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Once, when I was taking a presentation skills course, the instructor said something to me that I found invaluable.  He said, “Robin, I notice that you like to use humour in your presentations.  It’s great that you have the confidence to put yourself out there.  Just keep in mind that it’s important to really know your audience, because if they don’t find the same things funny that you find funny, you might fall flat on your face.”

It is possible that I am overreacting, but if the three articles referenced below are an indication of a trend, then I am alarmed!   The common denominator is that comedic content is the answer to audience doldrums.

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/funny-business-132664

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/creating-ads-people-who-hate-ads-132667

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/qa-loneliest-admen-132668

Who are these renegade efforts aimed at?  Are all Brands exclusively targeting  the 18 -29 year old target group?  Do all the user franchises for these products share the same sense of humour?  Is there ever a danger in pleasing one consumer group and alienating another?  Is the purpose exclusively to get noticed?

I think humour is a great tool.  It can defuse difficult situations, smooth over awkwardness, build bonds.  But it can also give offense and lead to misunderstandings.

Making the determination that comedy is the solution to clutter, increased competition and waning audience attention is  simplistic.  It’s like a doctor prescribing the same medication to every one of his patients who have similar symptoms, without checking their vital signs.

It is also an example of the tactic driving the strategy, when it should be the reverse.  For strong, strategic brand marketing, you would identify  brand character, positioning, stance and the tone of communication, for the long term.   Yes, it might change along the way (which is why you do annual Brand Reviews and Marketing Plans) but unless there are huge issues, the changes are evolutionary.

Branding is about consistency and continuity.  One-offs, especially those that deliberately seem to disparage or belittle the product, work to the detriment of brand building.

Some clients have done their homework, understand their target market and how far to push the envelope.  For example, quirky humour is integral to Skittles  strategy.  Just look at the historical advertising.

I’m sure these are some of the funniest people around.

My question is, do they understand the Brand?  The competitive environment?  Know the audience?  Have a strategy?   Is this effort consistent with the identity and overall goals of the Brand?

These new “ad men” may ride in, like the proverbial white knight, to great fanfare and generate awareness today, but unless they are working to the directives of a very savvy Marketing group, they may be the “One Hit Wonders” of tomorrow.

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