Last updated: Guerrilla marketing makes a comeback in the CPG playbook

Guerrilla marketing makes a comeback in the CPG playbook


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In our digital world, guerrilla marketing wouldn’t seem to have much of a role, if any. Marketing today is highly centralized and uses data and advanced technology to focus on delivering personalized, digital experiences.

But with the rise of the privacy-first web, guerilla marketing is making a resurgence, especially for CPG food and beverage brands using direct-to-consumer e-commerce.

For it to succeed, however, you must have a genuine curiosity in your customers. Data, of course, helps you understand your customers. But taking a more physical approach also provides insight, and can also build a community.

And it’s by building community that brands foster lasting relationships through a focus on not just customer satisfaction, but the entire customer experience.

What is guerilla marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is a type of marketing that’s quick and inexpensive. It uses unconventional methods and the element of surprise to catch people’s attention and make them want to find out more. It’s used in situations where you have a small budget and need a creative approach to advertise your business.

The term was created by Jay Conrad Levinson, who published his first book on guerilla marketing in 1984.

Guerrilla marketing uses external factors to create buzz and drive brand awareness, including:

  • Location – Guerrilla marketing can be used in most public locations, from a busy sidewalk to shopping center, sporting event, or major convention. Typically, guerrilla marketing campaigns are set up in heavily populated or high-traffic areas.
  • Environment – This can be anything present in the area, such as a storefront, street sign, bench or propeller plane.

Why use guerilla marketing in e-commerce?

While we know hyper-personalized, data-driven marketing is the future of e-commerce, why would we turn to guerilla marketing?

Well, with regulations like GDPR and privacy initiatives putting an end to the cookies marketers have relied on, it’s harder for brands to acquire new customers. They now must rely on first-party data from people who have given their consent. Marketing is centralized, with the focus on individual personalization.

Guerilla marketing is an opportunity outside the digital environment to expand a brand’s reach and connect with potential new customers. It’s a  grassroots approach that enables businesses to connect with people on a human level and gain deeper insight.

How to make connections in the real world

For marketers steeped in digital engagement, it might be hard to know where to start with guerilla marketing. Here are some ideas:

  1. Be present in the communities you target for your products. Be present at local events and get to know your neighbors. Participate in relevant online forums and groups where your customers or potential customers are, and tie what you learn into your total customer experience.
  2. Listen and engage. Engage in conversations, asking lots of questions so that you’re able to get deeper insights from existing and potential customers. Genuine engagement helps them feel part of a community.
  3. Create content that resonates with your community — content they would find interesting and shareworthy. Use it to spark conversations. Record your street-level guerilla efforts and post them on social media to generate interest.
  4. Partner with influential figures in your community like a local store owner or manager who allows you to set up a giveaway in front of their store. This is a great way to get your name out there, get some traction, and more importantly, products into the hands of potential customers.

On the road, going one-on-one 

If you live in the greater Seattle area, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a green van driven by a man handing out samples of granola

Parker Olson, CEO of Seattle-based Forij, hits the pavement with what he refers to as a two-pronged approach focused on building a community and learning more about customers. The CPG brand is a good example of using guerilla marketing to create memorable experiences and stand out from the crowd.

“I’ve been living out of this Japanese import pop-up camper van for 10 months and driving around the country meeting with different consumers,  sharing our story,” he told me. “The biggest part of this is making one-on-one connections with people.”

Olson says some customers still tell their friends about the experience months later. “They follow the story and then they become a part of it. So that’s part of the initial success getting us off of the ground.”

He pays close attention to the way people shop in a store and asks specific questions about their experiences.

“There’s a lot of learning and trying to really understand that subconscious level of human behavior, how we can best be capturing that, and getting in line with how consumers want to shop and what they’re looking for,” he said.

Customer-first curiosity 

How brands approach marketing and engage with customers makes all the difference between success and failure. At the same time, monitoring your marketing spend is more important than ever.

As marketers, we’ll have to be more creative and nimble. We’ll have to be more responsive and connected. And we’ll have to be more curious about our customers and their needs and wants.

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