How to be Stealth with Undercover Marketing

Alyssa Gregory
Alyssa Gregory

Undercover marketing, also known as buzz or stealth marketing, is a marketing strategy that focuses on “hidden” marketing activities. With undercover marketing, a representative of the company uses or talks about a certain product or service in places where target consumers congregate, as if a spontaneous activity and not a planned marketing effort. The target audience does not realize they are being marketed to and the hope is that the efforts will generate a buzz and get people talking excitedly about the product or service.

Undercover Marketing Background

Undercover marketing is a subset of guerrilla marketing. Guerrilla marketing started in the 1970s in response to a generation of jaded consumers who began to ignore traditional marketing. Jay Conrad exposed many of these revolutionary marketing techniques in 1984 in his book, Guerrilla Marketing.

Benefits of Undercover Marketing

It can be difficult to execute a successful undercover marketing campaign, but if you’re able to pull it off, here are some of the positive results you can hope for:

  • Reaching potential customers who are typically cynical of advertising
  • Generating a grassroots buzz that has the potential to go viral
  • Giving customers the feeling that they “discovered” a valuable product or service

While this kind of marketing typically takes creativity and planning, it can involve less financial investment, which is a huge benefit, especially for small businesses.

Potential Drawbacks

Undercover marketing can be tricky territory. A company using this technique needs to be very careful that they are not misleading their targets or over promising results.

Another drawback is that undercover marketing is viewed as being unethical in the eyes of many. Critics of undercover marketing use the nickname “roach baiting,” likening the technique to using poison. They see it as a method to manipulate consumers through dishonesty, and it can result in turning off potential customers from your brand indefinitely.

Undercover Marketing In Your Business

Many companies who use undercover marketing focus on physical placement of their products in front of potential consumers. Service-based businesses have the power of the Internet behind them to market their services. Some ways you can use undercover marketing in your business include:

  • Having someone, other than yourself, post positive reviews for your company on various industry web sites
  • Ghostwriting a blog post on the success a company has experienced from working with you and have it published on a popular industry blog (provided it’s factual)
  • Enlisting the help of current clients to vocally recommend your services in spontaneous ways
  • Creating social media personalities to casually plug your services during organic conversations

The best use of undercover marketing employs constituents that already have an understanding and appreciation of what your business has to offer. Not only does this help maintain the level of trust and respect your hard work has developed, but it is also almost always more successful.

Do you ever use undercover marketing? What are some activities you have done? Do you think it is ethical to use it?

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