marketing, affiliate marketing, brand marketing, advertising

What is Self-Aware Marketing?

The digital landscape and ecommerce industry is becoming increasingly oversaturated. With countless businesses, brands, and platforms out there, it’s harder than ever to make yourself stand out from the crowd, which is why marketing is more important than ever.

Marketing is a broad term that encompasses various approaches, techniques, and philosophies. One form that we’ve seen come to the fore in recent years is self-aware marketing. Let’s take a look at what self-aware marketing is, how it can benefit you, and how you can integrate it into your digital strategy.

What is self-aware marketing?

Self-awareness, or going meta as it’s known in the modern vernacular, is nothing new. Popular media such as TV shows, films, books, and video games have long used meta as an effective tool, breaking the fourth wall in a satirical, often self-deprecating way to increase audience engagement.

However, while consumer media has used meta in-jokes for a long time, it’s rarely been employed in marketing campaigns, until now. Perhaps a higher risk threshold and a smaller margin for error led many brands to conclude that a self-aware marketing campaign wasn’t worth it, but regardless, we’re starting to see self-aware marketing practices adopted by companies from a range of different industries.

But what exactly is self-aware marketing? It’s a process that involves ignoring long-standing advertising rules. Instead of crowing about the uniqueness and amazing benefits of a product, brands will be far more forthcoming, often disarmingly so. Self-aware marketing campaigns can be self-referential, calling back to previous campaigns, good or bad. Or they can pay homage to public opinion about particular products or services, no matter if these opinions are positive or negative.

To properly understand self-aware marketing, let’s take a look at a real-world example.

Marmite – Love it or Hate it

Marmite is a yeast extract-based spread produced in the UK. Commonly eaten on toast, Marmite has a distinctive savoury flavour; it’s powerful, aromatic, and famed for its high levels of umami.

In the mid-1990s, Marmite launched a new marketing campaign with the slogan ‘Love it or Hate it’. This played into the product’s polarising nature, Marmite fans can’t get enough of it, while others can’t even bear the smell.

Marmite’s self-aware marketing strategy has continued to this day, with a recent campaign describing the product as ‘Dividing the nation since 1902’. Rather than shy away from the fact that the product doesn’t appeal to everyone, Marmite fully embraced it. This made for a wildly successful campaign that has seen Marmite become a household name. When something is particularly divisive, it is often described as ‘like Marmite’.

The benefits 

As we highlighted above, Marmite’s decision to adopt a self-aware marketing strategy paid dividends, and the product is now regarded as part of British cultural identity.

By implementing a self-aware marketing campaign, you will demonstrate to consumers that your brand doesn’t take itself too seriously. This can be extremely powerful; it will make your brand seem more human and relatable. Forging connections with consumers is the key to success, if your brand can demonstrate a level of humour and humility, it will be far easier to forge and maintain these customer relationships.

Self-aware marketing is all about honesty. Rather than dress up a product and elevate it beyond its worth, brands can present it as is and leave the consumer to make up their own mind. This sincerity can be incredibly effective and can make your business appear more reliable and legitimate.

The risks

However, as with anything, a self-aware marketing strategy does come with some risks. There’s always a danger of trying to be too clever. If the joke or reference you are making is obscure to the point of being unrecognisable, consumers won’t understand it and will likely ignore it.

It’s also important that your self-aware marketing campaign matches your brand. If it’s a significant deviation from your business’s usual style and tone, you could end up alienating or putting off the very consumers you are trying to attract.

Finally, you must keep sensitivity in mind. Referencing historical events or particular demographic groups can be fraught with risk, if not done correctly you could cause offence, which could cause a severe backlash and damage your brand.

This is why having a diverse team behind you is so crucial. If you were to inadvertently touch on particular cultural sensitives in your campaign, having a diverse team will ensure these errors are spotted and addressed before they are broadcast to the general public.


A self-aware marketing campaign can be incredibly effective. Use the advice in this guide to implement your own self-aware marketing strategy.

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