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Finding Common Ground in Humor: Let's Give Thanks

by Andrea Learned  |  
November 24, 2006

When you think about the best marketing efforts, they are often the ones with which you have been able to find some common ground. Whether that be in the fact that the television ad uses a model that looks like your sister, or you see a testimonial on a Web site from a person that lives in your hometown, or... you come across a sense of humor that matches your own....

Three recent marketing efforts from male-focused brands/causes do a great job of poking fun at the classic macho male stereotype using humor that seems likely to resonate with a lot of men and women.
First - in my post about "Movember" (November as the mustache-growing month for the cause of men's healthcare wareness), the humor comes from the retro-connection, and participants loving to harken back to the '70s with their facial hair styles, if only for a few weeks. Check out the comments to that post to read what a few marketing types of both genders had to say (and one commenter is, in fact, currently participating in this Movember!).
Second - Stuart Elliott's recent New York Times column on the latest campaign for the Triumph boat, featuring humorous situations/ways the boat's toughness has been tested (as opposed to the usual features/spec list). As Elliott wrote:
"The Triumph campaign, by an agency in Durham, N.C., known as the Republik, is centered on efforts to demonstrate that Triumph boats, made from polyethylene, are 'the world's toughest boats.'
"Up first is what the campaign calls 'the bubba test': A good ol' boy considering buying a Triumph boat hitches it to the back of his pickup, without a trailer, and drives it at high speeds on dry land, beating, bashing and bumping the boat innumerable times until it fishtails into a lake."
Third - The new "Man Laws" effort by FHM for Miller Lite. You've likely seen the television ads with Burt Reynolds, and now you can see that humor continued in a clever campaign inviting consumers to submit examples of Man Laws being broken. As, Stuart Elliott, once again, writes in the New York Times :
"As is becoming increasingly common as magazines battle the new media for ad dollars, the FHM campaign involves elements that extend beyond prosaic ad pages.
"Readers can take part in a contest on a special Web site (, to which they can upload photographs to report 'violations' of the laws. The contest is also accepting entries through cellphone text messages and e-mail messages.
"In an example of the trend known as consumer-generated content, the best entries from the contest will be compiled in a 16-page booklet to accompany the May issue of FHM."
One of those laws is: No man shall own a dog smaller than a football. Certainly, there are plenty of guys who own small dogs, but the Miller Lite customer may not be hugely represented in that group - so the humor does its job and demonstrates common ground with the brand's market.
I guess I'm just finding things to be thankful for in marketing today:
a) that humor is being used more frequently and appropriately,
b) that consumers are driving, if not designing, ad messages more and more (that's what I call effective marketing partnerships), and;
c) that brands are realizing how becoming a bit vulnerable can actually swing around and... NOT bite them in the butt, but create positive word of mouth among consumers who have been dying for a little honesty.
Kudos to those who go out on a limb in any or all of these ways. It certainly makes marketing a bit more interesting to observe and analyze from my end.
Hope you are having a great Thanksgiving break!

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Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.

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  • by Alan Snedeker Tue Nov 28, 2006 via blog

    As an advertising creative with over 30 years of packaged goods experience, I would add a criteria to the use of humor. The criteria is "charm." Humor can be very short lived...and a great waste of time and money. Funny is often funny once. Charm implies an endless life for a campaign that uses it successfully. Mikey with Life, Volvo-where a father gives the keys to his Volvo to the teenage boy/date who is prepared to drive his jalopy, and the father's daughter to the ball in a storm. That's charm. It also says a lot about Volvo and safety without mentioning one word about it. Humor is good. Charm is the secret ingredient.

  • by Stephen Denny Tue Nov 28, 2006 via blog

    If you haven't read Robert Cialdini's book, "Influence", you owe yourself this quick read. He is one of the world's leading experts on the 'science of influence' and breaks down the subject into seven core elements that drive compliance: . Scarcity ("act now...") . Social proof ("90% of the Fortune 500...") . Consistency (public commitment increases likelihood of accomplishment) . Likability (celebrity spokespeople) . Authority ("4 out of 5 dentists...") . Reciprocity (free mailing labels drive donations up hundreds of percent) . Vividness (breakthrough) If you connect with someone with humor and, as a poster mentioned above, charm -- likeability, vividness -- you're already inside their armor. Good post!

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