Are You Listening?

Ever wonder if you’re marketing message is being heard?  The Chicago-based media group The Onion, created a marketing-focused offshoot in 2012 called Onion Labs to identify if audiences where hearing marketing messages.  The big brands where taking notice of Onion Labs, and their research.

Marketing Blog - The Onion LogoThe Onion is a “news” paper that was launched in 1988 that mocks real news items with humorous headlines becoming masters of satire and rambunctious wit.  The Onion is popular in bars and cafés as many of its followers read their stories on smartphones.  Popular among the Gen Xers and Yers, Onion Labs was created to understand if the papers message was reaching the millennials, who are the 18-to-34-year-olds.

According to staff writer Molly Soat of the American Marketing Association, brands big and small are in hot pursuit of millennials, who now encompass that marketing sweet spot, but it’s a hard audience to reach.  In her recent article, Onion Labs: Success by Self-Deprecation, Soat describes how “millennials are notoriously ad-blind, shunning—or simply not noticing—print or Web ads, or speeding past TV commercials with their DVRs.  To get their attention, marketing teams continue to experiment with a tech-heavy mix of tools such as Twitter feeds, Instagram accounts and videos in hopes of becoming a household (or dorm room) name.  But regardless of the tool or channel that marketers choose to use, one trend is quickly accelerating amongst Gen-Y-focused brands: content marketing—often the more ridiculous, the better.”

In the past, young consumers were often motivated by the use of humor, peppering print ads with pop-culture references or filming TV spots full of slapstick.  That market has now changed as “viral videos” are the king of persuasion.  Just look at the brands like Old Spice and Red Bull, who have created brand-focused messaging that consumers wanted to share with their peers.  These content-heavy brands are becoming bolder, and even poking fun at themselves, admitting their shortcomings, and revealing the human side as they try to connect with their audience.

The Onion recently discovered the power of bold when recent headlines read “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex,” and “Kim Jong-Un Named The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.”  If you’re wondering how powerful this media group has become The Onion sports 5 million Twitter followers with 90% of its audience falling into the age group of 18-to-44-year-olds, 26% have household incomes over $100,000, and 35% have advanced degrees.

When Microsoft Corp. was launching Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) in 2012, the company admitted “…that our traditional marketing efforts didn’t work as well in this audience because they’re so skeptical of us.”  Microsoft partnered with The Onion to design a marketing campaign that was effective in reaching the millennials.  What happened next was unexpected as The Onion sent Microsoft 40 different ideas designed to make people laugh, in fact Microsoft exec’s where caught off guard and described many of the ideas as being “completely out of left field,” but they appreciated their approach of not catering to corporate sensibility.

Marketing Blog - Uninstall
“Uninstall” Campaign – Click photo to view video.

The new campaign started with an online video of a young man with his therapist hating Internet Explorer (IE).  The young man flashes back forcibly uninstalling IE from his friends and families computers saying the only thing that IE is good for is downloading other internet browsers.  The video ends with him saying, “IE9 is actually good.”  The “BrowserYou Loved to Hate” video appeared on Microsofts Tumblr site dedicated to IE9 reinvention, and got an average viewership of 2.6 times per unique visitor, 765,000 YouTube views, over 14,000 Facebook “Likes” and more than 5,200 Twitter mentions.

If you’re wondering about the results of the marketing campaign, IE9 has over 2 billion users.

It’s a brave new world, and the marketplace is changing.  Are you ready to be bold, and different?  Ready to make your target audience laugh?

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. I follow The Onion on twitter, ha! Definitely appreciate that they are looking at different ways of grabbing consumer attention. I feel like in this era attetion spans get shorter and shorter and we’re all becoming a bit more prone to seeking instant gratification (commercials are a dud, fast forward!). I’m for sure more inclined to pay attention if humor is involed. Thanks for the great post!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.