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What is “Murketing?”

Rob Walker, a New York Times Columnist, penned a book entitled Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are  in 2008. This book was originally assigned to me in a college course called Consumer Behavior, a psychology-marketing hybrid course that attempted to bridge the gap between the psyche of the consumer, and his/her consumption habits. Early on in the book, he describes a phenomenon called “murketing” which many advertising agencies have adopted in order to draw consumers to embrace a brand by intentionally not marketing directly to consumers, or at least not in the traditional sense. The goal was to create a brand identity that seemed indifferent to whether the consumer purchased it or not, while simultaneously creating a buzz or “scene” around the product. Thus, “murketing” was born.

Walker depicts the stories of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Red Bull, two companies that developed murketing campaigns, and garnered considerable success.

PBR, a traditionally blue-collar heartland brew, began to find considerable spikes in sales among hipsters and skater types who were intrigued by the companies apparent indifference to push their product on the consumer. It turned out that there was an anti-establishment aura around the product which was created by the consumers themselves rather than the company’s marketers. (Ironically, this sentiment was not reciprocated by the company, as evidenced by their eventual decision to be absorbed by suds conglomerate Miller Brewing Company.) However, savvy marketers at PBR did capitalize on their new found popularity by intentionally not advertising in order to preserve its brand-less image. Instead, the company held gatherings at Art Shows and Indie Shows, appealing to its new target market, without forcibly pushing their product. The result was that drinking PBR became a form of rebellion against what the consumers perceived as “the man”, though they were really just similar companies with different marketing strategies. PBR said to the consumer, We don’t care if you buy our beer or not, but look at all these companies that DO… isn’t their desperation lame? What a brilliant marketing paradox.

Red Bull attained similar success through a similar murketing campaign. A little known European energy drink at its outset, it grew in popularity through its diversification and murketing tactics. By positioning itself in both the extreme sports and nightlife markets, Red Bull could attain twice as many customers with two separate murketing campaigns. The key was their specific nature which kept them out of the mainstream, maintaining a hip and exclusive image. Red Bull would sponsor skateboard competitions as well as nightclub parties, appealing to both segments without appearing to advertise to them. I think we all know the result of this story, whether you’re about to go out to a party or back-flip out of an airplane, you need a Red Bull first.

Murketing is a brilliant system because rather than focusing its attention on marketing its product, it focuses on bringing people together around an unrelated activities which, through the presence of the brand, create a buzz and a culture around the product. The apparent indifference to consumption is obviously a ruse, but a brilliant ruse, as Walker portrays in the Pabst Blue Ribbon case. It’s obviously not for every company, especially large corporations with strong, previously established brand identities. But for the rest of us marketers, think: would a murketing campaign help my company? It just might.

To sum up, murketing is a bit like fourth grade romance 101, everyone knows that if you ignore the pretty girl while everyone else fawns over her, she’ll wonder why you are different and gravitate towards you (assuming everything in Disney pseudo-romantic comedies holds true in real life). She’ll say, Wow who is the kid over there that doesn’t seem to care if I like him? And before you know it, BAM! shes holding your hand… or chugging your refreshing American-style lager beverage, whichever works.

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