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Guerrilla Marketing or Monkey Business?


After a number of client conversations on how EXECUTIONAL view guerrilla marketing, discussing the pros, the cons and potential legal ramifications, we wanted to take some time in our blog to discuss guerrilla marketing in full.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is an activity that looks to circumvent the permissions or permits required to carry out the marketing tactic. This ‘guerrilla marketing’ label can be placed on any activity that is looked to be carried out without the request for permissions and for some promotions that will have requests for permissions denied, such as clean graffiti, stickering and fly postering.

Why Do We Need Permissions?

The chances are whatever promotional campaign you are looking to run permissions will be required in some form or another. This could be a leaflet distribution on the high streets of Preston, exhibition staff within Birmingham NEC, product sampling within Manchester train station or experiential marketing at Reading Festival. Permissions or permits will be required from councils, property owners or event organisers before promotional staff can start promoting your brand.

Some locations simply cannot happen without permissions, for example setting up a branded event stand within a shopping centre (see above), will not be able to happen without permissions from the gatekeepers. Though some locations like events and festival will force permissions they can also come with added sponsorship benefits, such as adverts within festival or exhibition brochures, banners on websites, etc.

The initial benefit that many clients have seen when looking at two quotes, is the cost difference without permissions. Many times this is greeted with the thought that the agency is just more cost effective and if permissions were needed they would want to make money on them. But the sad truth is agencies make very little if any money on permissions, and because of this they do not always see the benefit in explaining the full ins and outs of guerilla marketing to a client. They instead just see the benefit of winning the work under a guerilla marketing umbrella.

Eyes Wide Open – Protect Your Brand

The bottom line is guerilla marketing is a fancy word for illegal. Without permissions, there are a number of routes that councils or event organisers can go down. These options could include fining the staff members or client for carrying out an activity without permissions, to the extremes of taking all three parties to court for trespassing, littering or graffiti on public property. It is at this point the agency refers to the guerrilla marketing label and passes all liability back to the client, leaving them to pick up the pieces.

These are the extremes, but the simplest and most common route these gatekeepers will take is to move the promotional staff away from the location. So let’s look at that: you have spent money on the promotional staff, the product samples, the leaflets, the branded uniforms, but were convinced guerrilla marketing was the cheaper option. Now all those costs you have spent are moved away from your targeted location and you can only hope enough samples were given out before they were stopped. Is it really worth that risk? We don’t think so!

Guerilla Marketing Positives

EXECUTIONAL don’t just view guerrilla marketing as a negative and it does have some positives, known to help create a great promotional stir. For example, I’m sure you have seen a number of clean graffiti campaigns that have stuck in your mind. Or campaigns where you’ve awoken and headed to work to see the local statues decorated with the branding of a major supplier. It is these types of campaigns that help to draw great PR attention and can fit perfectly with the ethos of some brands. Not every brand wants to follow the letter of the law, and this type of activity helps to show their target audience that they don’t.

But guerrilla marketing is not for every brand or will create the right stir with every consumer. So before you look at a proposal and go straight to the bottom line, make sure you have all the facts and are not going to be stung with unplanned and unprepared campaign hiding under the guerrilla marketing label. It is your brand that is at risk under guerrilla marketing, so make sure you’re not paying for monkey business.


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