Ever heard about guerilla war in which opponents use unorthodox techniques of warfare? Both parties use irregulars, armed civilians, paramilitary personnel, undercover agents, etc. The objective is to damage the opponent without getting noticed.
But, do you know about guerilla marketing tactics? No? It is one of the less-known types of marketing where brands market their products without being obvious. Guerilla marketing has further branches such as “undercover marketers” advertise a product without giving a clear or explicit message. In marketing terms, we call it undercover marketing.
Yes, this might sound a bit odd and new, but it is a very effective marketing strategy that significantly affects consumer behavior. So, we are about to find what is undercover marketing and how it can help businesses to achieve their marketing goals.
Table of Contents
What Is Undercover Marketing?
Undercover marketing or stealth marketing, in simplest terms, is a marketing strategy where marketers introduce a product to the target audience in such a way that it doesn’t look like advertising. Marketers try to convey the message in “hidden words” without looking obvious. Generally, companies hire marketing agents who act like ordinary people and advertise a product in an unobvious way.
Undercover marketing is basically a silent marketing type where brands have lesser intentions to create hype. This form of marketing is more effective for those potential customers who don’t like traditional marketing channels.
Moreover, the Internet is one of the biggest arenas for undercover marketing. Companies do their branding via paid positive product reviews on different forums, blogs, social media posts, etc.
How To Create Undercover Marketing Plan
It is not as easy as some people might think. It is important to create an organized marketing plan. Here are some important elements a brand should consider while developing an effective undercover marketing plan.
Understand Your Product Or Service
A company can benefit from this marketing model if it properly understands its potential customers and its product. There is simply no point in hiring undercover agents and ask them to spread positivity about the product. Rather, the company must know what exact message does it want to convey and how its agents will deliver the message.
Market Research And Crafting The Message
Market research and data collection are an integral part of all marketing programs. Once a company knows its target audience and its demographic values, it can easily craft a message that needs to be conveyed. One important thing that marketing strategists must understand is that they should hire undercover marketers who are well aware of the demographic and cultural values of the target audience.
Keep Your Undercover Marketing Strategy Short-Term
Undercover marketing is effective if a brand uses it in the short term. If a business prolongs the marketing campaign, there are high chances that it becomes obvious to people, and it may backfire as well. So, once a business concludes its undercover marketing campaign, it needs to evaluate any changes in sales, website traffic, or customer traffic to see if the strategy really worked or not.
Undercover Marketing Strategies
Businesses employ different undercover marketing strategies, and here are some of them:
VNR (Video News Release)
Video content has always grabbed the attention of viewers. VNR is a marketing technique in which a business provides a video to the television that looks like regular news reporting, but it actually tries to promote its product. News producers incorporate the video in the news either in parts or as a whole.
Businesses often hire influencers for product pitching so that it doesn’t look like a paid promotion or advertisement.
Similar to ad spies, leaners are paid actors hired by the brands. Their objective is to pitch a product or service to total strangers in a random and casual way. Their conversations with the target audience are well scripted.
Companies often share positive ghostwritten reviews on different industry-relevant websites. The idea is to tell the audience about the company’s success stories.
Word of mouth marketing is one of the most influential forms of marketing. When a celebrity talks about or endorses a product in a natural or organic way, it helps a brand to advertise a product easily.
Businesses also feature their products in TV shows, movies, or other mass media channels. It doesn’t seem like a traditional marketing technique but conveys the same message effectively.
Who Uses Undercover Marketing In Their Businesses?
Undercover marketing can help different types of businesses in various ways. Here is how it can be effective for businesses:
Small business can use this marketing technique for two main reasons:
- It is cost-effective.
- It can generate word-of-mouth recommendations.
Small businesses often have budget issues, and undercover marketing is something that doesn’t require “big bucks.”
Bigger organizations can also use undercover marketing techniques to create buzz before launching their traditional marketing campaigns. For instance, a sports shoe company may hire professional athletes to wear their newly designed shoes before launching a regular marketing campaign.
Advantages Of Undercover Marketing
- Cost-Effective. Undercover marketing may need proper or even intense planning, but it is very cost-effective. Apart from that, it doesn’t need unnecessary expenditures, equipment, or manpower.
- Brand Awareness. Small or new businesses can use this marketing channel for brand awareness. As small businesses don’t have the luxury of high budgets for marketing, they can use this mode of marketing to get things going.
- Effective for Marketing-Resistant Audience. Some customers don’t like traditional marketing approaches and even get annoyed by them. It can be effective for such an audience as it is a more subtle and indirect marketing type.
- Pre-Launch Buzz. Famous brands also use stealth marketing to create a pre-launch buzz. That said, they employ undercover marketing techniques to create public awareness before launching a proper marketing campaign.
- Identify Potential Customers. Stealth marketing also helps marketers to evaluate the true potential customers. These marketing campaigns help them identify a particular segmented target audience that has shown considerable interest in the product.
Disadvantages Of Undercover Marketing
- Threat to Credibility. Credibility is like a backbone for any business. However, stealth marketing can be a threat to trust between the brand and the customers. That is because some customers also consider it as manipulation or professional dishonesty.
- Legal Issues. Different countries prohibit specific marketing practices that are punishable to severe extents. Unfortunately, undercover marketing can easily fall into those practices.
- May Affect Brand Image. Undercover marketing, if exposed or went wrong, can dent the brand image of any business severely. Not only this, such a company can lose loyal customers as well.
- Requires Intense Efforts. Yes, it may be a cost-effective option, but it needs gruesome efforts to work effectively. For instance, if a company hires a paid actor, it will have to train him/her to adapt according to the customer’s viewpoint. To be honest, this is not an easy thing to do.
- Deceptive. Technically, undercover marketing is more of a deceptive form of marketing. The audience may have no idea that a company is marketing its product and manipulating the customer. This is simply against business ethics.
Examples Of Undercover Marketing
Starbucks in “Game Of Thrones”
Well, Game of Thrones is one of the most viewed TV series in the history of cinema. The fiction-based drama was about ancient kingdoms. However, a cup of Starbucks coffee was clearly visible in one of the scenes. Yes, it became meme material, but it was a huge publicity stunt by Starbucks that attracted attention all over the globe.
Blackberry And The “Flirting Women”
Blackberry, the globally famous smartphone brand, used undercover marketing tactics before launching their actual marketing campaign. The company hired young women who were prominently carrying an unreleased mobile model of Blackberry. These women were found flirting with males and asking them for their contact numbers. This caught people’s attention and worked as pre-launch buzz for the actual marketing campaign.