If your business is selling to millennials or Gen Z but is struggling to see a return on its investment, implementing guerrilla marketing into the mix can greatly increase awareness and demand.

Every day we are bombarded with thousands of advertising messages through traditional and digital media. With this kind of information-overload, it should come as no surprise that brands only have a window of eight seconds for their content to capture Gen Z’s attention.

While this generation of digital natives can quickly discern what content (both on- and offline) is worth their time, it’s not an indication of a lack of attention span. Both millennials and Gen Z, after all, can watch hours of live-streamed video games on Twitch or consume an entire YouTube playlist of daily vlogs in one sitting.

Engaging with millennial and Gen Z consumers is a necessary challenge for most brands. Consider that by 2020, Gen Z alone will make up 40 percent of all consumers. More than that, 93 percent of parents already say their Gen Z children influence household purchases.

So how can you avoid being tuned out, turned off and blocked in order to reach this powerful demographic? Guerrilla marketing is one low-budget method that can leave a lasting impact.

It’s fundamentally different from more traditional types of marketing due to its delivery method. Rather than passively relying on your audience to listen to or watch an advertisement, engaging your audience in an experience can leave a lasting impression. Successful guerrilla campaigns take a bit of work up front and a lot of creativity – but interacting with consumers is powerful in building brand demand.

How We Used Guerrilla Marketing to Build Demand for Purpose-Built Student Housing

At WhiteHot Marketing, we often create plans for multifamily developers in niche markets, such as student housing. Particularly in smaller markets, student housing is often a new concept, which adds an extra challenge to creating brand awareness. For one project in particular, our client acquired a property in a community where the concept of purpose-built student housing was entirely new.
The local community college had never had housing nearby and even the closest market-rate apartments required a decent commute to campus. On top of that, the development our client had acquired was a well-known, long-abandoned apartment complex that, for all intents and purposes, looked like the set to a zombie movie.

Our challenge on this project was not only to build name recognition for our client, but also to educate the market on the concept of student housing – and how it was going to benefit both the college and students. We knew overcoming this challenge would take highly engaging and attention-grabbing marketing techniques that would give us the chance to truly interact with consumers. This is where guerrilla marketing techniques came into play.

Leveraging the Notoriety of Dig ‘Em, Snap, Crackle, Pop and More

One of the first ways we introduced our client to the Battle Creek, MI community (home to Kellogg’s) was at an annual Cereal Festival hosted by the town. Rather than walking in the parade in t-shirts and throwing out candy, we opted to make our own life-sized, client-branded cereal boxes that paid homage to the Kellogg Company’s many cereal mascots.

We walked the parade and day-long event handing out flyers and taking selfies with bystanders. By the end of the day, two of our team members had made a name for themselves as “Mr. and Mrs. Cereal Box.”

Through social media selfies with event attendees, our low-cost, fun and quirky DIY costumes turned into a swell of PR and started a chain reaction of positive word-of-mouth marketing. It also caught the attention of local media covering the event, which opened the door to building a relationship with local news. Additionally, by the end of that week we totaled 57 qualified leads, including new guest cards and even some completed applications – and that was just the beginning.

Pokémon Go Creates Buzz

While not all communities may have such an iconic event as a Cereal Festival, you can create your own guerrilla opportunities. We used the success of the mobile game, Pokémon Go to connect our client’s brand to something with which our target audience was familiar.

The apartment community’s first open house was promoted with Pokémon trading card invitations. Since trading cards feature Pokémon character profiles, we created character profiles for our three student brand ambassadors to introduce them (and the brand) to the community.

With a variety of Pokémon character hats, a Pikachu onesie and branded trading cards in hand as invites, our brand ambassadors walked along the downtown streets during a high traffic time and engaged hundreds of potential new residents as they were out and about catching Pokémon.

Evaluating the Impact

As with any marketing campaign, an important step in the process is evaluation to measure effectiveness. By the end of the 120-day lease up season once the property management company took over marketing efforts, we had leased 100 percent of the beds that were ready for move-in. Despite a tough market, with the help of guerrilla marketing we were able to generate interest from twice as many students as projected – and that’s just counting direct leads. We also used the attention to build relationships with key community stakeholders, which opened the door to future opportunities.

Identifying which precise mix of marketing tactics will be effective comes down to truly understanding the target market and defining realistic objectives. We combined our extensive experience in marketing to college students with due diligence in getting to know this particular community to create several successful and engaging guerrilla marketing campaigns.

With the right combination of creativity, resourcefulness and proactive planning, you can use guerrilla marketing to gain awareness and build relationships with your consumers. So get your creative juices flowing, gather up your most energetic team members and get ready to see results.

Interested in more photos and stats about this campaign? Check out the case study infographic.