How The Onion Helps Brands Bring the Funny


February 15, 2016

eric munn the onion

“Brands often fall flat when trying to be an Onion or a Buzzfeed.” As these irreverent powerhouses have taught us, humor can significantly impact your online reach. A mistake many make is trying to execute this potent mixture on their own. What they should be doing is looking to experts like The Onion. As social media lead for Onion Labs, Eric Munn and his team help brands bring the funny while connecting and engaging with their audience.

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About Eric Munn

Eric Munn is Social Media Lead for Onion, Inc.’s creative services division, Onion Labs. Munn began his career at TrainSignal, where he grew the company’s social following organically by over 12K in less than a year. Shortly thereafter, Munn was recruited by [email protected] to help run social strategy for brands like CDW, Jim Beam, Pinnacle Vodka, and Braintree. In what one can only assume was a clerical error, Munn was contact by The Onion in 2014 to lead social strategy for Onion Labs and spends most of his days explaining how jokes work to brand managers.

Munn is a graduate of The University of Michigan and asks that all Ohio State alumni please vacate the premises.

Episode Highlights

What is Onion Labs? Like many publishers and content creators, The Onion has been disrupted in recent years. While they want to continue to create the top-notch satire and commentary they’re known for, they also need new revenue models. At the same time, they were consistently being contacted by brands wanting them to create funny content for them. In response, The Onion created their creative services division Onion Labs.

Bacardi’s #RealCocktails. When I asked Eric for an example, he shared a recent holiday campaign for Bacardi. The spirits brand wanted to be a part of the conversation so they came to Onion Labs who quickly pointed out that drinking over the holidays isn’t always for the sake of revelry. Sometimes it’s a survival or escape mechanism. That’s how their #RealCocktails campaign was born.

“They trust us.” The Onion is consistently sought out as a source for branded comedy because of the hard work they’ve put in to establish a solid brand in the comedic publishing space. “There’s value in content created by the men and women that work at The Onion.” That trust extends to their audience as well, which is why it’s critical that there’s clear delineation between ads and promoted content and their own editorial content.

“I don’t think there’s any brand that shouldn’t be funny.” There’s something you don’t here everyday. While many admire funny ads, often businesses hide behind excuses why they “couldn’t do that here.” If you know what you’re doing, anyone can benefit from the emotional connection comedy creates. “One of the big rules we follow here is punching up.” The Onion makes a point of sending up politicians and people in power rather than those downtrodden and in dire straights.

This week, I had to share a brand that makes me smile — The Onion! I am an unabashed Onion/AVClub fan-boy but perhaps my most consistent laughs come from their ongoing parodies of Joe Biden.

What brand has made Eric smile recently? He gave us two. As a “one-off” he loved the stunt that Australian restaurant chain Chicken Treat pulled by hijacking the news with their crazy story of the chicken they were letting run their Twitter feed for a day. As for continous smiles, Eric pointed us to the HBO series Silicon Valley, which has clever hiring ads (complete with online forms) throughout social media.

To learn more, follow Eric on Twitter and check out Onion Labs’ on Facebook.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Recently Joe Morris gave a shout out to a recent Social Sound Bite. Thanks Joe!

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!

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Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.




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