Let’s face it, the people you are trying to reach today are not your grandfather’s target customers. Can you imagine an ad agency suggesting a client advertise poop in some realistic and downright funny way? Or even at all? Go back and watch some TV shows from the 1950’s through the 70’s. You would think Lucy and Ricky didn’t even have a bathroom much less use one.
Catching anyone’s attention today is a hit or miss proposition even for the best of marketers. Even if your business can afford commercial time during the Super Bowl, you have at best 30 seconds to command viewers’ attention.
For many, well done and properly applied humor is the key to making their business known or reminding people of what they have to offer.
The Best Candidates for Using Humor
Startups and Small Businesses
Every startup faces the daunting task of educating its audience on who it is and the value of its brand. One of the cheapest and most effective ways for a brand to go viral is through humor.
Help me out here – how many companies are brave enough (or perhaps crazy enough) to create an ad campaign that features a unicorn defecating into ice cream cones for a prince?
Squatty Potty is. After snaring an investor on Shark Tank, Squatty Potty (you’ve got to love the name) translated that into a huge success. In spite of warnings from advisors, investors, and his fellow founders, CEO Bobby Edwards decided to go ahead with the campaign. The result? Company sales.
You can bet Lori Greiner is reminding all the boys on Shark Tank that they passed on what her investment saw a 600% increase in sales. Just visit Bed Bath and Beyond and you will see what I’m talking about.
The concept is bizarre but most startups are positioned better than any other business to take a chance with the funny. A video of a unicorn pooping ice cream is perfect for YouTube (almost a million views) and Facebook (over 100,000 shares).
When the Budget Doesn’t Allow for Traditional Approaches
What you do when the convention you want to advertise at charges $20,000 for a hole in the wall booth but all your budget allows is $7,000? How about spending everything on a 20-foot blimp bearing an industry inside joke to circle the convention center? That’s what Optimizely did at last year’s annual Dreamforce event in Denver hosted by Salesforce.
“I like making fun of the fact that a lot of people have these problems and challenges,” said Jodie Ellis at the FunnyBizz Conference, an event themed around creating meaningful business content that has a sense of humor.
To get the most bang for its buck, the company followed up with a tongue-in-cheek blog post that explains how you can also launch a blimp to get maximum effect for your brand. Be aware, Ellis doesn’t mind poking a bit of fun at people who read his blog as well.
When You Want to Give a Nod to your Most Loyal Customers
Totino’s pizza sticks, stuffed nachos, and infamous pizza rolls have been a staple in college dorm rooms and frat houses for years. Rather than be ashamed of that, Totino’s decided to leverage something else the company knows is true of their loyal base. College students don’t just snarf chips. In Colorado, at least, they are cannabis friendly.
#BetterWhenBaked was a humorous marketing effort the company attached to 4/20- themed billboards. It even made a commercial that aired in the days leading up to April 2oth, a day of celebration for the state’s marijuana users.
When a Business Needs to Reach a New Audience
Old Spice is a great example of a company that took a surreal approach to comedy to reach a new generation of consumers. A memorable TV ad for the company features Isaiah Mustafa opening a Komodo dragon to offer ice cream to the viewers. Now that is one that definitely sticks in your mind.
Long associated with an older generation, Old Spice needed a way to catch the eye of Millennials. Its innovative approach to social media and absurdist humor has made Old Spice a memorable brand for now and the future.
Keep in touch with the kind of humor that resonates with your target audience, and create content that speaks to it. Old Spice could have never made that ad work twenty years ago. Those who already use the brand’s aftershave aren’t changing but today’s wave of customers needed a reason to talk about and buy it. Isaiah Mustafa and a Komodo dragon was just the ticket.
Be honest about who you are seeking to reach and then go all in for them. Beer companies know that sports fans are a major part of their market so they fashion ads that make drinking beer while watching your favorite team is fun. Know your audience and how far you can push the boundaries with them. Have fun without disrespecting or misrepresenting the
Make them forget that you’re selling something. Don’t be pushy but rather allow your audience to forget they are being marketed to at all.
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.