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?
Its be done well but remember the original Monster adsbut it's also been done poorly the Groupon debacle last year. Using Humor without careful testing can be a nightmare for a company. I think its also off limits in some categories such as health, etc.
I agree, Mitch -- the public is quite forgetful. Today's shocking/scandalous/offensive video or commercial is tomorrow's tame video or commercial. There's always a new offense/scandal to bump the old one out. I know I've been offended by some commercials in the past (Go Daddy's portrayal of women, for instance), but I don't even think about that now, largely because I haven't seen those commercials in ages. the lifespan of a company's video/campaign is usually fairly short and people are quick to jump off of one bandwagon and onto the next.
I'll add my voice to the thought that humor is tricky. But if you can capture it well, the benefits are great. It can be done however if you are determined since there are a lot of talented people out there in the oddest places. It could be at the company, or out at some university where you can conduct a talent audition etc. I've seen a local brand get built on humor and it worked, but same guy recycled on another brand failed. Its trial and error but its worth a try.
Mitch, that's probably true, but today the negative repercussions of offending someone can be instantaneous and relentless. With social media, you can be overwhelmed in seconds, and may never fully recover. The consequences may be catastrophic for a firm.
Hi, Constance! Good to have you back on The CMO Site.
One of the things I initially found surprising about B2B marketing is how well the personal touch works. B2B customers are people, and their livelihoods depend on the products they use, so they develop emotional attachments to them. They also take pride in their work, and feel underappreciated (EVERYBODY feels underappreciated on the job).
This should not have surprised me because I come from a corporate IT background. People get just as passionate about corporate technology as they do about Apple vs. Google or whatever the latest consumer technology religious war is.
I believe that for B2B's the best approach to humor is to appeal to your industry and use it as a PR tool. Most journalists who are targets for those companies are inundated with the most boring content/pitches. If you can spice it up with humor, you're going to win them over. Then you can actually deliver an ROI to your boss. Nothing is better than making a $300 video and in return receiving $200,000 worth of press coverage.
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