When many think about public relations and marketing, they think of traditional methods – press releases and media placements, brochures and signage or special offers and promotions. While these methods can certainly be effective, they can get a little, well... boring. Yawn.
So what’s the new trend in strategic communications? A method called stealth marketing is emerging as an exciting (and sometimes controversial) way to get the public’s attention. Marketers are getting sneaky... like a fox.
Fortune 500 companies are giving stealth marketing a try. BlackBerry <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/2010/04/19/2010-04-19_stealth_marketing_when_youre_being_pitched_and_you_dont_even_know_it.html" title="reportedly"> reportedly </a> enlisted a small army of attractive women equipped with their phones to go into bars, flirt with men, and get their phone numbers. The women would pass the men the BlackBerry phones and have them type their information into the phone. We can only assume BlackBerry hoped to have men correlate their phones with attractive women, and subconsciously influence their next cell phone purchase.
(BlackBerry has declined to comment on their reported stealth marketing campaign when journalists have pressed for details.)
Apple has also recently made news with a possible stealth marketing campaign.
Gizmodo, a well-known online tech news blog with a gossipy spin, reported finding what is thought to be the Apple iPhone 4G model at a bar in Redwood City, California. It is said the phone was “lost” by Apple software engineer Gary Powell.
But many wonder if the prototype was actually lost. It does seem hard to believe that a top engineer working on such a high-profile project would be so careless as to take the device from the Apple lab and leave it out on a bar for anyone to pick up. Even more suspicious, the 4G prototype had Gary’s Facebook profile pulled up on the home screen, making it all-too-easy for the media to track down the device’s roots.
While companies are being tight-lipped about their stealth marketing efforts, it’s quite likely that we’ll only see these kinds of campaigns increase. The results of the efforts are debatable -- and notoriously hard to track. But stealth campaigns are getting media attention for their sheer novelty, and no one can argue the value of having every major trade and the mainstream news buzz about a marketing campaign that may not even exist. Consumers are getting smarter to our industry's techniques and are learning to tune out traditional methods of advertising and PR. Maybe stealth marketing is one way to get the public excited and engaged again. As an account executive, I'd love to work on a stealth campaign for a client. It's like the wild west of marketing and PR!
What do you think of steal marketing? Is it a novel way to get in front of cynical consumers? Is it unethical to market to people who aren’t aware they’re being marketed to? Would you be willing to try this strategy?
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