Grassroots Marketing vs. Guerrilla Marketing:  It's in the Strategy

2 min read
June 06, 2017

Guerilla or Guerrilla Marketing vs Grassroots

Grassroots marketing and guerrilla marketing are often confused for one another when they’re not quite the same thing.  I try not be an elitist about industry jargon, however when it comes to these two terms it’s important to understand the difference, especially for marketers.  Its imperative you understand what you’re asking your team or hiring an agency to do on your behalf. 

Before we jump into it I need to clarify one thing.  You may have seen guerrilla marketing spelled with one “R”.  Both are acceptable as a way of defining a marketing tactic as well or a small group of combatants that leverage their size, agility and unconventional military tactics to defeat their larger much more conventional opponent.  Like guerrilla warfare, guerrilla marketing including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger competitor.


Conversely, grassroots marketing as I defined in an earlier blog post, is the implementation of cost-efficient, unconventional marketing strategy to deliver a messaging to a very targeted group of common consumers that yields high return on investment. Still confused?  Well, the truth is that guerrilla marketing is actually a smaller subset of a grassroots marketing strategy.  Grassroots marketing is a sustained long-term philosophy that a marketer employs to achieve their goals whereas guerilla marketing are almost always initiatives or tactics that are part of that strategy.  It’s the difference between strategy and tactic.  Catherine Yochum at Clearpoint Strategy does an excellent job of explaining strategy vs. tactic in more detail.


So now that we’re enlightened, let’s talk examples.  While it’s almost impossible to execute a grassroots strategy without any guerilla implementation there are a few tactics that aren’t quite guerrilla. 

  1. Hyperlocal marketing, for instance is completely grassroots but doesn’t have to be guerrilla.  With Hyperlocal, marketers can focus efforts in smaller geographies, or enclaves where their target market is highly concentrated which helps realize a higher return on investment, creating tremendous value. 

    7 Reasons to Use Hyperlocal Student Recruitment Agencies

  2. Another non-guerrilla grassroots tactic is sponsorship.  Our clients out of the West Indies have realized tremendous success in the Diaspora by using sponsorship as a way of branding and gaining marketshare among their transplanted Caribbean nationals.  For them, migrated Caribbeans represent buying power and decision-making influence amongst family “back home.”  By sponsoring cultural events and creative brand placements in the UK, US and Canada, brands like Digicel, Grace Kennedy and FLOW have grown their businesses.

  3. Non-Guerrilla Grassroots tactics have effectively been employed by large-scale US corporations as well.  Highbrid Media organized cross-promotions with some of New York and New Jersey’s top barbershops to build strong partnerships for MetroPCS in the Latino community.  In this example, the big brand leveraged small business relationships to grow its influence on the local level.  For more on this, our case study goes into more depth on the full campaign execution and measurement. 

So, what have we learned, guerrilla (or guerilla) marketing is always grassroots but the reverse isn’t always true.  It’s also important to not only understand the difference between the two but also how it effects our overall strategy and tactics used to execute it.   Get this down and you’re well on your way to being #TeamGrassroots certified!


West Indian Diaspora Marketing Techniques


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