Guerrilla Bank Marketing: 25 Ideas

By Kate Young

Guerrilla marketing has garnered a lot of press over the past 30+ years, and for good reason: Often enough, it actually works.

Of course, marketers have defined the concept in myriad ways, describing it at times as being low-cost, quirky, small-scale, energy intensive, spontaneous, or grassroots-oriented, for example. Reasonable people could argue all day about these criteria. Cost and scale are relative after all. What’s ingenious in some markets may be humdrum in others. And if you show me a bank that uses spontaneous, bottom-up marketing tactics, I’ll show you one that’s been slammed by the regulators.

Yet several themes emerge consistently. Like the guerrilla warfare it’s named after, guerrilla marketing draws impact from being unconventional, agile, and resourceful. It can turn up in almost any area, from direct mail to social media to street-level promotions. Part of its appeal is the surprise factor. That said, there’s very little that’s really new under the sun. And in an industry like banking, a little surprise can go a long way.

When dreaming up a guerrilla campaign, it may help to remember that bankers and customers are all human, and we all appreciate a break from the routine activities and pain points that fill our lives from day to day.

At ABA Bank Marketing, we’ve been hearing from our bankers about the guerilla marketing tactics they’ve been thinking about—and those they’ve actually used over the years. We’ve rounded up 25 that stick out.

Direct Mail

1.  Incorporate promotional information into a 3-D mailer. Because everyone opens a box when it arrives in the mail.

2.  If you can’t afford a 3-D mailer, send a postcard with an arresting design. Anything that’s not just another stuffed envelope.

3.  When you must send a stuffed envelope—like when you’re mailing a printed statement—save money on ad space by printing your ads on the back.


4.  Remember that not all loans have to be financial. Peoples Bank, an Iowa-based community bank, loans out a branded trailer for customer use, free of charge. Perfect for mortgage customers facing a move.


5.  Consider prize linked savings accounts in response to recent federal legislation—and new laws in certain states—that permit the practice. Blue Ridge Bank was so successful with this that it testified before a Senate committee about the program’s benefits.

6.  Go for broke with a no-monthly-fee, no-minimum-deposit, no-overdraft account product. Fifth Third introduced Express Banking to bring the unbanked and underbanked into the fold. New technologies that reduce costs and mitigate risks make such products increasingly feasible.

Social Media

7.  Open an Instagram account and turn control over to employees from across the organization—and let them take turns posting. Capital One and Danske Bank in Copenhagen have tried this as a way to personalize the brand and engage with the larger community.


8.  Create a team of community liaisons. At Avidia Bank, a group called the Avidia Smarties has evolved, tasked with promoting awareness of the bank brand through a combination of social media, thought leadership, appearances, and community events.

9.  Rewrite your job postings in a way that showcases to prospective clients the skills and engagement your staff offers—and turn routine job searches into a social media billboard for your top talent. Umpqua has had a lot of success with this technique, even getting HR to foot the bill.

10.  Get your customers to spread awareness of your brand with a photo challenge on social media. Virginia-based Union Bank & Trust, for example, is sponsoring a Happy Place Sweepstakes. Participants are invited to post a picture of a favorite Virginia “happy place,” on Instagram and tag it with @WeBankAtUnion and #HappyPlaceVA for a chance to win a free getaway.

Community Outreach

11.  Throw a series of street festivals to celebrate local music, shopping, and food.

12.  Sponsor cash mobs to spotlight local businesses. Citizens Bank of Edmond credits this effort— along with its street festivals and other community outreach—with the bank’s success in saving its business—and reviving the local economy.

13.  Donate exercise mats—branded with your bank logo—to a local gym.

14.  Get involved with the local schools. Over the course of a single day, Fifth Third led a massive financial education program that reached nearly every seventh and eighth grader in the Cincinnati Public Schools—more than 4,000 students in 155 classrooms in 20 district schools. One day made a big difference for those kids—and one day, they’re going to need a bank.


15.  Donate a specified amount money to a food bank as a reward for customers who fill out bank surveys.

16.  Remember that showing kindness and decency to those in need can be the best possible branding. In partnership with the American Cancer Society, Inland Bank and Trust provides paid leave to employees participating in Project Purple Roads, driving cancer patients to their chemotherapy appointments.

Game Time

17.  Jump on the augmented reality bandwagon. CenterState Bank put Pokémon Go characters at some of its branches to drive traffic and identify the best places to promote a product or brand.

18.  Open your new branches with a bang. Premier Bank invited neighbors of its new branch to come in and play a game called Crack the Vault. Prizes were relatively modest—including a grand prize of $1,000 cash, an iPad, gift cards, and various electronics—but the response was enthusiastic.


19.  Take the edge off an unpleasant experience. Several years ago, FirstBank placed ads on the walls of Denver International Airport with QR codes that provided users with free Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles, and classic literature (from the public domain). The strategy was to position the bank as the brand that alleviates its customers’ pain points—and what screams “pain point” louder than an airport terminal?


20.  Be the coolest bank in town by sponsoring a summer concert series. Bank of Ann Arbor’s Sonic Lunch showcases local talent, while the bank’s partnership with a local radio station brings up-and-coming national touring artists to the area.

21.  Teach financial literacy to your area’s couch potatoes. Texas Bank and Trust pooled its in-house talent to produce a T.V. show to reach the folks who haven’t logged on or walked into a branch.

22. Instead of spending marketing dollars on sponsorship of a local radio station, use those funds to produce a talk-show of your own. Fidelity Bank produced a 30-minute radio show called “Fidelity Bank…On Business.” Each show features one of their bankers talking about their area of expertise, along with insights from various thought leaders and bank customers.

23.  Go viral. Heartland Bank has produced more than 30 do-it-yourself videos in-house, and uploaded them to Facebook. Central National Bank uses videos to define its brand by showcasing its offbeat sense of humor.


Bon Appetit

24.  Pass out snacks. Salem Five sent a team of “banker bakers” out on the streets to deliver Cookie-Grams. The effort put the bank’s name and new location into the hands of 3,300 potential customers within a one-mile radius of a new branch.

25.  Offer an ice cream break. Umpqua’s now famous Ice Cold Leads program courted business prospects by distributing free ice cream from an Umpqua ice cream truck they drove to office parks.



Kate Young is the content editor of Email: [email protected]