lebowski on a rug


Even though the movie The Big Lebowski was released in 1998, about seven years before the term “Inbound Marketing” was coined by Brian Halligan, we’ve found several hidden messages predicting the Inbound Marketing revolution in this cult classic starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman and others. If you are more of the “millennial” generation and have not seen this movie (or maybe you are older but were under a rock), shut off the computer and proceed immediately to Netflix only to return to this post more cultured than before.

“The Rug That Tied the Room Together” = Inbound Marketing


Big Lebowski guys in the bowling alley


The basic plot of The Big Lebowski starts when “The Dude’s” rug is soiled in his humble home by a crew of organized thugs sent by porn mogul Jackie Treehorn. The thugs thought they were stealing a rug belonging to a much “wealthier” man also named Lebowski (“The Dude’s last name is also Lebowski’) but  obviously found the wrong Lebowski. The older Mr. Lebowski’s wife owed Jackie Treehorn money. “The Dude,” after learning of the older, wealthier Lebowski, approaches him for restitution for the damaged rug, lamenting that the rug “really tied the room together.” Alas, we have our first hidden message about Inbound Marketing.

Inbound Marketing really is the rug that ties the room together. If you think about it, Inbound Marketing is made of cross-channel strategies and tactics like content marketing, blogging, social, SEO, etc. If you are doing Inbound Marketing right, all these pieces are coordinated and tie together to produce the results you seek.

“STFU, Donny” = Interruption Marketing Is Dead


The Big Lebowski STFU Donny


In the movie, John Goodman’s character, Walter Sobchak, repeatedly tells Steve Buscemi’s character, Donny, to “STFU” after each of Donny’s incessant interruptions. Spoiler Alert: Later in the movie Donny dies and Walter spread his ashes all over The Dude.

“Were you listening to The Dude’s story, Donny? You have no frame of reference here. You’re like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and starts … Just STFU, Donny, you’re out of your element!”

The message here is that Interruption Marketing, like Donny, is annoying. Don’t wander into the middle of a movie with your commercials and start shouting random things. Listen to the customer’s story first. Be a part of the conversation, not an interruption.

“F – It Dude, Let’s Go Bowling” = Use Marketing Automation

The favorite pastime of the movie’s main characters, “The Dude,” Walter and Donny, is bowling. At one point in the movie after an unsuccessful attempt in paying a ransom to the rug thieves, Walter wisely states, “F- it Dude, let’s go bowling.”

The hidden message here about Inbound Marketing is to use Marketing Automation. Marketing Automation not only more intelligently lets us engage our customers, it lets us scale processes so we can do fun things like go bowling!

The Nihilists = Data Slaves

The Big Lebowski contains a subplot focusing on a band of three “nihilists.” The nihilists, by Walter Sobchak’s definition, as well as their own admission, “believe in nothing.” They also try to steal money from The Dude, Walter and Donny during a parking lot brawl.


guys in red bodysuits with scissors

Ever get so many coupon offer email blasts for stuff you don’t want or need that you end up having nightmares about it?


The hidden message here is that old-school marketing agencies don’t believe in the fundamental principles of Inbound Marketing, such as educating customers, giving away useful content, providing value to capture emails early in the shopping experience, continuing to delight after the sale, etc. They believe in nothing but the most immediate KPI, letting everything downstream sink into the abyss.

Be data-informed, not a data slave. The data may tell marketing nihilists that weekly untargeted coupon blasts and loud, obnoxious television commercials work because, look, it drove conversions. But sacrificing long-term relationships with your customers for short-term gains is the kind of thinking that could cause someone to alienate their brand — or worse, get their ear bitten off by John Goodman in a bowling alley parking lot.

“You Got Any Promising Leads?” = The Customer Lifecycles

Another subplot of The Big Lebowski involves The Dude’s car getting stolen. When the car is recovered by the LAPD, The Dude asks the impound lot officer if the police have any “leads” on who stole the vehicle.


police officer with no leads


The hidden message here is that you can’t skip the top of the funnel, nor the middle, when the bottom line is about getting more leads, sales and repeat customers.

The LAPD detective in this scene doesn’t want to work for his client (The Dude). Instead, he’ll sit around passively waiting for The Dude’s stolen car to show up at the bottom of the investigative funnel (i.e., when it falls into his lap).


So there you have it! Even seven years before Inbound Marketing entered our collective lexicon, The Big Lebowski was already sending us messages. For fans of the movie and Inbound Marketing, I hope you’ve enjoyed a few minutes of fun.

FYI, we’re scheduling a The Big Lebowski viewing at our Inflow offices soon. Send us your resume so we can reserve your front-row seat!