Insights and Studies

Sell Something Boring? Be Funny

selling b2b b2cPolitical policy is complicated and not something you want to hear as soon as you roll out of bed at 5:00 am in the morning. Yet, while I’m getting ready in the morning, I often find myself playing last night’s episode of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He talks about foreign policy, presidential candidates, and media blunders, but I don’t mind. Why? Because he is funny.  He makes the most complicated matters hilarious, and watching makes me culturally relevant, both for knowing what is happening in the world, and for knowing about his jokes. Talking to friends later, I’ll ask “did you see the sketch on the Daily Show?”

The takeaway? Humor makes boring things interesting. Do you sell something boring? Do you watch the hilariously odd Old Spice “Smellcome to Manhood” ads and think, I wish my product lent itself this well to humor? Old Spice sells deodorant, something you need to make yourself smell less bad, not something inherently cool. Humor is the best way to get people to talk about something boring, and not only for B2C brands, but B2B too. Here are a few tips, and examples to get humor working for you.

When you sell something, you are selling it to people. This seems obvious, but it is often forgotten, especially when you sell business to business. There is a misconception of “we are selling to a corporation, and corporations don’t have personalities.” However, corporations are made up of people, not robots (usually). By making your brand fun, you are establishing rapport, building memorability, and aligning yourself with your audience, says Kevin Daum at Inc. Getting buyers to like your brand  is not dissimilar from getting people to like you. When you go on a first date, you want to be pleasant, interesting, and memorable in order to get to a second one. This is the same for your product.

A Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages report found that 47% of global survey respondents said that humorous ads resonated with them most. So, use humor to get your brand the second date, so to speak. People are more likely to fondly remember something different that made them laugh than yet another ad that throws out industry terms and step by step functionality. A highly regarded B2B example of this is this ad for the Cisco ASR 9000, which advertises this industrial office equipment as the perfect, romantic Valentine's day gift for your girlfriend.  Even if the viewer of this ad is not currently in the market, this unique approach is likely to catch their attention and stay in their memory for when they are.

Aside from humanizing your brand and making it memorable, humor works because people want to share it with their friends; especially today, when online sharing has become so integral to our culture. As Portent points out, this is because it brings validation to their own humor. As I mentioned before in regard to the Daily Show, being aware of big trends, such as popular ads, sketches, or viral anything, makes you culturally relevant. People will want to share the ad with their networks just to be associated with its humor and reflect their own personality. Its like a bad example of the transitive property, or a syllogism: this ad is funny, I thought it was funny therefore, I am funny. How many of us tweeted #winning when Charlie Sheen went on his rant? We want to show we are in the know. If you create something people find worth sharing, it will be shared.

Yet, not everyone feels comfortable taking the humor route. This is because humor can be very subjective and tends to be hit or miss. As I mentioned the “hilariously odd” Old Spice ad in the introduction, there is a chance that some of the people who watched it thought it was just plain weird, and not funny at all. This can be overcome, however. In her Forbes article, Ekaterina Walter points out a few jumping off points for corporate humor as defined by Tim Washer, the man behind the Cisco ASR 9000 ad. Washer suggests basing your humor in pain, more specifically, the pain point your product will help solve. Write a script based on the problems of your ideal customer and put a silly spin on it. Your clients will find it relatable, and therefore funny. Washer also suggests self deprecating humor, showing that your brand doesn’t take itself too seriously, and making it more human. If you begin your quest for humor based in what you know about your niche market, you’re more likely to get it right.

Humor in advertising has emerged as a huge trend in the past decade that transcends its historical use in just beer and fastfood ads. One of my favorite ads from this past Super Bowl was for TurboTax, again, not inherently funny. Also, don’t be discouraged if you are not a huge brand and can’t hire a clever ad agency, as Marketing Dive points out, local businesses, like repo man Walter Salmon, can use humor with the best of them. So, give it a try. Humor is proven to get people talking about boring things. For some inspiration, check out HubSpot's list of brands that successfully used humor in their marketing campaigns. 

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Amanda McGuinness

Amanda McGuinness is a Content Marketing Journalist at Repsly. A social media expert and avid writer, she believes in creating fresh, creative content to build brand awareness.

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