market the brand while the company gets to sit back. The restaurant could even take it a step further by giving a discount to anyone who tagged McDonald’s on social media.
Types of Guerilla Marketing
Graffiti/street art: Graffiti marketing uses city streets as a canvas to promote a brand. This includes murals, street art, stencils, wheat paste, reverse graffiti and more. Stickers of your logo are another great way to gain brand recognition. Just make sure to get permission from the property owner or authorities before you advertise.
Undercover marketing: Some call it “stealth marketing” because someone goes undercover to promote a business. Sony Mobile did this type of guerilla campaign in 2002. Actors walked around cities with a Sony phone, took selfies with people and raved about the features. Undercover guerilla marketing like this gets key people talking about the value of a product which subtly permeates to the general public.
Publicity stunts: Publicity stunts are events that attract the public's attention, like when a pizza parlor cooks the biggest pie ever. Or, a giant statue of Jeff Goldblum in London that celebrates the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park. PR stunts like these can attract a lot of attention and create positive brand awareness.
Word of mouth: Invent intriguing rumors or secrets about your brand to get people talking about your business. For example, during one campaign, IHOP mysteriously changed their name to IHOb. The food-chain tweeted: "What could the P be? Find out June 3. #IHOP". People responded with excitement or outrage when they found out the “b” stood for burgers. IHOP certainly got its brand on people’s minds and sales quadrupled following the stunt.
Giveaways: Who doesn’t like a freebie? Share your products through giveaways or contests. Dunkin’ Donuts hosts giveaways all the time. In their 2019 guerilla marketing campaign, they gave away daily prizes—from coffee makers and tumblers to free coffee for a decade.
Flash mobs: A crowd in a square suddenly falls to the ground, or people break out a dance routine in the middle of a train station. When groups of people perform in unison at random in public places like this, it’s called a flash mob. Brands can use this as a guerilla marketing technique to get people interested and talking about their business. It also provides entertaining and shareable content.
Experiential: Immersive product experiences, or interactive store displays, catch the eye and imagination of people. When Murad Skincare hosted its “Wellness Vault” pop-up experience, shoppers could attend one-on-one consultations with the company’s founder and treat themselves to facials. Experiential marketing gives people a chance to try out unfamiliar products. It also leaves a memorable impression and builds brand loyalty.
Treasure/scavenger hunts: Hide your products around the city with clues on where to find them. For even more engagement, offer winners a grand prize. Nissan Motors did this with its “Ride of Your Life” guerilla marketing campaign. The car company posted clues on social media to find and win a hidden Nissan Altima. This interactive tactic energizes your target audience. Participants will likely post photos of the event and tag on social media. Talk about free promotion!
Viral content: Create viral videos or eye-catching photos to get your brand noticed online. Who remembers when Ojai Valley Taxidermy created a funny viral video that generated over 18 million views? Viral marketers use this tactic to increase brand awareness. A successful campaign “spreads like a virus” and can reach huge audiences.
Each of these examples shows how brands used unconventional, yet imaginative ways to promote their businesses. Guerilla marketing can work for your online store too—raising brand awareness, starting in your community and beyond.
Guerilla Marketing Ideas for Your Online Store
Now it’s time to go guerilla and make your online store stand out. Here are a few ideas:
Create walking billboards. Turn your products into walking billboards. Create your own logo and add it to anything. Sell custom-designed products like T-shirts, coffee mugs, laptop stickers and more. Include a free item with every store order. Boom. Your customers just became walking ads for your store.
Host a giveaway. Hosting a giveaway is a great way to get more followers. Give a single entry to anyone who likes your Facebook page. Give a double entry when someone shares your store’s link on social media. Whoever generates the most buzz, wins a prize. This time-tested strategy works wonders. Who doesn’t love free stuff?
Set up a pop-up shop. eCommerce has changed the way people shop. But physical retail is far from dead. Setting up a pop-up store is a great way to get your online store noticed offline. You can tie-in live streaming of your event to get shoppers sharing on social media.
Create your own holiday. Have you heard of Teddy Bear Day or National Bike month? (Yes, these are real things). There’s a celebration for just about anything. Why not come up with a holiday of your own for your store or best-selling product? If your store sells hats, encourage followers to tag photos wearing your product with #HappyHatDay and your business name.
Connect with influencers. Twitter released a report showing that 49% of respondents turn to influencers when choosing a product. So don’t miss out on the opportunity to reach more shoppers. Connect with popular YouTubers and bloggers to promote your products. You can give your influencers a portion of sales or free items in exchange. Let’s say you sell yoga mats. You might want to connect with yogi influencers that have a large following on Instagram or YouTube. These partnerships can help you tap into an already engaged audience.
Create viral videos. Video content can contribute to a 157% increase in organic traffic for your website. Create funny, clever videos that your audience will eagerly share. The Dallas Zoo showed this adorable video of a dancing gorilla. The video made a “big splash”, receiving over 3 million views plus national attention on major media outlets. If you have a few minutes, you can snap a short, shareable video using Wix Video Maker.
How to Maximize Your Local Reach with Guerilla Marketing
New business owners often make the mistake of focusing their marketing efforts too broadly. Make sure to have your roots in place before extending to different markets.
Think on a regional scale, both online and offline. Promote your business at community events. Connect with small businesses in your area to build partnerships and create cross-promotional offers. Contact media channels to advertise and get listed in your community business directory. Improve your local SEO ranking on Google My Business. All of these are great ways to reach out to customers in your area.
You can also get creative with guerilla marketing tactics that reach your community:
Sponsor or collaborate with local artists/musicians. Promote your brand at shows and events.
Join forces with a local business for greater reach, like this unexpected partnership between Colgate toothpaste and a pizzeria.
Create a projection display on a blank wall at night with your business’ logo.
Perform random acts of kindness in your town. Don’t forget to film and share the video.
Print, hand out or hang creative stickers of your logo. Check out these striking logo ideas for inspiration.
Ready to try out guerilla marketing for your online eCommerce website? Create a memorable campaign and surprise potential customers in clever, unusual ways.
Managing Editor, Wix eCommerce
Daniel is the Managing Editor at Wix eCommerce, where he uses his experience as a merchant, journalist and marketer to create content that helps online businesses grow.
*References included in this article are intended to serve as examples to readers and do not imply any endorsement, partnership or affiliation with mentioned parties.