Marketing Lowdown: Humor Me | SalesAndMarketing.com
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Marketing Lowdown: Humor Me

Victor Borge, the great Danish comedian, once said, "The shortest distance between two people is a laugh."

Humor has a way of cutting through formality, breaking down barriers, allowing people to talk one on one. What better way to make friends—and customers?

Humor can be used effectively in the promotions you do for your company. Think about the advertisements you remember best. They tend to be the ones that made you smile.

Everyone loves to laugh. Men will confess to cosmetic surgery, false teeth, or a wig. But how many will own up to a lack of humor? We all have a love for laughter in most situations, give or take a dentist.

Who would you rather deal with, somebody who makes you laugh, or the Department of Motor Vehicles? Playfulness sells.

Sometimes it's the unexpected that makes for humor, as in this sales letter:

"Help! Please save my home life by reading the enclosed catalog.

"My wife has been slaving over it night and day, working like a dog and treating me like one in the process. If it's not a smashing success, can you imagine what it will be like to live with her?

"So won't you please read Judy's catalog? It contains all sorts of new products designed to make your life easier (and mine, too).

"Sincerely, Joe Dokes (Judy's husband)."

The number of personal notes to Joe that showed up with orders attested to the effectiveness of this approach.

Two of the most common ways of instilling humor in advertising is the use of buzz phrases or critters. Remember "Where's the beef?" for Wendy's Hamburgers? Or "Whassup?" for Budweiser?

The Leo Burnett Advertising Agency is famous for using critters to bring humor to its clients' brands. Charlie the Tuna brings fun to an otherwise mundane product. The Keebler elves make cookies even more fun. The Pillsbury Dough Boy puts a giggle at the end of every commercial.

The easiest way to create humor in your advertising is to take the primary benefit of your product or service and stretch it. For instance, I recently watched a Dunkin' Donuts commercial touting their speedy service. During a police chase, the crook stopped off for a donut and coffee (so did the police officer chasing him). Speedy service exaggerated to the point of humor.

Here are five reasons to put humor to work in your marketing efforts:

1. Humor causes intimacy. It breaks down barriers and brings people together. The people you like best are the ones who get your jokes.

2. Humor attracts attention. It can make your advertising stand out amid the clutter.

3. Humor is more memorable. Most everyone remembers a good joke, and enjoys telling it to someone else.

4. Subtle humor flatters your intelligence. The best joke is the one that makes you laugh for five seconds…and think for 10 minutes.

5. Humor is endearing. After all, we would all rather buy something from someone we like and who makes us laugh.

By using humor to sell, we create a bond, a sense of belonging together, a sense that, "Hey, this guy's funny. I think I'd like to work with him."

So find the fun in your product or service. Then, put it to work in your advertising and marketing efforts. The effect on your bottom line will make you smile.

Robert Grede is the author of Naked Marketing—The Bare Essentials and president of The Grede Company, a marketing and strategic planning consultancy. Subscribe to his weekly e-mail, "101 Marketing Tips," by sending an e-mail request torg@thegredecompany.com with "add me" in the subject line.