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Undercover Marketing is an unconventional strategy used to attract consumers. It is where the consumer doesn’t realize they’re being marketed to. The goal of any undercover campaign is to generate a “buzz” about a new product. The largest appeal of undercover marketing is that it offers free “word of mouth” that can reach many consumers.
There are a few ways to implement this kind of marketing. One way is to hire models or celebrities to be seen drinking a particular new beverage at a bar. Another way is to use fake “tourists. These fake tourists ask someone to take their picture with a new high tech camera and then they explain the benefits of the new camera they are using.
There are a few companies who have done this type of marketing. One company, called Essential Reality, launched a new type of video game glove. With the glove on, you can fly planes and fire weapons all with the movement of your fingers. The idea was to market the glove at coffee shops and crowded places. All the company did to market there new glove was go out and have fun with their latest toy and wait to be approached by consumers. When approached, they would ask other people to give the glove a try. They would also say clever sound bites similar to: “It’s like you are actually in the game.” The marketers would then tell them how well they are doing with the glove on.
No one is trying to selling you anything. The companies just want to get you to want their new product and to tell your friends about it. They want to get you involved with it. They pretend to be your friends and offer information about the products.
When Sony Ericsson released its new phone that took pictures, they launched a program called “fake tourists.” Sixty actors took to the streets in ten cities. They would approach people and ask then to take there picture with their new phone. Once the phone was in the consumers’ hand, the fake tourist would say something like, “Thanks for taking our picture. That phone is cool, right?” And then they would explain some of the phones features.
The companies who employ undercover marketing are feeding off of the “word of mouth” tactic to sell products and get the word out. The problem is, their “word of mouth” tactic is not genuine.
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There is a debate to weather this type of marketing is ethical or not. The goal of it is to generate a buzz about new products, but that is done by tricking the consumers into trying your product. You essentially lie to them in hope of getting a good return.
An advertising monitoring agency called Commercial Alert, created by Ralph Nader, says undercover marketing is misleading. The agency says it is “…unethical to deceive people and taking advantage of the kindness of strangers is pretty low.”