Word of mouth is essential to any business. What people are saying about your product or service still has one of the highest impacts on sales. People are more likely to buy a product that is recommended by a friend than one that is advertised. In the age where even individuals become a “brand”, people are becoming more immune to traditional marketing tactics. This is where stealth marketing comes in.

So, how does one drum up buzz about their product? Stealth marketing is a precarious marketing strategy that tries to hide the fact that they are marketing. If done right, it can be wildly successful. However, it can and often does backfire causing more harm to a brand than good.

Here are 3 popular stealth marketing tactics.

Position Your Product To Be Seen

Bigger brands use product placement in film and TV, as well other ways that don’t seem overtly marketing to viewers. This type of marketing has gone on since film was invented.

Most brands however, can’t afford to place their products in movies or television, but that doesn’t mean they can’t leverage this strategy. There is a reason social influencers are some of the top paid celebrities of our day. The right person being seen with your brand can catapult sales into the stratosphere. Using influencer marketing has been a vehicle many brands use to drum up buzz about their product.

There is one problem with influencer marketing as a stealth marketing strategy. However, since events like the Fyre Festival catastrophe, influencers are being pushed to disclose when they have been paid to promote a product, which eliminates the stealth part.

Plants

Brands like Sony and Blackberry have utilized plants to go hang out in public places to show off or talk about their product to other people in order to generate a buzz.

While this is not a very practical or measurable form of marketing, you can use the idea of using plants in your marketing via social media. Be on the lookout for people asking questions about or actively seeking out products or services like yours. Respond as a regular person (not your brand) to suggest your company without being too salesy. If you have a team, you can utilize them to stage discussions on message boards and try to lure others into the conversation.

The only problem with this method is if you get found out, it will look negatively towards your brand.

Create A Controversy

To some brands, there is no such thing as bad press. One way to get people talking about your brand is to create a controversy surrounding it. Starbucks’ red holiday cups is one example. The plain red cups they put out for the holidays created a storm of angry tweets and posts from people with very strong opinions about their coffee containers.

To generate controversy, you must tap into a sensitive topic that your brand will represent. You must take a side and make a statement, or you will end up with a confusing message. Taking a clear stand on a sensitive social issue can be beneficial if it follows your core audiences values. Especially if you are one of the pioneers to do so. You want to be careful if you wish to jump into a sensitive topic as you can easily lose control of the narrative and alienate your base, or even come off as out of touch.

There will always be a negative side to choosing to drum up controversy, but that isn’t always a bad thing. An example where controversy works well is for the brand Tiffany’s. They are selling a $165 paper clip which has ignited arguments about the extreme wealth gap, but it puts them on brand for being exclusive.

Know your core base and their values. Do not turn on them in favor of being the next hot topic, as these controversies flare and fade quickly.

Stealth marketing isn’t for everyone. People prefer brands with open and honest dialogue, and don’t like being tricked. However, it is an effective tool if done correctly.