Marketing isn’t BS – bad marketing proves it

No, you don’t just need to stick a dog into the content and people will go crazy for it

businessman riding a bull

There was a post on the marketing subreddit today titled “Isn’t it bullshit” where a disilusioned person who has worked in marketing and advertising for 5 years is surprised “that that most people [reading the marketing subreddit] don’t think marketing is total bullshit.” They think it’s smoke and mirrors, pointless strategy and busywork. They concluded:

Generally, all you need to do is stick a dog into the content and people will go crazy for it

Marketing is a lot of common sense, and it’s easy to get a lot right, but it’s also easy to get a lot wrong. If anything, it’s the times a mistake is made that people notice the skill involved. Check out my own list of naming blunders when selling globally.

Which breed of dog?

  • I think my pit bull looks adorable, but many people are terrified of her. No marketer should assume they are representative of their customers.
  • What specific breed if you’re going all in and using a dog throughout the brand? Are you trying to communicate strength, fluffiness (for toilet paper), rugged/hunting (Bird Dog Whiskey), place/history (St Bernard brandy), etc.
Rottweiler dog with a roll of toilet paper
A rottweiler might seem like a good dog to associate with toilet paper if the breed wasn’t associated with violence. Source: created with Canva’s generative AI.

Should you use a dog at all?

  • Would you use a dog in a market (say, a developing country) where dogs are not seen as cute pets, but rather primarily associated with dangerous strays and perhaps even food?
  • Is a dog appropriate for all products? I can’t remember ever seeing them associated with makeup or food. Certainly not chocolate!

Legibility and layout

  • How does the customer’s eye track? Would you put your logo in the bottom right corner?
    Is the writing legible and accessible, or does it blend into the background without much contrast.
  • What does the font communicate? There’s a difference between writing “you’re mine” in a loveheart font and blood dripping font. You can reuse the red though. 😉

Skill with language can be used to manipulate. Poor skills result in poor research

Whether you’re conducting market research or running a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey, it’s easy to get things wrong, or skew things on purpose.

  • Are you skewing research by wording your questions poorly? 50% of people would eliminate estate taxes, while 70% would abolish a death tax. After all, estates are what rich people have, while death happens to us all.
  • Are your Likert Scales using the right language? I have seen many scales that runsfrom bad to amazing (instead of starting with terrible), or the middle value isn’t actually in the middle. (It’s enough of an issue that I have compiled my own Likert Language resource for clients and students.)
  • Can you soften a blow by using other language with kinder associations, or doublespeak?
    This is why the gambling industry prefers the term “gaming”, why Seattle’s sugar tax referendum was called a grocery tax by big sugar, and why I write on my resume that I worked in eSports and not computer gaming. This is the proverbial realtor using “cosy” instead of “small. Here are a few more:
    Poor -> fiscal underachiever, economically non-affluent.
    Caesar didn’t conquer and subjugate Gaul, he “pacified” it.
    Invasion -> incursion.
    In 1984 the US State Department didn’t engage in government sanctioned killings – they were instances of unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life.
  • Can you be outright deceptive? Read this great short article from the American Institute for Cancer Research on why celery extract has replaced nitrites and nitrates on ingredient lists.


Marketing is the science of knowing what works to convince people of something, and what doesn’t. The attitude that it “doesn’t really mean anything” possibly means that you’ve been exposed to a narrow part of marketing and encountered nothing but hucksters, both of which commonly happen. Marketing is extremely broad and can be counter-intuitive and scientific. From packaging and design, to communication and project management, there’s a lot of depth to marketing if you choose to specialize.

Further reading:


Leave a Reply

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



What do you think?

Written by David Frank

David Frank is a Seattle-based marketer, writer (co-founder of Good/Bad Marketing) and public speaker. Originally from Perth, Western Australia, he has also lived in the UK, Japan and Vietnam. He has a Master of Science in Marketing degree from Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland.

He tours talks on marketing for the general public. His current talks are:
- Dangerous Products: The History and Present of Products NOT Safe to Consume
- Sensory Marketing and the Subtle Science of Packaging
- Sex, Love & Marketing: How To Market Yourself On Online Dating Sites​
- How to Market Tobacco (Despite Those Pesky Advertising Bans)
Learn more at

In his spare time, David is an avid gardener.

eco friendly shopping bag

The Psychology of Eco-Friendly Packaging

Discussing new business strategy. Young handsome man wearing glasses gesturing and discussing something while other young man holding touchpad and listening to him sitting at the office table

How To Go Global With Your Business