Stealth marketing is a set of measures aimed at creating a stable positive image of a brand or a specific product. Its unique feature is that no one suspects the actual fact of the product’s promotion, as the advertising in this case is veiled.

What Will Be Discussed

What is Stealth Marketing?

It’s a special type of marketing in which the product harmoniously and organically fits into another non-advertising content or merges with the surrounding environment, unobtrusively focusing attention on the advertised product. No one suspects that they are being sold something. The absence of “hard selling” encourages the potential customer to become interested and make a purchase. The term “Stealth Marketing” is also used.

Stealth Marketing Objectives

  • demonstrating a new product;
  • introducing the company or project;
  • stimulating demand, popularizing products;
  • restoring a brand’s positive reputation after negative reviews or a scandal.

In the process of preparing advertising within stealth marketing, it’s necessary to think through the smallest details. It’s important that consumers do not guess the true purpose of the marketing campaign, otherwise, it can have the opposite effect. Veiled advertising does not always bring immediate results. After all, its main goal is to create positive associations with the product in a natural, unnoticeable way.

Stealth marketing infographic

Types of Stealth Marketing

Conventionally, there are 5 types of stealth marketing:

number for list one

Word-of-Mouth Marketing (Buzz-PR). It involves the dissemination of artificially created rumors that benefit the company.

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Collaboration with influencers in social networks (SMM or social media marketing).

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Viral marketing (v-marketing). This concept is often confused with the more general term “stealth marketing”. The virality of content means that the main distributor of information is the consumers themselves, who convey the advantages of a product or service to potential buyers. That is, members of the target audience are simultaneously promoters and buyers.

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“Guerrilla” marketing. This can be seeding discussions on forums and in social networks, as well as placing a photographer’s phone number on advertising brochures of an event manager — if the specialists are partners.

Hidden advertising in movies, series, television shows, etc. (including product placement).

“Product placement is a form of advertising in video content that features brands’ products or services targeted at a wide audience. Such advertising is most often found in movies, TV shows, series, YouTube videos. Because product placement is not obviously advertising, the appearance of the brand can create a stronger connection with the audience. For the viewer, embedded advertising also has a number of advantages: it does not interrupt the viewing, does not focus on the product, and does not have a direct call to action, like regular advertising”.

We have all seen hidden advertising on TV, for example, in the movie “Taxi”, where the main characters mostly drive French and German cars. Daniel’s Peugeot 406 is still associated by fans of the movie with speed, bravery, and vivid emotions.

Channels and tools of stealth marketing

Channels and tools of stealth marketing are referred to as seeding places—primary placement of information about a product, service, or brand.

Where can veiled advertising be published?

  • In Instagram, Facebook, and other social networks. The most trust is generated by demonstrating the product or mentioning it in non-advertising communities.
  • Video content on YouTube. One of the best methods is to show the product in a viral video.
  • Forums, sites with expert reviews, and thematic compilations. It’s not always necessary to arrange for an article to be published. Sometimes it’s enough to add a comment that draws attention to the product or the company as a whole.
  • Hosting and photo and video banks.
  • Movies, series, TV shows, magazines, and even books.

External advertising carriers:

  • the eternal classic—city lights and billboards;
  • doors, walls, windows, and showcases;
  • branded items, such as bracelets at various festivals, pens, cups, t-shirts;
  • printed materials.

Seeding information can be done using various tools. These include reviews, overviews, comments on texts and videos, guest publications, Reels on Instagram, and short viral videos on Tik-Tok.

Ice Bucket Challenge

An unconventional way to attract consumer attention to a certain idea or product is to organize a flash mob or challenge. A vivid example is the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign, through which the ALS organization raised over $41 million in 3 weeks. Political figures, actors, and other celebrities participated in the flash mob, including American businessman Bill Gates.

Ice Bucket Challenge as hidden marketing

📌 Read in a blog post: Who is an influencer

Native advertising and stealth marketing

One of the best solutions, regardless of the business sphere and the goal of the advertising campaign, is native advertising that organically fits into the context of the platform where it is placed. Such advertising can only partially be attributed to stealth marketing, as native publications often contain information about their advertising nature.

One of the best solutions, regardless of the business sphere and the goal of the advertising campaign, is native advertising that organically fits into the context of the platform where it is placed. Such advertising can only partially be attributed to stealth marketing, as native publications often contain information about their advertising nature.

Native advertising, particularly in the format of blogger publications, is often seen on Instagram. A common phenomenon is the collaboration of opinion leaders with companies that provide them with their products in exchange for demonstration and description in posts and stories. Barter advertising brings excellent results because it is directly targeted at the audience.

The history of hidden advertising

Oriental dancers and tea

Stealth marketing has been used for several centuries. For instance, in the 17th century, an Indian company increased its tea sales profits by engaging famous women of the time—early influencers. They were invited to tea parties, recommending the beverage during a sort of tasting session.

Music in liquor stores

In 1999, British psychologist Adrian North, the author of the book “The Social and Applied Psychology of Music”, tested the influence of music on supermarket visitors. The goal was to determine how music affects the choice of alcoholic beverage.

The shelves offered a wide selection of German and French alcohol. On some days, German songs were played in the premises, and on other days, French music. Demand for French alcohol increased when the background music matched, and similarly with German beverages. It turns out that consumers don’t always need arguments in favor of a particular product — sometimes it’s enough to just tune them into the right “wave”.

Examples of Effective Use of Stealth Marketing

Reels as a Stealth Marketing Tool

The company’s marketers utilize Tik-Tok trends for the scripts of their short videos, which resonates well with the store’s target audience. This way, they draw attention to promotions and new products.

Collaborations with Influencers

When Stealth Marketing Causes Outrage

The advertising campaigns promoting dietary supplements and vitamins are more obvious. Surely, everyone remembers the period when a huge number of bloggers simultaneously mentioned Magnesium B6 in their posts. Such a wave of advice to take specifically magnesium caused dissatisfaction among followers, some of whom reacted negatively to the posts.

Marketers should implement stealth marketing or native advertising strategy consistently. If you have chosen 20 thought leaders on social media for collaboration, create a publication schedule and distribute them over several months, so active users do not get tired of advertising messages, which become too obvious with frequent demonstration.

Even more caution should be exercised when using product placement. After all, showcasing a product in a movie, series, or cartoon is one of the most expensive promotion methods, though sometimes very effective.

It’s important that the item to be shown to the audience is appropriate in the scene and does not distract attention. The consumer’s brain will register the image and later associate the seen with coolness, bravery, and other traits of the favorite character.

Famous Brands and Stealth Marketing

In the movie “The Great Gatsby,” an attentive viewer can notice the advertising of several giant brands, one of which is Tiffany & Co. The main heroine suits luxurious jewelry, they harmoniously fit into the atmospheric movie, so such product placement can be confidently called successful.

Famous brands and hidden marketing

Sometimes creators of animated films also reference well-known brands. For example, in the cartoon “Zootropolis”, viewers noticed an obvious similarity of the bitten carrot on the characters’ smartphone logo to the logo of “apple products”. The design of Judy Hopps’ phone resembles the iPhone 12, which was a new product from Apple at the time of the cartoon’s filming.

Famous brands and hidden marketing Zootropolis

A vivid example of viral advertising that spreads quickly and does not tire is the discount period in Ukrainian branches of the JYSK network. The promotion is accompanied by free masterclasses as part of the Scandinavian Hygge Days. Instagram bloggers tell and demonstrate how to take aesthetic photos for social networks, using JYSK products as props.

The brand uses a powerful method of subtle promotion — hashtags. Under the hashtag #jysk, you can find over 250 thousand cozy and, importantly, non-advertising publications.

Famous brands and hidden marketing at Jysk

📌 Read a blog post: How to create a USP

Stages of creating stealth advertising

To create an effective and yet inconspicuous “advertising without advertising”, several sequential tasks need to be performed.

  • Researching the needs of the average buyer and their whereabouts (for example, Instagram and Tik-Tok).
  • Developing an idea that will precisely match the values and desires of the target audience.
  • Analyzing competitors and trends on the channel you will use.
  • Creating advertising that would be easy to share.
  • Analytics and testing on a small group of people, making necessary changes.
  • Seeding across several channels.

One of the features of stealth marketing, especially when it comes to spreading viral content, is the unpredictability of the target audience’s reaction.

Julia Sotnikova

Elon Musk: Baseball Caps and Flamethrowers

The most striking example of stealth marketing came from Elon Musk. In 2017, he made a bet with his Twitter followers that if he sold 50,000 baseball caps, he would release a flamethrower for sale.

The caps sold like hotcakes, and the hot flamethrowers sold out even faster. The Boring Company, also owned by Musk, sold 20,000 flamethrowers at $500 each, along with a “boring” fire extinguisher (a play on words: “boring” translates as dull, but actually refers to a drilling company).

Elon Musk: baseball caps and flamethrowers marketing

By rough estimates, Musk earned more than $10 million from this. All the money was invested in the development of The Boring Company. A large sum, nonetheless, this move had other hidden intentions: investors, pleased with such a strategy, invested significantly more in the “boring” company.

“Do not replicate. Also, I want to emphasize that the flamethrower is a terrible idea. Don’t buy it. Perfect for roasting nuts”—Musk wrote on Twitter, suggesting they would also come in handy in a zombie apocalypse.

Julia Sotnikova, marketer в

Who is Stealth Marketing For?

Stealth marketing cannot be called universal. Certainly, it is suitable for many business sectors. However, this concept is particularly relevant either for brands that have not yet made a name for themselves and are working on creating a vivid image in the consumers’ minds, or for well-known companies that have a clear USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

To some extent, stealth promotion methods can also be applied by small businesses at any stage of their development. For example, if there’s a need to boost sales of a long-forgotten product or to increase interest in a new item.

This method can be relatively inexpensive—of course, unless it involves product placement. There are known cases where the owner of a new Instagram store approaches bloggers with a small number of followers, asking them to demonstrate the products (for example, children’s clothing) in exchange for goods. If such bloggers’ followers are the target audience, this approach can be very effective and profitable.

Ambassadors are often involved in the popularization of clothing, footwear, jewelry, cosmetics, gadgets, and everyday items. This can be anyone who, by agreement with the company, regularly talks about their life on social media or YouTube and has their audience (at least a few thousand subscribers).

Who is suitable for hidden marketing

A popular photographer who consistently uses the same camera and conducts shoots in a few specific photo studios can be considered an ambassador. A fitness trainer who records the training process in sportswear of a single brand can also be an ambassador. If the publications do not mention the brand, no one can be sure whether it is a coincidence or planned advertising. However, a portion of the followers will be interested in purchasing exactly those products.


If you want to promote your business through indirect methods, start by developing a stealth content marketing strategy.

Do not be afraid of unsuccessful attempts and practice disguising your advertising, increasing the effectiveness of stealth marketing.

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