Fake is the new fabulous in marketing. Consider, if you will, a herd of goats coming up on a shiny new car. What do they see? What appears to be another herd of smart, handsome goats blocking the road. Goats are not the kind to turn tail and run, so hooves go flying. Of course, the badass goats refusing to move in this story are not really goats, but reflections brought to life by an overzealous car wash.
Farmer’s Market Insurance claims this is a real story, but who thinks it happened exactly that way? How would they know what the goats were thinking, for instance? Did one of them give a statement to the Farmer’s insurance adjuster? That doesn’t seem likely.
Even if we assume that someone did file a claim because goats attacked their very clean car, it’s clear the insurance company embellished to turn a dull tale into a funny story. That’s fake marketing and it’s really BS — as in brilliant strategy. Not that other kind of BS, sorry for the confusion.
Why Dull Won’t Cut It
Let’s face it, most stories are dull and the problem with dull marketing is it goes nowhere. When is the last time you saw dull trending? You’ve never seen it because it doesn’t happen. Babies talking smack about one another to promote a stock market service, now that’s got legs. Of course, these babies were not actually frenemies — that part was fake.
What do you do if the company and the product are boring like stocks because nobody really understands them anyway? You make something up because funny shines up dull.
Potty Mouth Mike
Let’s look at another one. Just so you know, Mike and his dirty mouth are the real deal in this story. What’s fake is all the stuff going on in the background. I’m pretty sure some bald guy didn’t agree to calmly sit there and let a toddler shave his head. Mike figured the actual story behind Dollar Shave Club was not all that interesting and he was right. Two guys meet at a party and start bitching about razors. Yawn. The little company Mike and his buddy started to improve the world of shaving sold for one billion dollars after this BS marketing campaign launched it.
What Makes a Great Fake Marketing Story?
Humor and storytelling are complex, so it’s a combination of things that work in fake marketing.
A fake marketing story needs what all stories do, a hero (and that’s not the business). In the goat’s tale, the hooved ones themselves are the protagonists. Farmers Insurance is a minor character at best. Nobody really cares about razors in the Dollar Shave Club ad, either, even if they are f**cking great. It’s Mike and his fake background that are moving the story forward. It’s important to know who the audience is going to connect with and build from there.
Next, the humor needs to make sense even if it is in a weird kind of way. For example, Old Spice’s humor tends to focus on partially clothed men with abs that go on for days, which makes sense because it’s an aftershave that wants to be associated with masculinity and romance. Babies talking about trading stocks makes ironic sense — something complex is mastered by characters that wear diapers and have milk addictions.
The Brand Spotlight
Don’t make it so out there that the audience forgets the point. Anyone watching Dollar Shave Mike follows the story and gets the humor but still understands what the ad is about and why they should care. Your job is to grab their attention and, once you have it, put a spotlight on the brand.
The Human Side
Make sure your humor really is funny. Here’s a tip: natural disasters, not funny. People dying, not a good time. Humor is always a bit of a risk but make sure your fake story passes the smell test.
Fake Marketing That Isn’t Fake News
If you are lucky, your embellished story will get the attention of the media because there is nothing fake about free publicity. People talked about those frisky babies for years after that commercial aired, in part, because it made the news.
Add Some Truth
Finally, don’t be afraid to add some truth to your fake marketing. In many ways, Michael Dubin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club, was making fun of himself and his company. He took some truth and used it to create humor.
Brilliant strategies come and go but a good, funny story, even if it is fake, always works in marketing.
Darla F is a full-time freelance writer published internationally and an award-winning author. Over the last decade, she has ghostwritten memoirs for a successful entrepreneur and created byline pieces for USAToday, Jillian Michaels, USARiseUP, New York Times — About.com, Multibrief, MedCity News, LiveStrong and AOL. Darla is known for her ability to take complex topics and make them clear to anyone.