Free technical help for digital creators - music, video, art, photography, graphic & web design

Guerilla marketing by Toby Stack 2008

In this article we are going to focus on the area know as "Guerilla Marketing". This term is used to refer to low budget creative marketing rather than the more traditional means of online, print and direct marketing.

Viral marketing

One major aspect of guerilla marketing is "viral marketing", which is the process of spreading your website or a product by "word of mouth" using pre-existing social networks such as ...

  • forums
  • blogs
  • YouTube
  • myspace
  • chat rooms
  • etc)

The process involves a business or individual creating a fun or interesting "hook" such as a on-line game, animation or video, and then releasing it to small number of people, perhaps on a blog or social networking site. Because the people find it fun or interesting they will tend to talk about it online or post it on myspace or perhaps e-mail it to people they know. Thus awareness of you site or product will spread from person to person like a virus.

What are the advantages?

Viral marketing is often preferred over traditional traditional methods for a number of reasons ...

  • Production of your hook can be low cost, you only need a good idea
  • It does not suffer from being though of as spam as the people spreading the word are members of the community
  • There are minimal distribution costs (just someone's time joining an online community and posting the hook)
  • If you include a link to the business site people will click through
  • Raises brand awareness in the increasingly important online business world

Be cautious

However the line between spam and marketing is quite a thin one, you should probably aim to take a subtle approach initially posting on sites directly related to you site or product and preferably on sites where you already have an on-line presence, if you don't already have a presence on the site perhaps try building up a rapport with members of the site before slipping in a link to your site this is far more labour intensive but will be much more likely to result in visits to your site. Initially less is more and if you handle things badly you may risk turning people against you and develop a reputation for spamming.


The Subservient Chicken

An example of a successful viral marketing project is The Subservient Chicken a burger king advertising program where you can command a man dressed in a chicken suit to do various actions. The site was originally mentioned on a few chat sites by members of the ad agency involved but was quickly spread across the internet by people mentioning it on blog and forums and also spread by email with the site offering a "tell a friend" link which opens your email client with a pre-formatted message ready. This ploy was so successful the site got 20 million visits during the first week alone.

Cadbury's Gorilla ad

A second example is the Cadbury's Gorilla ad, although the ad it self is a piece of traditional advertising, the surrounding hype about the ad was mainly spread by word of mouth on website's and by the uploading of the video to a number of video sharing sites most prominently youtube. A further boost was given by the number of spoofs and parodies that appeared, although they were sometimes in conflict with copyright they helped keep the advert in the public eye.

Although such slick advertising gimmicks are perhaps beyond the scope of most small businesses a number of the concepts are worth looking at.

Coming up with an idea

The key to getting people to link to and talk about your site or product is the hook you use, be it a game a video or even some form of freebie or offer. This is what is going to be the hardest part of any market scheme and you may find it worth while spending a large amount of time brainstorming with other people trying to think up a large range of possible options which then can be narrowed down to potential marketing projects

If you are not capable of writing a website game yourself it is probably a good idea to try to avoid this concept as unless you have an exceptional idea for a game the cost of developing a game may not be made back in increased sales.


A simpler option is the use of video, video making equipment is relatively cheap and many promotional videos can get away with quite poor production, a very good example of this is ok go's video for "here it goes again" which appears to be low budget but had huge successes.

Free stuff

People love free stuff, and because it's free you can afford to be a little rougher around the edges. For example do you specialise in music? Remember all those demo tapes you have sitting around? They are not worth selling but with a bit of editing and a voice over track talking about concepts and influences you will have a nice little "behind the scenes" album available free to download. If your a web design company you may want to knock up some free templates, not anything that people would want to use in the long run but a great hook for new customers.


If your not feeling very witty or creative try to be informative, although perhaps less fashionable that fun and games tutorials and articles are also good places to start, avoid text based articles, sites like wikipedia have the market for text based article fairly well sown up, if your going to make an impact try using videos, animation and sound and if possible interaction.

Evaluating success

One slight problem is that even if a marketing scheme is a success it may not lead to large increase in sales, for example you may find yourself emailing your friends to tell the about the subservient chicken or the drumming gorilla but will you find yourself going out to buy chocolate and burgers? Be careful about the amount of time and money you invest in any marketing scheme as you need to make sure that the scheme has a worth while return on investment but also be aware that even if it doesn't lead to a large amount of sales directly it will increase brand awareness and may lead to increased sales in the long term.

Even if you don't make sales try to build up a customer database, a simple system that will allow you to collect the email addresses of visitors to your site can be the starting point of a successful email sales campaign that targets people who already have some interest in your site or product.