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So, It's Like a Barn?

November 13, 2009  

"It's certainly not unusual that a stand up comedian like Tim Washer would be producing absurdist viral videos," notes AdAge. "What is surprising is that the IBM communications executive is doing so for his straight-laced corporate employer."

Washer's first mini-mockumentary for the conservative company was called Mainframe: The Art of the Sale, Lesson One. Inspired by NBC's The Office, the video compared buyers to ranchers and farmers, attracted nearly 240,000 views on YouTube and introduced this satirical tagline: "The Mainframe. It's Like a Barn."

It also annoyed at least one viewer. "Some woman got very upset at me about making fun of farmers," he says in a videotaped speech posted at AdAge. "I've tried to get on Jay Leno to apologize to the farming community. That wasn't my intent at all, obviously. Look, I've learned as a stand-up comedian, somebody's always going to be offended at what you say."

And this gets to the crux of Washer's philosophy—any large corporation will experience fear if it plans to establish an authentic presence in social media. "Before we pulled the trigger and published this," he concedes, "we thought a lot about the ramifications. One of the executives said, 'If one of our competitors was doing a video about us, they'd do something just like this.' It gave us pause for minute, and then we just went ahead and said, let's experiment."

Fortunately for Washer and IBM, the risk paid off, and your Marketing Inspiration is to consider the value of embracing absurdity, doing it well and surprising your audience.

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  • by Jeni Tate Fri Nov 13, 2009 via web

    Love that they recognized that this is how the competitors would skewer them, so they beat them to the punch!

  • by Paul McKeon Mon Nov 16, 2009 via web

    An excellent case study for thought leadership. As Jeff Bezos says, a leading company must be willing to be misunderstood. A public apology to the farming community is good publicity, and that's 180 degrees from the top-down traditional image management of yesteryear.

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