A Common Ground in Guerilla Marketing – State of Research...

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  • Junior Management Science 1 (2016) 1-300

    Junior Management Science

    journal homepage: www.jums.academy

    A Common Ground in Guerilla Marketing State of Research and Further ResearchOpportunities

    Lennart WendlandOtto-von-Guericke-Universitt Magdeburg


    Guerilla Marketing is a cloudy concept. While practitioners and scientists increasingly use it in their practice, its definitionremains not straightforward. This thesis builds a common ground in Guerilla Marketing through clearing up the field. GuerillaMarketing is defined and an overall model is presented that integrates previous efforts. This model has some advantages. Moststrikingly, it introduces two highly relevant mediators which include recipients behavior into the model.

    Keywords: Guerilla Marketing, Marketing science, Conceptual framework, Philosophy of science

    1. Introduction

    Guerilla Marketing is a body of unconventional ways ofpursuing conventional goals is how Levinson (2008) broadlydescribes a concept which he himself devised and whoclaimed to be the father of Guerilla Marketing (Schulte,2007, p. 16). This ambiguous definition was obviously onlyone of Levinsons innumerable contributions since the early1980s, yet it reflects that the concept itself leaves plenty ofroom for interpretation. Over the past thirty years practi-tioners and scholars have used the term for a wide rangeof activities, instruments, concepts, tools, strategies andmethods, only agreeing on one simple thing: Guerilla Mar-keting always aims at achieving maximum effects at lowexpenses (Baltes and Leibing, 2008). Within these parame-ters it seems that everything else around the concept is leftup to the individual who subjectively defines it for whateverreason desired. A diffuse understanding, lacking clear-cutdefinitions and practitioners who constantly (re-)invent un-conventional marketing concepts under the umbrella ofGuerilla Marketing are the result of this confusion. GuerillaMarketing and whatever action one derives from it has be-come the random synonym for almost any marketing oradvertising activity that does not fit the classical frame. Fur-thermore, this misapprehension carries on from practice toscholarship as literature still lacks a scientific contributionwhich directly focuses on the guerilla concept (Hutter andHoffmann, 2011a, p. 2).

    To recap, a mass of activities and concepts can be found

    that are said to be aligned with the Guerilla Marketing con-cept but only little input has been delivered on how to de-fine, classify or categorize those approaches. A final scien-tific model to explain the entire concept is still missing andso far mostly single actions or effects have been described.The definition of Levinson (2008) as a basis is just as explicitas it is misleading yet it still today is of a tremendous rele-vance for a critical discussion on the topic. Asking whetheror not Guerilla Marketing really is as innovative as it is saidto be or if it simply can be perceived as a trend that managedto survive evolution as a subculture to marketing in generalneeds further questioning. Due to its relevance it has beencarried on over the decades and still causes confusion nowa-days.

    1.1. HeritageErnesto Che Guevara Lynch de la Serna, the leader of the

    Cuban revolution, delineated the Guerilla tactics as a methodto campaign war through surprising ambush attacks allowinga practically inferior army to succeed over the outnumberingopponent (Guevara, 1982). The inferior Guerilla warriorsavoided the open battle and rather made use of surprise ef-fects and acts of sabotage versus the military and even theirown government (Schulte and Pradel, 2006). The term itselflinguistically derived from the Spanish word guerra simplymeaning war (Nufer and Bender, 2008). The adjustmentGuerilla therefore can be translated to lit-tle war (Putte-nat, 2007).

    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5282/jums/v1i1pp34-59


  • L. Wendland / Junior Management Science 1 (2016) 34-59 35

    Transferring these tactics to marketing, practitioners havequickly adapted and created the term Guerilla Marketingduring the mid-1960s (Baltes and Leibing, 2008). Duringthat time a change from a seller- to a buyer-market took placeand companies felt the need of creative ideas, ingenuity andflexibility in their effort to persuade the consumers of theirproducts and brands (Schulte and Pradel, 2006). In its earlydays mostly small and middle scale enterprises (SMEs), withstrongly limited budgets, used these revolutionary strategiestrying to get the attention of the consumer and moreoverdoing whatever it takes to weaken competition (Puttenat,2007). Over the years, as external factors changed, the rangeof companies trying to benefit from Guerilla Marketing ac-tions strongly increased independently from the original rea-sons. The effectiveness of traditional forms of advertisementsconstantly decreased (Smith et al., 2007). New pressures oncompanies and consumers developed as customers started toshow lower brand loyalty and greater eagerness to switchbetween competing brands (Roy and Chattopadhyay, 2010).Word-of-mouth (WoM) gained in relevance as mistrust incompanys messages made classical channels defective andcompanies incapable of distributing and diffusing their con-tent into society (Keller and Berry, 2003). Most recent inci-dents like the financial crisis of 2008/09 are good examplesof influential factors facilitating the demand for cheap alter-natives as marketing budgets are quickly and easily reducedin rough times. Factors like those also led the larger playersin the business to rethink their strategies focusing on morecost-effective methods to differentiate (Porter, 1985).

    While in its early days the concept was mostly appeal-ing to SMEs competing against the big players in fiercelycompetitive markets, Kotler et al. (2007, p. 12) states thatGuerilla warfare is normally practiced by smaller compa-nies against larger companies deserves critique; even theGoliaths of the industries nowadays take advantage of thismethod which has the potential to reach a great amountof customers, cheaply and cost-efficiently, while seeking anundisturbed dialogue with the consumer maximizing the im-pression left behind (Kotler et al., 2007; Bigat, 2012). Forthose big companies, entering new territory obviously comesalong with a certain risk, yet despite the budgetary pressure,the changing environment and while having to target mar-ket segments as heterogeneous towards others as possible, itmight be worth taking such risk (Ansoff, 1965). Since the1980s Jay Conrad Levinson, strongly promoted the GuerillaMarketing evolution through his various contributions andpushed the concept to its final breakthrough. Ever since mar-keters and scholars have used this term referring to any kindof consumer communication instrument that aims at opti-mizing the cost-benefit ratio through unconservative means(Hutter and Hoffmann, 2011a).

    Over the years marketing literature has identified moreand more concepts and instruments of unconventional adver-tisement techniques (e.g. Buzz Marketing, Viral Marketing,Ambient Marketing, Ambush Marketing, Celebrity Market-ing) whereas many further randomly categorized further asGuerilla Marketing or at least used in close relation by prac-

    titioners in everyday life (Mughari, 2011). Yet, great descrip-tive and normative confusion about what scholars and prac-titioners really refer to when labelling an instrument or cam-paign unconventional can be witnessed. With many deficitsalready identified, the extensive relevance for the topic willbe presented in the adjacent chapter.

    1.2. RelevanceThe necessity for critically reviewing and the relevance of

    this topic in general from a practical perspective can be foundin the exemplary study of the GfK (2009) . Matching datafrom the years 2005 and 2009 the associations study com-pared the use of conventional and (professed) Guerilla Mar-keting methods and instruments through interviewing 233marketing associates and managers (GfK, 2009). As a resultthe study showed that the use of television advertising haddecreased by 1.5% and radio advertising by 5.3% whereascontrarily the use of Ambient Marketing had increased by5.4% and Viral marketing by even 12.8% (GfK, 2009).

    Apart from a practical perspective describing increasedinterest in the operational field, the shortage , up to now, ofscientifically substantiated knowledge on the subject matter ofguerilla marketing, its instruments and its categorization maybe interpreted from two different points of view: guerilla mar-keting cannot be classified or guerilla marketing is difficult toclassify (Nufer, 2013, p. 5).

    While searching for relevant literature one quickly real-izes how little developed scientific research is so far and thatresearch is lost in a theoretical ambiguity. The existing defi-nitions deliver a basic understanding but just now started topresent all-embracing projections and a lacking terminolog-ical delimitation results in an imbroglio in literature (Zerr,2003). The lack of unified and especially overreaching def-initions does not allow scholars to speak the same languageand therefore gain a deeper insight into the concept. Still def-initions are facilitated by strategical orientations and scholarsinterpreting the concept from their own specialized perspec-tive (Tropp, 2011). Various practitioners have distributed ar-ticles bearing only specialized scientific results, upholding ex-amples of executed actions. In fact many studies are mainlydriven by practitioners and scholars trying to explain or jus-tify single advertising actions or examples instead of develop-ing scientific models as a basis for exploration (Yksekbilgili,2014). They are primarily interested in whether or not thesingle effect they desired is really achieved.