The Serious Business of Poking Fun at Yourself
Creative writers have lots of challenges. The biggest of which is how to create copy that makes boring products and services sing. But finding that inner pop that just keeps on ticking takes art, and skill. So what’s the secret? This is where the screenwriter in me notes, “Pause for effect.”
Loosen up, take a fun look at the business you work at so hard, and have a blast doing the serious business of poking fun at yourself.
There’s Nothing Generic About This
Consider the stock footage company, Dissolve. Now there’s an exciting business – selling pictures of nameless people for businesses to copy and paste into their website, magazine, billboard or whatever. Rather than buy into the whole “but my business is so ordinary” mantra, Dissolve decided to take a light-hearted look at itself.
Dissolve took what might be considered a fairly mundane enterprise and made a video that went viral. They took a satirical bit from McSweeney’s entitled This is a Generic Brand Video and used that as the narrative script for a generic brand video that reminds people of what they do – provide generic images.
Before I saw the video I had never heard of Dissolve, but they had me from the moment the narrator said: “Lest you think we’re a faceless entity, look at all these attractive people.”
“If you would not be laughed at, be the first to laugh at yourself.” – Benjamin Franklin
Before you think I just found a great quote and forced it into a most inappropriate place, Franklin was not only one of the founders of this nation but an inventor and branding genius.
After visiting France his image was plastered everywhere from snuff boxes to posh Parisian apartments. The ultimate testament to how well he had branded himself is that after his death, the first published version of his autobiography was a French translation.
I bet you weren’t expecting an essay on history, were you?
The good news is that’s all for the boring stuff about a dead guy. But, there is a good lesson about branding here. When a business takes itself so seriously that it can’t poke a bit of fun at itself, it may be headed for a tough lesson in marketing taught by Groucho Marx. He said, “If you find it hard to laugh at yourself [others will be] happy to do it for you.”
You probably already recognize the importance of developing and communicating a strong personal brand otherwise you’d be reading a biography about someone like Franklin.
The question now is – Have you found a way to make your personal branding fun for both you and your customers? Researchers say that whether people actually find your attempt at self-deprecating humor funny is less important than the fact they feel it shows you are human and share the same values they do.
Laughing Along with Lenovo
A classic example is Lenovo’s successful and long-running ad campaign, “Tough Season.” The mocumentary produced by Onion had next to nothing to say about Lenovo computers but made the brand a buzzword for just about everyone who plays fantasy football (and that’s about 300 million or so more than you may realize).
So how did it work you may ask. Before the ad campaign, the company was the world leader with over 19% of all computer sales. In the U.S., the company surpassed Apple during the second quarter of 2012 to edge into third place behind HP and Dell. IDC research positions Lenovo as the fourth-largest smartphone vendor worldwide, shipping 15.8 million units last quarter. Lenovo shipped 2.4 million tablets globally last year up 64.7% from the quarter a year earlier and enough for 4.9% of the market.
In spite of great sales, Lenovo was weak in one market in the U.S. – millennials (ages 18-35). Since the company began sponsoring the NFL in 2012, awareness among fantasy football players has increased 32%. Since “Tough Season” began showing it has done the job of building recognition among millennials. Views for the show’s first season topped 13 million.
“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.” – Alan Alda
Invite People to Have Fun Along With You
Anyone who has seen many great movies knows great actors don’t look like they’re acting. The same principle holds with marketing. Your audience is turned off by branding that feels like a veiled attempt at advertising.
Today’s buyer is more attracted to a brand that appears to vibrant, genuine, and fun.
An agented novelist and full-time freelance writer, Tim G specializes in SEO content writing, full-length non-fiction ghost writing, and has written and developed corporate and educational application training materials.