Guerrilla Marketing for Bootstrappers – Techniques & Examples

For new and unproven companies looking to make a splash when they enter a market, figuring out how to make the most impact for the least money is a real challenge. The general perspective regarding traditional media advertising has changed dramatically in the past decade; audiences are dividing their attention between an increasingly diverse variety of channels, and large marketing budgets are a luxury rather than an entitlement. It’s no wonder that a low-cost, high return-on-investment method for gaining exposure like guerrilla marketing is so attractive, but it’s also important to remember that it’s not free – you will be investing your energy and effort. Today we’re going to have a look at some tips for bootstrapping an effective guerrilla marketing campaign, and investigate some of the most recent success stories.

Physical vs Digital Guerrilla Marketing

When budgets are tight a marketing campaign needs to have laser-like focus. After defining your main objectives and target audience, the next step will be to decide which domain your campaign is going to run across; is it physical, digital or a combination? While most people associate guerrilla marketing with physical gimmicks and stunts, the key elements of a guerrilla marketing campaign are the innovative and creative use of time, energy and imagination, so even with a bootstrapper’s budget you shouldn’t feel restricted to a particular domain.

Bootstrapped Guerrilla Marketing – Techniques and Examples – Physical

Airbnb and the Story of the Obama O’s

One of the most effective ways to build buzz on a budget is to ride the waves of a much larger event or campaign. Before it was a ‘household name’ the founders of Airbnb, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbla were strapped for cash and worried that their little startup might not make it through the year. Unwilling to give up, the former Rhode Island School of Design students created a home-grown guerrilla marketing campaign that used the buzz of the 2008 Democratic National Convention to give them both exposure and capital. They bought packets of generic Cheerios cereal, then designed and printed attractive boxes with quirky brands: “Obama O’s: Hope in Every Bowl,” and “Cap’n McCain’s: a Maverick in Every Bite.” Soon the cereal was selling like crazy at $40 per box and became one of the stories of the convention, not only saving Airbnb with much needed early-stage capital, but also providing Chesky and Gebbla with priceless media attention.

Twilight: Get Bitten – The Vampires That Ate Sydney

While it may seem odd to be mentioning one of the world’s biggest movie franchises in a post about marketing for bootstrappers, the Twilight ‘Get Bitten’ guerrilla marketing campaign must surely get a mention for the creative simplicity and low-cost nature of the effort. This 2009 Sydney-based campaign consisted of placing two little red stickers on strategic places over prominent outdoor billboards and posters. Each sticker contained just the words ‘Twilight’ and ‘Get Bitten’ and was positioned to appear like the after effects of a bloody vampire bite. The campaign may have irked some advertisers but it certainly added to the buzz surrounding the mega-franchise.

Bootstrapped Guerrilla Marketing – Techniques and Examples – Digital

Not – How Scott Krager Hitched a Ride with Google

In October of 2011 Google – the world’s largest search engine and provider of the free analytics tool Google Analytics – decided to alter how it presented data to its users. From this point forward visitors to websites who were logged into a Google Account would appear lumped together as a single cohort under the banner ‘Not Provided’. This spelled disaster for most, but SEO thought-leader Scott Krager saw through the fuss and found opportunity. He immediately snapped up the domain name ‘’, set up a basic website offering tips to disappointed users, and gained a massively increased online presence while also establishing himself as an authority on Google Analytics. Not bad for a $10 domain name, a free WordPress theme and some quick-thinking…

The Time Dollar Shave Club Cut the Budget and Made a Mint

Dollar Shave Club is an e-commerce website that sells personal grooming products like razors and sends them out to customers monthly for a subscription fee. After launching in 2011, their buzz was minimal and the company’s future was uncertain. Enter an inspired piece of guerrilla marketing and within a year Dollar Shave Club had received over $10 million in funding and tens of millions of views on Youtube. How did they achieve this remarkable turnaround? With a series of funny,  low-budget videos that shone a light on the company and help communicate its brand character to the target market. With a budget of just $4,500 per video, and with the CEO in a starring role, Dollar Shave Club used guerrilla marketing tactics online to produce a viral sensation. Within 48 hours of the video’s release the company registered 12,000 sign-ups and proved that an effective combination of creativity and effort can reap big rewards.


What we can see from the above examples is that guerrilla marketing campaigns rely first-and-foremost on ingenuity and focused effort. While there are certainly some gigantic guerrilla marketing campaigns that would cost a fortune to deploy, the most important thing for small and up-and-coming businesses to achieve is the right response from their target market. For bootstrappers, that means pulling together the resources at your disposal, keeping your eyes open for opportunities and taking creative risks.

Jacob E. Dawson works with Delivery Hero, the online food delivery website and is an entrepreneur and inbound-marketing consultant with a passion for creating value! Follow Jacob on twitter @jacobedawson and on Google+.

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