• Emily Malone

6 hilarious ‘The Onion’ articles that teach us loads about inbound marketing

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

As Vladimir Nabokov once said, ‘satire is a lesson.’ So, here’s what you can learn from some of the internet’s most satirical articles about marketing.

1. ‘Never-Before-Heard Buzzword Flying Around Office Can’t Be Good’

Speculating that it could refer to some aspect of their website or possibly the sales or advertising department, employees at Convergence Media said Thursday that the word “platforming,” which executives have reportedly used numerous times over the past few weeks, can’t be good. “They sent out this company-wide email that said we’re going to start embracing ‘platforming’ and become a ‘leading platforming company’ within six months—no way that’s not terrible for us,” said Convergence project analyst Joseph Bevan, adding that although he has also overheard the word being employed by senior management in the hallway on at least five occasions, it has yet to be expounded on or put in context by anyone at the company. “I don’t know if or when they’ll reveal what ‘platforming’ is, but I do know for sure that it’s going to make us utterly miserable, take over our lives for the foreseeable future, and probably get a bunch of us fired.”

Yes, content marketing is about telling stories, connecting, building relationships, and growing your audience, but it’s also apparently about using so many buzzwords that you might as well be speaking a different language.

Since SEO has come about, some marketers have been known to skim on the quality of their content and instead, try to stuff as many buzzwords in as possible like the centre of some kind of nightmarish Christmas dinner. Half the time, nobody can even explain what these buzzwords mean. It’s overkill.

Here’s the thing, people are actually more concerned with clear, easy-to-digest information that’s useful and engaging, rather than just using buzzwords without explanation.

‘Innovation’, for example, is something  every business loves to use. If I had a pound for every time I read ‘innovative ‘ on a company website, I wouldn’t need to be sat here typing this. I’d have some sort of typing servant instead while I sit back drinking wine, laughing maniacally at the idiocy of whoever decided to give me a pound for every time I read the word ‘innovative’.

Using this word actually diminishes the value of your claim, precisely because it’s so overused. If you really have to use this word; if your entire existence depends on it, don’t just say your company is innovative, but give examples too.

In fact, it’s probably better to just give examples so people can come to the conclusion that your company is innovative themselves, don’t you think?

2. ‘World’s Worst Person Decides To Go Into Marketing’

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. “I think it’s the career path that will best utilize my networking skills and my ability to think outside the box,” said Deenan, whose smug, gloating tone and shit-eating smile just make you want to punch his goddamn teeth in. “So I’m definitely thinking marketing. Either that, or PR.” Deenan’s mother refused to comment on why she didn’t abort the despicable pile of human excrement when she had the chance.

A recent study by The McCarthy Group found that 84% of millennials don’t like advertising. If you’re a marketer, others probably view you as “undeniably the most detestable, loathsome individual to ever walk the earth”, as The Onion so eloquently puts it.

It’s true, though; marketers aren’t considered the most liked people in the world. People often view them as dishonest and self-serving, capitalising on consumers’ needs and disrupting their free time.

There’s a simple and statistically more effective way to stop this stereotype; be more customer-centric, considerate, and provide valuable content that is actually useful to your visitors. Relying on earning people’s interest instead of forcing your product onto them will always aid you more in the long run.

3. ‘Advertiser Thought This Sponsored Post Was Good Idea’

The marketing and advertising team at a major American company actually believed that commissioning, paying for, approving, and publishing this sponsored post you are reading right now was a smart move, sources confirmed this week. “People love to read sponsored posts, it is the best way for making people trust and respect your brand, and this website is the best place for a company like ours to get the word out about its products,” said a spokesman for the company, which, again, genuinely thought that it was effectively bolstering its image with the purchase of this four-sentence, 164-word article that is clearly labeled on a popular website as a piece of advertising material. “The post will take everything people like about this website’s regular content and slap our company’s logo and corporate voice all over it. This is a great idea. People will love this. Right?” At press time, the company in question is actually considering doing another one of these things.

Hopefully this one’s obvious – sponsored posts kinda suck. Social media users are generally pretty skeptical of them and any kind of post coming from a brand they’ve not liked. Sponsored posts aren’t the only kinds of stories finding their way into our news feeds; there are also suggested posts, which encourage people to like a page they haven’t yet, or probably never would.

For example, a post which indicates that “(friend) and 6 other friends like (brand).”

Because of this feature on facebook, users have been commenting saying that they don’t want this spam, saying things like “get your fuck shit ads off my timeline you weasel wankers!” Ouch.

However, there are three simple steps to creating sponsored posts that won’t make people swear at you:

1. Ensure the posts are being sent to people who are actually interested, so you’re not spamming disinterested people with your brand.

2. Test the posts and communicate with your followers to see if they’re doing well, if not, try something else.

3. Share relevant, useful content that’s customer-focused.


4. ‘Brilliant, Innovative CEO Just Wrote Words ‘Social Media’ On Whiteboard And Underlined It’

During this morning’s marketing meeting at Dwyer Publishing, Inc., CEO Eric McCulloch astounded and amazed his staff by writing the phrase “Social Media” on a whiteboard in black pen and underlining it. According to sources, McCulloch’s virtuoso whiteboard performance has forever rendered traditional advertising pointless and obsolete, and has solved all of Dwyer Publishing’s marketing needs in one fell swoop. To the utter astonishment of all in attendance, the veritable titan of industry then pointed at the words “Social Media” on the whiteboard and proclaimed “this is the future.” “In my entire career, I have never before witnessed with my own two eyes such a dazzling—nay, electrifying—display of cunning insight and business acumen,” product manager Jessica Berg told reporters of the visionary and “utterly game-changing” display of word writing and underlining. “The fact that he thought of the words ‘Social Media’ to begin with is incredibly impressive and forward thinking, but then he actually managed to take it two steps further by not only writing those words in block letters on a whiteboard but—get this—drawing a straight line underneath the words. I mean, the guy’s a genius. I guess that’s why they pay him the big bucks.”

This goes back to the issue of CEOs outdated views of modern marketing.

Social media is no longer innovative. It’s crucial to getting the word of your business out there, but it’s not unique or new. If your CEO is only just realising how important being active on social platforms is to your business, then I’m afraid they’re a teeny bit behind on modern marketing essentials.

In inbound marketing, we use social media as a top of the funnel push to get people finding, looking at and talking about your content, which will turn visitors into leads, then leads into customers. It’s a great, non-invasive way to attract visitors and get to know your audience, and should always be a standard, everyday practice.

5. ‘Please Click On Our Website’s Banner Ads’

Just click on an ad. Now. I mean RIGHT NOW. Move your mouse two measly inches over to the edge of the screen, extend one of your five opposable digits, and lightly press down on the left-hand corner button. Takes about two seconds, if that. A child could do it. And not even a smart child, either. One of the dumb ones.

Wired created an actual pop-up that read: “Please do us a solid and disable your ad blocker” which I reckon is an endearing attempt at getting around ad blockers, with its friendly tone and dash of honest humour.

However there are other examples such as GameBanana’s pretty dire “Without ads, we will not survive” plea that don’t really hit the mark. If you’re going to use this honest approach, do it humorously at least, because if it just sounds like you’re begging, the pop up is less likely to drive the user to a positive response.

An even better and more inbound solution would be to give your visitors an incentive for unblocking the ads. Offer quality content or a free consultation in return; something that benefits them.


6. Olay Getting Women To Drop Guard With Few Nonjudgmental Ads Before Nailing Them With Body Shame

“Sure, we could probably just slam them with the body shame immediately, but it’s way more effective to do something that makes them feel good about themselves, earn their trust, and then really clobber them with the unrealistic expectations,” Salazar said. “Once we get them to bully themselves, they’re ours for the long haul. Plus, we can build them up and tear them down as often as we want. We could temporarily switch back to an empowering ad campaign just to soften them up again before we take another crack at them.”

Although this definitely touches on the body shaming that is unfortunately all too relevant in marketing towards women, it also again relates to how people view marketing as dishonest and self-serving.

Prove to your visitors that you care about them and be honest, instead of using sly psychologies in an attempt to win their trust.

By empowering your visitors and delighting them consistently, you’re much more likely to find yourself with loyal customers who will then promote what you do.