The Top 26 Best Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns Of All Time

No matter what the product or service, marketing and advertising is a necessity for brands around the world. In a world where brands have a cut-throat battle with advertising clutter, it is essential that marketing efforts are creative, pioneering, and sometimes shocking to potential consumers to differentiate themselves from the masses of products and businesses in the marketplace. Even more, consumers are paying less attention to traditional forms of advertising which makes it more important for marketers to take a grassroots approach to spreading the word about their brand.

The grassroots, take-it-to-the-streets method is dirt-cheap and chock full of cunning deception, guerrilla marketing is advertising with a twist. Successful guerrilla marketing campaigns usually corral attention of thousands--maybe millions--through hidden strategy before revealing their true purpose and the best campaigns render no negative sentiment. Guerrilla marketing can use a combination of marketing mediums including public relations, advertising, design and marketing into an offensive creative and sometimes shocking promotion strategy to reach the end consumers. Attention-getting street graphics, strange occurrences, memorable events, buzz, and product placement great mediums for this type of marketing. Check out what, in my opinion, are...

The best guerrilla marketing campaigns of all time

1. Threat Level: Aqua

In the winter of 2007, the Cartoon Network created a marketing stunt that perked the ears of not only millions of people, but the FBI. The marketing promotion for the network's "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" featured a backpack-sized, battery-powered device with wires and light studding its facade promoting the late-night cartoon strategically placed throughout populated areas in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Unfortunately, people took this deft marketing ploy as a threat to national security, raising the concern of emergency crews, federal agents, bomb squads, hundreds of police and the U.S. Coast Guard. Manpower, time, and money were devoted to protecting the city from a suspected terrorist threat that turned out to be nothing more than a marketing ploy. This marketing tactic generated a serious scare but nonetheless created a huge buzz for the this late-night cartoon from coast to coast.

2. Promoting Cellphone sales with a No-Coverage Area

During the 2002 Bledisloe Cup, a major rugby event in Austraila, two streakers blasted onto the field of a high-profile rugby match wearing nothing but a Vodafone logo painted on their backs. Admittedly, streaking at a sports event isn't exactly uncommon, but sponsored striking very much is. The fact that the match was held in Telstra Stadium- Telstra being Vodafone's competitor. This extreme, controversial and questionably illegal marketing stunt was viewed by the thousands of fans present at the cup, and thousands more through international media coverage. Millions of television viewers witnessed the streaking event, and it was covered everywhere from CNN to the front page of the The London Times and rang in the endorsement.

3. A Roof Over Their Heads

An international humanitarian organization called Médecins du Monde (link to: http://www.medecinsdumonde.org/), aimed to offer care for destitute populations pulled one of the most clever and altruistic grassroots marketing efforts in 2005 when the group staged a campaign to draw attention to the issue of homelessness in Paris. Nicknamed the "tent city", the organization apportioned hundreds of tents to vagrant Parisians. Hundreds of homeless gathered along a area along Parisian canals. The quickly fashioned shelter, which carried the Médecins du Monde logo, drew immediate attention to the issue of homelessness and aroused such vast public clamor that the the city of Paris was forced to act. In result, the French government immediately allocated nearly $10 million for emergency housing in Paris, proving to be one of the most effective and benevolent guerrilla marketing campaigns in the world to date.

4. King Ronald

In 2005, Burger King implemented a guerilla marketing campaign to increase their burger sales in Asia by alluring more consumers into Burger King restaurants. Burger King promoters decided to target their number one beefy competitor, McDonald's by strategically placing branded Burger King items by placing Burger King t-shirts on Ronald McDonald statues, planting large footprints from McDonald's to Burger King, and putting signs on empty benches that read "Gone to BK — Ronald." Though a bit abrasive and cut-throat, this guerrilla marketing technique rendered attention of Asian consumers... and ultimately was extremely successful.

5. RidING for Free

ING Direct initiated guerrilla campaigns to promote their new "Orange" online banking solutions (link to: http://home.ingdirect.com/) a few years back. They diverged from traditional marketing efforts in the metropolitan regions of Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. by creating a buzz by offering free rides around metro areas. To promote the new "Orange" service, this marketing savvy financial institution sponsored rides on public transportation networks all over metro areas. Within the buses and trains orange-suited brand ambassadors leafleted passengers with promotional materials... and to put icing on the cake, ING placed ads in metro subway cars and on the sides of buses with their tangerine ambassadors. The event captured the attention of immediate prospects and generated extensive media coverage.

6. Di*sel is no longer a dirty word

Another very popular form of guerrilla marketing is "reverse graffiti", a technique where marketers literally paint the streets with subversive imagery. Difficult to execute, and sometimes controversial this form of guerrilla marketing can be extremely successful because it catches the eye of hundreds of potential consumers, plus gets the grassroots communication ball rollin'. A prime example of successful reverse graffitti is with the high-end automotive company, Audi, was trying to promote their clean diesel engines. Audi painted the streets with messaging that read,"Di*sel is no longer a dirty word" around selected streets in metropolitan areas.

7. Spread Firefox

The tiny nonprofit web-browser Mozilla Corp., who has captured nearly a quarter of the web-browsing market employs grassroots marketing at its finest. This innovative company uses 100 percent organic marketing techniques (similar to Google) to promote their fast-growing tech service. At the middle of Firefox's marketing efforts is SpreadFirefox.com, a digital hub for the Firefox community and all of its related marketing activities. There are three core components here. Mozilla has set up a community forum where users can participate in projects and chat with others via message boards providing seamless customer service capabilities; they can contribute by becoming part of their global project of spreading the world about the business worldwide.

8. Lost Cats and Kias

Kia, a thrifty automobile corporation took from old-school marketing techniques when they executed their recent "spend less" campaign. In the campaign, KIA marketers literally "took it to the streets" when they posted thousands of fliers in metro areas with tear-away messaging about their "spend less" campaign. This campaign was proven effective as it was unique (usually fliers are limited to missing cats and rental opportuntites)... plus it got a high-five from marketing gurus across the world. What a great idea?!

9. Andre the Giant Has A Posse

Most marketing ploys are created to promote a product, but in some cases they can represent a cultural ideal. A prime example is the "Andre the Giant has a Posse" campaign. As racy as it is pervasive, the "Obey Giant" grassroots campaign began when a Rhode Island art student crafted a handful of stickers and started putting them up around Providence. Mirroring European propaganda posters, the stickers showed imagery of the professional wrestler Andre "The Giant" plus marketing messages that read "Obey" and "Andre the Giant Has A Posse." The stickers' message was unclear --and the artist accidentally created this guerrilla marketing campaign, marketing strategists applauded this for its portrayal of how marketing can sometimes be an accident. The stickers spread underground to major metropolitan areas and within a few years all over the world. The stickers are hip and cryptic, and they capitalize on the fact that most people think it's cool to be part of something not everyone understands. These stickers force you to think... as the message is not easy to understand.

10. The Red Bull Pit Stop

Red Bull, known in the industry for grassroots and guerrilla marketing, recently executed a marketing stunt in Times Square in NYC with a NASCAR-style pit stop. Combating for the attention of New Yorkers is a struggle with the thousands of billboards, street signs and cacophony, but Red Bull's sample session in the middle of Time Square turned out to be huge success.

11. Fetching Fans

Effective marketing often times happens when you surprise consumers, leaving a resonating message about a brand in the consumer's minds. Imagine if you are walking through a mall and see an unleashed dog runs past you with a bag of dog food in their mouth. Several dogs in South Africa were trained for a cute ambient marketing campaign for Eukanuba to carry a bag of Eukanuba dog food between specific spots in the mall. This guerrilla marketing stunt caused positive sentiment, increased awareness of Eukanuba and rendered great publicity worldwide!


12. The Beautiful Women Are Already Here. Why Aren't You?

One of the oldest examples of savvy guerrilla marketing is the age-old The Miss America Pageant. The pageant began in the early 1920s to attract commerce and tourists to Atlantic City by featuring local buxom and beautiful women. This stunt quickly grew in popularity as thousands of Atlantic City visitors attended the weeklong series of annual parties, parades, fireworks shows, dances, and most importantly the beauty competition. Today The Miss America Pageant has morphed into a landmark American event. Atlantic City is still reaping the benefits of this successful marketing stunt, and millions still watch this beauty competition.

13. Elephants For Hire

P.T. Barnum, a pioneer in the public relations industry fashioned a number of publicity stunts that rendered extremely successful grassroots communication in the early 1900s. One of his most famous stunts was when he was hired by New York City to prove the strength of the newly constructed Brooklyn bridge. What more would prove the strength than a heard of elephants, weighing about a ton each crossed over the bridge. He had an elephant plow the fields on his property. Barnum knew an elephant would grab their attention and provide an unforgettable publicity stunt. "Newspaper reporters came from far and near, and wrote glowing accounts of the elephantine performances," Barnum wrote.

14. Soaring Sales: The Goodyear Blimp

The Goodyear blimp is a longstanding perfect example of effective guerrilla marketing. The Blimp began in 1925 when Goodyear built its first airship, called the Pilgrim which came equipped with branded colors and the Goodyear company logo). The tire company began barnstorming the United States. Today, these graceful giants log over 400,000 air miles per year traveling across the world as Goodyear's Global "Aerial Ambassadors." In every town the blimp visits, young and old look up in the sky and smile in recognition. Goodyear marketers went even further to maximize media exposure by offering televised rides to the media. Goodyear estimates that more than 60 million people see its three U.S.-based blimps every year, according to the Publicityinsider.com (http://www.publicityinsider.com/HallOfFame.asp#8). The blimp staff makes sure to maximize exposure by giving televised rides to the media. Other rides are given to local Goodyear dealership owners, large corporate customers, investors, contest winners, celebrities and political dignitaries.

15. I Wish I Were An Oscar Meyer Driver

One of the most recognizable brands in America is the Oscar Meyer, thanks to its famous Weinermobile, a mobile hot dog on wheels. Equipped with a large staff of drivers, the Weinermobile cruises from coast to coast to promote and render attention from onlookers. Though there is little messaging associated with this marketing stunt, the imagery of a 100-foot hot dog is enough!



16. Turkeys Away

Station manager from WKRP-Cincinnati created a hilarious but controversial marketing stunt where he arranged to have live turkeys dropped from a helicopter. In the taped broadcast, the radio broadcasters said,"It's a helicopter, and it's coming this way. It's flying something behind it, I can't quite make it out, it's a large banner and it says, uh - Happy... THANKSGIVING! ... From ... W- K-R-P!" How popular was the WKRP "Turkeys Away" episode, you ask? In a poll asking fans to rank the episodes they enjoyed the most, the most current results put this one at #1. Plus--this radio station gained many new followers from this guerrilla marketing stunt.

17. A Healthy Hot Dog

NATHAN'S HOT DOGS: When Nathan Handwerker, an employee at a successful Coney Island fast food eatery called Feltman's, went out solo and opened a competing business called Nathan's Hot Dogs. At inception, Nathan's had a hard time winning customers over from its Goliath competitor... but then he got savvy.. He attempted to differentiate his business by first, decreasing the price. Next, he either had bums dress as doctors, or offered free food to doctors and nurses in uniform. Either way, the public came to know Nathan's Famous with medical professionals--and now Nathan is one of the most successful businessmen in New York!

18. The Power Of 200 Horses

The new Lancia Delta, a European car was introduced into the marketplace, marketers had to illustrate the strength of the car's engine to consumers.
The Lancia Delta has a 200 horsepower engine. To literally show the strength of the car, 200 horses were attached to the car. But the more simplistic display of just a 1.8 liter bottle (representing the engine size) just wouldn't have been impressive or memorable enough. Visually showing prospective consumers made this product differentiable in the marketplace, plus its oddity rendered tons of press all over Europe.


19. The Taco Liberty Bell

In the mid-90s Taco Bell utilized traditional and non-traditional media to create a crazy grassroots marketing stunt. In newspaper ads nationwide Taco Bell marketers announced that they had purchased the Liberty Bell and claimed that they had re-named it the Taco Liberty Bell. This questionable marketing tactic generated controversy and tons of public clamor, but public opinion for Taco Bell turned favorable when the joke was explained.

20. Going Above And Beyond: Sir Richard Branson

Whether on purpose or not, one of the richest men in the world--Sir Richard Branson--is an excellent self-promoter. In 1986, he broke the record for fastest transatlantic sailing in a boat and the next year made headlines as the first person ever for crossing the Atlantic by hot air balloon. His adventurous side perked the interest of media, and in return he got millions of dollars worth of publicity for his entrepreneurial empire.  Failures, such as his loss in the race to be the first to pilot a balloon around the world, and his four helicopter rescues from crashes at sea, have made headlines for his businesses.

21. Odd Auctions

Legally restricted to advertising in traditional mediums, casinos and online poker forums have to get creative with promotion. Online casino, Goldenpalace.com, is a prime example of effective and attention-grabbing marketing stunts. In 2004 this online casino purchased William Shatner's kidney stone for $25,000 so they could auction it off for charity. They took the auction one step further when they auctioned a partially eaten grilled cheese sandwich with a burnt crust that looked uncannily similarity to the Virgin Mary for $28,000. Though the auctioned items really had little to do with their brand, the business received an abundance of media exposure from USA Today to BBC.

22. Meow Mix House

Exemplifying the term "advertainment" (entertainment wrapped around product placement) is a company called Del Monte, known more commonly for Meow Mix cat food, who in 2006 created a reality show for cats on Animal Planet. They created a reality cat haven called the Meow Mix House with webcams for viewers to observe the cats jump, play, and frankly--just be adorable--from 10 shelters around the country ...kind of like "Big Brother", but for kitties. Every Friday, Meow Mix announced which cat has been "voted out," that means being put up for adoption and receiving a year supply of Meow Mix. Not only did this fun guerrilla marketing/advertising technique to increase Meow Mix sales but it also helped facilitate cat adoption! I guess it is smart to take marketing cues from popular culture!

23. Giving New Yorkers Gas

In 2006, a casino, Pokershare.com who was unable to fund expensive traditional advertising created a savvy marketing stunt to lure. With gas prices at the time more than $3 a gallon, PokerShare.com and its newly launched CasinoShare.com gave away more than 8,000 gallons of gasoline to hundreds of New Yorkers over a typically heavy travel weekend--Memorial Day. New Yorkers flocked to receive Pokershare.com and Casinoshare.com's gas giveaway, and created an event filled with free food, blaring music and of course branded to a "T". Within a few hours, the event was so successful that it was shut down by police. A few weeks after the event happened across country in Los Angeles. This event will go down in history, as it served as a very creative way to create brand awareness and millions of dollars worth of advertising costs!

24. Oprah’s Free Car Giveaway

Everyone remembers Oprah’s free car giveaway, right?!  Well, if you don't... let me refresh your memory...In early 2000, Oprah once again exuded her generosity by giving away almost 300 of cars to her audience members. The audience received 2004 Pontiac G6 cars (which costed General Motors $8 million in retail value). News of this act of generosity swarmed national and international press junkets, and the conversational buzz rang strong and loud for weeks to come as people not only talked about Oprah's generosity but also the new Pontiac G6 models.

25. Taking 'Gorilla' Marketing Literally

The confection company, Cadbury created a ingenious video featuring a humanized Gorilla. The Gorilla advertising campaign was heavily popularised on social media networks such as YouTube and Facebook, generating over a million hits online alone. Though the initial advertising was through traditional mediums such as television and print, the campaign had the most success through online social networks. The campaign's goal of boosting sales within the United Kingdom and prompt higher brand engagement from the public was extremely successful.

26. The Big Word Project

"The Big Word Project," launched in 2008 by Oxford English Dictionary was a word-of-mouth campaign enacted to allowing people to submit their website as the definition of their chosen word. The viral marketing project, created to fund the educations of two selected Masters students, attracted the attention of the online community worldwide, including editorial features in Daring Fireball and Wired Magazine.

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Allie Gray writes for the Rasmussen College blog. She frequently contributes articles related to business and management, and general interest stories. Allie received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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