The Anti-Marketing Marketing of CHAOS, Workfront’s Clever New Campaign
Peter Panda

It’s not hard for a good content marketing effort to get my attention. If it’s clever, funny or disruptive in some way, I typically notice. Workfront’s new CHAOS campaign is all three of those. But the ballsy, marketing by promoting the opposite of what you’re selling, is what really stands out.

Before we go further, you should know that Workfront, a project management software built for marketing teams, has in the past paid me to write content for them. So I have a relationship with the company as a content provider, but I had nothing to do with this campaign and my reaction chronicled here is as organic as it gets. I quite literally go the pitch the way all their other media or influencer targets did.

So, I received a large envelope last week containing a printed booklet entitled, “7 Reasons You Should NOT Invest in Marketing Work Management.” The cover photo was of Burt Younker, an almost Milton Waddams-looking professional in a cubicle farm talking on an old-school wireless telephone and holding a Rolodex.

(For those of you youngsters out there, a Rolodex was a rotating spool of index cards where you kept your contacts for business in alphabetical order so you could flip to the Ts and find Mr. Telephone man hence you were having trouble with your baby’s number.)

The brochure, hysterically labeled “EBook” on the cover, included prose that covered the great benefits of not having work management software like:

  • A busy workforce is a happy workforce
  • In tough meetings, you need a fall-guy
  • (My personal favorite) If everything was efficient, what would you have to complain about?

The cleverness and bravery stems from the fact that Workfront – the sender of the piece – sells work management software.  They’ve built a whole campaign promoting tongue-in-cheek “benefits” of not using their software solution.

The campaign centers around Younker, who is the founder and president of C.H.A.O.S. – The Center for Honoring Ancient Office Solutions. They even sent a CHAOS sticker.

What I Like About This Campaign

The CHAOS campaign is fun. It’s humorous and light, but delivers clear product benefits, though in a counter-intuitive way. It’s interesting and designed to pique your curiosity. The character of Burt Younker opens the door for fun Twitter and Instagram content, a never-ending expansion of the theme of never catching up to the world’s technology and even (possibly) some hysterical video content if acted well. It’s eye- and attention-catching and memorable, all while successfully delivering the value-prop and brand impression.

What I Don’t Like About This Campaign

Not much, other than a stronger connection or follow-up to an online activation would have kept me moving along their conversion path. The cover letter for the “EBook” (still cracks me up)  does mention the Twitter and Instagram accounts for Younker, but if I’d gotten a similarly clever email the day of or after I got the package, I could have been easily sucked into an online world where top-of-funnel activities happen.

What About You

What do you think about leading with the anti-you argument? Too risky for some? Not so for others? Could your company pull something like that off? Why or why not? The comments, as always, are yours.


Editor‘s Note: Original version of The Anti-Marketing Marketing of CHAOS, Workfront’s Clever New Campaign published on Jasons website.

Peter Panda

Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.

In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.

With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.

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