We remember what makes us laugh or smile. We often recount (somewhat less funny) versions of laughter-inducing events to our family, friends, and coworkers. It’s no wonder, then, that Super Bowl advertisers trip over one another in an attempt to make their 100+ million viewers laugh.
Budweiser has it easy—beer and laughter go well together. But there’s nothing particularly funny about lending and safeguarding your members’ hard-earned money.
So, how can you integrate humor into your digital marketing efforts on a limited budget, and how can you ensure that your efforts won’t fall flat?
Here are three things to think about when infusing a sense of humor into your brand:
- Create a mascot
Insurance is about as funny as banking, which is to say, not very. But as GEICO’s famous Australian gecko shows us, a mascot doesn’t have to relate to what it is you’re offering your customers. Anything that’s cute and a little unexpected can elicit a chuckle, and provide a sense of playful continuity across your digital marketing channels. Most importantly, it can get your customers talking.
Are you lacking the resources to animate a talking gecko? Don’t worry, you’re not GEICO and neither should you try to be. The Cecil County’s Sheriff’s office, for instance, has a mascot in the form of a (not very expertly) Photoshopped cat named Foots, which they integrate into all their weather advisory posts on Facebook.
Foots the #weatherkitty doesn’t talk, or do much of anything except perch stoically amidst scenes of severe snow, rain, and wind. But he consistently delights the Sheriff’s office Facebook fans, and that has led to substantial increases in the likes and shares of important weather-related information.
The nice thing about a mascot is that even when it becomes expected, you can continue to delight your constituents, and keep them talking, by incorporating it into new and surprising scenarios.
- Use inside jokes for your community
OK, you’re a marketer, not a standup comedian. Using humor in your marketing doesn’t have to mean inventing jokes—and if there’s anything worse than no humor, it’s bad humor. But you can play off of already-existing jokes about the local region you serve. Every region has its idiosyncrasies, whether it’s a fondness for Birkenstocks or a penchant for all-you-can-eat buffets. (Even standup comedians incorporate these idiosyncrasies into their bits to cater to different audiences when they’re on the road.)
Why is this humor effective? It not only humanizes your credit union, but it helps you create an immediate, intimate connection with your memberss. It not only says, “We understand you,” but also says, “We’re one of you.”
Here’s an example from, yes, another insurance company, PEMCO, which plays off the (in)famous idiosyncrasies of Pacific Northwest culture to show its customers: “We’re a lot like you. A little different.” Its Northwest Profiles have surely elicited chuckles from anyone who lives in the region—take the “4-Way Stop. You Go. No You Go. No You Go. Guy,” “The Year-Round Shorts Dude,” or the “Smug Hybrid Driver.”
If you’re not at least smiling now, you have never lived in the Pacific Northwest.
- Tell a funny story
There’s nothing funny about the destruction of the rainforest. In fact, many environmental nonprofits have a reputation for heavy-handed, fear-inducing marketing tactics that leave you with a sense of impending doom. Maybe the fear will propel you to take action, but it won’t leave you feeling very warm and fuzzy inside.
So how in the world can a nonprofit inspire its constituents to laugh about a situation as dire as the 1.5-acre-a-second decimation of one of our world’s richest natural resources?
Years ago, the Rainforest Alliance thought long and hard about its prototypical constituent and decided to tell a story—“Follow the Frog.” The result? Over five million views on YouTube.
The creation of this particular video was likely time-consuming and expensive, but you don’t need a high-definition-camera-toting video crew to tell a story.
Instead of playing off the idiosyncrasies of your region or a weather kitty named Foots, think about the idiosyncrasies of the people you serve. What makes them tick? What journeys and challenges will they be able to relate to?
If you’re stuck, why not ask your constituents directly for their funny stories? With the right prompt—tell us a story about the first car you bought, tell us a story about the worst financial decision you’ve ever made—and perhaps a compelling incentive, you can let your constituents do the talking for you. While you’re at it, you’ll accumulate a whole library of stories for future marketing efforts.
The bottom line
Humor may or may not be the right avenue for you, but don’t rule it out just because you’re scared of trying to be funny. There are many different ways to work humor into your marketing, and it can be one component of creating a remarkable and memorable brand. Be authentic and genuine to your brand’s voice; if done right, the smiles (and loans) will follow.