The protesters who have settled into New York's financial district for the "Occupy Wall Street" movement may have an unfocused political agenda, but their strategy is clear enough: Get media attention.
Their tactics have been varied and creative and will undoubtedly get the case study treatment down the road. Yes, the Tea Party and other political factions might be watching and learning, but so are corporate brands.
As the 1969 Woodstock festival and its aftermath made clear, popular movements create marketing opportunities and contain their own business lessons. Among the tactics used by the Occupy Wall Streeters have been shutting down New York financial district street traffic, marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, celebrity endorsements, nonviolent challenging of police authority and dressing as zombies.
All of these tactics—intentional or not—have worked. The story is getting bigger as media outlets are finding it harder to ignore the so-called informational cascade. The movement has modeled itself on the Arab Spring protests, and bears a strong resemblance to Critical Mass, the anti-automobile, pro-bicycle "leaderless" movement. The formula is a combination of social networking and semi-organized street marches and street theater.
Unlike the political street theater of the 1960s, it won't be just federal agencies doing the infiltrating. If the very large beverage/snack food companies, just as an example, are smart, they will be sending in their own undercover agents to take some notes.