Modern Economy, 2013, 4, 1-6 Published Online September 2013 (
Guerrilla Marketing—Innovative or Parasitic Marketing?
Gerd Nufer
ESB Business School, Reutlingen University, Reutlingen, Germany
Received April 17, 2013; revised May 17, 2013; accepted June 17, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Gerd Nufer. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which
permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Guerrilla marketing designates the selection of atypical and non-dogmatic marketing activities that aim to achieve the
greatest possible impact—in the ideal case with a comparable minimum investment. Guerrilla marketing has developed
into a basic strategy overarching the marketin g mix, a basic marketing policy attitude for market development that go es
off the beaten track to consciously seek new, unconventional, previously disregarded, possibly even frown-upon possi-
bilities for the deployment of tools. It is a fine line between innovative, creative marketing and producing reactance in
the minds of the audience by exceeding limits. While guerrilla marketing activities can be seen more and more in the
marketing practice, the phenomenon is either discussed very controversially in the marketing science or even neglected
completely in the scientific marketing literature. The paper gives an overview of guerrilla marketing. It describes and
structures guerrilla marketing in a novel form an d shows illustrating examples. Finally, guerrilla marketing is evaluated
from a neutral perspective and developmental trends are traced.
Keywords: Guerrilla Marketing; Marketing Communication s; Marketing Mix; Innovative Marketing
1. Introduction
These days, companies are primarily engaged in a com-
munications competition and no longer in competition
over products. Due to intensified communications efforts,
the attempt is being made to counter the increasing ho-
mogenization of products by achieving a needs-oriented
differentiation. The communications market is undergo-
ing economic, communicative and social changes that are
making reorientation of communications policy a neces-
sity. The willingness of the public to be subjected to a
static, continuously repetitive and thereby allegedly bor-
ing constant stream of information and communication
continues to drop. According to various studies, the level
of information overload of a consumer amounts to be-
tween 95 and 98 per cent—i.e. only a minute fraction of
the information being offered has even the slightest
chance of being absorbed by consumers [1,2].
To keep scatter loss as low as possible, an inter-in-
strumental shift is taking place in favor of non-classical
communications tools, as the failure of classical, conven-
tional forms of advertising to be effective becomes in-
creasingly evident. This is giving rise to a demand for
innovative new marketing strategies such as guerrilla
marketing. Guerrilla marketing offers new and unusual
opportunities to counter the increasing consumer aver-
sion to advertising.
2. Characterization of Guerri lla M ar ke ti ng
The term “guerrilla” originates with the military. “Guer-
rilla” is the diminutive of the Spanish word for war,
“guerra”. Thus, “guerrilla” is equivalent to “small war”
or “partisan warfare” whose goal it is to weaken the op-
ponent in certain spots [3].
The transfer of the guerrilla concept to marketing ter-
minology results in diverse interpretations and opinions
as to the implementation and functions of guerrilla mar-
keting. The fundamental determinant in characterizing
guerrilla marketing is its unconventional nature. “Guer-
rilla marketing is a body of unconventional ways of pur-
suing conventional goals. It is a proven method of
achieving profits with minimum money” [4].
For the following analysis a comprehensive definition
of guerrilla marketing is applied: Guerrilla marketing is
as an alternative, holistic marketing approach. The con-
cept designates the selection of atypical and non-dog-
matic marketing activities that aim to achieve the greatest
possible impact with a minimum investment. Guerrilla
marketing has developed into a basic strategy overarch-
ing the marketing mix, a basic marketing policy attitude
for market development that goes off the beaten track to
consciously seek new, unconventional, previously disre-
garded, possibly even frown-upon possibilities for the
deployment of tools [3 - 5].
opyright © 2013 SciRes. ME
There are many other approaches to defining and at-
tempts at circumscribing the term guerrilla marketing. In
reviewing these, one can identify constantly recurring
constituent characteristics of guerrilla marketing. Ac-
cording to these, guerrilla marketin g is [6-8]:
In summary, it can be stated that the philosophy of
guerrilla marketing consists of attaining conventional
marketing objectiv es with unconv entional method s. Thus,
surprising content can turn a classical advertising vehicle
or medium into a guerrilla marketing activity. In this way,
guerrilla marketing does not make traditional marketing
obsolete, but has a supportive point-to-point effect and
helps the marketing mix, mainly the communications
mix, to take on an innovative new face. At its core, guer-
rilla marketing aims to be different and to attract atten-
tion. As a rule, a comparatively smaller investment (than
is common for traditional marketing) should achieve as
great an impact as possible [3,7,8].
3. Marketing Mix for Guerrilla Marketing
With its creative and unconventional approaches, guer-
rilla marketing can enrich the entire marketing mix, al-
though typically in varying degrees of frequency of ap-
plication (see Figure 1). Guerrilla marketing functions as
a bundle of accompanying measures that make strategic
and tactical modifications to the classical marketing mix
to provide the company with an advantage through con-
text-specific unusualness.
The concept of guerrilla marketing was initially prac-
ticed before it found its way, with some delay, into aca-
demic literature. Therefore the following classification of
guerrilla marketing within the marketing mix draws on
vivid examples of its practical application [3,6].
3.1. Guerrilla Product Policy
Since the year 2000, gherkins of the Spreewaldhof brand
have also been available in tins. Spreewaldhof packs its
popular 250 g gherkins individually, stylishly in ring-pull
aluminum tins that are sold at petrol stations, supermar-
kets, discotheques and fitness centers (see Figure 2). The
break with the predominant stereotypical packaging of
gherkins in a glass jar as well as with the conventional
distribution channels is apparent. These unusual meas-
Figure 1. Application of guerrilla marketing in the market-
ing mix. Source: [3].
Figure 2. Example of guerrilla product policy.
ures aim at gaining a competitive advantage over com-
petitors. In the context of the product policy, guerrilla
marketing can, for example, exert some influence on de-
cision-making factors with regard to the actual product,
the packaging and the choice of a name.
3.2. Guerrilla Price Policy
As early as the 1980’s Drypers, then a newcomer on the
American nappy market, attacked market leader Procter
& Gamble and its Pampers brand with an aggressive
pricing strategy with its low-priced nappies. Procter &
Gamble reacted with a coupon promotion that offered
consumers a generous discount of 2 US$ with the pur-
chase of P&G nappies. But Drypers retaliated cleverly.
They offered customers the option of also using the P&G
coupons for the purchase of Drypers nappies—with suc-
cess. The guerrilla element in this cour se of action is pri-
marily the flexibility and canniness of Drypers, in turning
the weapon directed at them around and using it as their
own. Thus, guerrilla marketing decisions are also appli-
cable to price policy.
3.3. Guerrilla Distribution Policy
Customers who had pre-ordered the fifth volume of the
popular Harry Potter-series entitled “The Order of the
Phoenix” from the Weltbild publishing house were free
to choose the time of delivery. The special aspect here
was the option of flash delivery by the German post, at
the witching hour between 00.00 and 02.00 hours on the
night of the p ublication date—and with out an y additio nal
charge. In so doing, Weltbild wanted to offer its custom-
ers an unusual service and a time advantage. This makes
it clear that guerrilla marketing can also be used in dis-
tribution policy.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ME
3.4. Guerrilla Communications Policy
However, guerrilla principles can be most efficiently
integrated in communications policy-related measures.
Viewed from this perspective, guerrilla marketing is
among the non-classical forms of communications policy
(“below the line” activities). The deployment of classical
tools of the communications mix forms the basis upon
which guerrilla marketing is selectively applied as an
additive, surprising component of integrated communica-
tions (see Figure 3).
Guerrilla marketing is primarily used as a communica-
tions policy. Therefore, th e following paragraph will deal
with the various application possibilities of guerrilla
marketing in terms of communications policy in greater
4. Guerrilla Marketing Tools
Guerrilla marketing can be implemented with diverse
tools. Thereby, until now no uniform categorization of
these instruments has prevailed. In the following the
most important instruments of guerrilla marketing are
structured in the three categories “infection guerrilla
marketing”, “surprise guerrilla marketing” and “ambush
marketing”. “Low budget guerrilla marketing” is a spe-
cial case that can be subsumed to all other categories (see
Figure 4).
Low-budget guerrilla marketing is particularly suited
for small and mid-sized companies that have only very
limited budgets at their disposal. While infection guer-
rilla marketing attempts to make use of the opportunities
especially provided by the new media, surprise guerrilla
marketing concentrates on communications instruments
that are employed in the public space or at special loca-
Figure 3. Examples of guerrilla communications policy.
Figure 4. Overview of tools of guerrilla marketing.
tions. Finally ambush marketing mainly occurs in the
context of sporting events.
4.1. Low-Budget Guerrilla Marketing
For small and mid-sized companies the emphasis of their
communications policy is on the direct address of the
(often regional) target group with creative, unusual and
quirky ideas. Their aim is to underscore special features
and “otherness”, thereby imbuing the company with a
special significance in the eyes of consumers. This ap-
proach thrives primarily on a long-term, consistent com-
mitment [8,9]. Examples as to how awareness can be
attained with cost-efficient low-budget marketing activi-
ties include eye-catching calling cards that project a clear
and simple message or specially dressed-up promotion
teams distributing original flyers and give-aways.
4.2. Infection Guerrilla Marketing
Infection guerrilla marketing includes viral marketing
and mobile marketing.
4.2.1. Vira l Marketing
The infection strategy of viral marketing is similar to that
of biological viruses: however, instead of the prolifera-
tion of pathogens, the focus here is on the exponential
dissemination of a marketing message. By recommend-
ing a product or service to friends or acquaintances, con-
sumers themselves become the advertising vehicles –
whereby neither the transmitter nor the receiver of the
message perceives the recommendation as advertising.
The dissemination of the message can take place offline
by word of mouth communication (mouth to mouth pro-
paganda, buzz marketing) or online, virtually “from
mouse to mouse” [10,11]. For example, within only half
a year Johnny Walker’s free PC game “Grouse Hunt”
was downloaded from the internet by a total of 40 mil-
lion users, thus propelling the brand to immense aware-
ness levels.
A further outstanding example of a viral marketing
campaign is the marketing of the low-budget film “The
Blair Witch Project”. The guerrilla campaign began as
early as two years before the film hit the cinemas. The
“Independent Film Channel” broadcast an unusual
documentary about the disappearance of three students in
the forests of the state of Maryland in the US. The televi-
sion channel associated the disappearance with a spooky
witch legend, which was reinforced by the statements of
both the filmmakers Myrick and Sanchez during an in-
terview. Their assertions that they were in possession of
mysterious videotapes subsequently unleashed curiosity
and sensationalist cravings among the public. With the
design and laun ch of a website, the falsification of police
documents and photographic evidence as well as accom-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ME
panying reports in high-circulation magazines (such as
Time Magazine and Newsweek) they generated addi-
tional free PR (see Figure 5). The website of the docu-
mentary film project recorded 100,000 hits after one
week, a number that grew to over 2 million by the launch
of the film. The public was infected by the Blair Witch
virus and captivated [10,11].
4.2.2. Guerrilla Mobile
Mobile marketing deals with the transmission of mes-
sages via mobile phones. Here, the jumping-off po int for
the use of guerrilla marketing is the fact that today the
smartphone has advanced to the status of steady com-
panion for many people in all life situations, thereby
making the consumer approachable at any given time. By
sending creative and humorous messages, for example
via SMS, the objective is not only to have the advertising
messages instantly read and absorbed, but ideally also
immediately passed on to friends and acquaintances. The
close association with viral marketing is obvious. As the
options—with infrared, Bluetooth and MMS—steadily
become more diversified, the significance of the mobile
communications market for companies continues to grow
In the run-up to the cinema release of the thriller “Hide
and Seek” the film production company Twentieth Cen-
tury Fox sent 100,000 young people a text message with
the following content: “Why don’t you turn around…”
By scrolling down the message, the initially baffled tar-
get persons were able to learn the solution: “You don’t
see me! I am hiding. HIDE AND SEEK, the horror
thriller now at the cinema.” [8].
4.3. Surprise Guerrilla Marketing
Surprise guerrilla marketing encompasses the tools am-
bient marketing and sensation marketing.
4.3.1. Ambi ent Marketing
Ambient media is a collective term that aggregates all
non-classical advertising media. Ambient media are
placed and integrated in the direct living environment of
consumers—are therefore not perceived as annoying, but
rather often seen as likeable and original (e.g. postcards
Figure 5. Example of viral marketing.
in trendy pubs, shower gel samples in locker rooms of
fitness studios). Special hallmarks of ambient marketing
are the radical nature, the speed and the creativity with
which the public space is co-opted. Consumers are taken
by surprise with advertising where they don’t anticipate
it. The advertising message is transmitted in popular lo-
cations such as clubs, bus stops, the baggage conveyer at
the airport or petrol pumps while refueling. Here, swit-
ching channels is not an option. Ambient marketing can
be planned and is repeatable [3,10].
Public lavatories in particular have been discovered by
the advertising industry as a place where “induced forced
involvement”, thus a high-involvement situation can be
generated and used for the placement of advertising mes-
sages (see Figure 6).
4.3.2. Sensation Mar keting
Sensation marketing is basically very similar to ambient
marketing. The main difference being that as a general
rule sensation marketing activities are one-time occur-
rences, and not repeatable. The aim is to surprise and
fascinate the consumers and produce an “aha” or a
“wow” effect. The terms “guerrilla sensation” and “am-
bient stunt” represent unusual, spectacular special activi-
ties [8].
Guerrilla sensation refers to a dynamic activity in-
volving people. An example of this would be the “Street
Show” of jeans brand Lee tha t staged unann ounced fash-
ion shows on the streets of large cities.
On the other hand, the ambient stunt entails a spec-
tacular static installation whose presentation is no less
unconventional. The media-effective activities are con-
ducted at strategic, high-traffic locations in order to gen-
erate a great deal of attention. This form of guerrilla
marketing also makes use of multipliers such as media
dissemination and viral effects in order to inform as
broad a public as possible of the stunt. The auto rental
company Sixt has been attracting attention for several
years with flashy guerrilla sensation activities, and sports
equipment maker Nike attempts to regularly surprise its
target audience with sens ation marketing (see Figure 7).
4.4. Ambush Marketing
For many companies, it is major international sporting
events (e.g. the Football World Cup or the Olympics)
Figure 6. Examples of ambient marketing.
Source: http://www.sit- watch. de
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ME
Figure 7. Examples of sensation mark etin g.
Source: http://www.adverb
that constitute the ideal platform for the integration of
their target group-specific marketing communication into
an attractive sports environment. Sports event organizers
therefore sell exclusive marketing rights for their events
to official sponsors, who, in return, acquire exclusive
options to utilize the even t for their own advertising pur-
poses. Ambush marketing is the method used by compa-
nies that do not actually hold marketing rights to an ev en t,
but still use their marketing activities in diverse ways to
establish a connection to it (see Figure 8).
Ambush marketing is the practice by companies of
using their own marketing, particularly marketing com-
munications activities, to give an impression of an asso-
ciation with the event to th e event audience, although the
companies in question have no legal or only underprivi-
leged or non-exclusive marketing rights for this event
sponsored by third parties. Thus, ambushers want to pro-
mote and sell products via an association with the event
as official sponsors are allo wed to do [12].
5. Critical Assessment
A selective distinction and unambiguous categorization
of the various guerrilla marketing instrumen ts is not pos-
sible. On the contrary, the individual instruments com-
plement one another and thus function synergistically to
produce the actual impact of guerrilla marketing.
New opportunities for marketing arise from the chang-
es taking place in markets, in communications and con-
sumers. Jung and von Matt have determined that “It is
good to know the most important rules of communication,
for then one can break them more purposefully” [13].
Guerrilla marketing attempts to counteract the pre-
vailing marketing monotony and to get a hold of con-
sumers in the space where classical marketing abandons
them. Today, guerrilla marketing is therefore viewed as
an especially spectacular and media-effective comple-
ment to the classical marketing mix. The prevailing dy-
namics and spontaneity of this concept increase the will-
ingness of advertiser companies and consumers to inter-
act. The emotion-spiked messages facilitate th e decoding
of the encrypted message and its absorption by consumers.
Guerrilla marketing is emotional and effective, and yet at
the same time inexpensive. It helps marketers to
Figure 8. Examples of ambush marketing.
establish a brand as the friend of the customer [14].
Guerrilla marketing should be new, brash and pro-
vocative. The consequence of this is that guerrilla mar-
keters often find themselves operating in a moral and
legal grey area, in a balancing act between morality and
bad taste or legality and illegality that results from the
requirement to breach taboos and the associated greater
attention levels. As opposed to classical marketing
methods, the result is higher potential for moral and legal
conflict. Cautious and meticulous planning in the execu-
tion of guerrilla activities is called for, as guerrilla mar-
keting may thwart the brand building and image of the
company with such an activity. Accompanied by the
break with conventions and mores, guerrilla marketing
ranges between fascination and annoyance, and this can
have a negative effect on the image and may even de-
stroy the core values of the brand .
6. Conclusions and Developmental Trends
Overall, guerrilla marketing cannot and does not seek to
replace the classical marketing mix, but rather to illus-
trate new directions and, as a comprehensive new con-
cept, support the proven marketing tools and supplement
them with unconventional elements [3,7].
Guerrilla marketing involves a concept that has been
heavily driven by business or corporate practice. The
shortage, up to now, of scientifically substantiated
knowledge on the subject matter of guerrilla marketing,
its instruments and its categorization may be interpreted
from two different points of view: guerrilla marketing
cannot be classified or guerrilla marketing is difficult to
Guerrilla Marketing is increasingly developing into an
effective spearhead of the marketing and communica-
tions mix, to gain a decisive advantage in the battle for
the attention and the receptiveness of the consumer.
Guerrilla marketing operates by the simple principle:
KISS—keep it simple, stupid [15].
Guerrilla marketing is a dynamic concept that sheds its
skin again and again, as it circumvents the trad itional old
methods and their application. The release from the
bonds of marketing convention has consistently attested
to the endlessness of opportunities inherent in marketing.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ME
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. ME
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