WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU MIGHT NOT GET. In today’s climbing technological climate consumers are constantly inundated and bombarded with commercial advertising messages. Through the years the audience has developed techniques to avoid and ignore such messages. Brehm’s reactance theory and other evidence point to the fact that consumers react negatively and are skeptical of messages when they are aware of its persuasive intent. The purpose of guerilla marketing is to break through the clutter of messages and actually provoke some kind of response or reaction from the consumer by initiating covert methods of advertising. Essentially, it is advertising a message to an audience without them being aware that they are being advertised to. Adversely it can be argued that this type of propaganda is only creating more clutter and that eventually consumers will become just as skeptical of guerilla forms of marketing as they already are with traditional forms of advertising.

Day in, day out consumers are overwhelmed by a barrage of advertising messages. The amount of messages encountered daily continues to grow and each one adds to the clutter. With this nonstop clutter come repercussions as it leads to consumer avoidance of and skepticism towards the advertisement in a seattle web design company. This over-stimulated and desensitized audience generally tends to tune out most of these persuasive attempts. It is estimated that people are engulfed with some 5000 messages a day but since they are so accustomed to these marketing communications they really only consciously perceive 1%-2% of them (Pringle 2004, pp. 60-61). As consumers adapt to growing technological climate so does their capability to avoid and tune out new versions of commercial messages. To stay on top of their game, marketers need to develop methods to break through the clutter and somehow connect with the over-saturated and disinterested consumer.

how many messages can a person watch before they explode?

............................................................................................................As technology advances so do consumers techniques for avoiding commercials.

Guerilla marketing can be labeled a plethora of other titles including stealth, undercover, covert, viral, underground, mashed, buzz, performance-based, grassroots, mental and ambient marketing. Stealth marketing employs unconventional methods to attract attention. In the article Covert Marketing Unmasked: A Legal and Regulatory Guide for Practices That Mask Marketing Messages, Ross D. Petty defines that “the goal of masked marketing is to have consumers pay attention to the communication but not realize that it is a marketing message that they otherwise might ignore.” By disguising and transforming the message into something other than a traditional advertisement, marketers are able to garner better response from audiences so much so that they even willfully engage with the message. Things that are out of place, odd or unexpected to passersby on a street will surely grab attention better than simple text on a billboard or sign. Something this odd or jarring is not directly noticed as an advertising attempt at first because it is not that easily identifiable. This creates further connection and involvement with the consumer as they feel the need to figure out what is going on or it causes some kind of emotional response. Though the identity of the sponsor may not immediately be noticeable it can become apparent through time (Martin, & Smith, 2008).



A key factor to the effectiveness of this innovative style of marketing is based upon Brehm’s psychological reactance theory which states, in part, that reactance often augments resistance to persuasion (Brehm & Brehm, 1981). This theory further delineates that reactance causes people to eschew an opinion when delivered as persuasion for it is believed to be an incrimination upon their free behavior. So true is this when applied to the topic of traditional advertisements. Consumers are generally prone to enact defense mechanism to commercial messages or attempts whose persuasive intent is obvious. “At a basic level, people perceive messages differently when they are presented in the form of an advertisement than when they are written in the form of other types of communication” (Rotfeld, 2008). This awareness of persuasion is exactly what guerilla marketing is targeted to avoid. By employing the use of subversive tactics the marketer essentially tricks the audience into believing they are a part of something different and something unique to traditional forms of advertising. By masking the sponsor and therefore the persuasive intent of the communicated message, consumers react to it without resistance and without the defense mechanisms that are usually erected when bombarded with advertisements. The negative attributes that go along with consumer skepticism like disbelief, distrust and suspicion are only likely to be activated when they are aware of the persuasion attempt and/or the presence of agent (Martin, & Smith, 2008).


Arguments can be made against these covert tactics too. Some cite deception as the most sinister outcome from the use of these tactics. Others, such as traditional market firms such as SEO London, prefer a traditional internet marketing route. More personal methods of guerilla marketing such as paid actors or endorsers going undercover and acting like a normal civilian when actually they are pushing product pitches and word-of-mouth buzz raise the question of ethics and of valued personal human interaction. This case is relative to Sony Ericcson’s fake tourists ploy to promote their new camera phone product. In 2002, the company employed about 60 actors to act as tourists and ask passerby’s if they wouldn’t mind taking their picture. Once the innocent bystander agreed the paid actor would start chatting up about the features of the phone in a seemingly nonchalant manner. The passerby’s where tricked into thinking that they were just helping out another fellow citizen like themselves but were actually unwillingly subjected to marketing schemes. The question upon the ethical nature of this sort of situation is poignantly stated in the article Commercializing Social Interaction by K. D. Martin & N. C. Smith when they pose “how desirable is a world in which people must question whether social interactions with even their closest friends are really just corporate sponsored attempts to sell something?”

Other disputes are against the staying power of guerilla marketing tactics. Guerilla marketing is employing methods that are aimed to block away from the clutter of messages yet, in effect, aren’t they just making more clutter. Also, as consumers become aware of such methods, as mentioned earlier, they will be able to recognize them more readily and become adapted to processes of tuning them out as well. Another ranging debate occurs surrounding unsuccessful and presumably threatening nature of some campaigns. Such was the case with Aqua Teen Hunger Forces stealth marketing campaign that was perceived largely as a bomb scare. Though charges have been brought against the group for causing “harm” to the city and the campaign itself is generally thought of as a disaster example of stealth marketing it nonetheless created enormous buzz about the TV show.

Shepard Fairey in speaking about his OBEY campaign summed up covert propaganda quite nicely by surmising that these types of campaigns attempt “to stimulate curiosity and bring people to question both the campaign and their relationship with their surroundings. Because people are not used to seeing advertisements or propaganda for which the motive is not obvious, frequent and novel encounters with Obey propaganda provoke thought and possible frustration, nevertheless revitalizing the viewer’s perception and attention to detail.”
Barbara Kruger, the inspiration to Shepard Fairey's OBEY propaganda campaign

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