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What is Stealth Marketing?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term "stealth marketing" is generally used to describe any method of advertising that is done secretly. Many experts believe that advertising is more effective if people aren’t aware that it’s occurring. There are methods of stealth marketing that rely on everything from movies to the Internet. Some people believe that secret marketing techniques are unethical, and there are companies that hesitate to use these methods because they fear it could tarnish their reputation if discovered.

Many different methods of stealth marketing that are commonly used. One common example is product placement in movies, and another would be when sports figures are required to wear gear from certain companies when they’re in public. There are also some methods that are slightly less obvious. For example, some companies hire people to join message boards and make posts about their products. These people may make other posts on the board about varying subjects and seem to be regular members.

A common version of stealth marketing used online is fake news articles or reviews. For example, sometimes a person will post an article that seems to be a critique of a product, when in reality, it is actually an advertisement. In some cases, the person may go out of his way to make some kind of negative point about the product while staying mostly positive. This is generally done to make the review seem more credible so that people don’t become suspicious.

According to many experts, stealth marketing techniques are perceived negatively once people notice them. Generally speaking, this is even truer when the advertising is especially stealthy. For example, people may not be very upset if they notice product placement in a movie, but they may become very angry if they discover someone posting on a message board has really been planted by a company to promote a product or service. For this reason, businesses often go to great lengths to maintain as much secrecy as possible with regards to these tactics.

Many people feel that stealth advertising is a serious violation of ethics. In fact, some people actually think that any kind of stealth marketing should be illegal, especially in cases where companies go out of their way to mislead people. These individuals generally want companies to make people aware of any advertising so that they can have their mental defenses up and think more critically.

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Discussion Comments

By anon974989 — On Oct 22, 2014

@Ravellu: he said "legitimate." And as with so many things, if you have to ask, you already know the answer is "no."

"Stealth marketing," or, as I call it, "roach baiting," is at the extreme legal and ethical fringes of the marketing "profession," which has never been noted for its scrupulous adherence to norms of human decency.

By Ravellu — On Dec 31, 2013

Yes, many in fact. If you are looking for a specific example, take a moment to see what type of smartphone people are using in your favorite TV serial. Apple products, specifically the iPhone, show up frequently as a part of Stealth Marketing for that company.

By StarBanobo — On Dec 31, 2013

Are there any legitimate uses of Stealth Marketing?

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