Are you a Guerrilla?

Let's face it, marketing that delivers positive results is far from straightforward and it is easy to get lost in the noise. Sometimes, to make an impact, you need to go outside the 'box' and just get creative with your thinking. Do it right and those around you will be talking about your brand for a long time.

Most farm markets rely on between 2% and 4% of projected turnover to use as their marketing budget. In promoting your business 2-4% does not go very far and means your message is often lost in the mass of activity that is taking place in the business world today.

Marketing today needs to be CLEVER, CREATIVE, and CHEAP if the message is going to get across effectively and economically.

The most effective marketing is what is called Guerrilla Marketing. This is DISRUPTIVE, UNCONVENTIONAL, and often CONTROVERSIAL. In simple terms it makes people stop and take notice.

The turning point for marketing goes back to 1984 when the book, “Guerrilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad arrived onto the scene. This book was designed for small business operators and provided low cost, grass-roots marketing ideas that make a business stand out from the crowd. At the time, traditionalists rejected the book and carried on with old fashioned marketing techniques. That book still challenges the reader and the small business in 2019. I was reminded of this last month when I was in Canada working with the industry and read an article in a Saskatoon farm magazine on Guerrilla Marketing and the value the concept can bring to today’s farm retail sector.

Guerilla Marketing Molson Coors Fridge Scan Passport

The Molson Canadian Fridge

Over the years there have been many examples of Guerrilla Marketing that have made world headlines.

In 2013, Molson Coors Canada, the country’s leading beer producer, strategically placed fridges in European cities that were full of beer. To get a complimentary can of beer you needed to have a Canadian passport and use it to scan the fridge door to receive a can of beer. The amount of publicity that promotion gave Molson Coors was enormous. It is still considered one of the best examples of Guerrilla Marketing and has evolved, in more recent times, to updated versions including one which uses clever voice-recognition technology to encourage groups of people to speak the words, "I am Canadian" in different languages before the fridge will open to deliver free beer.

This video comes courtesy of Molson Coors and is a tribute to their clever and effective "out-of-the-box" thinking when it comes to promotion of their brand.

You may think Guerrilla Marketing like this is too difficult and complicated for a small business like a farm shop. I disagree. Red Bloom Salon in Calgary, Canada, is a small hair-dressing salon. The owner asked the team what they liked most about their job, their replies were placed on the front shop window in crayon for all to see.

The result was every passing customer saw the messages, 13,000 people saw it on Facebook and shared it, it was placed on Instagram and all this cost less than $40 CDN

Where do you Start?

The challenge is where do you start with this type of marketing.

Let’s be honest, traditional marketing is often developed by one person in the business, whereas 'Guerrilla Marketing' is developed by a team of people engaged in the business.

The structure of the marketing department in your business may be holding your business back in 2019. Marketing today is about the whole team being engaged in marketing, not just one person in the office.

Step one is to get the whole team thinking “outside of the box”; you will be surprised what ideas they will come up with.

Start with the easy steps to gain confidence and see what will work for you.

I suggest you focus on the following four areas of marketing:

  • Clever Signage

Design signs that will stand out from the crowd and start a conversation.

In 2015 a billboard was erected in a posh part of Toronto. It said “ Homeless Shelter Opening Here Soon“.

Over the next 24 hours there was an uproar in the local community and many locals were upset.

The next day the billboard was taken down and replaced by a new one that said “You told us you don’t want a shelter here. Neither do we. Support us in creating a long term solution. Let’s end Homelessness”.

This strong messaging got the point across very effectively. Similar signage can be created by farm shops with a bit of brainstorming

  • Get Involved in Local Events in a Creative Way

As a local business, you need to be seen as engaging with local events but do it in a memorable way.

Brainstorm with the team how you can develop a different and memorable way of getting the message across. For example, you may get involved with children at the event. Many farms work with children and get them to plant bean seeds and watch them grow. Imagine if you developed a "Mr. Bean" concept and the fun you could have by intertwining the event with a TV character.

  • Product Giveaways

Consumers love getting something free, but do it in a novel way.

On Valentine’s Day every year, one of my clients in Czech, goes into the city centre of Prague and gives away free flowers to people. On the flower is a message to visit the garden centre to get a bigger arrangement of flowers. This marketing gets the company on the national news.

Guerrilla Marketing can be low cost and high impact. It involves thinking outside of the box and developing new ideas that have not been used in the sector before in your catchment area. It encourages “word of mouth “and “word of click” communications, which is always the best means of spreading the message about your business.

Restaurant Marketing
  • Its Time for Date Night - It can be In-House

Last month I had a date with my wife. Let me explain this in more detail.

We have four daughters who have often commented, now that they are parents themselves then, every month, they book a baby sitter on a Friday evening and have a “Date Night” with their spouse; quality time as two adults. These dates are normally at a restaurant, but 'my daughters' are also our/your target market.

When Linda and I were in Edmonton, Alberta, working last month, our client asked if we wanted to go on a date for a meal; this time not to a restaurant but to a garden centre.

They mentioned that Greenland Garden Centre had a restaurant and on a Friday evening the garden centre closed at 8.00pm and had a “Date Night” menu on Friday evenings. We arrived and was told we would have a 30-minute wait for a table and we were welcome to look around the garden centre. The result of this was we spent over $200 before we sat down for a shared meal. The restaurant was full on our evening visit in early March and the tills were busy selling plants.

The lessons learned from this Guerrilla Marketing campaign were

- The business encouraged the consumer away from a conventional restaurant and towards a garden centre or it could have been a farm shop, to browse while waiting for a table;

- They encouraged the consumer to linger longer and increased the average sale as a result;

- It was an opportunity to promote local foods of the region;

- We all know people take pictures over a meal and this was customer generated guerrilla marketing for the business.

A “date” can be a simple promotion that has huge results for the business. The other garden centre we visited that evening was closed. It was their lost opportunity.

Become a Guerrilla and who knows what the future holds for you.


John Stanley

John Stanley


John Stanley is a retail consultant specialising in the farm retail sector. Based in West Australia, he is a sweet chestnut and pig farmer as well as consultant and conference speaker with clients in 35 countries. He is the author of several books in this subject, including the book 'Food Tourism... A Practical Marketing Guide'

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