Sometimes, as marketers, we take ourselves WAY too seriously. Having a little fun can be a great way to break from the pack and enhance your brand identity.
Overly serious messaging with the tonal equivalent of sucking a lemon can get a message across but can also miss a great opportunity to connect with the audience and to break through in a crowded environment.
I’m not talking about Bud Light ha-ha slapstick funny – there’s lots of that out there (and a lot of it is not particularly funny).
I’m talking about funny that connects to someone as a person. There’s a difference.
- When done right, viewers are thinking “they get me! – they’re talking to me”
Exhibit A – Sprinkler Supply Store
I ordered replacement gaskets online from a sprinkler supply company. They arrived and all worked out. End of transaction.
- Then I got their ‘welcome’ email with ‘Huge Announcement’ in the subject line, signaling that I was now in their database
- This should have been an invitation to unsubscribe, but the way it was done, I now look forward to future emails! I like them! How did that happen?
- Here’s the copy:
“Listen up folks! David is joining us from…
…but no one could hear the rest of the announcement over the clamorous applause. Bells were rung. Balloons were dropped. “It’s Raining Men” blared from every speaker.
Simply put, adding you to our Sprinkler Supply Store family was cause for immediate celebration, everyone is thrilled you’re now a customer. Thank you!”
- It made me laugh – – and it worked (actual email below)
Exhibit B – UberConference – World’s Best Hold Music!
If you’re waiting for other people to join your UberConference call, you will hear music about…being on hold. First time I heard it, I laughed out loud.
Here’s a company that essentially force-feeds hold music saying “hey, we rely on hold music and even WE think it sucks!” In other words, they get it.
“I’m On Hold” was written and performed by Alex Cornell, an UberConference exec. Sample lyrics: “Well, I’ve been sitting here all day/I’ve been sitting in this waiting room/And I’ve been waiting on my friends/Yes, waiting on this conference call – all alone/And I’m on hold, well yes, I’m on hold/I hope it’s not all day”.
Check out the YouTube video below, and check out the comments. That’s a great connection.
Exhibit C – Sheetz (a 600-unit, 65-year old mid-Atlantic convenience/gas chain)
Convenience stores connected to gas stations are many, varied, and mostly interchangeable. Not this one.
- Sheetz prides itself on its Made To Order food and has long taken a light touch with the family name, selling “Shwingz” (wings), “Shmuffinz” (breakfast sandwich), and “Shweetz” (baked goods). Their ads have historically been funny.
- But their recent “I Want it All” (Queen cover) regional ad is an over the top statement that they’re different – – complete with air guitar – – and that they get where you’re coming from (we all know it’s just a convenience store – – lighten up – – ours is pretty good)
- It made me laugh – – and it worked. Official video inexplicably not available – – bootleg version here.
Exhibit D – Buick Enclave
I am not a Buick guy, but I did a double-take with a current spot.
- In the base spot, a suburban dog-walking woman corrects the Buick owner by identifying her dog as a ‘Bernie-doodle’, a nice send-up of dogs as status symbols
‘Dog Walker’ version
- In this pool out, they up the ante on the dog owner status. Fido is now a “Golden-English-Labra-Irish-Bernedoodle Retriever–with the temperament of a Pug”
- It’s funny! I know lots of dog snobs – – hey, I’m one myself! And it worked to give Buick a more relatable identity (the only Buick owner I know is Mom). Without the gag I would have not paid attention.
Exhibit E – Southwest Airlines safety announcements
- Everyone is familiar with these (classic example in the video).
- We all know that pre-flight announcements are routine and that no one listens anymore. Southwest has always done a great job of using humor to relate to its customers on an equal level, rather than a formal ‘we’re in charge’ approach, and in addition to being fun, it breaks down the barriers that might otherwise exist in a sometimes stressful activity.
Great marketing messaging creates a connection with the viewer – – to demonstrate that the advertiser understands who their target consumers are, and what they feel and need – – and that this empathy presumably translates to a belief that they can better meet your needs.
Humor, in addition to helping break through the clutter, is a very good way to create that direct connection, and maybe help bring that prospect a little closer to being a customer.
Of course, there are some situations where humor is just not appropriate – – serious life issues, mean-spirited, sexist or condescending humor, things that appeal to only a miniscule narcissistic sub-segment of society (copywriters), and stuff that’s just not funny.
So remember that, like hot sauce, while it can spice things up, not everyone likes humor the way you do, it doesn’t go with everything, and if used too aggressively, it can ruin what you were trying to improve.