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They're in your head. Marketing researchers have been riding your neural pathways since they discovered the link between consumerism and psychology. Something has got to keep the Capitalist wheels turning. If demand isn't being created organically then you can bet marketers will find a way to produce it. This is where propaganda is introduced to the narrative.
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Within the fields of marketing, advertising and mass media there are constant examples of propaganda at play. Propaganda is used to alter the opinion and viewpoints of the targeted audience, though is not to be confused with its less villainous brother, persuasion. When being persuaded a person is aware of the intended message and is free to accept or reject that message. Conversely, the use of propaganda coerces the intended recipient into altering his or her viewpoint without revealing the true nature of the message. Propaganda has been an effective tool for marketers for many reasons, namely due the awareness and annoyance consumers have of being targeted by companies. Marketing agencies and independent companies are now met with a new challenge. How do you sell to people who know you are selling to them, especially in an economic down turn that leaves the majority of consumers wary of spending unnecessary money?

Street teams are a form of guerrilla marketing based mostly on creating word of mouth buzz within certain communities to grow awareness for a particular brand, product or idea. Because street teams function on a "peer to peer" level of communication, the use of street teams for brand advocacy is on the rise. This is due to the mistrust many Americans have with corporations and corporate advertising. I want to find out the psychological strategies that make these teams effective. I believe it is important for people to know how they are being targeted on a psychological level since these tactics are less easy to identity because they are lying beneath the surface. The aforementioned tactics apply to both the members of the street team and the people they are targeting. This paper will draw largely on the functions of guerrilla marketing as a overlying topic due to the sparse amount of scholarly information on street teams specifically.

I am researching how street teams use psychology to grow a brand.

Hitting the Streets
Jay Conrad Levinson and Brady Lovejoy detail the duties and goals of street teams and guerrilla marketing teams in their informational Guerrilla Street Team Guide: Helping Teamers and Business People Alike Utilize Guerrilla Marketing Strategies on the Grass Roots Level to Reach People Not Typically Exposed to Traditional Advertising. According to Lovejoy, "Guerrilla Street Team Marketing is a combination of traditional event promotion and viral, peer-to-peer and live marketing that employs teams of supporters who use philosophies of Guerrilla Marketing on the grassroots level" (Levinson & Lovejoy, 2008). Within the context of the book street teams are for the most part dealt with in the context of the music industry and the growth of band presence. However, the concepts are relevant to street teams as a whole. Lovejoy explains, "A street team is comprised of dedicated fans that hit the streets to inform the public about a band, festival, venue, product or service...Guerrilla Street Team Marketing reaches an audience that doesn't access advertising via TV, magazines or radio" (Levinson & Lovejoy, 2008). The concept of reaching potential customers or consumers who aren't subject to typical advertising is a key concept within street team marketing. As mentioned previously, guerrilla marketing seeks to break the barrier between supplier and consumer. Lovejoy continues his explanation of street teams by stating, "Most street team members volunteer their time in exchange for free event tickets and merchandise. In addition to promoting, they provide much needed information and feedback about new markets and help establish a fan base" (Levinson & Lovejoy, 2008). These themes will resurface when we take a closer look at specific campaigns and street team marketing companies. The authors continue with a distinction between guerrilla marketing and traditional marketing. A handful of their distinctions mentioned are as follows:

1.) Instead of investing money in the marketing process, we invest time, energy, information and IMAGINATION.
2.) Instead of gambling with marketing dollars, we use market research, the sciences of psychology and sociology, and understanding of human behavior
3.) Profits, press coverage and event attendance are the main indicators by which we measure the success of our marketing
4.) Guerrilla Marketing...was created to suit small business however--it can now be applied to large-scale promotions and operations
5.) By mobilizing street teams, we interact with prospects on the street or on the web one-on-one an build strong relationships, brand recognition and loyalty (Levinson & Lovejoy, 2008).


A look at several successful street team marketing campaigns will help our understanding of their purpose and function. Strawberry Frog, an international marketing agency specializing in grass roots movements, garners a multitude of examples of successful movements that have lead to the growth in brand awareness or profits. Their mission statement is as follows...

Welcome to the world's first Cultural Movement agency. Once you have a Cultural Movement, you can do anything.

In the fragmenting media scene, StrawberryFrog is an innovative global agency that develops strategic vision and creative solutions that create growth for our clients.

Link to StrawberryFrog website:

The following is a short video describing Strawberry Frog's guerrilla marketing campaign to bring an old sneaker brand to the spotlight and increase sales. They promoted the brand using several street team marketing tactics such as the distribution of comic books (the character of course sporting the sneaker brand!) in several bars and underground music clubs, the creation of a legal performance enhancing energy drink and product placement.

The next example is the companies work for Heineken beer, which wanted to grow the status of its beer brand to global dimensions. In regards to the campaign, the Frog states, "The brief was simple: spark the global Cultural Movement for Heineken, based on the strategy: 'elevated authenticity'.The work the StrawberryFrog team created on multiple platforms, capturted authentic premium moments for the brand, making it the world's special brand of beer.Over several years and spanning more than 150 countries throughout the world, our Cultural Movement took many forms, from innovative social media to brand equity television" (

There are specific aspects of human behavior and psychology that have made these campaigns successful. Dan Ariely's article entitled "Deconstructing Consumer Confidence," published for Psychology Today addresses the importance of getting inside the head of the consumer. This article points to the lack of confidence sweeping across the country concerning economic stability and how this lack of confidence affects spending. The author believes that we have been conditioned to be "gloomy" because of the successive number of devastating events that have happened eerily close to one another. Ariely states, "First, it was the Internet stock bubble. Then housing prices. And now oil prices and the banking crisis. All these came at us in quick succession and in direct contradiction to the prevalent advice given by financial advisors and the media" (Ariely, 2008). This is relevant to my topic because it addresses consumer mistrust of corporations and the ominous "other" that always seems to be advertising to us. At this point, street teams become a very attractive option to marketers who want to gain the trust of potential consumers.

The psychological study of consumer behavior has created such successful marketing campaigns that in many instances products or a brand sweep the nation. Kit Yarrow's article "How Consumer Psychology Created the Zhu Zhu Hamster Craze," published as a piece in her on going blog series, "The Why Behind the Buy: understanding consumerism and why we buy," applies a case study on the top selling toy Zhu Zhu Hamsters. She opens by stating, "It may seem like crazy luck but there's a lot of deep psychology behind the funky little techno hamster that's captured the attention and dollars of American shoppers" (Yarrow, 2009) and shortly after offers, "So why did the Zhu Zhu Hamster break out this year and not "Lulu My Cuddlin Kitty Cat" or "Hamusuta the Happy Hamster?" Partly because of the nuances of the product itself, but also because the way it has been marketed is perfectly aligned with the psychology of today's consumer" (Yarrow, 2009). The use of PR and social media played a large part in the toy's success. Demand from children wasn't enough to set this product sky rocketing. The company had to gain the trust and attention of moms. Yarrow explains...

In addition to traditional television advertising aimed at kids, Cepia launched an impressive public relations campaign that included events and giveaways at hospitals, zoos and seven major league ballgames. They sponsored 300 in-home hamster parties where "influential mommy bloggers" received hamsters, habitrails, games and a "hamster crunch" recipe. They had a Twitter party that generated more than 9,000 tweets. And they inspired bloggers - thousands of them. The home-grown, personal communication of bloggers is like a grown-up version of word-of-mouth - it feels like a trustworthy recommendation and inspires action in a way that advertising can't. Advertising certainly created interest, especially in kids; and recognition and credibility in their parents, but social media drove desire. Personal recommendations are more powerful than corporate messages as consumers increasingly trust each other more than businesses. (Yarrow, 2009).
Situations like this are on the rise as more people of every age and social type venture online for connecting with other people. Social media campaigns can also be considered street team marketing. In this case, the street is located on an internet site some where. The more scientists and psychologist understand about the human mind, the more marketers and advertisers are able to understand human behavior and target campaigns to capture us.
The following diagram provides insight into the flow of consumer behavior

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"The Hidden (in Plain Sight) Persuades" by Rob Walker published for The New York Times in 2004 illustrates what happens when the two [psychology and consumerism] meet. Walker focuses on a company based solely in creating word of mouth buzz and employing street teams to grow a brand.

This eleven page article addresses the growing trend of guerilla marketing, especially focusing on street teams and word of mouth buzz campaigns. The article opens with a vivid description of the previous summer's Fourth of July BBQs and the prevalance of Al Fresco chicken sausage across the country. The author explains how the individuals that brought the sausage, talked about the sausage, cooked the sausage and even asked their grocery stores to stock up on the sausage before the weekend were hired agents for BzzAgents, a three year old company operating out of Boston. The company recruits agents to spread word of the mouth feedback about a variety of products they are able to test. This includes books, beauty products, food items and many others. The agents talk up the products to their friends and acquaintances, give coupons to people and some times get very creative with their marketing. One agent confessed to talking with her grocery store's management about why there was no Al Fresco chicken sausage available at the store and even took some to a friend's house for dinner. The need for this type of marketing in today's competitive advertising environment is based on the psychological fact that conversations in every day life are more powerful than the messages coming from the media. This peer-to-peer level of communication leads to better consumer seduction for just about anything.

The article mainly focused on the the people working as the agents. Many word of mouth companies or campaigns seek out the trendsetters or influencers among a community. Some companies have even gone so far as to conduct psychological research to isolate the characteristics that make some folks more influential than others. Why would people want to talk up random products? Well that is based on psychological reasoning too. People have a desire to feel influential, it feels good. For some it gives them a feeling of having an upper hand knowing all about something that everyone else has yet to discover. For others, it gives them something to talk about. They have a resume of items that they become knowledgeable about and spread the word to people, increasing their communication with others. In several cases, hired Buzz Agents were more influential in building a brand than people were actual fans of that product, restaurant, etc. The articles concludes by saying that doesn't matter if you actually know what you're talking about so long as you're willing to talk a lot and to a lot of people.

Echoing Walker's findings, Alissa Quart's New York Time praised novel Branded: the Buying and Selling of Teens investigates the phenomenon from the viewpoint of the street teamster. She investigates the eery trend of teens working for corporations to better help the companies sell to other teens in exchange for free stuff. Quart explains how targeting high school popular cliques and selling them on a product is an important part of brand development among youth populations. Once the popular and influential kids are wearing or talking about something, it spreads like wild fire among their community. This isn't just done on a peer-to-peer level, Quart explains, celebrity endorsements function in the same regard. Once someone you feel as though you know, trust and like tells you to buy something, you buy it. The psychological feeling of belonging helps makes street teams successful. According to one girl Quart spoke with, "'I joined the street team because I wanted to make a difference...I feel that they [Backstreet Boys] are a part of me because of how much I have done for them...I couldn't tell you what President Bush is up to but I can tell you who is number one on the billboard charts!" (Quart, 2003). In fact, the entire basis of creating a successful street team using teenagers is built on psychology. One expert Quart spoke with stated, "'We act like friends and chit chat with them,' says Freeman's colleague, Claire Ramsey, a research associate and now the director of trends, 'I mean, they can feel the difference if they think we are stealing ideas from them and when we are forming relationships with them. We want to make them like us as we want the relationship to last,'" (Quart, 2003).

Though greater insight into the workings of the mind should be highly encouraged and supported, should corporations have such access to this information? Is it fundamentally wrong to target consumers on levels that you know they are unable to coerce them into buying a product? The thought of hired "everyday folk" walking the streets and talking up products is scary. It makes billboards and pop up ads out of human beings. The growing use of street teams and their employment of psychology points to the desperation advertisers and marketers are feeling as the economic situation in the United States shows no true sign of turn around. My only careful who you talk to!