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Discover a Key to Successful Advertising

by Colin Shaw on March 8, 2016

Do you use humor to get over your message? Some brands are particularly good at it. If it’s done well, a funny tone of voice can make a brand more memorable and attract a big following.

A recent blog cites Old Spice as an example of a big brand that uses humor effectively, in its “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”.

Old Spice realized that women are often the ones who do the household shopping, and that includes buying men’s toiletry products. So it came up with a series of commercials in which a hunky guy steps comically from one set to another.

Heinz used a different kind of humor to promote its ketchup products during the 2016 Super Bowl. It’s hard not to chuckle at these weiner dogs stampeding toward their favorite condiment.

After watching a few of these ads, even I am ready to go out and buy their products!

Humor builds a brand by creating positive emotions. People come back for a second helping of those good feelings and share them with their friends. Those same positive emotions are the building blocks for an improved customer experience.

We at Beyond Philosophy spent over two years conducting research with the London Business School to develop the world’s largest database of customer emotions and touchpoints, which we call the “Emotional Signature” database. We use this Emotional Signature when we analyze a company’s level of emotional engagement with its customers and develop a strategy to increase that engagement. And sometimes, that strategy involves humor.

Humor Doesn’t Always Work

Using humor as a branding and customer experience strategy can be tricky.

To begin with, you must actually be funny. Have you ever been at a party and heard someone tell a joke that just didn’t work? You cringed, right? And you probably felt a little embarrassed for the person. You don’t want those sorts of feel-bad emotions associated with your customer experience.

You also must be careful not to offend the very customers you’re trying to reach.

Several years ago, Abercrombie and Fitch launched a line of t-shirts that it thought would be a big hit with its young Asian customers. But the t-shirts featured Asian caricatures that looked like something out of an old Jerry Lewis movie, with slogans like “Eat In or Wok Out.”  Asian students saw the shirts as a racial slur and Abercrombie quickly pulled them from its shelves.

When social media was buzzing with discussions about abusive relationships alongside the hashtag “WhyIStayed,” frozen pizza maker DiGiorno sent this supposedly funny tweet: “#whyistayed You had pizza.” Twitter users were outraged and the company apologized, saying it hadn’t paid attention to the context of the conversation.

Doing Humor Right

One of the keys to using humor effectively is to do it consistently. Like any tone of voice, it works best if it carries through to all aspects of a business’s marketing efforts, from advertisements to product packaging, to in-store displays and social media accounts.

You must also know your target audience. Irreverent humor may work well with the college crowd, but it’s likely to offend your grandmother. You wouldn’t use the same tone of voice with a group of dock workers that you’d use for lawyers.

Old Spice aimed its ad campaign squarely at women. Dollar Shave Club launched a few years ago with a funny video aimed at men who wanted good quality razor blades and were tired of paying a fortune for them. The video quickly went viral. Dollar Shave Club has stuck to its funny tone of voice, and its profits have soared over the past three years.

The bottom line is, it feels good to laugh. If you use humor effectively, your customers will already feel good about your brand before they ever walk into your place of business. Increasingly, businesses are realizing the important role these emotions play in customer experience and loyalty.

Do you have a funny brand that you follow on social media? Please share it in the comment box below so we can all enjoy a laugh.

If you enjoyed this blog you might also enjoy reading:

Using Humor in Business – Some practical advice

How to Make A Great First Impression with your Website

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter & Periscope @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawDiscover a Key to Successful Advertising