Skip to content

49: The Onion’s Head of Marketing Joe Fullman: Playing it for laughs — seriously

Joe Fullman has taken a self-described “eclectic” route to become head of marketing for The Onion and its other properties, including ClickHole and The A.V. Club, and overseeing other enterprises like the Onion Reach Network and Onion Labs. But perhaps most interestingly, it was his failure to get a job selling children’s shoes that led to him where he is today.

In talking about the success of The Onion, Fullman makes the ironic point that while humor is critical — obviously — there’s more to it than that: “I think that humor is definitely the thing that has made The Onion name successful for the past 30 years. But, really, more than humor, even, it’s consistency,” says Fullman. He goes on to add, “We can really innovate when it comes to content without having to change the format too quickly. It’s essentially a really conservative institution, from a creative standpoint, because there are formats that we’ve had since the early days of print that are still going strong — formats of jokes, formats of features. I think that the ability to iterate, sometimes for decades, on a single format has been something that’s super valuable.”

But, just to be clear, The Onion is really, really funny.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today” podcast include:

  • Fullman discusses The Onion and its properties. (2:50)
  • “Let’s go wild with ideas.” — Fullman talks about Onion Labs. (7:15)
  • The Onion makes bigger bets in content marketing. (12:44)
  • Fullman breaks down content marketing. (18:56)
  • Allowing for experimentation (and failure) at a modest scale: Be (sort of) unafraid. (24:56)
  • Fullman’s defining moment: If the shoe (store) doesn’t fit, try advertising. (28:46)
  • Serving the institution of The Onion. (31:35)
  • Programmatic creative: It’s promising and terrifying — and probably boring. (37:48)