Last week I made two fun discoveries and both made me chuckle. Weeks and weeks go by with standard marketing approaches and then within one week I learn how companies are using humour in their marketing approach. What a fresh perspective!
My first discovery was the fact that The Onion also does content marketing for brands. For those of you who don’t know, The Onion is a US-based satirical weekly publication read largely by university students and twenty-somethings. Companies can now tap into The Onion’s in-house ad agency Onion Labs to develop funny content, native advertising, events and social media. Some brands that have used their services are obvious to The Onion’s younger demographic – Burger King and KFC, but their portfolio also includes brands like Audi, Honda and Lenovo.
While, sadly, I am no longer their target demographic, I still love The Onion. They have story titles like “Progressive Company Pays Both Men And Women 78% Of What They Should Be Earning”. And who can’t laugh at a series of photos of misspelled and poorly designed tattoos?
Companies attempting to stand out in a noisy marketplace should consider humour. While The Onion’s team may appeal to a tighter demographic and therefore perhaps narrow its appeal, Marketoonist (@tomfishburne) appeals to a broader brand audience. They create content marketing through cartoons and their client portfolio include big names like Unilever, The Wall Street Journal, Oracle and Intuit. My favourite cartoon is the one of a woman being retargeted and her husband’s concern that all the ads are for Piña Coladas and getting caught in the rain.
Humour gives a brand a personality and it also makes their content worth sharing. It can also communicate difficult messages, especially if it is in the form of a cartoon. As consumers we don’t like to be told what to do or what to buy, but we invite clever content. This is particularly true of millennials who have been socialised to receive information through humour.
But having a sense of humour is not a natural fit for some companies, particularly larger companies with stayed cultures. Marketing departments with a high degree of flexibility over their marketing activities and with an open-minded exec team to support slightly wacky ideas are the ones that will be able to use this unorthodox marketing tactic.
Unfortunately all the resources I discovered are for a US audience and I have yet to find the same resources in the UK. A country with such dry witty humour, I am surprised to not readily find a UK source of content marketing using humour. I must be looking in the wrong places. Nonetheless, I believe humour is a powerful yet underutilised marketing tool.
Greta Paa-Kerner (@gretapk) is a Guest Lecturer on digital and affiliate marketing as well as a Management Consultant through Ganduxer Consulting.