People like to laugh and don’t usually require much of an effort to have them at least smiling, as science has proven laughter is healthy and makes the day go by much better than serious tedium. Take this article as an example. If I promise to buy us ice cream cones after you finish reading, I’ve caught your attention and provided a smile. If I promise to wear mine like a hat, now I’ve made you laugh so you can enjoy the project.
Humor in Marketing: Satire and Parody
Penlighten says that satire is “a genre in literature which shams or ridicules certain aspects of the society or the society as a whole…and uses the right amount of sarcasm, wit, and exaggeration.” Parody, on the other hand, “is pure entertainment, and sometimes called a spoof.” A brand might poke fun at people who go to spas and put cucumbers over their eyes…or a skeleton enjoying a spa day could just be a delightful “spoof” on spa-goers to make customers laugh.
Using humor in marketing is a great way to spread your message, as comedy will make people pay attention and provide the opportunity to explain the products and services you provide. As a general rule, politics or controversial subjects aren’t going to be humorous to at least half your audience, so you’ll generally want to avoid such subjects…even if there’s some great satire to be found in those arenas.
Consider the ice cream example. It’s funny that I’m so dedicated to my topic I’ll wear an ice cream hat while dancing a jig in order to garner your attention–it’s rather ironic, too, because I’m serious about my work; if I offered to throw the ice cream at someone else it would be much less funny and potentially offensive–and that would make me look bad.
The idea is to make the people reading this article enjoy their experience and associate my work with something that makes them feel good rather than have them decide beforehand I’m not going to be someone they might want to work with. Such a concept carries itself across the board with whatever your trying to market as a resource you provide your clients.
Engaging a Smile and Causing a Chuckle
Not every joke is going to cause someone to “LOL,” “ROTFL,” or turn their face into a cartoon emoticon of laughing so hard as to cause inadvertent fun tears, but can at least cause a smile or grin. And that’s fine, just getting someone to smile is going to help them listen to the explanation of what you have to offer.
Sometimes, a joke (especially of the satire or parody variety) can be funny but go overboard distracting from the message you’re trying to express. The concept is to make them feel good and understand how after they hire your services they will know you’re easily approachable and able to hear their concerns, thus altering your service to suit their needs.
Legalities of Copyright: Satire Versus Parody
Satire versus parody can be tricky ground to navigate as it applies to copyright law and what the courts find acceptable as fair use and what might be determined infringement. I read a court document in preparation for this article so you wouldn’t have to (yes, you can thank me later) which describes the difference and why one is acceptable and the other isn’t. Parody relies on the original work to make fun of it but is still within the realm of fair use. Satire actually steals someone’s original art and uses it toward a different topic it wasn’t meant to address.
So to return to the previous example, while I’m playing a ukulele solo to time the jig I dance with an ice cream hat, as far as I know it’s an original joke but each part has been used by someone else before. I can incorporate as parody some moves which J-Lo made famous, but I can’t use the entire choreography of a 1980’s video simply because I’m using it for my own distinct purpose rather than dancing as she intended her fans to enjoy.
Examples in Television Commercials
Television commercials provide wonderful examples of great marketing humor. Insurance companies have followed the lead set by Geico for using humor to spread their message, and people look forward to seeing the next advertisement which also serves the purpose of spreading name recognition and a quick summary of the services offered.
A personal favorite which always draws my smile is the Rock Auto dot com commercial for the auto parts warehouse which only sells parts online without the expense of storefronts. The commercial uses a catchy jingle with a silly cartoon of ordinary and relatable people who play music together in a home garage while working on their cars.
The reason the Rock Auto commercials work is because they provide a common and fun experience most people understand. The series of commercials provide an instance which whether or not is an activity you enjoy, you know someone who does and as a nice person you like the idea of someone you know enjoying themselves with such activities as to put them in a good mood.
On the other hand, the Geico commercials work because they set up a ridiculous situation which is almost close enough to reality we can all envision it happening or else laugh at the thought.
Now There’s An Idea!
All said, using satire or parody is a great way to catch someone’s attention and make them want to hear the rest of your message. Have fun with your marketing campaign and watch as the interest turns into conversions and your business grows with happy customers who always return. As a final note, perhaps I can market WriterAccess, since that is the point of this article:
In keeping with their current line of marketing, I’d suggest Geico make a commercial which says, “As long as Byron of Writer Access plays intricate timbale rhythms to Andrew M.’s scorching ukulele solos while they incorporate J-Lo’s dance moves with their patented jig-dancing techniques when wearing ice cream hats, you can save…” We’ll have to film it in one take, because ice cream melts when you wear it as a hat.