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‘Dark Marketing’ Poses Opportunity, Incites Concern

JUSTINE MURPHY, SENIOR EDITOR, justine.murphy@photonics.com


Feb. 1, 2018 —
‘Dark Marketing’ Poses Opportunity, Incites Concern

It’s easy to stick to traditional outlets and advertising campaigns that for years have produced effective results. The business of marketing and advertising is changing to include new routes that reflect today’s increasingly connected world. Taking the risk of bypassing traditional marketing and advertising can be scary, so it’s important to understand nontraditional approaches.

Dark marketing — also referred to as covert marketing — is evolving, and it’s garnering mixed reviews by marketing professionals. As defined by Hiep Nguyen, an ICT business analyst, this tactic “is the concept of brand building and demand-creation through largely ‘invisible’ … and unregulated media.” The ads and content are not overt, but rather quite subtle.

“Dark marketing is communicating through avenues where the consumer gets the message but cannot actually see the advertiser,” according to marketing information source BrandSynario. In dark marketing, ads focus more on a product or service than the company name and brand. The target audiences are only receiving fragments of very specific, personalized, targeted information that marketers hope will be captivating enough to prompt potential consumers to seek more information.

Social media outlets such as Facebook have become strong platforms for dark marketing initiatives. These outlets allow companies to place ads on any pages or accounts that will reach specific audiences of potential consumers, instead of general, blanketed campaigns that won’t appeal to everyone. This is possible thanks to user data gathered by the outlet. Such information is offered freely by users via their social media profiles and posts they share; it includes locations (geo targeting), interests and distinctive group pages they visit.

“These techniques are developed in order to enhance the customer experience,” according to Nate Brooks, a content marketing associate at market strategist BrandTotal. “They allow users to embark on a specially tailored digital journey each time they go online.”

Dark marketing is also being used in nontraditional ways in video game, movie and TV advertising. Companies will pay to feature their products in television programs, movies and online games. For instance, a character using an Apple laptop in a movie subtly provides that company with brand exposure. Characters in a television show wearing specific shoes allow product promotion without actually mentioning the brand or company aloud. Similar schemes are used in video games.

Conversely, dark marketing can lead to negative outcomes. Among them: little-to-no brand exposure. Dark marketing content can be intriguing, but potentially too ambiguous. Vague contact can miss the mark, or ads can end up as spam because their origins are not known. And the more targeted the campaign, the more unsettling it may be for the target audience, as it could rouse fears of “Big Brother” monitoring.

A lack of transparency in dark marketing is another problem, Brooks notes in Dark Marketing: What It Is and How to Illuminate the Darkness. Companies cannot monitor their competition. They have no way to get a full sense of competitors’ strategies, who and where they’re targeting, and where the efforts are being placed.

“Marketers are left in the dark,” according to information from BrandTotal. “On one hand, they are blind to the competition’s threats, and on the other, they are missing out on prime marketing opportunities.”

BrandingLead GenerationSocial MediaDark Marketing

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