The Lessons We Learn from Failed Guerrilla Marketing

By October 6, 2016General

In an era where customers automatically ignore any advertisement they see, guerrilla marketing is a great, cost-effective way to snatch up crucial attention. That’s why we’ve seen a number of memorable and impressive tactics across the years used by small businesses and large brands.

However, it’s important to remember that guerrilla marketing techniques are risky by nature, and before you start planning your own way to shake up the current marketing sphere, it may be worth learning from some of the biggest failed schemes in history.

Lesson 1: Sustainability is Key

In 2005, Snapple made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, when it tried to beat the Guinness record for “World’s largest Popsicle“. The 17.5 ton treat quickly melted, creating nothing more than a sticky mess in the street.

When promoting food-based products, it would have been a safer bet to look for something more sustainable – in other words, an item that wouldn’t melt, crumble, or go stale. The aim should be to develop something that’s deliciously inspiring and fun – not just a gigantic mess.

Lesson 2: Think Everything Through

Any successful guerrilla marketing campaign depends on finding the right audience. Unfortunately, for the launch of the Mission Impossible 3 movie, the team didn’t think their approach to “shock marketing” all the way through.

Though the motive behind their newspaper racks which blared the “Mission Impossible” theme each time they were opened was innocent enough – it left citizens alarmed, instead of prompting their interest.

In guerrilla marketing, you want to surprise people and shock them into paying attention – but you don’t want the lasting impression you have on your target market to be a negative one. Think carefully about all of the ways people might react to your scheme before you put it in motion.

Lesson 3: Use Comedy Carefully

Finally, laughter is a great way to get your customers to appreciate your brand, but if you try to promote the wrong kind of comedy, you could end up making a really terrible impression.

The Pacific Airlines guerrilla marketing tactic in 1967 used controversial ad slogans that made fun of potential airplane problems in an attempt to make flying feel safe again.

Alongside “survival kits” handed out by the flight attendants, the result of the campaign was the opposite of what the airline had hoped for. Instead of making passengers laugh – it created a sense of terror and discomfort among all of those who encountered it.

Hotcow is a non-traditional creative agency that specialises in experiential marketing that goes viral. Our campaigns generate buzz through crowd participation, PR, and content sharing. Contact us on 0207 5030442, or email us on