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Merry Mischief Marketing

Inject a sense of humor into your marketing campaign. Author Ray Simon will tell you how.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 2001 issue of Subscribe »

Viral marketing, guerrilla marketing, interruption marketing. . . does marketing a homebased business always have to be so violent? Enter Mischief Marketing, a book full of marketing techniques created by Ray Simon that's actually a barrel of yuks for both the marketer and the marketee. The book is available at, but it's also available for free-that's right, gratis-for download from We've asked Simon to share a few of his rambunctious tactics for homebased businesses. What is mischief marketing?

Ray Simon: When Steven Spielberg was young, he lacked connections in the movie business. So he snuck onto the lot at Universal, found an empty office, moved into it, put his name in the building directory, and pretended to "work" there daily for a whole summer. Not long after that, he networked himself into his first directing job. That's mischief marketing.

Mischief Marketing documents innovative, bizarre, funny (and sometimes barely legal) marketing strategies used by famous people throughout history. What is Mischief Marketing not?

Simon: Notice that in the story, Speilberg didn't target an audience of millions. His mischief marketing campaign targeted a small group-namely those with clout in Hollywood. What this illustrates is that mischief marketing-in its pure form, anyhow-is not about marketing yourself to the masses. It's about marketing yourself to others who can market your work (or your philosophical message) to the masses. In the book, we call such people VLPs: Very Leveraged Persons. Is there any way a homebased business that sells a product can use Mischief Marketing to reach a broader, but targeted, audience? Let's use for an example a woman who produces and sells decorative pillows from her home.

Simon: You could show "historical" footage [in marketing materials] of your pillows among civil war battalions, in the lap of the Mona Lisa, as a fig leaf for Michelangelo's David, in place of Venus de Milo's arms. . . and so on.

Or form a bogus right-wing organization that proposes to put decorative pillows on the private parts of all nudes or Calvin Klein models. Then pretend to be infuriated by their unauthorized use of your product. How about a homebased business that sells a service, such as graphic design?

Simon: Approach a top agency. Send a series of bad graphic designs. Make them so hilariously awful that they circulate around the office. Have them arrive on Fridays, so people will look forward to them. Then send your real designs. What should mischief marketers not do?

Simon: They should never be pushy, rude or intrusive.

Linda Formichelli has written for more than 70 magazines, including Entrepreneur's Start-Ups, Redbook, Woman's Day and Psychology Today. You can visit her online at She also runs a site that's against intrusive advertising at

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