“Did You Know This Was Done on Purpose?” – 4 Methods of Dark Marketing

I don’t know what it is about dark marketing / covert advertising that interests me so much, but I can begin to try and explain it. I think it has to do with the fact that this kind of marketing has nothing to do with a direct ad campaign – when you’re watching TV and see an ad with a Big Mac at a McDonald’s, you know you’re watching a McDonald’s ad. But to market a brand, product or service to a consumer without the viewer actually realizing that they’re being subjected to marketing, takes some clever work by the advertisers.

The 4 Methods of Dark Marketing

  • Product Placement: Sometimes they are blatantly obvious, like product placement in a movie or television show. Have you ever seen your favorite actor or actress put a beer to his/her lips? If you can see the label, they’re doing that on purpose.
  • Public dissemination: This is a cheesy game of planting salesmen in public areas and have them engage potential consumers about the product in question. An easy example of this is to watch this video on fake tourists who engage potential consumers in a real world setting. The hope is that this encounter with the given message will be disseminated through the consumer’s network of family and friends, maybe convincing a few to actually purchase the product in question. It’s almost like the next evolutionary step for the guy selling Rolex watches under his trenchcoat, now he’s working a paying job trying to convince a person that the product he’s got is pretty cool and everyone should have one.
  • Pseudo brands: These are brands created to hide other brands or products that a seller wants to push to the public. Think of it like this – a new company wants to push their energy drink, so they set up a massive travelling party of DJs and dancers and party equipment, call themselves “The Tour”, then go from city to city partying every night. At these parties, the energy drink is pushed to the consumer – now after the party, the consumer will look for this drink in stores. I know it sounds a little like typical advertising, but it’s different due to companies paying for advertising space and making their brand visible vs the seller putting on the event themselves.
  • ARG Marketing: First let’s make sure we all know what we’re talking about here. An ARG is an acronym for “Alternate Reality Game” – an interactive story told across multiple media channels that uses the real world as the setting, where the plot and climax is controlled (to a degree) by the players’ input. Essentially, the consumer is given the choice to play a game that is branded around the product or service being offered. One of the best examples ever of this tactic actually working is Campfire’s epic True Blood campaign for the television show of the same name, but recently they have made another impressive breakthrough with their recent Infiniti campaign “Deja View”. How does this form of marketing work? It’s not forced on you or shown without choice like a television or internet ad, it gives the consumer a choice to enter the game and voluntarily allow themselves to experience the brand. If they enjoy the game, they’ll tell others and come back for more. In effect, if you build the perfect game, the heavy lifting of finding your audience is done by your consumer.

As digital technology allows for more responsive campaigns, like Deja View has shown earlier in this blog, where can we see the next step of dark marketing heading? Perhaps we’ll see some of these methods begin to combine and evolve into something truly extraordinary.

What do you think?


2 thoughts on ““Did You Know This Was Done on Purpose?” – 4 Methods of Dark Marketing

    • Maybe a little 🙂

      But when people are hitting the fast forward button on their DVR, turning the page to the next story in a magazine and hitting “skip this ad” on youtube, you got to find some way to reach your target market or what’s the point of ad budgets at all right?

      Liked by 1 person

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