Also known as buzz marketing or stealth marking, undercover marketing is a marketing approach that is used to attract the interest of customers without making those consumers aware that they are being subjected to a marketing approach. This process relies heavily on the basics of viral marketing, a strategy that involves spreading the word about a good or service from one person to another. Often, the approach is somewhat low key, does not appear to have a great deal of direct involvement with the producer of the product, and may even include the distribution of free samples to target customers.
There are many examples of undercover marketing in use today. One common approach is to engage the services of a well-respected public personality, such as a performer. The performer is then seen by the general public using the goods or services produced by the business, but without any specific type of sales pitch taking place. The performer may offer to share the product with others in his social or business circles, and may even offer a testimonial of the benefits derived from the use of the product. This approach often works based on the rapport that already exists between the performer and interested consumers. In this way, undercover marketing has shown a fairly consistent ability to produce sales over time.
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Another example of undercover marketing is one individual's endorsement of certain goods or services to others that are part of his social network. This may include friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, or anyone with whom the individual interacts from time to time. The idea is that at least a few of those contacts will be intrigued enough to try the products for themselves. In the event they also find the products beneficial, they in turn will share the buzz or the good news with the people they come in contact with on a regular basis. This stealth approach to marketing can be extremely effective in terms of reaching consumers who tend to be on their guard when it comes to television commercials, email solicitations, or splashy advertisements in magazines and newspapers.
One of the benefits of undercover marketing is that it can be an extremely cost-efficient way to reach consumers. Assuming that the effort is launched properly, and the products are high-quality and deemed affordable, the potential of this strategy is virtually unlimited. Because undercover marketing relies heavily on relationships and the establishment of trust between people, it is able to reach consumers who may not be easily swayed by more aggressive and conventional methods.
Like any marketing strategy, undercover marketing can be abused. When this takes place, the process is often referred to as roach baiting. Essentially, this means that efforts were made to mislead consumers into liking the product by making a product appear to be something that it isn’t. This can include overstating the attributes of the product, or making claims for its effectiveness that are simply not supported by the available evidence.