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The 4 Approaches to Guerrilla Communications

Thinking Aloud

Sometimes an idea transcends its carriers. It lives in its own magic. It visits and wakes us and carries us in its flight.

Hello ye innovators.

Last time it was crowdfunding. This week's Innovation Weekly explores guerrilla communications - and not just because the links are funnier. Although they are (have a look)!

The pernickety (a good name for a parakeet or a hamster) will have noticed that today's Innovation Weekly is in fact an innovation monthly. A marvellous whirlwind of travel and exciting encounters have kept me away from Bloglandfor exactly 4 weeks. See our current projects for the latest adventures.

I hope it is worth the wait however, as rather than just the weekly harvest of great links I share a guide to successful guerrilla communication which is guiding the Adora Foundation's research and development work in this area. Part I this week: an overview of 4 main approaches to guerrilla communications. Next week part II: 3 design principles for successful guerrilla communication campaigns.

Do feed back your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Let's innovate together.

Ismael Velasco

Founder and CEO

Guerrilla Communications Campaigns: 4 approaches and 3 Design Principles for Success (Part I)

As a social innovation scout (check out my scout shorts and innovative scout bow-tie) the question in my mind was: can one reverse-engineer successful guerrilla communications? Are there cross-cutting design principles that should underpin the Adora Foundation's planned guerrilla campaign experiments?

How do you turn your message viral? How do you crowdsource your revolution? Can you make your concept act like a meme without cruel and unusual punishment? Can you make the questions stop?

A full feature article from my mystifying keyboard. If you like it, credit the author, if you don't, please blame the keyboard.

Guerrilla Communications: The 4 Approaches

The phenomenon of guerrilla communications is growing at an exponential rate and spreading into more and  more surprising spheres of life. By way of context, I thought it would be useful to understand how guerrilla communications are evolving in our world, in what patterns, for what purposes. In particular, I have identified four families of guerrilla communication (not many families, but they do seem to procreate a lot, and they seem to have fun with it!).

Guerilla marketing. Exceptional fun, even if not particularly inspiring in its direct contribution to the world. See what I mean in this awesome example from Coke's James Bond campaign. When I watch it, I can't help believing that creativity in its own right, like art, is a positive energy released into the world, and that's got to be something, even when harnessed for less than altruistic ends that are, at the very least, not exactly good for your teeth.

Social marketing. Aimed at producing positive values or behaviour change. See the literacy campaign through cool book cover fakes, or much less impressive, Foodagram's gamification concept for nutrition education (I fail to see how pretending to be a pizza makes kids want to eat healthy foods. Did I miss the point?).

Lifestyle guerrilla campaigns, from the fun trivialities of fandom (what do you do when you don't like the ending of your favourite TV series? Start a meme, #believeinsherlock), to the 'underground' reinvention of traditional activities from cinema viewing (I love secret cinema) to restaurant eating (ever tried guerrilla dining?), from gardening hobbies (meet the guerrilla gardners!) to ironing habits (watch this intro to extreme ironing: "combining the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well ironed shirt."). These also include what Velasco et al (me and my mates) call "absurd but sticky guerrilla campaigns": Gagnam dance, Chinese splits. For these there is no planning, no prevention and no cure. For a brilliant tour guide to this phenomenon see

These utterly spontaneous grassroots mushroomings are fascinating to me in terms of self-organising complexity and emergence, both key concepts to the Adora Foundation's innovation methodology.

Guerrilla activism (as opposed to guerrilla warfare), from neighbourhood action (I find the guerrilla library enchanting); to the national (Tahrir Square), to the transnational (950 spontaneous, guerrilla marketed protests in 150 countries for the Occupy movement). The Time Person of the Year for 2011 was The Protester. And in the vast majority of cases, social media based guerrilla activism played a critical part. There are also non-confrontational uses of social-media based guerrilla activism, such as Ushahidi, the brilliant social media platform for grassroots disaster response.


And the question is...

Am I missing a cousin or an uncle? There are always relatives you didn't know you have. Have you spotted one? And among the million children, do you know any particularly witty, zany, clever, or annoyingly sticky one? Let me know - it's good fun.

Meanwhile, until next blog!

Keep the torch.

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