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blair_witch_missing_posterUnconventional, whacky marketing tactics like guerrilla advertising can have a massive impact. Guerrilla advertising is much like guerrilla warfare: placing ambushes, sabotages, raids and elements of surprise within the marketing industry. Despite it often being a low-cost tactic that delivers maximum results, it can be a risky business when the reputation if your brand is on the line. Guerrilla marketing undoubtedly provokes very strong opinions and emotional responses.

Alternative advertising styles like guerrilla advertising or experiential marketing demand lots of imagination and creativity. You want to take your audience by surprise, make an enduring impression and create loads of social buzz. You can be far more impactful with guerrilla marketing and the ultimate aim is to strike the consumer at a more personal and memorable level. Once something’s ingrained in the memory it’s hard to let it go, so it’s really important to get guerrilla marketing right. Or at least, not to get it wrong. There’s a fine line between fame and infamy.

So who’s famous for getting it right?

Coca-Cola Happiness Vending Machines

In terms of big brands that have got it spot on, you can’t get much better than seeing Coca Cola “spreading a little happiness”. An example of the Coca-Cola Happiness machines is one that was put in a bus shelter in Uppsala, Sweden offering 185 days of summer.

The people at the bus stop were filmed without their knowledge to capture their reactions when they got some “summer happiness” in the middle of the dark and cold winter. The Coke vending machine lights up and catches the attention of the people waiting for the bus. Seconds after that a projection of a Swedish summer meadow was shown, heating lamps, audio from singing birds, an artificial sun and projections of beautiful growing flowers on the ground appeared.

However, guerrilla marketing is really suited to small businesses on a tight budget that need to reach a large audience. It can get you noticed, set you apart from the competition and give your business a reputation for being fun and quirky. Everyone wants to go viral after all.

The Blair Witch Project

An example of how this kind of marketing can make you famous is shown really well by the 1999 film, The Blair Witch Project. With a budget of around $50,000 and no stars or script, University of Central Florida Film School pals Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez successfully removed the line between reality and fiction.

To create a buzz and catch the public off guard, Sánchez created a website devoted to the Blair Witch - a woods-based specter who’d been snapping up Maryland kids for the last century. Although the legend was completely fictitious, it was soon going viral and thousands of people were terrified of the Blair Witch. Even when the actors who played the film students started doing interviews about the movie, many across the country refused to believe the Blair Witch wasn’t real.

The film’s tagline really set the scene for this genius piece of marketing: “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.”

And shaky, low-quality footage appeared as an edited-down version of recovered footage. Although it was a new cinematic experience that justified the low-budget look of the film you could argue that without the inventive guerrilla marketing behind it The Blair Witch Project wouldn’t have dominated at the box office and grossed $250 million worldwide.

Topics: Advertising, Marketing Strategy, Guerrilla Adertising

Tim Nichols

Written by Tim Nichols

Tim Nichols is a founding partner at ExactDrive, a digital media buying agency with white label, reseller and managed service options available. ExactDrive plans, manages, and optimizes online advertising campaigns with the objective of delivering measurable value and empowering clients to find precisely targeted audiences. ExactDrive has offices in Minneapolis, MN, Milwaukee, WI and SouthWest Florida.

Tim Nichols is also a contributing author on Forbes.com.

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