Going over to the dark-side & into the unknown: what is Dark Marketing?

Most of us have heard of the Dark Web, even if we’ve never seen it with our own eyes. Much like the dark web – a collection of websites that can’t be found using traditional search engines – dark marketing can’t be seen or picked up without using the right technology. Dark marketing, also referred to as covert marketing, is evolving and changing the way brands communicate online. And whilst it might sound nefarious, it really isn’t.


Dark marketing involves segmenting data in order to reach a carefully targeted audience with a targeted message. These ads are “dark” or hidden to the public eye and only visible to the advertiser and the targeted individuals. Just take a look at Apple’s Twitter account. Bar from the basic requirements needed on a Twitter page, there’s nothing else to see – no posts, pictures, anything. It actually states on their feed, “@Apple hasn’t Tweeted. When they do, their Tweets will show up here”.  So with over 2.7 million followers, why hasn’t Apple been tweeting? The truth is they have. Apple tweets all the time, you just can’t see it. You might see a tweet from Apple pop up on your news feed, but you definitely won’t see anything posted on their page.


Social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest have become breeding grounds for dark marketing. These platforms allow companies to place ads on any accounts or pages that will reach the audiences they are trying to target. Brands are able be so specific in their targeting due to the extensive user data these social platforms have access to via users’ social media profiles and activity. As a result, dark marketing is probably much more dominant than you realise. Currently, 90% of all Twitter ads, 85% of Facebook ads and 60% of YouTube ads are ‘dark’ or hidden.


Dark marketing is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s a powerful tool brands can use to target the desired audience. So instead of wasting resources on blanketed campaigns that won’t appeal to everyone, they can focus their resources on more receptive audiences. The added benefit being that no unwanted eyes (i.e. competitors) can see what they’re doing. On the flip side, this also means that competitor analysis or anyone that wants to understand how a brand is conducting its marketing becomes very tricky.

But brands will need to embrace this new era of marketing and change the way they communicate and advertise online in order to get ahead. By employing dark marketing, brands can build stronger relationships with their target audiences – away from prying eyes of the competition.