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Guerrilla marketing is bold and attention-grabbing.

When a guerrilla marketing campaign is executed successfully, you’ll probably hear about it. They’re risqué, highly visible, and attention-grabbing. Some famous examples in recent years:

  1. Carrie’s (film) Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise in NYC
  2. Tic Tac’s Worst Breath In The World
  3. Coke’s Hug Me Vending Machines

But the poster children of guerrilla marketing usually involve huge budgets and expansive resources not typically available to lean ecommerce businesses. Chances are, you don’t have drones or a professional film crew at your disposal.

What distinguishes guerrilla marketing from mere public stunts is cost-effectiveness.

Guerrilla marketing is utilitarian, not extravagant. It’s using existing resources – and a lot of nerve – to inspire mass participation and make a statement.

We’re curated a list of case studies to show that guerrilla marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to be epic and visible.

Here they are:

1. Foursquare – grew average check-ins from 250,000 to 350,000 with just chalk and rubber balls

Foursquare-SXSW-2010

Foursquare didn’t have a booth like most other brands at the 2010 SXSW convention. Instead, it set up an actual game of “four square” in front of the convention hall, which involved just chalk and two rubber balls.

The game drew thousands of walk-up participants. Said CEO Dennis Crowley, “We played all day long, and there was always a waiting line. We were handing out tee shirts, buttons, and stickers. Anytime someone didn’t know what Foursquare was, we helped them find it on their phone. We helped get them up and running and using it.”

2. Tinder – grew from 5,000 to 15,000 users by seeding college parties

Wolfe at the Headquarters, before she was removed as co-founder.

Wolfe at the Headquarters, before she was removed as co-founder.

Tinder’s early marketing strategy is very elaborate (and controversial), but the basic idea is that they personally invited friends to download the app, then visited the best “party colleges” and got attractive, influential figures on board, and the app took off.

“After seeding USC, Justin and Whitney traveled to schools like SMU in Dallas. Whitney might stand on a table in a fraternity and announce that there were 200 hot sorority girls on the app waiting for the men to sign up, then run to the sorority and tell them the reverse. They left a trail of stickers behind them—in the best campus bars, in the most exclusive nightclubs.” (Source: TechCrunch)

3 & 4. ModCloth and One Kings Lane – directly engaged influencers in their blogging community

Blogger outreach campaigns are an effective way to take guerilla tactics online, and reach your target customers in their own communities.

ModCloth and One Kings Lane demonstrate that blogging outreach can give you enthusiastic and authentic publicity at minimal cost.

Modcloth names dresses after featured bloggers

Organic mutual plugging – “To say that I’m beyond thrilled would be the understatement of the century…I am so honored to have such an incredibly pretty namesake dress!”

ModCloth crowned Kate of Scathingly Brilliant the “pastel princess”

ModCloth’s “Blogger of the Moment” outreach strategy features fashion influencers on the ModCloth blog, and names a dress after each of them. In turn, Bloggers of the Moment suggest other ModCloth pieces to complement their namesake dresses, and name their favorite ModCloth pieces.

Because they’re so excited to star on the ModCloth blog, they also talk about “Blogger of the Moment” to their own communities – more publicity for ModCloth!

One Kings Lane invited bloggers to showcase their vanities

“One Kings Lane has been one of my favorite online home decor retailers for over a year now”

In its “Reflect Your Style” campaign, One Kings Lane invited bloggers to create a mood board of their dream vanity with decorative accents, centered around one of their statement mirrors. The focus on “vanity” and a statement mirror is very clever – participants are immediately inclined to be indulgent and runaway with their ideas.

Read next: What Successful Brands Know About Blogger Outreach: 6 Case Studies

5 & 6. The Ice Bucket Challenge and #nomakeupselfie – contagious challenges with phenomenal success

These chart demonstrate the phenomenal success of the Ice Bucket Challenge – the peer-to-peer campaign raised an insane amount of money, and now it’s difficult to find a person who doesn’t know about ALS.

And this was nearly three weeks ago

Admittedly, it’s difficult to replicate the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge. But there are some fundamental principles to try and keep constant. Your challenge should be:

  1. Doable. Consider the Harlem Shake craze, and how easy it was for any group of people to recreate it within minutes. The easier it is to do, the likelier it is that people will do it.
  2. Highly social. Being able to nominate your friends turns a one-off challenge into a conversation starter and a spectator sport.
  3. Flattering to your participants. People want to look good, whether they’re influential bloggers or a bunch of teenagers bored in the summer.

The Ice Bucket Challenge allowed you to perform honorability by ‘stepping up’ to the plate. At the same time, you got to look important for being a nominee in the first place. Most importantly, you wouldn’t look like a self-important attention seeker because you were just responding to a challenge.

And if you didn’t want in, you could just very kindly write a check like Sir Patrick Stewart did. Flattering their participants made the challenge so much more enticing and contagious.

Again, this contagious campaign was about allowing participants perform an identity, while feeling that they’re advancing a charitable cause. In this case, #nomakeupselfie struck a chord with so many women because they were given permission to demonstrate frustration with beauty standards. Each selfie was its own little rebellion.

The campaign flattered participants by demonstrating that they were brave, and participants wouldn’t feel insecure if everyone did it together.

7 & 8. Medallia and Médicins du Monde – cut through the noise with campaigns that gave back to homeless communities

Throughout SXSW 2014, representatives from Medallia partnered with Austin’s Foundation for the Homeless and placed themselves in strategic spots asking for attendee’s unwanted swag (freebies given out to every attendee). They started the hashtag #SwagDonationSXSW to promote the initiative.

#SwagDonationsSXSW was as a massive success – nearly 50lbs of swag was collected. Said Andrew Nunnelly, a writer for Medallia –

“It’s not easy to catch people’s attention at SXSW — there’s simply so much to do and so much to see — but it was clear that the wastefulness of traditional marketing swag immediately resonated with nearly everyone who saw our volunteers. The goal of the company’s initiative was not only to collect much-needed items to distribute to the community, but also to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in Austin.”

They could’ve just advertised, or set up a few billboards to raise awareness of Paris’ critically underserved homeless population. But Médicins du Monde decided to lead by example, and set up tents all over Paris to dramatically demonstrate  to passers-by just how bad the situation was.

After a while some charitable Parisians began giving out tents on their own. Some of the homeless even proactively approached the organization.

The city was forced to address the public outrage. A rare off-season government session was convened, and officials admitted that Paris’ homeless shelters were vastly overcrowded. They immediately announced the allocation of nearly $10 million for emergency housing.

Recap!

  1. Keep your strategy fun, simple, and witty.
  2. Physically travel to the influencers in your target communities.
  3. Engage influential bloggers through mutual plugging.
  4. Flatter your audience. Always make them look good.
  5. Make social phenomena the core of your campaign.

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Read Next: How 13 Successful Companies Fought For Their First Customers