Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

“Once you see it, it’s too late.” – How come a supposedly friendly gesture gave people the creeps? [Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing]

December 1, 2022

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more. 

A Note from Miles Everson:

Welcome to “Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing!” 

According to Jay Conrad Levinson, guerrilla marketing is unconventional, engaging, impactful, and easy to execute. Campaigns of this type create a lasting impression that enables consumers to actively interact with a brand. 

For today’s issue, we’re thrilled to talk about a guerrilla marketing stunt that generated a lot of  buzz for a horror film!

Find out how a group of guerrilla marketers used a sporting event to capture the attention of thousands of people!

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing 

Have you ever felt creeped out when you experience something eerie or disturbing? 

You don’t know why, but whenever you’re feeling this emotion, you find yourself overwhelmed with a sense of uneasiness.

According to Frank McAndrew, a professor of psychology at Knox College, when we’re creeped out, our bodies tell us that something isn’t right and we better stay alert. Moreover, when we’re in that emotional state, we’re forced to search for more information about the thing giving us the creeps!

Simply said, getting the creeps is a powerful emotion that compels us to act. 

Did you know the marketing team of a certain horror film was inspired by this emotion when they came up with a guerrilla marketing campaign?

The title of that movie is… 


Photo courtesy of The Movie Spoiler

“Smile” is a 2022 American psychological horror film written and directed by Parker Finn. The movie is about Dr. Rose Cotter (played by Sosie Bacon), a psychiatrist who was entangled in a traumatic incident involving one of her patients. As a result of this experience, Cotter started to go through a series of disturbing events.

In case you don’t know yet, the movie stood out because of the creepy smiles found throughout its runtime. 

So… what made these smiles iconic and unsettling—was it the act itself, or something else entirely? 

Research suggests there’s no inherent emotional meaning in smiling; it’s actually the context that brings out the emotions we associate with the act. 

When smiles are seen in a horror film, some moviegoers start feeling uneasy or creeped out as they watch the movie unfold. In the case of “Smile,” the marketing team picked up on this principle and used it as an inspiration for the film’s guerrilla marketing campaign.

Here’s how the promotional strategy went… 

Before “Smile” was released, the marketing team hired a few actors to stand in multiple sporting venues to grin from ear to ear!

Photo courtesy of Twitter

These “smilers” were spotted at different Major League Baseball (MLB) games across the U.S., where over 26,000 fans attended the games on average.

As expected, this creepy stunt grabbed the attention of those who were watching the games in person or through television.  

What’s more? 

The sightings of these individuals garnered lots of attention on social media! In particular, the guerrilla marketing stunt had over 20 million views on TikTok, a short-form video hosting site. 

The viewership on social media made it clear that the guerilla marketing stunt was effective in generating buzz for “Smile.” However, was this stunt effective in helping the movie’s performance in the box office?


Based on the numbers provided by Box Office Mojo, a digital news website dedicated to reporting box office earnings, “Smile” has earned over USD 210 million globally since its release on September 30, 2022. The movie cost USD 17 million to make, which meant its profits were 12 times its production budget.   

While the guerrilla marketing stunt isn’t the sole factor for the film’s impressive earnings, it can’t be denied that it played a huge part in the film’s financial success. After all, horror isn’t the usual  genre that’s traditionally known for attracting millions and millions of audiences.

By creating a guerrilla marketing stunt that was eye-catching and attention-grabbing, the marketing team behind “Smile” was able to capture moviegoers’ attention, make them curious, and compel them to watch the film.

We hope this campaign gave you ideas on how to creatively market your own products! In highly-competitive industries, making your brand stand out is important to attract consumers.

Besides, guerrilla marketing stunts are fun and engaging. When they’re crafted thoughtfully and implemented properly, they’ll allow you and your brand to create memorable experiences for your target audience. 

Smile genuinely (not creepily) this amazing Thursday! 

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.) 

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing”

Jay Conrad Levinson (1984) said that Guerrilla Marketing “works because it’s simple to appreciate, easy to execute, and inexpensive.”

Guerrilla Marketing is unconventional.

Looking beyond the traditional ways of advertising, marketers, and advertisers need to spice things up in order for their brand to have campaigns that not only make an impact but also stick to their target market’s mind.

Guerrilla Marketing usually aims to have direct contact with consumers.

This type of direct contact should spark an emotional reaction that leads to consumers effectively remembering the brand.

It’s about making a big impression and making that impression last a long time (if not forever).

Guerrilla Marketing can be inexpensive.

The effect of this is being able to create a buzz around the brand, and the strategy used to market it. Almost everything is passed around through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is one of the greatest outcomes and it usually doesn’t cost anything.

This is every business’ or brand’s dream!

Every Thursday, we publish tips, examples, and other useful content on unconventional ways of marketing and promotion.

Learn more about how to grab your target market’s attention and make an amazing first and lasting impression without having to spend a lot of money.

Businesses don’t really need to spend much for a guerrilla campaign. You do not need a big budget to be successful. You just need creativity and a good imagination.

Hope you’ve found this week’s guerrilla marketing insight interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Thursday’s Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing!


Kyle Yu 
Head of Marketing 
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities 
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