Shopdropping is a marketing and self promotion tactic by clandestinely placing altered or recreated objects into retail stores.
It is not new – in 1989, the Barbie Liberation Organization swapped the voice boxes of 300 Barbie dolls to those of G.I. Joes before putting the dolls back on store shelves. The organization tried to make a point about sexism in children's toys.
There are two main groups that are currently using shopdropping.
The first group is promoting a cause. Anti-consumerism advocates slip by replica products packaged with political messages onto store shelves and religious zealots insert their pamphlets between the pages of gay-and-lesbian magazines in bookstores.
The second group uses it for personal marketing and promotion.
Self-published authors sneak their works into the “new releases” sections of bookstores, personal trainers put their business cards into weight-loss books, music producers place their free CDs between commercial music CDs, and aspiring professional photographers place their homemade cards, URL included, in the greeting cards section of book and stationery stores.
No store is safe: Wal-Mart, Target (T-shirts with political message), Starbucks (free CDs of budding artists were shopdropped), Bloomingdale’s (music CDs) are just a few examples.
In itself, shopdropping is not illegal (yet), in contrast to its evil twin shoplifting.
However, trade name and brand name infringements and product liability (especially when it comes to consumer products such as cosmetics and toys) do have legal repercussions.
A telling example of how shopdropping is evolving and becomes illegal is the case of a lead singer for an independent pop-rock band in the East Village, NYC.
The band started shopdropping by slipping their promotional CDs between the pages of The Village Voice newspaper and into the racks at large music stores.
They now changed their strategy and put stickers with logos of fashion designers such as Diesel, John Varvatos and 7 for All Mankind on their promo CDs. They then placed them in the pockets of those designer clothes.
Shopdropping seems to be limited to the US; outside of the US, there was only one major shopdropping recorded. In 2005, the French Fondation Babyrul shopdropped hundreds of home-made CDs into record stores and mash-up DVDs into Blockbuster branches to “challenge the commercial space-time of a store”.
This brings the catching New York Times headline “anarchists in the aisles?” to mind.
What will be the future of shopdropping? Will it be a passing fad or develop in a serious guerilla marketing strategy?
Time will tell – we will all be a lot wiser after the holiday season.