Top Ten guerrilla Marketing Campaigns

Axe DeodorantGuerrilla Marketing, we’ve all heard of it, and we’ve all heard of the odd hugely successful campaign. More than one though? Perhaps not…so we at Hotcow have decided to give you our take on the issue with our top ten of the most successful guerrilla campaigns in memory – read on. In no particular order we have;


The Blair Witch Project

In 1999 there was one film which everyone was talking about. Filmed on a budget of $50,000 with no stars and, at least in the beginning, no script Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez proceeded to change the face of movie advertising for good.

A tagline set the stage; “In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary. A year later, their footage was found.” The following snippet of handheld camera footage on night vision purported to be the raw edited-down footage that had been recovered. And, in order to back this up and create some buzz Sanchez created a website devoted to the Blair Witch – an entirely fictitious character dreamed up for the film.

However, the power of the internet took over and, within weeks, the Blair Witch had become an urban-legend of the first water, terrifying thousands and driving at least one spoof documentary to further promote the film.

A low budget, low advertising spend film purchased for $1,000,000 dollars at the Sundance Film Festival went on to become a box office smash, raking in $250,000,000 as people flocked to the cinema for the movie event of the year. An incredible return on the investment made.

As a postscript, despite the actors repeatedly appearing in interviews after the film’s release people refused to believe the legend of the Blair Witch had been invented specifically for the movie. Genius.


Axe Deodorant

Axe Deodorant

One of two perfect examples on this list of what you can do with an inventive mind, quick hands and a whole lot of stickers…all that was needed were emergency exit signs. And they turn up everywhere.

This campaign cost no more than a few thousand pounds in costs but reached hundreds of thousands and spread like wildfire on the internet, effectively creating a campaign that would have cost hundreds of thousands in traditional advertising media. Minimum outlay, maximum reach – perfect guerrilla.



An example of borderline criminality producing outstanding results here – in 2002’s Bledisloe Cup game (one of Rugby Union’s most feted occasions with the southern hemisphere’s giants Australia and New Zealand taking each other on) as the game reached a crucial stage two young men proceeded to engage in the age-old art of streaking. But they weren’t entirely naked…no, they had vodaphone’s logo painted on their backs.

If this wasn’t audacious enough, the game itself was taking place in the Telstra Stadium – Telstra being Vodaphone’s major competitor. This advertising coup was greeted with a storm of criticism across the globe and was covered by all major media; from CNN to The Times of London.

Costing virtually nothing (apart from pay for the streakers and settling their fines of about $3,500AU) and lasting no more than two minutes this event reached millions across the globe, made headlines everywhere and portrayed Vodaphone as hip, brash and edgy – exactly as they wanted their young market to perceive them. Total, devastating success.



The second example on our list that shows how to make a massive marketing impact with stickers; Advertising gurus Saatchi & Saatchi attached removable stickers reading “Carlsberg don’t do litter. But if they did it would probably be the best litter in


the world” to £5000 worth of £10 and £20 notes. They then proceeded to drop them in various places round London.

The tagline fitted Carlsberg’s traditional “Probably the best…” and the campaign created massive media interest and public reach…certainly an awful lot more than £5000 could buy.


Medecins du Monde

An unusual, but brilliant, example of a guerrilla campaign where the end aim was not making money but was, in fact, rather more altruistic. Medicens du Monde is an international humanitarian organisation devoted to providing care for the vulnerable across the globe.

Late in 2005 the French arm staged this incredibly effective campaign drawing attention to the plight of the Paris homeless. The group distributed some 300 “two-second tents” to destitute Parisians sleeping rough. The rapid deployment tents (needing neither poles nor pegs) were then used by the homeless in groups of eight to ten along the famous Quai d’Austerlitz and Canal Saint-Martin.

All the tents bore the Medicins du Monde logo and drew immediate attention to the number of homeless people in the area. Public outrage was instant and so widespread that the city was provoked into immediate action – the government, which was in recess, was recalled and officials admitted that Paris’ homeless shelters were vastly overcrowded. An allocation of $10,000,000 was then immediately made for emergency housing.

A spectacular demonstration of guerrilla marketing at its absolute best.

Internet domain names often take some remembering (certainly when their bear no real resemblance to the products offered by the company holding them) but, back in 1999, CEO “wanted to do something innovative to get some visibility in the crowd”, as he put it.

His solution? Paying the town of Halfway, Oregon $100,000 and a new computer lab to rename itself for one year. The resultant publicity was massive and, within two weeks, the town – and its benefactor – had been featured on the Today show, covered in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and been described as “one of the greatest publicity coups in history”.

Three weeks after the town renamed Ebay bought out for $313,000,000. One of the biggest advertising returns ever.


Mercedes Benz


An incredibly cheap, stylish and eye-catching campaign from Mercedes Benz let consumers “enjoy the Mercedes Benz test drive” in their own car thanks to a temporary Mercedes star on the bonnet. A card attached to the star then invited people to come to their nearest Mercedes dealership and enjoy a real test drive.

As subtle yet effective and far-reaching campaigns go, this was a winner – a thought shared by the advertising fraternity who voted it in for an award in Cannes.


The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie Guerrilla Stunt

As Mercedes proved, powerful companies and major franchises are as able to engage in guerrilla marketing just as
One of the UK’s most famous landmarks – a fertility god carved into a chalk hillside in Dorset – gained a neighbour overnight…a 180 foot tall Homer Simpson painted in white right next to it. Many, many column inches were devoted to discussion of the subject and whether it was an act of vandalism or advertising genius…no clear conclusions seemed to be drawn but, within a week of its arrival, just about every peeffectively as smaller operations. This fact is borne out by some of the promotion activity surrounding the UK release of The Simpsons movie.

rson in Britain had seen it somewhere. What started as a stunt became a major advertising coup.




This campaign by Kleenex to redecorate selected public bathrooms to resemble ones more commonly found at home in order to make visitors feel more comfortable was beautifully executed. Word of mouth and today’s easy access to the internet meant that pictures of the bathrooms in question rapidly started to appear online and the campaign took on a life of its own. A great idea with a great effect…all for the price of redecoration.


Acclaim Entertainment

Last, but by no means least, we have Acclaim Entertainment – specialists in producing campaigns that ride a razor-thin edge between legal and criminal. As computer and console game marketers they are constantly aiming at a consumer sector that is impressed by little and swayed by less. As a result campaigns featuring stunts which flaunt the law or traditional values are seen as likely to garner the most kudos and achieve the best results. Their guerrilla activities are so numerous that, rather than highlight a single one, we’ll quickly scroll through some of their best known ones;

For Turok;Evolution’s release Acclaim offered £500 to the first 5 British citizens who legally changed their name to Turok. Almost 3,000 people tried to claim the prize and Acclaim sparked a major debate over how far advertising should be allowed to go. Not long after, during promotion for Shadow Man 2, Acclaim announced their intention to pay the relatives of the recently deceased to place promo ads on the headstones of the departed suggesting that the fee might “particularly interest poorer families” – this resulted in massive public outcry and Acclaim passed the idea off as a spoof…but not before their product and themselves had been plastered all over the headlines.

Many of the company’s schemes are intended to die this way and, indeed, to an extent they rely on law enforcement and public officials to shut down their antics – best evidenced in their 2002 promise to pay all the speeding fines incurred in the UK on the day of Burnout 2’s release. After extreme concern from the police fearing that chaos could ensue on the roads, Acclaim once again backed down…having paid no money at all and succeeded in grabbing headlines across the globe. Legal? Barely. Ethical? Certainly not. Successful? Incredibly.


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