Stealth marketing also known as subterfuge-, undercover- or buzz marketing has managed to draw quite a bit of attention in recent months with the April 2010 release of Derrick Borte’s new movie The Joneses.
The Joneses brings to the big screen a marketing technique which has been around for a number of years but due to its, uhem, stealthy tactics; it has remained fairly under the radar.
Stealth marketing is defined as a marketing venture where the consumer does not know that he or she is being marketed to. It is, in my opinion a very innovative way to market to consumers as it has become very easy for people to simply skip or ignore a company’s efforts to reach them through conventional advertising mediums both online and offline.
Examples of online stealth marketing ventures include companies paying people to frequent forums centred around the company’s products or brand and to promote the afore mentioned products or brands to fellow consumers, often without ever using the products.
Famous (or more accurately infamous) instances of stealth marketing tactics gone horribly wrong for the company include Wal-Mart which set up a flog (fake blog) detailing a fictitious couples journey across America in a camper van titled Walmarting Across America. In the flog the “couple” tell tales of their experience of parking in Wal-Mart parking lots and the friendly staff members that they encountered.
Offline examples of stealth marketing tactics include actors who are paid to go to busy public areas and promote the company’s product. These actors pretend to be average people merely going about their day, when in actual fact they are hired to create an engaging experience between the product and the consumer.
Published accounts of these types of undercover marketing tactics include an article on nydailynews.com from April this year which accounts the experience of one jobbing stealth marketing actress called Julia Royter.
Royter explains in the article that she enjoys her job and the freedom it allows her to play different characters. She tells of one covert advertising campaign that she was involved with for BlackBerry for which she was paid to go to trendy New York midtown bars and flirt with men. The purpose of the encounter was for her to ask the men for their phone numbers and then hand over the newly released BlackBerry Pearl phone for him to enter his number into. It was that simple.
There has been a lot of backlash surrounding this relatively new phenomenon but not everyone views it as negative, myself included. I feel that if the consumer enjoys the created experience and therefore has a positive interaction with and association to the advertised brand then the advertiser has reached their goal. I don’t see the harm in promoting products in this innovative way, it is more interactional and potentially gives the consumer a more three dimensional view of the brand, having experienced it. The consumer still has a choice whether or not to purchase the product; no one is forcing them at gun point.
Jason Van Trentlyon, president of Street Guerrilla Marketing also views stealth marketing in a positive light and said in an interview with the New York Daily News that, “stealth marketing has a greater potential to make a more sincere impact on the public as opposed to a TV or billboard ad, people are inundated with so many blatant advertisements on TV and in magazines that they don’t pay attention anymore. This is a way of creating buzz, and any buzz is good buzz”.
I think as a marketer you need to be able to adapt to the changing environment of the twenty-first centaury. There is so much advertising clutter that consumers feel overwhelmed with amount of adverts that they are exposed to on a daily basis that they choose to relieve themselves of it all together by using PVR to fast forward past television commercials or to click close on pop up windows.
Charles Darwin had it right when he said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
This quote is most apt to end this post as it basically defines that as a marketer change is inevitable and in order to survive becoming obsolete one has to adapt or die (figuratively, literally it would be the death of a career).
To check out some of the articles I sourced click below: