Humor is a powerful marketing tool, but making it work can be tough for B2B marketers. After all, what’s funny about warehouses, processors, supply chains, and microchips?
But humor can be applied to the B2B world in effective ways, particularly with video. Humor humanizes B2B brands, invokes positive emotion, and rewards your audience. People love you when you make them laugh.
But how do you get it to work for you? Cisco’s social media manager, Tim Washer, has some pretty great insight on that. He takes dry technology and turns it into comedic gems. The process goes something like this:
First, make the case
Go back to the marketing strategy and see where humor could fit. Big product launch? Upcoming tradeshow? Videos are simple pitches. They can be sent to the news media, consumers, purchasers, and other influencers through an easy YouTube link. Map a video into the marketing plan for a specific event or time. Set the bar low with expectations. Don’t expect the video to deliver massive ROI.
Find someone who believes in comedy In the B2B world, comedy often gets shot down. It doesn’t look as great on paper as it plays out in the author's head, and most of the marketing team won’t contribute good ideas or grasp the concept. The key to overcoming resistance is to find a prominent person in the company who believes in comedy. Approach that person with your script. If all else fails, keep the budget low, gather a team, and spend your resources to sell the first one.
Create a concept
This is the fun part. If you don’t consider yourself very comedic, you can find inspiration in some of your favorite late night humorists: Conan, Letterman, SNL. They’re all great first stops for guidance. Get yourself in the most absurd mindset you can.
Comedy comes from the truth in pain. Don’t point fingers at other companies. Rather, think of common industry gripes. Locate the problem, and then exaggerate the consequences of the problem. For example:
You are not going to get a lot of page views for a B2B video. You should use it as pitching material for your PR department. CrossOver’s video pitch to several tech writers for Macworld was genius:
Find the amateurs
Go to a local film school or the media department at the university. Students are often great storytellers, and they are less pricey than the professionals. Look for long-form improv clubs, and find comedy writers to help you construct a script.
Laughter is the best ingredient for selling anything. But in the B2B sector, it isn’t easy to pull off. Add character to your dry subjects. Look at these videos for more examples, and try to think of your own ways to make humorous videos support your brand.
What are some additional examples of humor being used effectively in B2B marketing? Have you tried using humor in your own B2B marketing? How did it work out?
I know, I did blow it! Like the criticizers of the concept, I was scared I'd make a joke and no one would get it.
If you can hit humor in the right spot and your audience understands the joke and can separate from the seriousness of the product, then you're going to win fans over. For life.
I think humor works best because it takes your audience by surprise in the B2B world. They don't expect it. So it sticks with them. BUT, again, it's all about riding the fine line with comedy; the line of "I get it, but did they?"
@sohaibmasood - like you, I have mixed feelings about humor. I love seeing it when it works, especially when it can highlight a product or service's key benefit for a customer in a memorable fashion, but I am torn, as we appear to live in a hyper-sensitive world now. This latter point would have me be more conservative, or it may have double and triple check things before I proceed.
I'm sad this column didn't start with a joke. "Two marketers walk into a bar..."
At my old magazine we gave annual awards for top creative B2B work. Year after year, the humorous campaigns won our hearts, often making it into the top three slots.
Now, I'll quickly add that these executions were judged not by a professional in X or Y industry but by a group of trade magazine editors, along with a design director and, usually, one or two college interns. In other words, we judges weren't the target audience, and maybe this is why the jokes (sometimes broad or just plain silly) struck a chord. Then again, funny campaigns flowed out of the marketers and their ad agencies every year. It's unlikely they'd keep using humor if it proved ineffective.
I credit IBM's "letterbox" TV ads in the early 2000s, produced by its longtime agency of record Ogilvy & Mather, as proving humor could work for a big, serious, B2B marketer. It was a bold move by IBM, and worked quite well.
Love the first and third video examples. Humor definitely takes something that could be a bit dry and adds life to it. Really like the first one where it humanizes the product. Certainly easier to grasp the product and remember.
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