Guerilla Marketing in an Uncertain Economy

Businesses are facing a period of economic uncertainty. Inflation is running hot, interest rates are rising, the markets are down. A recession may be coming, or it may not. It could be mild, or severe. Your business may be impacted a little, or a lot. No matter the final outcome, now is a good time to look at your marketing plan and ask how you could supplement it with “guerilla marketing” methods that reach customers without impacting your cash flow.


Guerilla marketing, a term coined by J.C. Levinson in his book of the same title, is the concept of using creative, attention-grabbing methods to reach potential customers without a big cash outlay. In a combat environment, the guerilla fighters are the underdogs who use unique methods to compensate for their lack of resources versus a larger, well-funded army. In a marketing environment, the guerillas are businesses that use unique methods to overcome the cash advantages of their competitors. According to Levinson, 

Guerilla marketing maintains that if you want to invest money, you can, but you don’t have to if you are willing to invest time, energy, imagination, and information.

Guerilla marketing has been proven to work for small businesses around the world. It works because it’s simple to understand, easy to implement, and outrageously inexpensive.

Search the internet for examples of “guerilla” marketing and you will often find stories of large, global companies doing big, creative marketing stunts like a giant slide placed over an escalator or a huge popsicle melting in a city square. These are great examples of creativity, but true guerilla marketing doesn’t require these kinds of resources. Instead, it emphasizes little or no cash spending by using creative methods that catch people’s attention and interest them strongly enough that they want to engage with and share that experience – and therefore your brand or product – with others.

What guerilla marketing is NOT is simple, inexpensive advertising, like putting up posters or handing out flyers. These things can be part of it, but the creative, unexpected, attention-grabbing aspects are the key to effective guerilla advertising.


The brain is hard-wired to notice things that are out of the ordinary, things that are out of place, things that cut through the humdrum of daily life. The brain also tends to remember unusual, unexpected, or amusing things. So, when you present a target audience with a clever or shocking experience, they are already primed to pay attention and remember it.  Never forget the crucial ingredient, though: your business! If you don’t find a way to integrate your brand or product with the moment, the effort is wasted. How many Super Bowl ads can you remember? Lots, probably. But how many brands can you connect with those ads? A lot less, I bet. Always make sure your product is integrated with the creative aspects of your guerilla efforts.


The possibilities are only limited by your team’s imagination, so brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. Make outrageous, unexpected, wild ideas the starting point – don’t place any limitations on your options at the outset. Emphasize creativity first, think about implementation later. 

The internet is full of examples of successful (and failed!) guerilla marketing, so it’s easy to find inspiration. Some widely cited cases include:

  • White flyers posted as “teeth” on pink paper gums for a dentist’s office.

  • A lip balm company placing a “Kissing Point” on a train platform for couples to kiss goodbye, raising awareness for the brand

  • Social media campaigns that reward users for posting selfies of themselves with products

  • Temporary chalk drawings on sidewalks but using quality stencils that look professional and use the brand’s logo and typography. Or even more clever, pressure washing through a stencil to make a semi-permanent ad on a dirty public surface.

  • An underwear company that put giant versions of its product on famous landmarks in NYC, including the Wall Street Bull. Guaranteed to grab attention and encourage photo sharing.

  • Flash mobs that spontaneously break out in song or dance in a busy area. Clever or funny performances are sure to be recorded and shared.


Every business will have different needs and opportunities. Will your ideas be physical or virtual? Will they be entertaining? Funny? Provocative? An inflatable slide in an unexpected place? A drum corps that advertises a lunch place below a tall, windowed office building? A social media contest that asks users to post a picture of your product with a gorilla, or a clown, or a goat? Will you offer things like freebies or coupons to cement the connection with your audience? How will you encourage them to spread the word?

The possibilities are limitless, and all it takes is ingenuity and effort – cash spend optional. In the current uncertain market environment that can mean a lot.