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The Art of Sly - Marketing without Marketing

Brand StrategyInfluencer MarkeitngmarketingSilent MarketingStealth MarketingSubliminal MarketingWord-of-Mouth+-

Let’s face it, the world is oversaturated with marketing media - too many ads by too many brands. You cannot go anywhere without being confronted by some form of promotional message - be it a logo or device, slogan, advertisement, endorsement or product placement. It seems pretty much anything and everything has its own promotional merchandise - and the vast majority is generally overt and very in-your-face.


There is so much advertising clutter now that we just cannot process it all fully. Many have subconsciously developed a form of ad-blindness which reduces ads to non-registering white noise. I can quite easily flick a switch in my mind to mask out promotional media. Yet we are still very much living in the world of the logo - the most popular handbags - the Louis Vuittons and Michael Kors are emblazoned with very visible symbols - meaning all who consume such become walking advertising mules in one way or another; the same can be said for the very ubiquitous Hermès ’H’ belt buckle (Acceptable only if your name actually shares that initial). It’s worse still for most sportswear - which tags you from head-to-toe with promotional symbols - like excessively iron-branded cattle.


I’ve never been a big logo fan myself, even though I do regularly buy ’label’ goods. I just prefer my labels to be on the inside, and I will always make a purchase on the basis of material, form, fit, finish and function way before I start considering whose label is on the product. With modern manufacturing dynamics, you have the same factories churning out the full price range of products - say M&S and Calvin Klein underwear or Banana Republic and Gucci sunglasses - often with exactly the same base materials, and only a difference in the margin / price tag. Note that there is not always a direct correlation between quality and price either, and some more expensive pants or sunglasses are actually manufactured with cheaper / blended materials versus the lower cost brands which can offer better quality as well as value.


As consumers we’ve kind of become tired of being sold to 24/7 - somewhat battle-weary if you like. There are days when it all gets too much and we feel a strong need to permanently retire from the commercial world. Yet the paradigm is shifting, and the way to a consumer’s heart is evolving ever more along stealthy lines.


We’ve already seen a proliferation of old-style clandestine / underground speakeasy bars, clubs and restaurants - often ’Hidden in Plain Sight’ or disguised on the outside to carry no distinguishing marks - i.e. bland camouflage (like Milk & Honey), or for instance in the case of Mexican restaurant ’La Bodega Negra’ made to look like a bordello / sex shop.


For years we have had advertisers telling us ’Reassuringly Expensive’ and ’Because You’re Worth It’ to convince us that it is for the good of our self-confidence and self esteem for us to buy over-priced goods - in essence encouraging us to be greedy and selfish. Uber expensive German fashion brand Philipp Plein’s raison d’être is almost entirely its stratospheric price point - meaning that you pretty much have to be a millionaire to be able to afford to wear its clothing and accessories - typical price for a pair of jeans - £1,000+.


Much of the priciest and most exclusive fashion is stealthy wealthy, like Loro Piana - with no recognisable symbols if any. Of the ilk ’If you have to ask how much, you cannot afford it!’. In fact marketing is shifting more from ’You Have to Have This’ to ’You Can’t Have It’. Obviously pricing is just one of the factors employed, another is the ’Limited Edition’ - artificially generating excess demand by constraining the availability of a product - ’Only 3 made’ or ’Unique’ even.


Another highly significant factor is ’Design’. Look at how Volvo has totally revitalised its generally perceived boxy and stodgy brand image with the all-conquering beautifully modern design of its new ’XC90’. This is obviously Volvo’s flagship product, but to ensure scattering of that magic fairy dust, Volvo has evolved a common design architecture / language for its entire new ’family’ of vehicles - so that they share the family look, and the key style differentiators are largely carried through to all models within the extended range. You may not be able to afford the flagship, but you can buy into the same beautifully-designed product group at a lower entry-level.


VIP Culture for me is totally overbaked, and my Scandinavian soul typically recoils in horror from it. We all however still love to feel loved and pampered at times, and many, if not most love beautiful objects and products. A lot of marketing has been about ’Keeping up with the Joneses’ and ’One-upmanship’. Being the first to own something, or being ’Exclusive’ - the only one, or one of a privileged few.


The world is changing though, and there is a definite move towards minimalism in countries like Japan and Germany - stripping your life of clutter and of too many possessions. Rather to own fewer, better quality, more versatile products and utilities. Society is getting more and more congested, and most of us don’t have a walk-in-closet or shoe-cabinet. What we have is smaller living accommodation with less storage space. We also have 3D printing and more personalisation than ever before - ever becoming more about individuality than mass market penetration.


The trend is towards ’Less Noise’ and ’Less Clutter’ - with increased emphasis on the sharing economy. It’s more of ’We have a great product - discover it!’ rather than ’Buy This Now!’. We’re moving from anonymous banners towards personal recommendations and word-of-mouth - a more organic and conversational experience rather than just a series of soundbytes. There will still be the odd foray into brash and bling, while many move on with more modest, sleek and elegant - entirely less shouty, and not at all ’in-your-face’ - as subtle as a polar bear in a snowstorm or arctic fox even ...



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