Markiplier’s “Del Monte Is Dead to Me” Is an Influencer Marketing Masterclass
Imagine having your product promoted by a YouTuber with 27.6 million subscribers. The majority of his videos get over two million views each.
And then, he says your brand is dead to him. Why? Because he reached out to ask for a sponsorship, and they rejected him. Not only did they reject him, but they decided to send him a gift, that ended up being the biggest middle finger they could’ve sent.
That’s what happened with Del Monte, according to Markiplier’s newest video, “Del Monte is Dead to Me.” If you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend it, whether to learn or to laugh.
However, as funny as the scenario is, there’s a ton we can learn about influencer marketing from his reaction. We’re going to discuss what happened, how it could’ve gone better, and how this incident can shape our influencer marketing strategies in the future.
Though the channel was recently deleted, YouTubers Markiplier (Mark) and CrankGameplays (Ethan) created an incredible project: posting a high-quality and entertaining video every day for an entire year, just to delete the channel at the end of that year. Their goal was to show how time is limited, and that we have to make the most of the time we have before we die, exemplified by their slogan and hashtag, #mementomori. They called the channel Unus Annus and watching the YouTube stream of the pair deleting the channel may or may not have made me cry.
One of the running gags on Unus Annus was Mark drinking corn (don’t look too deep into it; I’m equally confused, and all the videos are gone.) A goal of his was to get a sponsorship from Del Monte for his, uh… corn… drinking.
Del Monte refused the sponsorship, throwing away an opportunity most brands couldn’t even begin to dream of. But there’s more: they had a gift for Mark.
As Mark says in his video,
“The present that they deemed worthy for me, Markiplier, the one who was professing his love to all the heavens for their corn… was 24 cans of corn.”
Tell me that isn’t the face of a heartbroken man.
According to the video, they also sent a letter, and… oh no.
Del Monte Foods would like to thank you for your unwavering support of the Canned Whole Kernel Corn. We’ve seen the videos. The memes. And we’ve chuckled. Your search for THICC water led you to Del Monte, somehow, and we sincerely appreciate your endorsements for our brand. In return for your support, we are gifting you these cans of corn. You can use them however you please, but we provided some recipes for you to test out.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s dig in.
Why Del Monte Failed, and How They Could’ve Done Better
Del Monte failed for the following primary reasons:
- Refusing the sponsorship request
- Sending a gift of 24 cans of corn to a millionaire
- Writing a serious letter in response to a comedic YouTuber
Refusing the sponsorship request
Now, perhaps you’re saying to yourself, Del Monte and Markiplier don’t have brands that make sense together.
You’re right — but that’s the point. The genius of a theoretical Del Monte and Markiplier partnership is that nonsense is the apex of millennial humor. Sean Kernan has a fantastic piece on how fast food brands have mastered this humor while boosting their brand loyalty and social following in exchange.
Del Monte is the same kind of brand that could benefit from being less serious. Can you imagine the social increase if Del Monte made the partnership and Markiplier occasionally wrote tweets for them? Can you imagine how easy it would be for millennials and Gen Z-ers going grocery shopping to see which corn is available, pick Del Monte, and tweet to Markiplier about their thicc water ingredients?
If you don’t get this humor, that’s fine, but you can’t say it isn’t effective. You can’t say it doesn’t build brand loyalty. Look at Wendy’s on Twitter. Look at Chipotle’s TikTok.
Do you want facts? I have them.
- The majority of Markiplier’s viewers are in the age ranges of 18–24 and 25–34; read millennials and late Gen Z.
- It’s projected that, in 2020, millennials represent 30% of retail sales.
- 75% of millennials’ buying choices are based on brand social media.
- According to a survey from GlobalWebIndex, one in five US/UK respondents aged 16–36 purchased an item based on a social media post by an influencer in the past month.
Sending 24 cans of corn to a millionaire
This blew my mind. Markiplier is giving this company free visibility and exposure to an audience who would absolutely buy corn just because it’s funny.
And they send him, as thanks, $20 worth of canned corn. You’ve gotta be kidding me.
Here’s why that doesn’t work: that doesn’t mean anything to him specifically. He could get that himself at a grocery store; he sure as heck has the money to do it. The marketing team could’ve gotten him something special, one of a kind, but they chose to say, yeah, just give one of the most popular YouTubers on the platform some corn, I guess.
The company could’ve thought about this decision for a few seconds and realized it was actually kind of insulting but they didn’t. They don’t care. They’re too set back in the traditional marketing mindset to value the kind of progress they could make here.
If they’d paid someone a few hundred bucks, if that, to design a funny custom T-shirt about Del Monte corn and thicc water, it would’ve been a hit. Ideally, they should’ve just taken the sponsorship, but the gift was so condescending that they may as well have sent nothing.
Writing a serious letter in response to a comedic YouTuber
If you watch a single video from Markiplier, you know that, as a brand, you want to approach him from a point of humor in writing, especially knowing he might share what you write on his channel. It’s clear the company didn’t consider how the brand would come across to the fans.
A serious, formal response makes the business seem old and tired in front of a group of people who watch Mark’s channel to laugh. They’ve essentially labeled themselves as the biggest buzzkill around, which I’m sure won’t help business. Plus, they can’t really redeem themselves at this point.
They could’ve hired a millennial who understands the weird, niche humor we all celebrate to write a response, and it would’ve been a million times better without a large investment.
But it’s too late. There’s a new sheriff in town.
There’s no way I can confirm anything yet, but because the Green Giant team has clearly been active in social listening, this happened.
Here’s what happens if this deal goes through — a shunning of Del Monte while consumers embrace Green Giant instead.
To make it more clear to Del Monte: they may very well lose customers and sales to their direct competitor. Why? They didn’t want to participate in a joke, I guess? I still don’t understand it. To me, it feels very much as though they feel better than or above Markiplier, which is absurd.
Markiplier makes innovative and creative content. Del Monte sells corn.
What You Can Learn From This
Ultimately, here are the points we as marketers need to understand:
- A formal brand voice doesn’t work for a staple product.
- Sponsorships don’t have to be big, but they do have to be personal.
- No matter how big or profitable your company is, you’re not above a popular influencer, and you never will be.
Influencer marketing can be so simple, but it starts with knowing who you’re talking to. Do your research on the influencer and their audience. Understand what kind of content will resonate with them.
And, more than anything, don’t send $20 worth of your product to a millionaire influencer as thanks for several unpaid endorsements. Del Monte looks awful, and I know they’re going to lose money if they don’t remedy this, as silly as the problem is. Don’t let the same thing happen to your company just because you’re not up to date on internet culture.