3 Marketing Tips from Hannibal Lecter

Cunning, superficial charm, constant need for stimulation/aversion to boredom, virtual absence of anxiety, extreme versatility; if you pick and choose, Dr. Robert Hares’ “Psychopathic Checklist” has some very attractive traits for the American capitalist. Hell, even “grandiose sense of self worth” can be easily translated to “extremely sure of one’s self”. With this in mind, it’s hardly a surprise that I found some of the better guerrilla marketing tactics I’ve ever seen from everyones favorite psychopath, Hannibal Lecter.

Watching the recent NBC series, I started to take note of how effective Hannibal is at getting what he wants — and even better, his ability to do so without anyone knowing it was his plan all along. He weaves himself into the lives of his prey and those who’d prey on him alike. Hannibal feeds them tidbits of information, just enough to keep them interested. Then it hit me.Hannibal Lecter is the greatest marketeer of all time. Let’s take a look at his tricks:


Know your demographic, intimately.

The first and arguably most important rule of marketing: know who you’re talking to. Time and time again I see infographics and blog posts about the importance of knowing your demographic, more importantly your psychographic; and how this shapes your entire marketing strategy. I can’t think of a better example of this than Hannibal Lecter, and his intimately close relationship with Will Graham (the FBI consultant hired to catch him). Hannibal knows his audience, and his psychosis requires him to keep them captivated- in the same way that we must constantly keep our customers entertained with our digital content. Hannibal not only identifies his demographic, he becomes his demographic’s therapist (we call this ‘Direct Market Research’). He finds out not only how Will thinks (his psychographic), but how his violent actions (let’s call them “content”) make Will feel. He is consistent with his content, and he is constantly doing direct market research to find out what his customer did, and didn’t respond well too. Bravo.


Be Disruptive, Traditional Marketing is Saturated.

While this can be debated, for the sake of this blog I’m going to stick with the assumption that Hannibal, the grandiose & self righteous man that he is, leaves bread trails for those who would incarcerate him to follow. While he doesn’t want to be caught, he needs to know that he is smarter than everyone else, and the best way to do that is by making his opponents’ jobs easier, and still besting them. Hannibal uses Disruptive Marketing tactics to let the police, and Will Graham know that they are on the right track, but his content is so consistently disruptive it keeps them on their toes. His nemeses are constantly curious as to what his next step will be, Hannibal never gives the customer a full description of the product, he leaves clues. The same way that the new iPhone gets “accidentally” left on a bar top in San Francisco for the media to make a whirlwind of. Hannibal doesn’t just give his customers what they want, he leaves a hint of mystery and begs curiosity.

Now that’s disruptive.

Customers, and especially Generation Y customers, are becoming (if they are not already) averse to traditional marketing. They don’t want to have a product shoved down their throat, rather, they’d prefer to stumble upon a product and think to themselves, “wow I could use this to solve that problem I have, I’m so smart and important”. Please don’t take offense to this as I am a Millennial and feel that this applies equally to myself as much as to anyone else. Social Media has made everyone a pseudo-celebrity in their own self-important minds (myself included), and that means we all want to come to our own conclusions at our own pace. We don’t care if there is a better way to do things, this is our way — we will only change OUR way if it is OUR decision. And that’s the tale of how Millennial’s brutally murdered traditional advertising, but back to the psychopaths.

Hannibal is so adept at engineering complex bread trails he even convinces Will Graham that it was he who committed the murders he was investigating. In marketing terms, Hannibal made his customers not only think that they wanted his product, but that they helped (if not masterminded) it’s design — can you say best marketeer ever?


Influencing the Influencers.

Use Influencers to create Word of Mouth Marketing

You have to influence the influencers to effectively create a powerful word of mouth marketing campaign. Many people look at word of mouth marketing similarly to hitting the lottery, it’s something improbable that might happen, and you just have to wait and pray for it. Hannibal Lecter is here to tell you that’s not the case. To effectively weave a word of mouth story you have to influence the influencers in your industry. You have to consult with the “cult”, lets look at the example of Sudz Club, aimed at students, but probably going to be purchased by parents, so — see what the mommy blogs think of it, they are the “cult”, as they will make or break the product. They are the people every other mother will look to in order to find out if your product really walks the walk, so to speak. Want to market a product aimed at athletes? See if you can convince the local college team to advocate it, better yet, ask them to test it. Make them a part of the mission to bring your product to market, make them the thought leaders. You’d be surprised how much time people put into watering a thought you planted, when you make them think they helped put it there in the first place. Hannibal expertly illustrates this by becoming an FBI consultant hired to catch himself (unbeknownst to the FBI, of course). He has the team assigned to take him down hanging from his every syllable, his word is gold to them. Why? He gained a position of trust amongst the influencers in his industry.

Know your Audience. Identify Influencers. Be Disruptive.

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