Hollywood recently showed just how prevalent the tactic of stealth marketing has become. In the film “The Joneses” an attractive and seemingly perfect family moves into a new neighborhood. This family has all the latest consumer products and they love talking about them to their new neighbors. What these neighbors don’t realize is that the Joneses are a fake family paid to promote products.
Stealth marketing is used to get people talking about a product without them even knowing that they are being marketed to. And in the modern world of social media, where word of mouth advertising can quickly go viral, it has only become more effective. The primary purpose of stealth marketing is not to generate sales immediately. Rather it is to create “buzz”around the product so that traditional direct advertising methods will be more effective later on.
Stealth Marketing Tactics
One of the most common stealth marketing tactics is product placement. Product placement has been used in films since virtually the beginning of the industry. In the 1946 movie “It’s a wonderful life” a young boy wants to become an explorer. His aspirations are demonstrated by a well-placed copy of National Geographic. Most film watchers now realise that when products featuring a the movie that that it is a form of paid advertising.
What they may not realize however is that when a celebrity is “secretly” photographed by paparazzi wearing a particular watch or dress it is sometimes a form of marketing. They will have been paid to wear the piece of clothing. Well established actors and musicians are often involved with stealth marketing. An early example of this can be seen with Run DMC when Russell Simmons encouraged the group to record a song which showed off Adidas were their favorite sneakers. During one show Run stopped the show in order to take off his sneaker and raise it in the air. Throughout the packed arena you could smell the scent of a new Adidas sneaker. Russell Simmons had invited Adidas executives to show them just how effective having the shoes placed in a hip hop song could be.
Another stealth marketing technique is to create fake controversy for a product. Once controversy for that product has been aroused media are alerted to the issue. By reporting on the fake controversy the product get free media attention. For the film “I hope they serve beer in hell” stealth marketer Ryan Holiday vandalized the film’s billboards. After vandalising these billboards he alerted a number of websites to the damage. In turn the story was picked up by other more traditional media outlets.
Actors are often used to interact with people on the street in order to try out a new product. The consumers will be unaware that the person that they are talking to is actually working for the advertiser. The idea is that these people will then talk about the product with their own friends or family.
Stealth marketeers will create fake videos, blogs, and even newspapers in order to promote their product. When these are “outed” as fake it gains even more attention for the product that they are promoting. Walmart used this strategy with their “Walmarting Across America” which was a fake blog. The blog showed a couple crossing the United States in a camper van that was parked in front of Walmart parking lots.
Technology is increasingly enabling consumers to control which advertisements they are exposed to. Stealth marketing “flies under the radar” and is not as easily detected as being advertising. This makes stealth marketing an important tool for marketing to savvy modern consumers.