How the Wu-Tang Clan uses Successful Anti-Marketing Tactics to sell more

Good Anti-Marketing example

How The Wu-Tang Clan uses Successful Anti-Marketing Tactics to sell more


EExecutive Summary.

Anti-marketing is an alternative way of looking at marketing. It defies conventional marketing strategy of using positive selling tactics. Instead, successful anti-marketing tactics use techniques like sarcasm and reverse psychology to attract customers. Anti-marketing cuts through the clutter; causing customers to double-take when they normally would gloss over. In this article, we explore the effective anti-marketing strategies employed by Marmite, TJX, and the Wu-Tang Clan.

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Your Key Take-aways.

  • What is Anti-Marketing?
  • How does it work?
  • What are some successful Anti-Marketing examples?
  • How can companies use Anti-Marketing tactics to increase sales?

What is Anti-Marketing?


Is it the name of a college protest group? A radical punk band? Actually, it’s an alternative way of looking at marketing. And anti-marketing is being executed by successful marketers as an effective tactic to gain brand recognition.

Sometimes customers just want a break from the constant barrage of positive selling tactics. Seeing one after another, they all start to seem the same and, eventually, the consumer just tunes out.

Cue anti-marketing. It is a breath of fresh air in an oversaturated marketing environment. And it’s one of the guerrilla marketing tactics that comes in various forms…

  • It’s daring.
  • It uses reverse psychology.
  • It plays “hard to get”.
  • It makes fun of itself.


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Whatever the exact anti-marketing tactic, it can work because the customer doesn’t expect it.


Let’s explore some successful anti-marketing examples below.


Marmite’s “Love it or Hate it”: Turning disgust into sales. 

Marmite Successful Anti-Marketing Tactics

The Ever-Polarizing Marmite Paste

Marmite, the polarizing British food product, is the perfect example for a successful guerilla marketing campaign. They executed anti-marketing to a tee in a 1996 campaign.

The salty paste inspires strong feelings among customers. While some adore the food, others have developed a personal vendetta against its founder (who, by the way, invented it by accident) and anyone who dares mention its heinous name.

Conventional marketing strategy would advocate delivering some positive brand message to consumers (updated packaging, an emotional appeal, nutritional benefit, something…). Guerilla marketing tactics, however, would really nudge you to go for something outside of the box.

Marmite marketing tactic


Marmite managed to come up with a successful guerilla marketing campaign. They capitalized on the polarizing effect of its product by splitting its corporate website into two sides: one side for those who “love it” and another for those who “hate it”. Rather than convincing customers of its benefits, Marmite openly advertised the fact that some people simply cannot stand it. They created a funny Facebook page too, have a look here. Talk about a good example of guerrilla marketing, right?

The results of this creative guerilla marketing tactic were fantastic. Reaction flooded in on either side, generating massive hype for Marmite that every marketer would dream of. Whether people like the product or not, one universal thing came away from their successful anti-marketing campaign: Marmite knows how to laugh at itself, and for that, at least we can respect them.

This goodwill has a positive and lasting effect on brand image, which should increase sales in the long term.



Thanksgiving Blues

In the US, the madness of Black Friday has reached critical mass.

As retailers fight to one-up each other, many now open on Thanksgiving evening and remain open through the night. As there appears little wiggle room left to further increase Black Friday sales, some retailers have instead turned to an unconventional approach of guerilla marketing tactics.

TJX Companies, which operates TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Home Goods, ran a commercial spot advertising its stores were NOT open on Thanksgiving.


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The message of this successful anti-marketing campaign was clear: Spend time with your family. Our employees will be doing the same. And don’t worry about shopping at our stores…well, until tomorrow that is.

Successful Anti-Marketing Tactics: TJX

TJX Companies


This is a classic example of employing an anti-marketing tactic in concert with a corporate CSR strategy. The stores made a conscious choice not to open on Thanksgiving, and made sure to advertise this choice to the public. It aims to position the TJ Maxx group as the good guys amidst a sea of ruthless and impersonal big box retailers.

The risk, of course, is the lost sales from Thanksgiving night. But TJ Maxx has bet, as Marmite did before it, that the long-term benefits of this guerilla marketing tactic will outweigh the short-term opportunity cost. And even if the skeptics see the commercial for what it is (a vintage “humble brag” of emotional manipulation), the publicity it has generated is more than certainly worth it.


Wu-Tang’s no-so-conventional Anti-Marketing Approach

The RZA, the GZA, Old Dirty… The infamous Wu-Tang Clan employed a type of anti-marketing tactic (withholding their product from customer’s hands) in the release of their most recent album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.

Successful Anti-Marketing Tactics: Wu-Tang Clan

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin


Its no secret the music industry has undergone major changes in recent years, mostly to the detriment of the artists. With access to free recorded music easier than ever, shrewd artists have generally turned to live music, which has been estimated in a recent study to produce up to 40% of pop artists’ revenue.

Yet the Wu-Tang Clan had an idea to earn some dollars on their album recording: press only one copy, yes one.


The legendary rap group decided less is more and auctioned off the one and only copy of their album. Econ 101 taught us scarcity equals demand, and that is exactly what happened with Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.

Keeping the album out of fans’ hands created huge buzz. Some fans were outraged, but most agreed it was an innovative way to sell music. Those lucky few with seven figures of disposable income quickly wanted to become a part of history. The album eventually sold to now infamous “pharma villain” Martin Shkreli for a reported $2 million. If Wu-Tang had followed traditional record sales conventions, they likely would have had to sell over 1 million albums to earn this (assuming Wu-Tang earns 15% on every $10.99 album).

But the story just keeps getting stranger, with Shkreli being arrested on US federal fraud charges on December 17. Pundits are now weighing in on whether there is legal precedent for the album to be freed from the now shackled hands of Shkreli.

The public would surely rejoice, as the album has yet to be heard by anyone other than Wu-Tang themselves and presumably Shkreli. Not only has the anti-marketing tactic of scarcity created huge buzz around the album, its earned the Staten Island crew more revenue than they would have earned using traditional sales and marketing tactics.


How you can try Anti-Marketing tactics to sell more…

Get together and start brainstorming. The list of creative and successful anti-marketing tactics is long. Your tactic of choice will depend on what industry you’re in. If you’re afraid of alienating or offending your customers, start by launching a test campaign on April Fools Day to test the waters.

The easiest way to start is definitely to create some scarcity of what you offer. Whether its beta testers of your product, users in an educational webinar, or even experimenters of your new hover board, limiting access to what (at least appears) a limited number of people, simply makes the offering more desirable.

Who doesn’t prefer the “Limited Edition” over the normal one…?


Our Focus Question for our discussion below (feel free to leave other comments too!):

  • What Anti-Marketing tactics have worked (or not) for you?


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