"Twenty-three-year-old Louis Deenan, undeniably the most detestable, loathsome individual ever to walk the earth, willfully decided Monday to devote his miserable life and all of its awful ambitions to the field of marketing," or so says this piece from The Onion, the satirical news organization, under the headline World's Worst Person Decides to go into Marketing.
Ouch, right? Hits a little too close to home? That's OK. It's The Onion, which has found its niche of social commentary and humor by riding that line of "oh, no you didn't!" So when The Onion staff aims its sharp wit at the marketing industry, it's OK to laugh (nervously) at ourselves because what makes these stories funny is the kernel of truth embedded within.
An industry can learn from how others see us, and The Onion - a hive of comics, college drop-outs and ex-journalists - is not the marketing industry's friend, but seeing ourselves as The Onion sees us can help us be better at what we do best, like stealing each other's ideas. After all, Thomas Edison invented that trend, according to this 2009 Onion piece:
"Famed inventor Thomas Edison changed the face of modern life in 1879 when he devised the groundbreaking new process of taking ideas pioneered by other scientists and marketing them as his own."
It's funny because it's almost possibly true. World Here are a few more Onion stories about marketing that resonate because of their near proximity to the truth, and what we can learn by laughing at ourselves:
Yes, aggressive street marketing can go too far, but it's an easy slippery slope to slide down. This joke headline at Little Caesar's expense shows us that we can over-do any marketing tactic, and when we do, the public notices. Sometimes, maybe it's better to blend in than to stick out in the wrong way.
Yes, it takes more than marketing to make a product successful, but that's not a sentiment that marketing professionals would acknowledge easily. From the Onion article:
"According to NBC's marketing department, the series premier of City Buds, a show about two male friends who reside in Chicago, performed exceptionally well during the eight minutes preceding its first commercial break. But then, for some unknown reason, the ratings plummeted."
The running joke in this story is that executives can't figure out what went wrong, without ever considering that it could have been the show itself, the writing or the actors. They want viewers to be like fictional Onion opinion writer Harley Chang, who writes:
"At first," Chang writes, "I didn't let myself believe all the rumors, as the possibility of an all-new sequel of bus posters seemed almost too good to be true."
It could be true that marketing people take themselves too seriously and forget that advertising a product is an means to an end, and is not the product itself. Tell yourself several times today: no one gets excited about bus posters, except maybe me.
Along the same lines, here's another faux editorial that twists the knife:
See what they did there? The opinion piece itself is a stealth marketing campaign by a stealth marketer who is telling us about the product that he is stealth marketing. It's like three levels of meta.
"Honestly, this awesome beverage packs such a punch, you'd practically have to pay me not to pretend to talk about it on my cell phone when I'm in earshot of consumers in the coveted 17-34 demographic."
Nothing beats demographic humor. Right?
Perhaps we get too caught up in qualifying our audiences in terms of metrics that only we understand and that don't truly exist in the real world. Take for instance, the coveted dog demo:
"We're not talking about some small-potato demo like newborn Bernese mountain dogs here ... It's chocolate labs 2 to 4, for God's sake... And I thought these dogs were supposed to be loyal."
That's right. When the marketing doesn't work, blame the audience. It's clearly the dogs' fault.