The Two Fisted Slobber – Negative Social Marketing

slopper.gifDuring the 1980s, the “two fisted slobber” was an animated character who would appear periodically during Milwaukee Brewers baseball games on the video scoreboard. His purpose was to address a rash of bad stadium etiquette. He was fat, drooled, and spilled beer and ketchup on the people sitting near him while simultaneously belching and yelling at the top of his extremely large lungs. This behavioral social marketing campaign on behalf of the Brewers organization was designed to make a mockery of bad behavior in an amusing way and to inspire fans to say to each other – hey, I think you’ve had enough – Don’t be a “two fisted slobber”!.
The problem with the “two fisted slobber” is that fans, over time, actually grew quite fond of him, seeing him as a model for amusing antics rather than the dismal fool he was, even rising out of their seats to toast him whenever he appeared. He was eventually pulled from the game. He lives on in kitschy t-shirt shops.
I would not go so far as to say the “two fisted slobber” completely backfired, but I don’t think he was especially effective. So the question is – is there something inherently faulty about negative social marketing? Is social marketing more effective with positive reinforcement dominates?

In the case of having a fictional “villain” – my hunch is that there will always be a certain percentage of people who sympathize with him for whatever reason, and in doing so become defensive when he continues to be berated. The irony of teenagers’ mocking of anti-drug campaigns comes to mind. When told not to do something, people often go ahead and do it.
smokey.gifA more effective social marketing campaign (judging by its longevity), would be Smokey Bear’s campaign to improve campfire safety. It relies on a more positive character and does not vilify anyone. Smokey doesn’t tell you NOT to do anything – rather, he says “Remember…Only You Can Prevent Wildfires!” (see official Smokey Site here).
That’s actually somewhat flattering – the campaign is saying that not only is it your responsibility to be careful with fire, but he says you can actually do it. Only you! You’re the one with the special ability, and you’d better use it, or else there might be a horrible fire. Plus, everyone loves a friendly bear.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

8 responses

  1. Actually, that isn’t the real two fisted slobber (or slopper as he’s sometimes called). The real guy was thin and had a mustache, and I think he was phased out in ’90 or ’91, then returned a year or two later with ‘The Two Fisted Slobber: The Next Generation’ … where the slobber accompanied his son, sober, and spoke of the ills of bad behavior.
    Yes, he was a role model for many at County Stadium.

  2. Positive Reinforcement

    In the course of my thesis exploration, I’m making a conscious effort to use positive reinforcement to stimulate certain behaviors because I believe it is more effective at producing long-term change.
    A post on Triple Pundit delves into the is…

  3. I am glad you bring this up. I came to this conclusion myself by observing the protest movement in Australia at the time of the War on Iraq protests.
    I think another factor in this being true is that when you hold up only one example to people, even though it may be the negative, you still give them only one example to go by.
    Like with children. If you say “don’t do something” without offering an alternative, you have still only given them one example to choose from.
    For example: “Don’t eat McDonalds, it is bad for you”.
    Now I might be convinced by this idea and stop eating McDonalds. But by the end of the next day I might find myself right back at McDonalds after I realise that I don’t know how to produce my own food, how to grow it, how to prepare it. And yet if the education was on, growing, producing, preparing good food, I might just be able to make my own decision about McDonalds.

  4. Does ‘Negative Social Marketing’ work?

    I say no, and have been talking to friends about this, in relation to the alternative/peace movement for a while now. It is a quick read at the link below and my comments are there too.
    Triple Pundit: The Two Fisted Slobber – Negative Social Marketi…

  5. In this case they overlooked the most fundamental principle of social marketing which is understanding your audience. This determines the content and understanding of the message. Where social advertising differs is it offers an alternative form of behaviour and the means to take up this behaviour. For a behaviour change message to be effective individulas need to understand the negative aspects of thier behaviour and see the benefits of changing. The two fisted slobber merely describes the behaviour. Further l think it is irresponsible for audiences to be expected to control the beahviour of other audience members.

  6. Very interesting discussion. I just watched SharkWaters – about the billion dollar shark finning industry that is destroying the ecology of our oceans. As top predator, sharks control the population of many plankton feeders, plankton converts carbon dioxide into oxegen – as plankton feeders increase, it will impact on the ocean’s abiltiy to mitigage climate change. I was wondering if a positive or a negative social marketing campaign would be most effective to stop people from eating shark fin soup – a social delicacy and status symbol for many asians. Changing this “social norm” may be essential for the life on this planet. for more info.

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