Pros and Cons of Stealth Marketing Campaigns

When it comes to marketing products, companies can resort to many different strategies. One that is considered a highly controversial approach is stealth marketing. It is a fact that no one can disprove its efficiency. Nevertheless, this particular marketing approach also has its downsides. Before you decide to send your business down this path, you need to understand the pros and cons of stealth marketing campaigns.

What is the definition of stealth marketing?

To answer this question, let’s first look at other examples of traditional forms of marketing. If you take any marketing campaign and analyze it, you will recognize a pattern. The business is openly advertising its products to the customers, and customers can then decide whether to buy or to pass.

When it comes to stealth marketing, things work a bit differently. With this unconventional marketing strategy, you are trying to advertise your products to the customers without them explicitly knowing what is happening. The idea is to send subliminal messages that will make customers want to purchase your product, even though they are unaware of what you are doing. The concept of traditional marketing is to give the customers the option to opt-out of the offer. However, they cannot opt-out if they are unaware they are being targeted. That is where all the controversy is coming from.

A person looking at a rising profit chart.
Stealth marketing can generate a lot of revenue and profit for your company, but it can also backfire.

All people like to think of themselves as highly intelligent. They don’t want to be influenced, and some even believe it is impossible to influence them. When that happens, it may create negative publicity for the business and the brand. Nevertheless, the strategy is highly effective, and many companies use it today.

How does stealth marketing work?

We have explained what stealth marketing is. Now, let us take a look at how companies actually use stealth marketing. They can:

  • Hire an influencer to do a positive review of their business and products
  • Pay celebrities to wear their products in public
  • Hire people to post fake positive reviews on their website
  • Advertise via the entertainment industry (product placement in movies)
  • Spreading fake controversy to gain more publicity

All of these approaches are both effective and controversial. If we look at the past, we may find many examples of stealth marketing. The most famous ones are:

  • 2015: Starbucks spreading fake controversy about the poor design of their Christmas cups. Many customers worldwide went to buy coffee and see what the buzz was all about. Ultimately, their design had no real issue, but this controversy substantially increased their sales.
  • 2000: FedEx advertising themselves through the movie “Cast Away” with Tom Hanks. The whole message of the movie was that FedEx will always deliver, no matter what the situation is.

There are many other examples of how stealth marketing can boost a brand through smart and hidden product placement.

Starbucks coffee cup.
Starbucks showed us a fantastic example of how well-placed fake controversy can increase company profit.

What are the pros of stealth marketing?

As we mentioned at the beginning, stealth marketing has many pros. However, there are also some cons. If you are considering using this strategy, you should be aware of both before deciding. Let’s look at the benefits first.

Stealth marketing is highly effective

The first benefit is that this form of marketing is highly effective. People always prefer to shop based on recommendations and word-of-mouth advertising. Stealth marketing can really make use of that.

This is not an expensive strategy

Nano and micro-influencers are not expensive to hire. They can efficiently advertise products to their subscribers. Since social media has a global reach, it becomes effortless to promote and market your business this way.

With just a single well-placed subliminal message, you can achieve much more than spending large amounts of money on a lengthy marketing campaign that might or might not succeed.

It can help your brand to go viral

Some forms of stealth marketing can quickly create a lot of buzz about a specific brand or product. Once that happens, people can talk about it for months, if not years. As we saw with the example of Starbucks, negative publicity pushed people to purchase coffee to see what everyone was talking about.

You can be legally prosecuted due to false advertising

Now let’s look at some downsides of stealth marketing. Many countries have strict laws against using any form of shady marketing tactics and false advertising. They have high value for customer rights, and stealth marketing may create legal issues.

In order to protect their customers, social media platforms often ban specific hashtags that could be associated with stealth marketing. That tells you how much they want to avoid this advertising and potential legal issues. To make sure you are advertising your business legally, it is a good idea to contact a professional stealth marketing agency.

Stealth marketing might hurt your brand’s reputation

Let’s take a moment to consider the most critical thing in doing business – your customers. The reason why customers get attached to a specific brand is that they like the product and they support the brand’s mission. There is a level of trust between the brand and the customer, creating a very personal connection.

Words “influencer marketing” displayed on a smartphone.
Be mindful of your customer’s wishes and desires when using influencer marketing.

Stealth marketing works against your customers’ knowledge, and if it fails, it may create mistrust, push away the customers, and hurt your brand’s image. Remember that sometimes brands are not able to recover from a bad reputation, maybe for a decade or more.

It might influence people with disabilities

Even though no one wants to advertise a product with the intent to make use of someone’s trust, that can easily happen. You never know who might be affected by this stealth marketing strategy.

For example, let’s look at people with mental issues. According to Bright Futures Treatment Center, one in five Americans suffers from some form of mental problem. That comes to over 52 million people.

If you are not careful about executing your stealth marketing strategy, you might target someone who cannot think clearly. That is not an ethical way of doing business, and you should avoid it.

The final verdict on the pros and cons of stealth marketing

Before considering this approach, you must understand the pros and cons of stealth marketing. If you take a careful approach, you might successfully advertise your business without impacting the relationship with your customers. However, if you are not careful, things can quickly go sideways. This can be a good strategy, but only if it’s done with taste and consideration for the well-being of your customers.

Call 0207 607 2568 to discuss your next stealth marketing campaign.