3 Evil Genius Marketers

Become an evil genius at marketing 😈😈😈

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When you think of “evil genius”, what comes to mind?

A James Bond supervillain. A bank robber. What about an author?

Most people know Ryan Holiday for The Daily Stoic, but they have no clue he wrote a book called Trust Me, I’m Lying about manipulating the media.

He starts off the book telling the story of how he helped frat bro humor writer Tucker Max promote his new movie I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell.

"It’s why I found myself at 2:00 A.M. one morning, at a deserted intersection in Los Angeles, dressed in all black. In my hand I had tape and some obscene stickers made at Kinko’s earlier in the afternoon. What was I doing here? I was there to deface billboards, specifically billboards I had designed and paid for […] Across the billboards was now a two-foot-long sticker that implied that the movie’s creator—my client Tucker Max—deserved to have his dick caught in a trap with sharp metal hooks”

Ryan Holiday, Trust Me, I’m Lying

Holiday then set up fake email addresses and sent emails to reporters saying he saw the billboards while driving home. This was just one small stunt in an evil genius campaign Holiday planned.

Holiday contacted LGBT and women’s right groups and baited them to protest Tucker’s offensive movie. “I started a boycott group,” he declares. He paid for anti-woman ads on feminist websites and anti-religion ads on Christian websites, knowing each would write about it. “I manufactured preposterous stories about Tucker’s behavior on and off the movie set and reported them to gossip websites, which gleefully repeated them.”

Throughout the book, he also he also explains: how he paid small publications to cover him to build credibility to get into bigger publications, how he “conned the conmen”, and much more. Nothing he did was illegal. Immoral? Maybe. But this is marketing. He had his client’s OKs on everything. It’s just business baby.

In the digital age where attention is the most valuable asset, you’ve gotta do whatever you can to break through the noise. It’s why I respect the hell out of evil geniuses like Ryan Holiday. He didn’t just buy $100,000 in Facebook ads and call it a day. The dude outthought his competition. Lazy marketers are lazy thinkers—and there’s a lot of them. Holiday certainly isn’t one of them.

Here are some more evil genius marketers for inspiration.

Dan Bilzerian

I spent my Saturday afternoon reading Dan Bilzerian’s autobiography The Setup. It was unfiltered, hilarious, and surprisingly insightful.

Bilzerian was a pro poker player making millions, but wasn’t satisfied with just being rich. He wanted to be famous. So he joined Instagram and hired a digital strategist and a camera guy to follow him around.

Now this would be pretty boring if Dan was just playing poker and watching TV. But this dude’s life was absolutely insane. Guns, girls, and a garage full of exotic cars everyday. So all the videographers had to do was film his daily life.

“‘Here’s what I want,’ I told [the videographer] ‘Get candid, authentic fifteen-second highlight reels of what I do. I’m not going to set up shots, and I’m not doing any retakes. You’ll have one chance to get it.’

Dan Bilzerian, The Setup

Bilzerian knew he was living every teenage guy’s dream—and assumed correctly that millions of young men would look up to him and follow him. Bilzerian now sits at a nice 33 million Instagram followers.

He sold the dream in a 3×3 grid called Instagram, and it’s made him millions. “Social media helped me get into better poker games, and heads-up matches that made me tens of millions of dollars. It opened doors.” Evil genius.

How to use Dan’s Evil Genius Marketing Tactics:

  • Sex sells. “I was quickly learning that pictures with hot girls an expensive shit always outperformed interesting action adventure.” Leverage sex appeal to get attention online. This doesn’t necessarily mean posting thirst traps like Dan. It could mean writing about sex or incorporating it into your ads or something of the sort.

  • Sell the dream. For Bilzerian, this meant show the world a life of half-naked girls and trips around Cabo. But there’s plenty of different ways to do this. For example, you can sell the dream of being a creator by writing about your adventures or the dream of being a founder by writing about the highs and taking pics of your team.

  • Ignite controversy. Dan Bilzerian epitomizes polarization. You either love him or you hate him—and that’s exactly how he wants it. Don’t be afraid of causing some trouble. It’s better to be hated on than be ignored; all press is good press.

50 Cent

In 2000, 50 Cent had a record deal and was working on his debut album.

But then he got shot 9 times. Somehow he survived. But the record label dropped him, so he had to take matters into his own hands.

He started releasing mixtapes which blew up in New York and ended up with 50 signing a deal with Eminem. How’d he do it?

Awareness over money: Fifty didn’t care about making a couple of dollars from the mixtapes. He wanted awareness. He wanted everyone to hear his music. But there was a hit on his head, he wasn’t able to handle the distribution himself. So he encouraged bootleggers to pirate and spread his music.

Ignite a conflict. The key component of purpling his cow was publicly picking a fight and ridiculing the people who were still trying to kill him + the record label that dropped him. This wasn’t some online battle […] He had actually been shot 9 times. His life was still in danger, he was in hiding. But he kept recording new tunes that humiliated his “enemies,” and he made sure those get spread. Conflict, bravery, and ridicule always grab attention. And get the audience to talk.

Ride on coattails: 50 piggybacked on other artists. He pirated popular songs. Made parodies of these. Recorded new versions with his own lyrics on top. This helped him cause even more stir. That’s why remixes and sampling, or memes are so popular even today. You can use a proven hit to advance your own career. Was the way 50 did it against the law – yeah. But he didn’t care. He was on a mission. He was fearless

Mystery: As his music was spreading, he was still hiding. This helped him to build even more mystery around him. He didn’t give any concerts. People didn’t know who he was. Similar to Daft Punk, this caused even more intrigue & word of mouth.

Karl Veske, Twitter

How to use 50 Cents’s Evil Genius Marketing Tactics:

  • Awareness over money. Put as much of your work out for free online. "Don't be afraid to publish for free what you know because people will pay for aggregated content,” says creator Justin Welsh.

  • Ignite a conflict. One option is to attack up. This means attacking a bigger creator or famous person. Journalists do this and it’s petty and pretty pathetic tbh. I think it’s best to ignite conflicts against a concept (i.e. fighting against corporate America)

  • Ride on coattails. Post remixes of bigger creators’ work. This isn’t just for rap or music. You can do this on Twitter by quoting bigger creators or writing threads about them. It’s how I built my Twitter in the beginning. You’ve gotta leverage their social capital to build your own. Often they’ll end up retweeting or sharing your post as well.

  • Mystery. Don’t reveal everything on the internet. Keep a lot of shit to yourself. It creates an air of mystery and legend around you.

How am I using evil genius marketing???

In 48 hours, I’m revealing 7 Evil Genius tactics I use to get attention online 😈

Belle Delphine (NSFW)

In 2018, Belle Delphine was a high school dropout. 2 years later, she was making $2 million a month on OnlyFans.

Belle had been posting cosplay photos for a year when she realized it’d never lead to fame or fortune. “There’s so many cute girls on the internet...I need to do something that will make people say negative things about me or just have a conversation,'“ she explains.

Instead of trying to compete on sexiness or weirdness, Belle decided she’d play her own game: be weird and controversial.

“After promising her followers that she would start a P*rnhub account, Belle uploaded a dozen videos with clickbait titles like “Belle Delphine strokes two big C*cks” (in which she hung out, fully clothed, with two chickens) and “Belle Delphine POV Doggy Style” (in which she consumed a package of dog food) and “Pewdiepie goes all the way inside Belle Delphine (in which she consumed a picture of Pewdiepie’s face). None of the videos featured any porn, let alone nudity.”

“It was performance art meets Jackass meets thirst trap,” writes F*ckonomics. “And by combining sexy with weird, Belle differentiated herself from the oversaturated pool of adult performers who posted up interchangeable photos of themselves in the same predictable poses.”

After causing a lot of attention and controversy for a year, Belle started an OnlyFans. Unlike other adult performers who had x-rated videos and photos for free all over the internet, there was nothing like that for Belle. This led to more people clicking subscribe and ended up with her making $2 million per month. This is some absolutely evil genius shit.

  • Sex sells. Cause controversy. Same thing as Bilzerian and 50 Cent. Combine sex and controversy and you get CLICKS. Just look at Cooper’s viral tweet about her dream boyfriend.

  • Get weirder. It’s very hard to stand out on the internet. Being weird gets attention. Plus it’s 10x more fun than being The AI Guy or whatever lol. You wanna stand out? Get weirder.

Something to to consider:

When being an evil genius, you have 2 options:

“You need to pick one of these two styles; obvious wolf, or wolf in sheep’s clothing? I recommend “obvious wolf,” but done intelligently.”

Venkatesh Rao, Be Slightly Evil

In his 20s, Ryan Holiday was an “obvious wolf”, bragging about how he manipulated the media. Now that he’s all grown up and softened out to become the Stoicism dude, he’s become a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

50 Cent is an obvious wolf. Belle Delphine is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Dan Bilzerian is an obvious wolf. You see how it goes? Every major successful person is a wolf, but they’re either a wolf in sheep’s clothing or an obvious wolf.

So which are you going to be? An obvious wolf or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

How am I using evil genius marketing???

In 48 hours, I’m revealing 7 Evil Genius tactics I use to get attention online.

You can expect examples, screenshots, plus some funny stories.

This post is for premium subscribers only, get access here:

Evil Genius Corner 😈

Every week, I curate 3 resources to help you create more cool shit. This week, I’ve got 3 resources to help you become a better Evil Genius.

🍿 Want to get better at branding? Study criminal mastermind Raymond Reddington from Blacklist on Netflix.

🐦 Good evil genius Twitter follow: Joshua Steinman. He’s ex-military and worked in the White House, now he’s a founder and breaks down political strategy on Twitter.

📕 How do you get power? First step: Read The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. A must-read for entrepreneurs and creators.

Thanks for reading nerds.

Create some cool shit this week.

Jason Levin

P.S. Want to really upgrade your content strategy?

😂 Check out my book on meme marketing Memes Make Millions.

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Until next edition, see you on Twitter and LinkedIn.