Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 600,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
Text:  A A

Are We Having Fun Yet?

by Ann Handley  |  
August 3, 2012

Last Friday, we launched a kind of meta anti-campaign, intended to gently poke fun at old-school tactics by using the persona of an old-school marketer, a poster child for broadcast techniques and the campaign-centric, one-and-done approach.

The campaign's roots were in the positioning of the event itself—“This is Not Your Father’s B2B”—with its retro graphics and the overall messaging that this is the premier B2B event if you’re a B2B marketer… but not just ANY B2B marketer.

Our old-school marketer hijacked most of the MarketingProfs email list and sent out a rant saying "Why I'm Not Attending the B2B Forum 2012."

The character said he was “disgusted” by the “future” of marketing, as evidenced by “junk tactics” like social media, mobile, content, and search that make up the sessions at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum this October in Boston.

He wrote:

“I don’t need a marketing conference to tell me about the future. After all, the ‘future’ was invented by guys like me simply to sell products. I’m just fine in the present.”

That positioning is a little edgy: implying the B2B Forum is not an event for everyone, but only forward-thinking B2B marketers wanting to embrace the new challenges and opportunities inherent in digital marketing—especially social, content, and search. It was intended to be fun and (like most marketing) to break through the clutter.

Most recipients got the joke. The overwhelming majority, in fact, loved it. If I were a numbers person, I’d estimate that 99.99999% of the receipts would echo comments like these:

  • “Thanks for the laugh. Very clever!”

  • “Funny!”

  • And my favorite: “You should give your email marketer a raise. That’s probably the only email you ever sent me that I read the entire way through. I usually ignore these kinds of messages.”

Twitter went nuts, with scores of people sharing comments about our email, and we had some wonderful, rich, positive buzz—the kind marketers like us like to revel in—that has made the entire marketing team smile straight into this new week.

But a handful of folks on our list were less impressed.

“I think this email was misleading and extremely unnecessary," one person wrote. "Take me off of your mailing list. Only morons would spend $1,000 to ‘learn’ about social media marketing when they could just as easily spend $40 on a book or look it all up online. You guys are a disgrace.”

Perhaps that goes with the territory. I guess if your marketing pleases everyone, you’re not doing it right. But it also strikes me that some marketers—actually, some people—take themselves entirely too seriously.

“What the hell is wrong with you people?” asked another critic. “You’re not converting people from religion, or saving souls, or even saving lives.”

Precisely. We aren’t doing any of those things. Nor are we dealing with anything remotely sensitive in nature, so why not have a little fun? Why be boring and staid? Why not inject some humor? Why not try to make your audience smile and approach your business with a sense of fun and encouragement and energy? Because from where I sit—and I hope from where you sit, too—business is fun!

We talk about serious techniques and actual business tactics at the B2B Forum. There are some serious smarty-pants there who will share from their profound knowledge of digital tools and strategy. We’ll talk about how to generate leads and nurture them and get business done. In other words, we’ll help you bring the money to your organization.

But at the same time we’ll have some laughs. Not too many, but enough to remind us that B2B marketing is a pretty sweet place to be these days.

I love the following clip from my friend Tim Washer during the closing session of our previous event, this past March in Seattle. Because if you don't believe that B2B marketing can be fun... well, you're just not looking at the data, Tim says. And he knows, because he works at Cisco:

So, remember the data. And join us this October---Tim will be back, too. I hope to see you there and even share a laugh or two.

Sign up for free to read the full article.Read the Full Article

Membership is required to access the full version of this how-to marketing article ... don't worry though, it's FREE!


We will never sell or rent your email address to anyone. We value your privacy. (We hate spam as much as you do.) See our privacy policy.

Sign in with one of your preferred accounts below:


Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

Rate this  

Overall rating

  • Not rated yet.

Add a Comment


  • by Hunter Boyle Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Wow, thanks for the insights, Ann. Some people really need to lighten up. You probably didn't want some of the cranks on your list anyway. ;)

    I loved the concept and copy in that email. It really jumped out and I hope Profs will continue to "go rogue" with these now and then. Our inboxes are overflowing with bland, uninspired emails, so when a clever one strikes a nerve (and achieves its goal) that's a win worth celebrating!

    Hunter Boyle

  • by Lauren Cramer Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    I thought the email campaign was clever and appreciated the humor. I read through the entire email. I also enjoyed reading this post. As a fellow conference producer and marketer, I'm always interested in seeing how a conference is marketed and what tactics are used to get potential attendees to take notice.

  • by Brian Blake Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    I thought the email was brilliant, Ann. I loved it!

    The fact that some people didn't get it -- and some even took the time to respond to it! -- shows just how freakin' cool it was. Great job, MarketingProfs! I'll see you in October.

  • by Ken Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    I got that it was a joke. My problem with it is that (and I know I'm boats against the current on this, but it ain't the first time) is that I can't stand Mad Men. It's a soap opera in period dress, everyone shouting, "Look how arch and brittle I am!"...

    ...except for Kartheiser, who acts like he busted out of a summer stock production of The Front Page and got loose on a soap opera set.

    But I bet you could do something fun with Fringe.... ;)

  • by Chuck Dennis Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Amidst all the hullabaloo over the Don Draper campaign, no one seems the least bit concerned about Copyright infringement. Are we to believe that MarketingProfs now advocates the highjacking of another business' intellectual property for their own gain? I wonder how AMC feels about this...

  • by Meryt Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    I completely agree. That email was genius. I laughed out loud and sent it to my entire communications staff as an example of thinking creatively to capture attention. And to the commenter who said that we're not saving lives, well, I run comms and marketing for a national healthcare non-profit and I definitely use what I get from MarketingProfs. And if we're doing our jobs right, we really are saving lives. Just ask the CDC...

  • by Rishi Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Hey Ann, since we're all in Marketing, care to share with us the conversion rates of Mr. Draper's open letter? ;)

  • by Alex Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Actually, my first thought after seeing the original post was to wonder whether Marketing Profs had permission from AMC or the producers of Mad Men to use the Don Draper character for commercial or promotional purposes. I'm sure that a similar use of Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald would have the phone ringing off the hook from lawyers.

  • by Elaine Fogel Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    There's only reply necessary for the critics who chastised MProfs, Ann. "GET A LIFE!"

  • by Chuck Dennis Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Alex, that was my thought, as well. But MarketingProfs is still "awaiting moderation" when I raised that point 2 hours ago...

  • by Chuck Dennis Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Elaine, what if my "chastisement" of MarketingProfs was in regard to their use of another company's intellectual property? Do we simply overlook the law in the efforts to promote our own products and services? Do I need to "get a life" when I bring up a fundamental piece of what I consider to be a basic piece of business law? Apparently MarketingProfs thinks so, as they have not responded to my email, nor have they posted my comment from 2 hours ago.

  • by Chuck Dennis Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    oooh, my bad! They just posted my comment. (thanks, guys!)

  • by Chuck Dennis Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    OK, they finally posted my comment. I am interested in any response they might have. Not my intent to make MProfs look bad. To the contrary... I want them to do the right thing, so that their business remains credible.

  • by Ann Handley Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Hi Chuck -- Your comment was lodged in Spam, which happens sometimes. (I just sent you an email saying as much before I saw your further comments here....)

    Chuck and Alex: We appreciate your concern for MarketingProfs. Here's our take: We checked the law and considered the use within our rights for parodying without an obvious attempt to hijack or harm the character. (Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107: Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use.) It's a commercial parody, but many commercial parodies have been deemed fair use.

    Again -- thanks for your note and concern. We appreciate the feedback.

  • by Ann Handley Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    thanks, Hunter! The 'Profs team appreciates the kind words and support!

  • by Ann Handley Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Thanks, Lauren. We were kinda pleased with it, too. It's tough to break through -- but we felt like this one got some attention.

  • by Ann Handley Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    See you in Boston!

  • by Ann Handley Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Hmmm... now THAT is interesting.... "Walter/Walternate" would be a really interesting character to have fun with... LOL.

  • by Ann Handley Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Nice, Meryt. Thanks for the support!

  • by Ann Handley Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    DJ Waldow has a series going on over at his place:

    I shared some stats with him to post next week... so, stay tuned! Thanks, Rishi.

  • by Christopher Simpson Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    I received the e-mail and thought it was quite clever and humorous. Like others, however, I worried about the use of someone else's intellectual property, but also figured it was their concern, not mine.

    Unlike most, however, I pretty much agreed with Don.

  • by Michael O'Daniel Fri Aug 3, 2012 via blog

    Ancient proverb: A joke explained is no joke at all...

  • by Elaine Fogel Sat Aug 4, 2012 via blog

    Oops, I meant to say, "only one reply..."

  • by Tinu Mon Aug 6, 2012 via blog

    Thought it was a great attention getter. Definitely didn't need an explanation, very surprised anyone would. Even if you'd never heard of Don Draper, it was so obviously satire. You can't please everyone. When you go to humor esoecually, not everyone will get it or have a sense of humor. The ones that do will be that much more likely to be loyal patrons. The ones who don't will probably forgive one blip on the radar. And if they won't forgive you for having a sense of humor that's different from theirs?

    Something else probably would have weeded them out sooner or later. And you know what? That's okay.

MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!