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Guerrilla marketing? Now it’s open warfare

The next new thing? Guerrilla marketing is dead. Long live unrestricted marketing warfare!


Within the marketing industry, many references have been made to Carl Von Clausewitz and his classic book, “On War.” The great Chinese theorist Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” gets similar attention. The contents of both books have influenced modern principles of marketing.

One enduring concept is guerrilla marketing, which, not surprisingly, is based on guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla warfare is characterized by a series of hit-and-run attacks and the overt use of multiple tactics that, at first glance, seem independent and uncoordinated.

Guerrilla marketing was conceived as an unconventional system of promotions that rely on time, energy and imagination rather than on a big marketing budget. Typically, guerrilla marketing campaigns are potentially interactive and target consumers in unexpected places. Do you remember the Boston ATHF Black Box campaign of 2007 to promote a new cartoon on the Cartoon Network? If not, Google “Boston ATHF Bomb Scare.”

The objective of guerrilla marketing is to create a unique, engaging and thought-provoking concept to generate buzz and turn viral. The term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book of the same name and has since entered popular vocabulary and marketing textbooks. Guerrilla marketing involves unusual approaches, such as intercept encounters in public places, street giveaways of products, PR stunts or any other unconventional marketing techniques intended to get maximum results from minimal resources.

Guerrilla marketing as described above is a fine strategy, but it’s dated. Yes, it’s inventive, structurally sound and has proven successful, but in my eyes it’s over for guerilla marketing. Mob and crowd sourcing has become the modern extension of guerrilla marketing. I understand that it continues to adapt, using digital and emerging technologies, but I don’t think this change of tactics will help. Today the consumer or business-to-business customer needs to be overwhelmed in a multichannel attack that leaves little to the imagination except that a sale has been made or engagement of the customer has been measured.

Consumption as the market

The marketer needs to look at the market not as the United States of America, but the United States of Consumption and what controls that consumption. That, to me, is the brain and the emotions that control or are controlled by the brain. The attacks with marketing weapons outlined, in part, below will provide the momentum to achieve total victory and sell, sell, sell, using data as a common foundation and emotion or emotions as the glue. Defining victory is simple: It is, buy, buy, buy and, yes, buy.

Look at the variety of marketing weapons that can be used to defeat consumers and control their emotional purchasing power. Start with print, the faithful heavy artillery of marketing. Next add some stealth, such as emerging technologies, QR or NFC codes, SMS and mobile sites, all linked to the Internet via personalized microsites that survey and track each hit and open rate, qualified or not.

Add e-mails, linked to video centers; augmented reality; tablets; apps; interactive protocols; relevance; and integration of not just the message, but also the entire target-landing zone. Can a family-based database be provided to marketers that offers complete intelligence on the needs of the entire family rather than an individual family member?

Full-family intel can and will provide the base for secure marketing operations because any message mapping will be complete. Forget about the household stakeholders. Can other family members — all of the members, no matter who they are — influence the influencers, the stakeholders? Unrestricted marketing warfare prevents dissent from within the family (nation) unit. Questions and influence regarding the buying decision cycle, extended or exaggerated needs and sales materials are taken to a new height across a new field of marketing combat.

The next thing you know, you have massive consumer spending on a scale never seen before. Unrestricted marketing warfare links personal needs, including illness, family troubles, financial status and other once wholly private information, into a message map or logic trail that would undermine the buying cycle of even the strongest, most cohesive frugal American family. True shock and awe on the marketing side of life.

Not to fault any firm, but the amount of data available on the Internet, when linked with an aggressive marketing program, can lead to massive leaps in the perception and buying power of the consumer and business-to-business customer base. The question is which data, which media, which tactics and when?

Media convergence

A key aspect of unrestricted marketing warfare is that there are no rules. Nothing is forbidden. We in marketing can easily accept that in order to make a sale. Many think marketing has few or no rules. The rule is that there are no rules.

We marketers can’t go that far. But in today’s competitive world, what stops are in place? Better still, who will regulate this new marketing weapon? Will we need to establish a Geneva Convention for marketing?

In the end, I am a strong advocate for media convergence. To me, unrestricted marketing warfare is media convergence: Think ice cube vs. iceberg, small vs. large. Get my drift? When we look at all of the channels that media and an ever-expanding mix of touch points open for us, we will begin to realize that substance will overtake quality (to many, this has already happened; just look to reality TV) and focus, which will eliminate the shotgun approach.

We are all aware that technology will converge. Look at your smart phone or tablet if you doubt that. Convergence of technology is only the first step. Convergence of tactics and tools will follow. If you doubt this statement, read A.T. Faust’s article, “Old rumors and new ideas fuel Round Two of Apple TV set speculation” at Also check out ( and search for “competitors” or go to and search for “iTV”) Apple TV as outlined on the Internet. This is not the black Apple TV box. It is a screen with interactive functions and cloud storage.

If you want a real-life version of unrestricted marketing warfare, you need to call me. I do have the answers, tactics, strategies and tools, but they are top-secret, and you know what that means.

Why call me? Your market is different from any other. For that reason, the need to have unrestricted marketing warfare targeted to achieve your goals is a difficult and intel-based need. I have the intel and the means to make this happen. Engaging your market and your budget are the driving factors to be considered.

Thaddeus B. Kubis is a marketing and advertising authority specializing in emerging marketing technologies. He is also well-versed in personalization marketing, mobile marketing, branded content, one-to-one marketing and interaction marketing. A board member at Marine Marketing Association, Kubis is also a certified sailing instructor.

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue.



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