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Is Humor Marketing’s Secret Weapon?

By Hector Cisneros
Quirky Humor Courtesy of Flickr

What makes an advertisement memorable? Is it the graphics, the color scheme, or the high-priced celebrities? Is it the guarantee, the amazing claims, or clear and easy to understand call to action? Or, is it something as simple as humor blended into your message? In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will look at several elements, especially humor and how it is used to make advertisements and commercials memorable? We will explore some successful start-ups who have made it big and we will take a good look at how humor is used in commercials, both past, and present. So, strap on your funny bone and get ready to be tickled pink as we explore humor as a marketing secret weapon.

Courtesy of YouTube & Derek Dahlsad
I have lived long enough to have seen many generations of TV and Radio commercials, all the way from the fifties, though today. Humor has been a mainstay for getting an advertiser’s message heard and create sales. When I was a young kid, I remember the quirky Oscar Myer Weiner campaigns on Black and white TV. In the 80’s, I distinctly remember the Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” campaign and in the 90’s the Taco Bell campaign with the Chihuahua saying “Yo Quiero Taco Bell.”

The advent of the internet was a game changer. For the most part, TV and radio have controlled the hearts and minds of the viewing and listening public. In 2005, YouTube began a new revolution, where videos of every imaginable genre began to appear including commercials. Today,
Courtesy of Vimeo
one billion three hundred million people use YouTube. 300 hours of new video is uploaded every minute.  Almost 5 billion videos are watched every day. The 2017 statistics are staggering and are unmatched by Facebook or any other video provider. Two internet video campaigns that stand out in my mind are; the Orabrush campaign and Dollar Shave Club”. These two stick out in my mind because they took unknown companies and products and propelled them to mega stardom and success. We first wrote about this in our article called: “Is Humor a Weapon of Mass Distraction or Attraction?”. These two campaigns are benchmarks of how to use humor to build a brand and gain marketing muscle in industries that are highly completive.

The Orabrush Story is an Amazing one - It starts out with an entrepreneur's struggle to get his product noticed and off the ground. It fails miserably until a university graduate student suggests creating a video on YouTube and the rest is history. Instead of my telling you the story, I recommend you watch this YouTube video that tells their amazing story.

The Orabrush Commercial - Now that you know the details of the story, watch this two- minute video. It’s not high tech, but it is funny. However, it’s not so funny that you miss the message of why you need an Orabrush. Watch the video that put them on the map.

How Dollar Shave Club Tackled the Giant Shaver Companies - The Dollar Shave Club is another mega success story. Their video is quirky, off the wall and dared to add bleeped profanity to achieve a viral factor. When we first wrote about them back in 2014, they were just starting to hit their stride. They launched their video in 2012, and by 2016, Dollar Shave Club got purchased by Unilever for a reported one billion dollars. Watch the video and let me know what you think. I know the founder of the Dollars Shave Club is laughing all the way to the bank.

I mentioned early on about Oscar Meyer Wiener campaigns, and Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” campaign and the 90's Taco Bell ads. See what you can learn by watching those videos.

Today you see companies like Geico, Progressive Insurance and Kia engaging heavily in funny video commercials. You will notice that all these commercials are part of an ongoing campaign. Rarely are successful video commercials left as one-offs. Success breeds success. And whole campaigns come into existence because of their success. When I think of humorous videos, the Gecko lizard and Caveman used in the Geico commercials come to mind.

Others that jump out at me are the fictional sales person called Flo, who has become an iconic advertising mascot for more than 100 advertisements for Progressive insurance since 2008.

 I also love the Kia commercials. The cute hamsters driving the KIA Soul campaign is still running, and now they have the comedian and celebrity Melissa McCarthy trying to save the planet in KIA’s latest hybrid.

Make sure You Include all the Necessities - All humorous advertisements that are successful have a compelling message that reaches out and grabs the audience and makes them pay attention. You will always see combinations of cute and cuddly doing clever or unexpected things. You will see absurd, impossible, often irreverent acts that start out tame and then end with an unexpected twist. Whether they include dancing, music, catch phrases, jingles, action, special effects, cartoons, or slapstick, these commercials are memorable because they are unique. They are aimed at specific audiences with the target centered on the consumers funny bones.

Courtesy of YouGov
Make Them Memorable - All memorable advertisements include elements seen in all of the videos talked about in the article. The main five are a “quirky, humorous twist” like the new KIA commercials, a very memorable catch phrase like "where's the beef" in the Wendy's commercial, a specific target audience like in when the Geico Gecko talks about apartment insurance, a call to action like the Orabrush and Dollar Shave Club, and a “value proposition” which the Wendy's catch phrase, “Where’s the beef” also incorporates. 

Make sure your video advertisements have all five elements. Also understand that quality video and audio along with high production value are essential to success. Having a poor quality video with background noise and amateurish production quality will greatly detract from your message, even if you include all the elements.

WWW Gets in the Act - In 2013, we created a quirky video for the holidays that year. It included a special promotion, showing off our special effects capabilities and announced our challenge to all comers that we provided guarantees that our competitors could not match. It also had humor and ended with an unexpected twist. Check it out.

Today, people have choices when it comes to watching TV. Most homes have DVR’s (digital video recorders) which allow them to skip commercials. Many have subscriber internet TV’s like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and YouTube. Consumers no longer have to watch your commercials. If you are in business and you want people to watch your commercial, give them a reason to watch. Make your video message fun by adding humor. Humor defuses the urge to kill the volume, change the channel or to press the fast forward button. The need to laugh is a basic human need and humor feeds that need. I hope you look to incorporate humor in your next marketing message and if you need a little help, give us a call, we can make it happen for you.

That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

This article discusses how humor has been used on TV, radio and the internet as a marketing weapon since the late fifties. It provides examples of companies like Orabrush and Dollar Shave Club that went from rags to riches because of their humorous video messages. It also includes many examples from the past and present along with a list of elements that make humorous advertisements work.
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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.” 

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