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What is guerrilla marketing and how do SMEs use it?

What is guerrilla marketing and how do SMEs use it?

“We don’t have enough money for a big marketing campaign, but we want to get noticed”. This is the challenge that many small businesses face every day, so…

How can small businesses get noticed while keeping their marketing budgets small?

Small businesses have small marketing budgets and traditional campaigns, such as billboards and TV ads, can be too costly. Just because a larger or more established company uses them doesn’t mean you have to. Instead of investing large amounts of money in traditional marketing campaigns, small businesses are finding ways to invest their creativity and reap the benefits. It’s called guerrilla marketing.

This type of marketing sets you apart from the competition and can earn you a reputation for being creative and relying heavily on inexpensive print media such as posters, stickers and leaflets.

What is guerrilla marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is difficult to define, but it is characterised by bringing your product to life. The most basic element of guerrilla marketing is to surprise potential consumers. It aims to get the attention of the media and the public through non-traditional means, thus discarding traditional marketing such as newspaper, television or radio advertisements.

Consumers are bombarded with traditional advertising in all areas of their lives and expect it to some extent. You have probably seen dozens of advertisements or commercials this week, but? Do you remember every one of them? One of the goals of guerrilla marketing is to be remembered and make authentic connections.

Audiences will encounter guerrilla marketing campaigns in their daily lives, just like traditional media, but guerrilla marketing stands out and makes consumers think twice about what they’ve just seen.

Enhanced brand awareness

Guerrilla marketing connects with your customers in a way that TV or magazine ads simply cannot. A small business can become part of the consumer’s everyday life.

While social media and digital media can be great tools for connecting with your audience, guerrilla marketing is a physical and authentic way to connect with your customers.

By using creativity, a company is able to communicate what sets it apart, as well as the personality of the brand, and give customers something to connect with. If your advertisements are different and surprising, customers will remember your brand as creative.

Ideas and examples of guerrilla marketing

Advertising for Folgers manhole cover.

Not all small businesses are the same and the way you market your business should be in line with your business identity. When thinking of ideas for a guerrilla marketing campaign, think first about your brand identity and personality. Your goal should be for consumers to make the connection between your unconventional ad and your product. As an example, take Folgers.

Folgers Coffee was able to use guerrilla marketing on manhole covers in major cities so that when the steam came out, it looked like a hot cup of coffee and not the typical manhole cover.

Think about what your product or brand identity is and play with it. Not every type of business will succeed by printing ads on manhole covers like Folgers, but neither will every business be able to do what you can do.

Example of guerrilla marketing sewer

Ideas for stickers

Stickers or vinyl may have the greatest potential power of all.

Can you imagine Washington DC being covered in 1984 stickers with Big Brother watching? It would be a statement that everyone in the city would know was politically motivated. Not every company has the identity that would align with this kind of campaign, but it’s an idea that consumers would immediately make a connection with.

Can you think of something you can do with your company? Some skydiving companies are putting cityscape stickers from high above on lift floors to give people the feeling that they are flying.

When Pirates of the Caribbean was released in cinemas, they were able to put coloured wooden stickers on diving boards in public and private pools to give divers the feeling that they were walking the plank. Can you imagine yourself on that diving board and the immediate connection to the film? These are all little twists on the usual advertising that become guerrilla because they are able to instantly connect with consumers.

Brochure ideas

Have you ever walked back to your car and on the antenna was a small flyer promoting a business? This is pretty typical of print marketing in our everyday lives. A small flyer advertising a sale or a new restaurant.

How can this type of marketing surprise our consumers and become guerrilla?

Imagine you have a restaurant, instead of a typical five-by-seven brochure, advertise your restaurant on a piece of paper that looks like food and when placed on the antenna it looks like a shish kebab.

A dentist’s office could hang leaflets with strips of paper at the bottom that look like teeth. The more pieces of paper people pick up, the more the smile will break.

A toy shop can hand out leaflets made by children that are not based on strong sales pitches. Crude children’s drawings with crayons and watercolours would have a different effect than a traditional sales pitch designed for the adults who buy the toys.

These are small twists on old marketing ideas that may resonate better with customers. Use your imagination; remember that guerrilla marketing isn’t about investing a big budget, it’s about investing creativity.

Ideas for posters

A sign doesn’t always have to be an event or business sign with information on it. A barbershop can hang posters with wild haircuts that if someone were to stand in front of it they would give the impression that they have that hair. I’m sure you’ve seen companies using posters on lifts that when the doors open and close create different images. It’s a simple idea that companies are using to connect with consumers. The power is not that the lift acts as just another sign, but that it’s an unexpected advertisement and one that often resonates with potential customers.


Pringles marketing at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

No need to force anything. One of the powers of guerrilla marketing is that consumers will connect the creative with your brand immediately. You don’t have to beat them over the head with a sales pitch. A great example is how Pringles turned up at Wimbledon a few years ago and handed out free cans of crisps with the label “these are not tennis balls”. This idea needs a bigger marketing budget, but authenticity is what we can get out of it.

Pringles and consumers know that its packaging looks like tennis ball tubes and just that simple message is able to connect with a large group of people who were amused by it. When the Batman films were re-released as The Dark Knight, the movie studio rented search lights in cities across the United States and projected the Batman symbol for the premiere. This type of marketing was not about “come see the movie”, but about making connections with consumers and offering them something memorable.

Be careful when using guerrilla marketing

Guerrilla marketing is all about surprising consumers with your advertising, and some companies have even defaced public property or put ads where they shouldn’t be. Use common sense when putting up stickers or posters. You can get into trouble if you are not careful. Don’t deface property and use your head when thinking about how you are going to run a guerrilla marketing campaign or you could end up in jail.


When a marketing campaign is not memorable, it has not done its job. Traditional marketing is expected, repetitive, bland and doesn’t connect with consumers as well as guerrilla marketing. The strength of guerrilla marketing is that it stands out against all odds and creates an instant connection with customers. Be creative, use your imagination. Stickers, posters and leaflets can be your best friend on a low budget, and even companies with big budgets use them because they are more memorable.


Richard H.

With a lifelong dedication to the printing industry, I have collaborated with various print houses, honing my expertise in pre-print design, material selection, and technical intricacies. As a seasoned professional, I bring to "The Color Blog" deep insights into materials and the world of printing, aiming to shed light on the craftsmanship and nuances behind each printed masterpiece.View Author posts

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