How Mark is promoting his podcast by offering his nude pictures
At 4 pm on Wednesday the 19th of October 2022, I typed “podcast ranking” into my google search bar and found Distractible holding the number one spot on Spotify, having dethroned The Joe Rogan Experience. It’s number 7 on Apple Podcast up from 160-something.
I am watching this situation unfold with excited fascination. And before anyone gets the wrong impression, no, not for that reason.
Maybe you noticed I’ve been largely absent from Medium in the last couple of years. That’s because I decided to go back to school and pursue my Bachelor's in Marketing at the University of Aruba; all my writing is being poured into projects and essays. Since I’m also raising 2 boys by myself and trying to run a business, short fiction and blogging have been pushed to the back-burner.
That was until Markiplier’s YouTube video landed in my recommended feed two days ago. And after I watched the video, and the fallout of that video, I had to write about it. And since it currently doesn’t fit into any of my courses, I get to share it with all of you.
Mark Fischbach is a mad genius. He just pulled off what could very well be one of the best marketing stunts of all time.
To understand what’s happening, you will need a little bit of background information. Mark Fischbach, known as Markiplier, is one of the biggest content creators on YouTube. He currently has 33.8 million subscribers on his channel and over 19 billion views. He got big with let’s play videos and branched out from there. He has created two YouTube Original projects that are the video equivalent of choose-your-own-adventure books, the second of which has more hours of video than the Lord of the Rings movies combined. He’s made miniseries and short films. He did a stand up comedy tour. He started his own clothing line. He raised millions for charity in dedicated livestreams. And now he is cohosting two separate podcasts.
Two days ago, on October the 16th, he posted a video with the title I Will Start an Only Fans… Mark will start an Only Fans on which he will sell “tasteful nudes” and donate the proceedings to charity, on two conditions; the podcast Distractible gets to number one on Spotify and Apple Podcast in the “All Podcasts” category and the Podcast GO! My Favorite Sports Team gets to number one in the “Sports” category, simultaneously.
The Charity Angle
Under Mark’s guidance his fanbase delights in creating chaos while doing good. He has a initiative he calls kick-club, where he seeks out charity streams on Twitch, “raids” the live stream with a couple of hundred people where they proceed to flood the chatroom with encouraging messages, collectively donate enough money to surpass the streamer’s donation goals, watch and laugh as the streamer freaks out at the sudden attention and influx of money, and then leave for the next charity stream once the goal has been sufficiently “kicked”. Typically, the random streamers are smaller creators who are hoping to raise a couple of hundred dollars for some charity that is close to their heart. Suddenly seeing their efforts result in thousands donated to their cause, elicits very emotional responses. A kick-club episode is guaranteed to include shock, swears and tears. It is a type of bullying everyone can feel good about.
The tone of a kick-club episode is almost military. Mark sets himself up as the mastermind and the viewer, the participant, is a secret agent of chaotic good. It is this same tone you see in the Only Fans video. His audience has been conditioned to respond to the mission he is giving them. The mission is “disrupt the rankings of global podcasts and dethrone the reigning king”. One only needs to look at the listings to see that the fanbase has taken up the mission without question.
Looking at this from a marketing perspective, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more effective call to action. It is formulated in a way that makes people feel like heroes, even if what they are doing isn’t doing good, but merely a promise of doing good in the future. The results are instant and measurable. I am sure I am not the only one who has been checking the podcast rankings since the video dropped. That little green arrow next to the podcast’s name enforces the idea we’re making a difference, somehow.
The Nudity Angle
“Tasteful Nudes” are the carrot on the stick for the podcast mission. Mark is no stranger to showing off his body for charity. As you can tell from the video, he has done it before in the form of a calendar.
There is definitely a segment of his audience that wants to see nudes of Mark. If you would like an idea of how large this segment is, I recommend going to Wattpad.com and search for “Markiplier” or “Septiplier” (which is a “ship” with another popular YouTuber, but that’s an essay for another day) Better yet, since these tasteful nudes are attached to charity, there’s a lot less shame for anyone to come out and be horny on main by admitting you want to see them.
Side tangent; I adore the expression “horny on main” since it implies pretty much everyone has alternate accounts on social media platforms for the purpose of expressing sexuality, and one only goes horny on main when the need is very high or the topic overwhelmingly sexy. Or, in this case, for the greater good.
However large the segment of Mark’s audience who simply want to see his nudes, once can question if this segment is large enough to disrupt the ranking of podcasts. Without access to his analytics I can only make a guess, but I would say it isn’t. I would say, based on the content he creates, that the largest part of his audience identifies as straight and male.
But the ranking of the podcasts jumped significantly just 48 hours after the video dropped. That is interesting, isn’t it? If the largest part of his audience presumably has no interest in seeing a man in the nude, why would they alter their behavior in such a way to have access to images of a man in the nude? A general platonic appreciation of the male human form, much like the ancient Greek and Roman artists? There is a little bit of support for that line of thinking. In a side project called Unus Annus Mark appeared in the nude several times. Unus Annus itself was a piece of performance art, to be uploaded and deleted exactly one year after it’s creation. The episodes in which he was nude didn’t seem to do better or worse than other episodes. Much like the Dada movement made art by placing a urinal on a pedestal as a response to an emerging modern media, the creation of an Only Fans by Mark Fischbach could be called art as a response to social media.
I would love it if that were the case, but honestly? I think people just think it’s funny. I think that people see humor in a popular creator with a mostly clean reputation “exploiting” a platform with a reputation for attracting models who want to make money in a socially unacceptable way. Only Fans is the domain of sex workers. Regardless of how you personally feel about such work, sex workers are still seen as less-than in society. Sex work is seen as humiliating. Seeing a man humiliate himself is funny.
Mark has used the humiliation=funny mechanic a lot over his career. He has submitted himself to ice baths, ate hot peppers, shocked himself with electricity and countless other forms of punishments as a reward to his viewers for reaching certain milestones, both for charity and for the growth of his channel. His fanbase regularly accuses him of being a masochist. No one really reflects on the audience showing signs of sadism.
What is interesting is that psychology dictates that positive attitudes about an event connected to a brand will transfer to the brand over time. While we are all giggling about Mark’s Only Fans, we will all start to feel a little bit more positive about Only Fans in general and the models who choose to work on it. By exposing himself to the humiliation of Only Fans, Mark is making Only Fans a little bit less humiliating.
The Point is Neither Charity Nor Nudity
While donating to charity is good, and normalizing sex work, in my opinion, is good, the reason for this stunt is not philanthropy nor social issues. In the end, it’s all about promoting the podcasts Mark has created with his friends. And whether or not the goal is reached and the conditions he set out in his video are met, this promotion has already been wildly successful.
Both podcasts have risen in the rankings. Having a higher ranked podcast will make the podcast more attractive to sponsors and will improve the creator’s negotiating position with those sponsors. That will increase the podcast’s revenue. The bottom line is always more profits.
More profits isn’t a bad thing. The podcasts are pretty entertaining. Even the ad-reads on the podcasts are entertaining. Getting more sponsors simply ensures that they will be around for longer. That is just one more all-around win.
If, after reading all this, you have the urge to see what the podcast is all about, I recommend going to wherever you enjoy your podcasts, look up Distractible and search for the episode “Bob’s Fridge”. I promise you won’t be disappointed.