Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Dark Side

We have talked about stealth marketing in class from time to time, and it has always been something that has caught my interest. I'm not saying that I plan on switching to the dark side of the force, or following in Darth Vadar's footsteps, but stealth campaigns are just very interesting to me, and I wanted to read some more on the topic. So, I took a look at Andrew and Jack Kaikati's article, Stealth Marketing: How to Reach Consumers. One quote quickly caught my attention; "Stealth marketing attempts to catch people at their most vulnerable by identifying the weak spot in their defensive shields." I thought this quote was a great way to start my journey of learning the sneaky, tactful, and tasteless ways of stealth marketing. The main idea behind stealth marketing is to get influential people talking about a product or service without it appearing to be company - sponsored.

Now, I understand this first impression of stealth marketing is subject to some criticism, but there are many reasons why marketers are turning to these dark ways. Some factors responsible for the increase in stealth marketing include a growing criticism of the advertising industry, fragmented audiences due to thousands of new channels and stations, and the growth of personal television recorders such as TiVo. Due to these limitations affecting traditional advertising, stealth marketing has evolved in the forms of viral techniques, brand pushers, celebrity stealth, bait and tease marketing, video games, and marketing in pop and rap music. Some familiar examples of stealth campaigns include Dr. Pepper's stealth blogging project, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications camera phone stealth marketing.

Aside from some of these more well known campaigns, many other companies are beginning to integrate more stealth strategies into their marketing mix. Cigarette companies are paying attractive women to hit the bars and try to get other men to have a smoke with them outside so that they can advertise the brand of cigarettes. High profile actors are secretly getting money in their pocket for nonchalantly talking about a brand in public, and even some of today's most prolific music stars are getting paid to shout out brands in their lyrics. In fact, one study from Stealth Marketing: How to Reach Consumers found rap music to overwhelmingly mention Mercedes, Lexus, Gucci, Cadillac, and Burberry in their songs.

However, these strategies aren't always full proof, and they most certainly aren't considered ethically sound. There is possibility for backlash with stealth marketing from consumers who feel cheated, or that their privacy is infringed upon. Other ethical concerns include common trust, invasion of music lover's privacy, video games with excessive violence advertising brands, and the idea of simply messing with people's minds such as using subliminal messages. So my question is, where do you think the line should be drawn for stealth marketing? Is this creative means for marketing all that bad? Yoda, teach me how to live by the force before I hop on the death star.

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