“Things are changing around here, people! We’ve got a new social media consultant, Dave, right here, and he’s got some great ideas for the company. We’re not just going to just ‘market’ anymore. We want our consumers and employees to really experience each other. In short, brand immersion. Am I right, Dave? We’re going to do guerrilla marketing but use the social media strategy to make the whole thing go viral. If we’re lucky, we might even have a flash mob. Any questions?”

First of all, screw Dave. The kid looks thirteen, and he has a Red Bull IV and keeps throwing around words like “synergy” and “brandstorming.” The other words sound kind of familiar – guerrilla, social media, viral, brand immersion – but they get mixed up with the Frankenwords you’re sure he got from the autocorrect function on his smartphone. How do you separate legitimate marketing strategy components from the buzzwords that give you migraines? Luckily, you’ve got this post: a mini marketing dictionary to set you off in the right direction.

Gorilla looking distressed
Yeah, go for it. That joke is totally not old. Didn’t even see it coming.

Guerrilla Marketing

What is it?

This Spanish word for “little war” describes a marketing technique consistent with its battle tactics namesake. Guerrilla warfare consists of small, mobile units using the element of surprise to instigate brief, unexpected conflicts and defeat a larger, better-equipped force.

Similarly, guerrilla marketing is a one-time (or rare) shock value event meant to surprise potential consumers, grab their attention, and then disappear. The brief nature of these events and dependence on the word-of-mouth marketing spread sets it apart from other strategies.

Where does it happen?

These are generally offline events in public places, because this marketing technique capitalizes on the you-had-to-be-there sentiment.

Who creates the content?

Marketers plan the event and hire performers or representatives as needed to make the magic happen.

Unimpressed gorilla
Unimpressed Gorilla has no time for your flash mobs.

Who shares the content?

Again, because these campaigns are temporary, the content itself is usually not spread to anyone not present at the original distribution point; the narratives of the event are spread through word-of-mouth. Smartphones and digital cameras are killing the right-time-right-place excitement, but since the content is developed for an in-person experience, it’s guerrilla.

What are some examples?

The most popular example would be a flash mob, or a group of people who have rehearsed some kind of song and/or dance to be performed in public.

Yeah, it was put on YouTube and “went viral,” but the event itself was meant for in-person consumption.

Other examples include the Dentmobile, the guerrilla marketing component of the overall brand immersion campaign for The Dark Knight. The Dentmobile traveled across the country, raising support for Gotham City District Attorney candidate (and fictional character) Harvey Dent. While the overall campaign included videos, websites, and other online viral marketing components, the physical (and often unannounced) presence of the Dentmobile was a popular and exciting piece of the campaign.

Passing notes in class
Viral marketing circa 1992

Viral Marketing

What is it?

Viral marketing strategies take advantage of the little disease-causing jerks for which they are named: viruses. Like computer viruses or flu viruses, the content is infinitely replicable and spreads through person-to-person contact.

This contact can be through word-of-mouth recommendations, social media shares, and other in-person and online interactions. The most successful campaigns are organically driven by consumers rather than heavily pushed by corporations or advertising agencies.

Where does it happen?

Because one advantage to viral marketing over guerrilla marketing is that viral content can be spread and replicated beyond those present at the initial distribution, viral marketing is much more likely to happen online.

Looks like you’ve caught a serious case of In-the-Know-itis complicated by amazing Early Bird discounts!

Who creates the content?

While the marketers generally create all the content, social media allows for the addition of commentary when the images, videos, or text are being passed around within social circles to create a new form of the “virus.” Viral marketing also tends to inspire awesome parodies.

Who shares the content?

After the initial distribution, consumers share the media with their friends online or in person. However, with viral marketing, there is no additional participation by the original marketers until new content is created.

What are some examples?

If the Dentmobile was a small guerrilla unit of the brand immersion plan for The Dark Knight, then the viral campaign is the whole armed forces. The video explains the process better than I can, so click and learn.

If only everyone used WUPHF!

Social Media Marketing

What is it?

Social media marketing combines the word-of-mouth buzz from guerrilla marketing with the infinitely replicable media of viral marketing with a dash of interaction to create a dialogue between the brand and its advocates (and, often, between the advocates themselves).

Where does it happen?

Social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr host images, text, and videos created by the brand and provide an area of feedback (comments, response vlogs). Blogs and forums on the company websites are often the first toe dipped into social media marketing pool.

Who creates the content?

Both marketers and customers create content; the platform of customer-company interaction is the point of interest with this marketing strategy.

Person working on two computers at once
I can Tweet and update my Facebook status with my left hand while I post my vlog to YouTube and Pin with my right!

Who shares the content?

Marketers and customers share in content creation. A representative of the company may Tweet something relevant to the customer base; a customer may share a suggestion on a Facebook wall post. Both of these are social media marketing.

What are some examples?

Discounts offered to Twitter followers, LinkedIn associates, and Facebook friends are some direct examples of social media marketing on the sales end of the spectrum. On the relationship-building end, leading questions like: “What’s your favorite wine to pair with steak?” posted by a restaurant or a challenge to see who can post the most creative picture of a business’s product in action inspire discussion and debate among a client base – all with the business’s social media site as the central hub of communication.


These are not mutually exclusive groups. A flash mob in a mall (guerrilla marketing) could be recorded on a smartphone and emailed to friends and family (viral marketing) or posted on a company’s Facebook page (social media marketing). These different marketing types describe where marketing takes place, who creates it, and how it is distributed; there’s a lot of overlap, and rarely will a campaign stay in one camp.

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!

Image credit to Clipart.com.

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