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Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy in which low-cost unconventional means (graffiti, sticker bombing, flash mobs) are utilized, often in a localized fashion or large network of individual cells, to convey or promote a product or an idea. The term guerrilla marketing is easily traced to guerrilla warfare which utilizes atypical tactics to achieve a goal in a competitive and unforgiving environment.
The concept of guerrilla marketing was invented as an unconventional system of promotions that relies on time, energy and imagination rather than a big marketing budget. Typically, guerrilla marketing campaigns are unexpected and unconventional, potentially interactive, and consumers are targeted in unexpected places.
The objective of guerrilla marketing is to create a unique, engaging and thought-provoking concept to generate buzz, and consequently turn viral. The term was coined and defined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book Guerrilla Marketing (1984). The term has since entered the popular vocabulary and marketing textbooks.
Guerrilla marketing involves unusual approaches such as intercept encounters in public places, street giveaways of products, PR stunts, or any unconventional marketing intended to get maximum results from minimal resources. More innovative approaches to Guerrilla marketing now utilize mobile digital technologies to engage the consumer and create a memorable brand experience.
Guerrilla marketing focuses on low cost creative strategies of marketing. Basic requirements are time, energy, and imagination and not money. Profits, not sales, are the primary measure of success. Emphasis is on retaining existing customers rather than acquiring new ones.
Levinson's book include hundreds of "guerrilla marketing weapons," but also encourages guerrilla marketers to be creative in devising unconventional methods of promotion. Guerrilla marketers use all of their contacts, both professional and personal, and examine their company and its products, looking for sources of publicity. Many forms of publicity can be very inexpensive, or even free.
Levinson says that when implementing guerrilla marketing tactics, small size is actually an advantage. Small organizations and entrepreneurs are able to obtain publicity more easily than large companies, as they are closer to their customers and considerably more agile.
Yet ultimately, according to Levinson, the guerrilla marketer must "deliver the goods". In The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook, he states: "In order to sell a product or a service, a company must establish a relationship with the customer. It must build trust and support the customer's needs, and it must provide a product that delivers the promised benefits."
Levinson identifies the following principles as the foundation of guerrilla marketing:
- Guerrilla Marketing is specifically geared for the small business and entrepreneur.
- It should be based on human psychology rather than experience, judgement, and guesswork.
- The primary statistic to measure your business is the amount of profits, not sales.
- The marketer should also concentrate on how many new relationships are made each month.
- Create a standard of excellence with an acute focus instead of trying to diversify by offering too many diverse products and services.
- Instead of concentrating on getting new customers, aim for more referrals, more transactions with existing customers, and larger transactions.
- Forget about the competition and concentrate more on cooperating with other businesses.
- Guerrilla marketers should use a combination of marketing methods for a campaign.
- Use current technology as a tool to build your business.
- Messages are aimed at individuals or small groups, the smaller the better.
- Focuses on gaining the consent of the individual to send them more information rather than trying to make the sale.
- Commit to your campaign. Use Effective frequency instead of creating a new message theme for each campaign.
Another method devised by Chris Swanger requires a team/thinktank approach where all team members get together and come up with 2 original ideas that are very inexpensive or free to deploy. Once the idea is imagined, the team has 24 hours to execute the idea. This is called GorillaSwang.
Associated marketing trends 
The term Guerrilla Marketing is now often used more loosely as a descriptor for non-traditional media, such as:
- Reverse Graffiti — clean pavement adverts
- Viral marketing — through social networks
- Presence marketing —
- Grassroots marketing — tapping into the collective efforts of brand enthusiasts
- Wild Posting Campaigns
- Alternative marketing
- Forehead advertising — placement of temporary or permanent tattoos on foreheads
- Buzz marketing — word of mouth marketing
- Undercover marketing — subtle product placement
- Astroturfing — disguising company messaging as an authentic grassroots movement
- Experiential marketing — interaction with product
- Tissue-pack marketing — hand-to-hand marketing
- Live-in marketing — real life product placement - see related article or Hostival Connect
- Wait marketing — when and where consumers are waiting (such as medical offices and gas pumps) and receptive to communications
Guerrilla marketing was initially used by small and medium size (SMEs) businesses, but it is now increasingly adopted by large businesses.
Risks include misrepresentation of the brand image intended to be promoted as word of mouth does not always present the brand image decided, as well as reception of wrongly place products as against the interests of the consumer. Often guerrilla marketing is not very definitive if it tries to promote brand image thoroughly and creates false rumours about the brand. Also, devices used might be misunderstood, for instance:
- On January 31, 2007, several magnetic boxes with blinking LED cartoon figures were attached to metal surfaces in and around Boston, Massachusetts to promote the animated series Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The boxes were mistaken for possible explosive devices, and several subway stations, bridges, and a portion of Interstate 93 were closed as police examined, removed, and in some cases, destroyed the devices.
In some cases, risks are assessed and considered worthwhile. For example, some guerrilla marketing may incite the ire of local authorities, such was the case in Houston, Texas, when BMW's ad agency (Street Factory Media in Minneapolis)  attached a replication, made from Styrofoam, of a Mini-Cooper to the side of a downtown building.  For the cost of a small city-issued fine, the company received front page advertising on the Houston Chronicle.
See also 
- Customer experience management
- Marketing strategies
- Ambush marketing
- Small business
- Street marketing
- Undercover marketing
- Forehead advertising
- Local store marketing
- "Gotcha! Ads push the envelope" CNN/Money article
- Jay Conrad Levinson's official guerrilla marketing website
- Guerrilla Marketing Case Study
- Guerrilla Marketing services