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October 2021

The Marketing Horror Show: Spine-tingling lessons from your favourite creepy characters

Carve your pumpkins, turn off your lights, and grab a big bowl of sweeties because it’s time to get all Halloweenish with Sharper.

Enter, if you dare, into a murky world of ghoulish characters, spooky situations and tenuous links to marketing best-practice.

You’ve probably never considered what you could learn from your favourite horror characters (and why would you?) but there’s plenty you can take away from the freaky lineup that is far more treat than trick.

So let’s knock on the door of the first…

Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

So many companies suffer from the classic Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality disorder when it comes to the brand they present to the world and the actual experience their customers receive.

Now, we’re not saying there is a good and evil side to these brands, but just an awkward misalignment between who they outwardly say they are, and who they actually are. If there is a massive disconnect between the brand personality you portray to the world and the reality, this can be hugely damaging long term.


If you present a trendy, startup personality to the world, but the reality of working with you is clunky and corporate… boom. Trust lost, customer gone (or at least not renewing!)

If you’re suffering from the Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome, then it’s time to take a long hard look at your brand personality, make sure it’s real and honest and reflects who you actually are.


Van Helsing

Whether he’s after Vampires or Werewolfs, old Abraham Van Helsing probably didn’t realise his approach to hunting would coin a popular turn of phrase that was still being used more than a hundred years after he first popped up in Bram Stokers book.

We’re talking of course about “Silver Bullets”.

It may be the method of choice to despatch a troublesome lycanthropic shape-shifter, but when it comes to your marketing silver bullets don’t exist. Don’t be seduced by the latest shiny thing or newest social channel that promises to revolutionise your world. Marketing is really all about doing the basics consistently well and then continually experimenting to find what combination of activities works best for you.

Try a new thing. Did it work? Yes, great, do more of it. No, then move on and try something else. It’s as simple as that. Don’t think you’ll be able to slay the marketing beast with a single, expensive shot.



“Do you want to play a game?”



Channel your inner Jigsaw (without the disturbing and murderous tendencies) and bring some life back into your marketing with Gamification.

After rediscovering a zest for life following a terminal diagnosis ‘Jigsaw’ aka John Kramer in the Saw Franchise wants to instil this same appreciation for life into his unwilling victims, by putting them through a series of deadly and gruesome tests.

If your brand has become a bit stale and your campaigns just aren’t getting noticed, you can enhance them with Gamification.

From simple to complex games, polls or puzzles, it’s proven that they command attention and will get your ideal customer engaged with your brand in no time.

After all, everyone secretly loves to compete whether it’s with others or just against themselves. And games are also a simple mechanism to tell stories and take people on a journey. Just maybe not on a tricycle into a meat grinder…



Hannibal Lecter

Whether it’s the Anthony Hopkins or the Mads Mikkelsen version that you know, Hannibal Lecter is undoubtedly one of the creepiest psychopaths of all time.

Scarily intelligent, callous and cold, but with a charming and charismatic demeanour, Hannibal lures you right in… and then bam, you’re dinner!

If you’ve watched the Netflix version, you’ll know that Hannibal’s kitchen contains quite the array of sharp knives and blenders, and it’s in his dissection of victims that marketers should take note.

Without carefully dissecting your audience into clear personas how are you ever meant to effectively hunt for your ‘prey’, sorry we mean ‘leads’. Without precisely carving out your audience characteristics – likes, dislikes, wants, needs and pain points – how is your campaign messaging ever going to grab their attention?


Victor Frankenstein


Now, we’re starting out a bit old school with this one, but everyone loves the classics.

Not to be confused with the Monster himself, Victor Frankenstein brings life to his creature with ‘science’, from a series of random body parts from old corpses. What else are you going to do during lock down?

Unsurprisingly, Victor’s experiment to ‘discover the secrets of life and death’ isn’t a success and he is so disgusted by his creation that he flees from the Monster when it awakens!

Much like Victor Frankenstein, it is so tempting as a marketer spinning multiple plates and stretched thin to try and cobble together a marketing plan from bits and pieces of ”stuff” you’ve got lying around.

But, much like Frankenstein’s Monster, the results of this type of strategy are often frightful.

Instead of trying to build campaigns with old ‘dead’ data or revive that Whitepaper from 2 years ago with a hodge-podge, “stick your finger in the air” approach it’s time to re-think.

We know it’s hard to plan right now (and we’re not saying old campaigns can’t be revived when well thought out).

But it’s important to take time, figure out your priorities and understand what ‘good’ looks like with a holistic view to ensure everyone is on the same page before you get started.

Setting yourself up with a clear, joined up plan and approach, is much more likely to bring you success. And less likely to create a monster.



Apologies to anyone with a crippling clown phobia… you can skip past this one, but trust us, there is a lesson to be learnt from this ultra-freaky clown.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown masquerades himself as an appealing circus character when in fact he is anything but.  IT shapeshifts into the thing that the children fear most, to play on their own dark torments.

And, just like IT, your marketing should shapeshift to play to the individual needs of your clients and prospects. Adapt and change, flex and mould your approach, because especially now, you can’t afford to be rigid and unmoving in your marketing. Do A/B testing (even better A/B/C), see what ‘shape’ your audience like most and keep refining that.

Ultimately you’ll end up with the ‘form’ that most delights your prospects… not one that sends them running in the opposite direction.


Jack Torrance from ‘The Shining”

A bit of solitude might be good for the soul every now and then, but doing things in isolation for a long time is never ideal – regardless of whether you’ve got a telepathic son, an issue with room 217 or your nearest lift is full of blood.

You don’t need to do things on your own, you don’t have to be stretched thin and wondering how you’re ever going to get through it all.

Reach out to that network, ask your colleagues for their support, engage with that agency; whatever the route, just don’t go it alone… or you might just start to go a bit mad.

Oh… and remember that all work and no play makes marketing a dull thing. Yes, you’re a B2B marketer but you’ve still got to grab the attention of people. You don’t have to be super serious all the time, try and find some fun whenever you can.

Got any more thoughts on creepy characters we could learn lessons from or fancy chatting with your very own monster-slayers about how we can help rid you of your marketing nightmares, you know what to do…