Stealth Marketing

Category: Microeconomics
Last Updated: 12 May 2020
Pages: 3 Views: 312

Several  products  are  banned  from  being  advertised  and  promoted  and  marketed.  Also,  there  is  a  lot  of  advertiment  overload  on  all  channels  of  marketing  communication.  In  this  scenario,  stealth  marketing  is  an  unethical  marketing  practice  that  has  become  increasingly  and  disturbingly  common.  Stealth  marketing  is  also  known  by  names  like  buzz  marketing,  undercover  marketing  or  guerilla  marketing.  The  concept  of  stealth  marketing  is  based  on  the  premise  of  catching  the  consumer  unawares  by  marketing  in  places  and  ways  where  it  is  least  expected  and  often  not  even  identified.[1]

In  a  very  commonly  used  stealth  marketing  method,  organizations  pay  people  to  pose  as  normal  consumers  and  spread  word  of  mouth  about  the  positive  aspects  of  the  products  being  marketing.  In  a  live  example,  Sony  Eriksson  hired  employees  who  posed  at  tourists  at  famous  tourist  attraction  and  asked  others  to  click  their  photograph  using  the  newly  launched  T681  mobile  phone  as  a  pretext  for  discussing  the  benefits  and  features  of  the  phone.[2]

Stealth  marketing  may  be  considered  an  innovative  approach  to  marketing  but  to  conservative  critics  as  well  as  a  sizeable  proportion  of  the  general  public,  it  appears  distasteful  and  unethical.

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Using  unethical  marketing  practices  is  generally  more  prevalent  in  domains  where  the  consumer  cannot  quantitatively  measure  and  objectively  evaluate  the  various  processes  connected  with  the  transactions.  Conventionally,  in  the  services  sector,  unethical  marketing  practices  had  a  lesser  penetration  because  the  consumer  could  objectively  comprehend  the  various  variables  that  were  involved  in  the  purchase.  However,  with  services  sector  becoming  intensely  competitive  and  increasingly  deregulated,  unethical  practices  have  begun  to  infiltrate.

Unethical  marketing  practices  in  the  services  sector  originate  from  some  attributes  of  services  which  distinguish  services  from  good.

(a)  IntangibilityServices  have  a  huge  magnitude  of  intangibility  as  compared  to  goods.  Because  of  this  factor,  it  become  inherent  that  consumers  depend  on  the  salespersons’  advice  in  evaluating  the  intangible  cues.  Thus,  the  consumers  inability  to  make  an  informed  decision  unaided  by  a  salesperson  or  a  person  in  a  similar  role  makes  the  consumers  vulnerable  to  unethical  marketing  practices  where  services  may  be    overvalued  without  having  that  much  transfer  of  value  to  the  consumer.

(b)  Inseparability  –  the  services,  especially  professional  services,  are  generally  inseparable  from  the  provider.  Thus,  in  a  long  time  association,  consumers  tend  to  become  emotionally  dependent  on  the  service  providers.  This  leaves  them  without  the  ability  to  objectively  evaluate  other  providers  and  also  make  them  easy  prey  to  unethical  practices.

(c)  Nature  of  product  –  services  are  not  products  that  can  be  maintained  in  inventory.  Thus,  there  is  a  tendency  among  service  providers  to  hard  sell  and  over  sell  during  periods  when  seasonally  demand  is  low.  For  example,  in  the  season  when  income  tax  returns  do  not  need  to  be  filed,  chartered  accountants  ma  try  to  over  sell  their  services.[1]

Ethical issues in marketing are too many to innumerate separately. We can only hope to club them together and study a general trend in a short paper. Insight into each unethical practice would require a lot more research. However, certain common trends can be noted from the short study conducted here.

Unethical marketing is generally aimed at gaining an unfair advantage in terms of sales growth, market share and brand image. However, whenever unethical practices come to light, the negative impact that they have on each of these three is far too severe. Also, in the present globalized world which has almost perfect information flow across and within markets, unethical marketing practices can come to light with  much less effort and are far more damaging than they used to be. The amount of negative publicity generated is unparalleled by another crisis.

In this study, we have not considered the indirect forms of marketing such as fair trade practices. These also come under ethical marketing practices.

In conclusion, it can be said that ethical issues in marketing have gained a lot more importance in recent times. Brand building is a major component of marketing that is directly affected by ethical marketing and in general, ethical business practices. Thus, it is in the favor of organizations to follow ethical marketing as there are lot of returns from it.


(1) Philip Kotler, Kevin Lane Keller, Abraham Koshy, Mithileshwar Jhal, “Marketing Management – a South-Asian perspective”, 13th edition, Pearson Education, pg 525, 625-626

(2) Roy Langer, “CSR and Communication ethics – The case of Stealth Marketing”

(3) Herbert Jack Rotfeld, “The cynical use of marketing to the unwitting consumer”, Auburn University, Alabama, USa

(4) C.P. Rao and Anusorn Singhpakdi, “Marketing ethics – A comparison between services and other marketing professionals

(5) Geoffrey Klempner, “Ethics and Advertisments

Cite this Page

Stealth Marketing. (2018, Aug 13). Retrieved from

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