Is it time for you to try messy marketing?

messy marketing

I’ve been noticing a lot of messy marketing in the world and it’s driving me crazy.

For example, there is a commercial playing during American sports events that is just SO ANNOYING. It’s a Burger King commercial like this one:

Why does this bother me so much? The singer is off-key.

I’m not the only one who noticed. The most popular search term for this advertisement is “annoying Burger King commercial.”

Burger King is a successful chain that can afford a decent singer. The commercial also has a throwback 1980s sensibility that reminds me of an 8-track tape.

So I can safely assume Burger King is TRYING TO BE ANNOYING.

Why? I had to know.

When does it actually makes sense to make your marketing messy? How can mistakes, problems, and even off-key singers improve your marketing? Some friends provided examples …

Messy marketing in action

Jeff Tarran is a direct mail marketing expert for Gunderson Direct. He said “ugly” really works in direct mail because it creates a feel of local and demands attention. Jeff told me that “Ugly sells.” Design perfection can actually depress response.

Mail with scuff marks and even wine stains get attention:

messy marketing

Jim MacLeod, an expert in brand experience, added another perspective: “Friction can build brand affinity when it’s done right. Birkin Bags are popular BECAUSE of the level of effort it takes to purchase one. If they were easy to get, people would care less.

Anna Bravington, a marketing strategist, noted that many brands trying to appeal to a younger generation are going for an “unfinished” look: “Ryan Air, for example, is really embracing the raw and fun aspect of the TikTok video format with no fancy overlays and a look like it was just straight out of a phone.

“Research shows that people are around 2x more likely to love a brand that is perceived as more human. So, bringing imperfection into something that is usually so polished brings a certain human vulnerability.”

In fact, “raw” is in right now. Bruce Scheer shared with me that the two biggest Instagram trends are:

1. Authentic, unedited photos
2. Desaturated, moody palettes

Scarcity might be the best known form of friction. Spencer Crandall of Small Biz Pathfinders told me:

“I owned a store that sold LEGO products and the reason it worked was our tables full of bulk random LEGO parts. It was a daily treasure hunt for those special rare parts for the enthusiasts and the fact that today just may be the day they come across a find. That kicks those endorphins into high gear. That’s what exclusivity is about — facing the possibility of not getting the thing, but maybe actually getting the thing!

And back to that annoying Burger King commercial … Mary Kathryn Johnson, a conversation designer, had this take on it:

The Burger King ad is a perfect example of indoctrinating a new generation to the brand by being off-key with the song of the last generation. They’re not changing the song, just making it off-key. I think this is a great subtle marketing tool for a brand to attract customers who have a preconceived notion of their products/services, and the brand can try to change that perception for the new generation of consumers.

The Pratfall Effect: Messy Marketing Genius

My exploration of messy marketing hit a new gear when I mentioned it to my friend and podcast co-host Amanda Russell. She said, “Hey! Have you heard of the Pratfall Effect?”

The pratfall effect is a psychological phenomenon that describes the way people’s perceptions of someone’s competence can be influenced by their display of vulnerability or mistakes, often in a humorous or endearing manner. This effect was first studied by social psychologist Elliot Aronson in 1966.

The main idea is that mistakes can disrupt initial perceptions, make somebody look more endearing or attractive, and enhance an image of fun and humility.

The Pratfall Effect is more likely to work when the individual’s competence is already relatively high. If someone who is perceived as incompetent makes a mistake, it may not have the same endearing effect because it reinforces the existing negative perception.

Messy marketing for the win!

OK get ready for this! Amanda and I recorded an entire episode of The Marketing Companion dedicated to messy marketing and the Pratfall Effect! So. Much. Fun.

  • We talk about our own experiences with mistakes and vulnerability
  • We explain how Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie breaks a pattern — and why that won’t work for most people.
  • Why is a chunky cookie more endearing than a perfectly round one?
  • How the Pratfall Effect can actually destroy your reputation.
  • And then there is the case of an $85 pocket square.

One of the most fun episodes ever. Click here to get in on the conversation!

Click here to get messy with this new podcast episode 274!

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