Summary: In a world in which people are constantly bombarded with marketing messages, there are many advantages to using stealth marketing.
In a world where people are constantly being subjected to marketing messages, the allure of crafting a stealth campaign is easy to understand. Stealth campaigns have clear advantages over traditional marketing campaigns, mainly that people are unaware that they are being marketed to. With the multitude of marketing channels available the ability to launch a stealth marketing effort is greatly enhanced.
People tend to put up a wall when they feel that they are being marketed to. They naturally distrust marketing messages because the purpose of marketing is to influence their behavior in a way that benefits the marketer, not for the customer. Therefore people aremore receptive to a message that is not perceived to be a marketing message. The other advantage stealth marketing offers is the ability to allow the customer to make a “discovery.” When a customer feels that he or she has made up their own mind about a product or idea, they tend to be much more loyal. This customer is also more likely to spread the word about the smart choice they made. This could mean telling their friends at work or perhaps they may spread the word through social media or blog post about their discovery. The irony is that a well executed stealth marketing campaign will make a customer feel pride for thinking for themselves and not being influenced by advertising or other marketing messages.
Although it is necessary to trick the customer in making the discovery, stealth marketing should not be manipulative or run counter to the best interest of the customer. Honesty and integrity will make a stealth marketing campaign easier to execute. It will also help if anything goes wrong, which it often happens. Unless you are marketing a physically addictive product that kills its users (Cigarette Companies), deception will only get you into trouble. The thing to remember is that you are using stealth to present a message that is both good for both you and your customers.
The methods of stealth campaigns come in many forms. Some are as simple as creating fake reviews on the web or as complex (and expensive) as any agency can dream up. A classic example of stealth marketing was the technique where movie theaters would splice in single frames into movies that advertised popcorn or soft drinks. This is exactly what Brad Pitt does in fight club, except in that movie he is splicing pornographic images into children’s movies. Either way the results are the same. The viewer does not actually register what they have seen, but the single frame elicits a response. In the case of old movies, the person would be likely to buy a concession while in Fight Club the result was a theater full or confused children and horrified parents. Product placement is also a tried and true form of stealth marketing although recently consumers have caught onto this practice and product placement is no longer very stealth. In the 1950s and 1960s however the cigarette companies in particular were very keen to use product placement to enhance their brands.
Stealth Marketing campaigns can work with many channels. In most cases the more creative approach the better. Various forms of social media are an obvious channel to use, but do not sleep on the offline avenues as well. Remember that the key is to have integrity in what you do even if your tactics require secrecy. Honesty is the most important thing and will lead to lasting brand strength, and it will help you endure if any of the methods do produce unintended consequences. Do you know of any instances where stealth marketing has been successful or blown up in a company’s face?