Guerrilla is war’s little sister. Guerra is the monstrous beast and guerrilla is the pesky little bugger. Playfully taken to the marketing domain, it means that you, as a customer, are not necessarily faced with a communication blitzkrieg. You might not have to fear the barrage of mailing artillery. You would not even need to worry about a firestorm of web banners. Guerrilla marketing is more random, less regular, more distributed, and a more substantial gamble on the militaristic marketing success. Awesome guerrilla campaigns fill social media and everyone wants to become a part of it. Gruesome guerrilla campaigns merely create visual disturbances, annoy the hell out of people, they threaten brands and make sure to put enough accelerator on the marketing budget bonfire.

Tom Tailor guerrilla campaign in Munich, first days.

Guerrilla means not only different tactics, but also to bring war to the streets, to the people and to where it hurts. For guerrilla marketing, this means consequently taking the message to the streets, to the people, and where the moment of truth will be whether your audience will resonate or repulse your message. A bad guerrilla marketing campaign combines a considerable amount of “ask forgiveness rather than permission” with a thoroughly lackluster and uninspired methodology as well as a thorough lack of imagination of how the guerrilla campaign will play out. However, to do a really exceptionally bad guerrilla warfare, you completely forget about what your original aim was and then implement a solution that looks good for five minutes but feels bad for then on out. In warfare, you might hastily aim for the enemy, overshoot, and end up taking out your own general. In marketing, you might aim for building a brand, but end up tarnishing it.

Tom Tailor guerrilla campaign in Munich, after a week.

However, we’ve only discussed the relatively limited impact on the market and your own brand. You might simply not care about that. However, Guerrilla is more often than not also about willingly accepting collateral damage. In real world terms, this might mean creating, distributing, and leaving-to-rott print material that first provides not much more than visual clutter, then gradually degrades to make your neighborhood just that bit less attractive, and in the end, simply means and attracts more trash. I am certain you’ve heard of the broken window principle. I don’t mean to overreach, but if citizens have a choice of whether marketeers feel at liberty to take their neighborhoods as collateral in their petty communication wars, my bets are set.

Tom Tailor guerrilla campaign in Munich, after two weeks.

So – what can be done? Five thoughts appear sensible:

  1. Know your goal and ask whether the implementation of your campaign is a safe bet to reach that goal. Conversely, know what you value and ask whether the implementation of your campaign will be certain not to harm that.
  2. Be aware that guerrilla accepts collateral impact. Make sure the collateral is neither negative (d’oh!) nor neutral (missing out on viral scaling), but positive.
  3. If you rather ask forgiveness than permission, be at least sure that your idea is charming to some degree and that people can relate. Naked people running to a pool are not relatable in winter.
  4. Don’t produce more physical trash for the sake of your marketing campaign than truly necessary. It will seem like you simply did not get the memo on being responsible.
  5. Don’t gaffer-tape advertising crap to Deutsche Telekom boxes. Your internet connection might never ever work again.

Now, please pardon me – I am going to clean up my neighborhood. Have a wonderful weekend!